#TravelTuesday: Epic road trip? Follow Mpumalanga’s Panorama Route

05 March 2019 - 11:35
By Sanet Oberholzer
As you exit Sabie on the Panorama Route.
Image: Sanet Oberholzer As you exit Sabie on the Panorama Route.

South Africa’s Mpumalanga province – the place of the rising sun – is often an under-rated travel destination that is definitely worth exploring. Perhaps not as well known as the Kruger National Park, the Panorama Route starts at the foot of the Long Tom Pass and winds all the way to the edge of the majestic Blyde River Canyon, the world’s third largest canyon. This 285-kilometre stretch of road is overflowing with waterfalls, forests, canyons, natural wonders, and winding scenic passes perfect for a roadtrip.

When to travel

The best time to travel the Panorama Region is during winter between May and August. This offers the best views due to the open and clear sunshine days and a moderate climate with temperatures ranging between 5 and 25 degrees Celsius. Between September and April the weather is warm and can even become quite hot but, because of rain season, the best views can be obscured by cloud cover.

Bourke's Luck Potholes.
Image: Sanet Oberholzer Bourke's Luck Potholes.

How to get there

The best, and arguably only, way to experience the splendour of the Panorama Route is by land. All points on the Panorama Route are accessible by car and the road is fairly well-maintained. You might just need to pay close attention when driving through the misty peaks on the higher parts of the route.

If you don’t have access to a car, certain travel companies offer tours. Buya Buya Travel and Tours offer a full-day tour of the Panorama Route, stopping at all the main attractions along the way. Nomad Adventure Tours and Holidays offer a variety of travel packages that include a trip along the Panorama Route.

Highlights you shouldn’t miss

1. Hops Hollow Brewery– Africa’s highest brewery – is located just as you pass the highest point on the Long Tom Pass at 2150 metres. They offer beer tastings, delicious nibbles, and overnight accommodation.

Hops Hollow Brewery - Africa's highest brewery.
Image: Sanet Oberholzer Hops Hollow Brewery - Africa's highest brewery.

2. The small town of Graskop is famous for being the birthplace of the iconic Harrie’s Pancakes. Harrie’s is definitely worth a visit for its assortment of gourmet sweet and savoury South African-style pancakes with fillings ranging from traditional choices such as biltong with mozzarella cheese or bobotie and chutney vinaigrette to more exotic choices such as sticky pork with peaches and spring onion. Sweet options abound: perhaps cherries in liqueur or pancake with lemon meringue pie?

3. Probably your first stop from Graskop and one of the most popular vantage points along the route, traversing the Drakensberg escarpment, God’s Window is easy to reach and each of the viewpoints an absolute splendour to behold. A massive valley stretches out – encompassing views as far as the Kruger National Park or even Mozambique.

A view into God's Window.
Image: Sanet Oberholzer A view into God's Window.

4. Bourke’s Luck Potholes are a natural phenomenon of rock formations that developed over millions of years due to the churning whirlpools that meet between the Treur and Blyde rivers. Pathways and bridges have been constructed, allowing visitors to this nature reserve to observe the construction in the bedrock below.

5. At the pinnacle of the Panorama Route lies its crowing jewel: the Three Rondawels, which are reminiscent of three round traditional homesteads, and a view of the edge of the Blyde River Canyon. If you make the drive along the Panorama route just for this sight, rest assured that it is well worth it; no trip to Mpumalanga would be complete without this stop on your list.

The Blyde River Canyon.
Image: Photo: Christian VAISSE Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images The Blyde River Canyon.

6. Mpumalanga is overflowing with waterfalls – perhaps not on the scale of Victoria Falls but still a fun stop along the way. You will find numerous waterfalls in and around the town of Sabie – a town you might pass on your way to Graskop. Lone Creek Falls, straddled by Bridal Veil Falls and Horseshoe falls, is the favourite of the three. The drive to Lone Creek Waterfall is an experience in its own – especially on a misty day with fine rain in the air.  Just as you exit Sabie you will pass Mac Mac Falls. Lisbon Falls, the highest waterfall in Mpumalanga, is located on the panorama route shortly after God’s Window.