The Panorama Route

The Panorama Route The Panorama Route is a geological extension of the Drakensberg

A popular add-on to Kruger safaris but also well worth exploring in its own right, the Panorama Route is a loose circuit of mostly natural attractions associated with the towering cliffs that divide the highveld around Sabie and Graskop from the lowveld of the Kruger Park and Mpumalanga’s provincial capital Mbombela (formerly Nelspruit). A scenic and ecologically-varied region, its defining feature is the Mpumalanga Escarpment, a geological extension of the Drakensberg that rises sharply from the coastal plain (below 500m) to several peaks that top the 2,000 m mark. Although much of the region is given over to exotic plantations, significant tracts of indigenous forest remain, especially on steep cliffs, as do several areas of grassland studded with proteas and red-hot pokers. The region is notable historically as the site of South Africa’s earliest gold rush, one that proved to be short lived, as far richer seams of gold were discovered soon after in the vicinity of Johannesburg.

Highlights

african finfoot bird tour south africa panorama route The African finfoot

Well worth a stop if you pass through Mbombela, the 169 ha Lowveld National Botanical Garden, set on the confluence of the Nels and Crocodile Rivers, is of equal interest to botanists and ornithologists. The rainforest section protects a vast collection of prehistoric cycads, while a bird checklist of 250 species includes Purple-crested turaco, Half-collared kingfisher and African finfoot.

Mac Mac Falls along the panorama route south africa Mac Mac Falls

This 65 m Mac-Mac Falls is named after a pair of Scottish prospectors who camped above it in the gold rush era. You can swim in the pool at the base of the falls, or continue by car for 2 km to the start of a 4 km day-trail to the little-visited Forest Falls. otherworldly potholes of bourkes luck Natural potholes at Bourke’s Luck

Situated at the confluence of the Blyde (Joy) and Treur (Sorrow) rivers, the bizarre riverine formation known as Bourke’s Luck comprise a series of deep cylindrical potholes created entirely by water erosion, and can be explored along a short network of paths and footbridges.

The Panorama Route_Blyde River Canyon Blyde River Canyon

The 25 km-long and 1.4 km-deep red sandstone Blyde River Canyon, protected within a 270 km2 nature reserve, is one of the largest and most spectacular features of its type on earth. It offers much to keen walkers and wildlife lovers, with the most rewarding of several day hikes being the Kadishi Trail, which leads through lush indigenous evergreen forest, inhabited by Vervet and Blue monkeys, to an impressive stalactite-like Tufa waterfall. Look out for localised and endemic birds such as Knysna turaco, Narina trogon, Southern bald ibis, Cape vulture and Gurney’s sugarbird.

One of the most scenic spots anywhere in South Africa, the Three Rondavels viewpoint gazes across the wide Blyde River Canyon – the river itself a blue ribbon hundreds of metres below – to a striking trio of outcrops that recall traditional thatched rondavels (round houses).

The dank, cool chambers of the Sudwala Caves support some wonderful limestone drip formations and can be explored on regular guided tours that lead about 500 m deep into the subterranean labyrinth.

pilgraims rest panorama route The Royal Hotel in Prilgrim’s Rest

Pilgrim’s Rest mushroomed into life in 1873 following the discovery of a large deposit of alluvial gold. The boomtown’s heyday was short lived, but it was later restored as a living museum evoking the gold rush era. Points of interest include the Anglican Church (built in 1884), the Methodist Church (1911), Catholic Church (1928), Old Police Station (1902), and the hilltop cemetery whose graves all point in the same direction, the one exception being an anonymous Robber’s Grave.

The Panorama Route_Gods Window God’s window offers heavenly views

The finest of several viewpoints offering views along the R532, God’s Window offers a splendid view over the edge of the escarpment to the expansive lowveld more than 1,000m below, though its impact depends on very clear weather.

The tallest single-drop waterfall in the region, the twin-stream Lisbon Falls plunges over a 90m stone amphitheater whose base is accessible via a steep footpath.

Travel tips

  • The main air gateway to Mpumalanga is Kruger-Mpumalanga International Airport (KMIA), which stands about 25 km northeast of Mbombela off the R40 to White River. It is connected to Gauteng’s OR Tambo International Airport by several scheduled flights daily, there are also direct flights from Durban and Cape Town, and several car rental companies are represented there.

  • For couples or families, it may well be more affordable to rent a car out of Gauteng and drive, following the N4 east from Pretoria to Mbombela, or the N12 from Johannesburg/OR Tambo to connect with the N4 at eMalahleni (formerly Witbank). The drive takes 3-5 hours, depending on your ultimate destination.

  • Self-drivers could visit most sites along the Panorama Route in one day, but two would be better. A good variety of hotels and lodges are available in Mbombela as well as smaller towns such as Hazyview, Sabie and Graskop.


