by Melanie Du Toit
on December 8, 2016
5 min read

The Panorama Route‘s proximity to the Kruger National Park and its private reserves isn’t the only thing this slice of paradise has going for it. Its lush and dramatic terrain not only inspires awe in the eyes of those who look upon it, but proffers a host of activities, too. We’ve compiled a Panorama Route bucket list to make sure you leave not having missed a thing along one of South Africa‘s most scenic self-drive journeys!

Blyde River Canyon

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There is likely only one other natural landmark that holds as much gravitas as Table Mountain, and that is Mpumalanga’s Blyde River Canyon. Considered one of the largest canyons on earth and the second largest on the continent, it is a significant natural wonder to behold.

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Undoubtedly the most awe-inspiring stop along this route, the Blyde River Canyon and nature reserve sharing its name runs along the canyon’s winding floor. Some of the cliff edges drop a spine-tingling 800 metres before reaching the earth or riverbed below. Viewpoints here abound, whether you’re marveling at the canyon itself, the Three Rondavels, or Wonder View.

Bourke’s Luck Potholes

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Other unmissable viewpoints along the canyon include the magnificent God’s Window, a towering spire dubbed ‘The Pinnacle‘, and Bourke’s Luck Potholes, the latter being one of the most interesting geological formations to grace the South African landscape.

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Over millennia, whirlpools and rivers have gradually ebbed and flowed, etching away at the rock-faces and leaving cylindrical potholes in its wake. Visitors can examine these mysterious pools from the extensive wooden walkways that guide visitors around it. This spot is an absolute must for photographers as well as travelers in search of unusual views.

Waterfalls

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The route’s lush soil, high altitude, and rocky landscape make it the perfect environment for the countless waterfalls that stretch from Graskop to Hazyview. Surely one of the most dramatic thanks to its 90m drop, Lisbon Falls is also the highest in the province. These falls are also conveniently close to Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve and Graskop, making it an easy stop along the way. The surroundings are home to shady trees and perfect picnic spots.

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A short drive from the town of Sabie, guests will be treated to the sight of not one, but two falls plunging 70m from a precipice to a gorge below. Mac Mac Falls is a national monument and it’s easy to see why thanks to the viewing platform overlooking it. There are several swimming spots as well as barbecue and picnic facilities at its base – so be sure to pack a lunch! Energetic travellers and eager twitchers can even enjoy the 3km Secretary Bird Trail found here.

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The appeal in the Panorama Route’s numerous natural water features lie in the varied routes travellers can make use of to get there. Some can be reached after a hike, some can be seen after a short stroll from the parking lot, and others from the exhilarating height of a helicopter. Whether you pick one for its picturesque beauty or another for its awe-inspiring drop, they’ll make wonderful stops along the way.

Hiking Trails

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The Panorama Route may be one of South Africa’s most scenic self-drive routes, but that’s not to say it should only be explored on four wheels! Just as waterfalls are not in short supply, neither are hiking trails – and many of these go hand-in-hand (just look at Forest Falls and the 3.5km hike to its depths).

From short and level trails that can be completed in a morning to 5-day overnight excursions through the Blyde River Canyon itself, there is a trail and route to suit all kinds of travellers with different fitness levels.

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The Kadishi Trail will suit young and old, the fit and the not-so-fit. Only 2km in length, it descends into the picturesque ravine of the Canyon which is dotted by rock pools and waterfalls. There are countless swimming and picnicking opportunities along the way, and this trail can easily be finished in a morning or afternoon.

The Loerie Trail is certainly tough, but can be completed in a day thanks to its 14km circular path traversing largely level ground through pine plantations, indigenous forests, and grassland. Serious hikers may prefer the likes of the 5-day Fanie Botha Trail or the 3-5 day Blyderivierspoort Hiking Trail.

Pilgrim’s Rest

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Not only has Pilgrim’s Rest, a national monument, remained largely unchanged since its inception during Mpumalanga’s very own gold rush, but guests can still try their luck and pan for gold here, too! Enjoy strolls through this charming town stuck in the 19th century, taste local fare at traditional restaurants, and follow the old path worn by hopeful gold diggers on the 5-day Prospector’s Trail. Nature lovers can meander along the same old route that hopeful miners followed a century and a half ago.

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Set along Mpumalanga’s scenic Panorama Route, not only is this landscape incredibly picturesque – it’s historical, too! Be sure to stop by Pilgrim’s Rest’s museums for a history lesson, Alcock’s saloon bar for an afternoon refreshment, and Harrie’s Pancakes for the best of its namesake in the province. Guests are encouraged to embrace the old world atmosphere permeating throughout this town stuck in a time warp.

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Now that we’ve created the ultimate self-drive blue print for you on our blog, let Rhino Africa start helping you plan it for real. Contact one one of our expert consultants today to start planning your epic journey.