Our Recommended Itinerary

South African Holiday Adventure (10 days)

day 1 to 4

Welcome to Cape Town

day 5 to 6

Explore the Cape Winelands

day 7 to 10

Track the Big Five in KwaZulu-Natal

day 11

Goodbye - for now!

View Full Itinerary

You might also like

LGBT safari holidays in South Africa

South Africa celebrates equal rights for all South Africa ranks among the world’s more progressive countries when it comes to LGBT rights. Indeed, the new South African Constitution, drawn up in 1996, was the first in the world to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation, and in 2005 South Africa became the fifth country in the world, and first in Africa, to recognise…

Vaccinations for South Africa

The one vaccination certificate you may be required to show at immigration is yellow fever, and then only if you arrive from or via the yellow fever belt of Africa or South America. Other recommended vaccinations are tetanus and polio. You could also consider immunisation against hepatitis A and B, diphtheria, rabies, typhoid, cholera and tuberculosis. That said, please ensure that you…

South African food and tipping

Restaurants operate on a similar basis to those in Europe or North America. A 10-15% tip to the waiter is standard, depending on the quality of service. At hotels, it’s usually easier to sign drinks and meals to the room than to pay cash, but you could still leave a tip for an individual waiter or bartender, or add one to the bill before you sign it. Hotel porters usually expect a tip…

South Africa in May

May is a great time for safaris in the east of South Africa Johannesburg and the highveld is warm by day, cold at night, and dry. Cape Town and the Western Cape is warm by day, cool at night, and might be wet and windy with winter rainfall. The Kruger Park and surrounds is hot by day, cool at night, and dry. May is an ideal time for beach holidays on the Indian Ocean coastline of…

An adventure holiday in South Africa

Exploring the Fish River Canyon | Credit Getaway Magazine South Africa is a brilliant destination for adventurous travellers. Hard to beat, in fact. Depending on your tastes, interests, age and level of fitness, activities on offer range from week-long rafting excursions along the Orange River as it follows the border between the Northern Cape and neighbouring Namibia, to multi-day…

A photography safari in South Africa

Certain camps and lodges offer guests professional photographic equipment for hire | Credit: Sabi Sands, Kruger National Park South Africa is a highly photogenic country, especially in the summer months (November-April) when the air is least hazy and landscapes are at their greenest. The coastline and mountains all make great subjects, but the country’s most popular venues for…

Popular South Africa Safaris

These popular itineraries can be customised to match your budget and travel dates

 | Nature, Romance and Exclusivity - A Complete African Honeymoon (14 days)

Nature, Romance and Exclusivity - A Complete African Honeymoon (14 days)

This exclusive African honeymoon through East and Southern Africa is the perfect way to celebrate the start of your new journey together...

Aerial View of Sun City | Sun City and Madikwe Family Safari (6 days)

Sun City and Madikwe Family Safari (6 days)

From Sun City's hedonistic pleasures to the majesty of nature at Madikwe Game Reserve, this journey combines the best of two very different worlds...

 | Bespoke Safari in South Africa (14 days)

Bespoke Safari in South Africa (14 days)

Experience the best that South Africa has to offer, with a holiday tailor-made for you ...

 | Magical Mauritius and South Africa Honeymoon Safari (11 days)

Magical Mauritius and South Africa Honeymoon Safari

Start your trip in South Africa and finish in Mauritius. Experience the stunning beaches and the Big Five in the Phinda Private Game Reserve. ...

 | South African Bush to Mozambican Beach Holiday (8 days)

South African Bush to Mozambican Beach Holiday (8 days)

In this exciting safari holiday, you'll get to experience both Southern Africa's bush and beach beauty...

 | Affordable Cape Town, Kruger National Park and Victoria Falls Luxury Safari (10 days)

Affordable Cape Town, Kruger National Park and Victoria Falls Luxury Safari (10 days)

Visit the most popular destinations in Southern Africa on this luxury tour for the budget-conscious...

 | South Africa’s Garden Route Odyssey (14 days)

South Africa's Garden Route Odyssey (14 days)

Discover one of South Africa’s best kept secrets - the Garden Route...

 | Big Five Safari in the Kruger National Park (3 days)

Big Five Safari in the Kruger National Park (3 days)

Encounter the Big Five safari and discover the elusive leopard...

Exterior view of Ngala Tented Camp | Delightful Cape Town and Kruger Luxury Safari (12 days)

Delightful Cape Town and Kruger Luxury Safari (12 days)

Combine Cape Town and the surrounding Cape Winelands with a safari in the Kruger National Park for a relaxing and exhilarating South African safari...

 | The Ultimate Big Five South African Safari (7 days)

The Ultimate Big Five South African Safari (7 days)

Get the best possible chance to see the Big Five wildlife in the iconic Kruger National Park and Manyeleti Game Reserve ...

Ready to start your adventure?

+27 (0)21 422 3498
   discover.africa
    info@discoverafrica.com
    Mon - Fri: 8AM - 9PM GMT+2