The Panorama Route of South Africa is a grand experience. It showcases nature at its best and most varied. This offers majestic views and route myriad combinations of different forms of nature. They all lie in close proximity to each other, to provide you with an unending joy of enthralling nature. If you have traveled through the Panorama Route South Africa you have seen them all, or mostly all. This route lies close to Kruger National Park and is part of the Mpumalanga highlands. It is one of the most scenic self-drives in South Africa and you can view some of South Africa‘s most spectacular scenery. Its popularity is high because of its proximity to Kruger National Park, making it a perfect addition to the Kruger safari packages.
We were travelling through South Africa, as part of our annual vacation during August 2018. We had visited Aha Lesedi (Read our Aha Lesedi Experience here) for the first night and then spent a couple of nights at Kruger National Park, to watch all the African Big 5. The previous afternoon we had reached Graskop, about 50 kms from Kruger gate. Graskop would be our base for two nights and yesterday we had reached there crossing Hazy View, another town in the vicinity. The drive from Hazy view to Graskop, of about 25 kms had enthralled us with its long unending pine slopes and mountain escarpments and valleys of different shades and tints of green. The vegetation, thick and dense, was spread all around us as we made our way through spiral mountainous roads. The air became cooler, as we moved into mountain territory and silence engulfed us all around( except Anita, that is, who kept on talking and expressing her feelings about everything she saw and felt :).
Graskop, once a gold mining town, was our base for the Panorama Route. It is a pleasant town and has a bit of everything within a vicinity of 100 meters including a Spar supermarket ( a local market chain), a post office and information center, a chemist and a bank in the center of the town. There are quite a few restaurants, shops, hotels, apartments and vacation rentals nearby. The one we had booked, Blue Swallow Chalets, was about 250 yards from the town’s information center. We had booked an apartment with two rooms, part of a community which shares a swimming pool and the backside porch opened into a central lawn. It was pretty cold as the evening wore off and the owners of the lot loaned us a room heater. Squirrels and rodents throng the lawn, birds screech and the air was damp and cool as we checked in around 4.30 in the evening. The evening was time to shop for grocery and food items, wash our clothes and unwind . We had a hearty Indian home-cooked dinner with South African red wine, we liked the semi-sweet Long Horse. Next day, we had a long list of locations to visit within the Panorama route. Other than Graskop, overnight accommodations are also available at Hazy View, Sabie, and Ohrigstag : the nearby towns. Part of a budget travel series, this route offers enchanting experiences at a cheaper shot.
The Panorama Route :
The Panorama Route is a region of diverse natural beauty, spread within a span of about 100 kilometers. Attractions in this route are quite a few and you can easily enjoy them over two or three days of holidaying. For us, with only a whole day remaining, we picked the ones which were the most engrossing. You shouldn’t rush through the drive, the nature around you is beautiful every inch of the way. Mountains, highlands, valleys, grasslands, rivers, canyons, strange rock formations and waterfalls dot every way of this route. The best time to experience the Panorama Route is between the months of May to August with cooler and drier weather and clear visibility. It is spread over the R532 and R534 routes and the locations are available on Google Maps.
The best locations for the Panorama Route:
- The Pinnacle Rock: A free-standing skyscraper of a rock rising about 30 meters looks like part of a sci-fi movie. With two different mountain embankments flaunting its two sides, the view over the far reaching valley is magnificent.
- God’s window : One of the most favourite for travelers on this route is God’s window. A series of viewpoints over a walk that takes you into a rain forest area, God’s window opens up the African valley and forests like no other. On a clear day one can view Kruger Park as well as the bordering Mozambique .
- Bourke’s Luck Potholes : This is the most fascinating geological rock formation found in South Africa, about 35 kms from Graskop, at the confluence of the Breur and Blyde rivers. Since time immemorial, water has eroded and formed potholes and crevasses along the mountain beds leaving behind enchanting formations and strange shapes. Smaller waterfalls deck the area and visitors have a series of narrow pathways and bridges to walk around the captivating rock shores. This place is also a great attraction for locals whom can be seen enjoying a day out with their families and friends. The smell of Braai was all around the public engagement area. Both locals and tourists were enjoying a day of sunshine amidst some scintillating nature around. There are a few restaurants and eateries and thus makes for a nice break for lunch.
- Blyde River Canyon LowVeld view : The Blyde river canyon is one of the largest river Canyons in the world. About 5 kms away from the Potholes it opens into one of the most appealing views of the Blyde river canyon as the river meanders and snakes its way down below. The location can be found on Google Maps as Low Veld View and is just off the R 532 road. When we visited, it was going misty and thus visibility was not that great.
- Three Rondavels: Three round mountain tops with a slightly pointed tip are known as the three Rondavels, its name originating from the traditional African roundish houses which they resemble . The view point allows you to see the other side of the Drakensberg range of mountains.
- Berlin Falls : A tumble of about 250 ft into a shallow pool, the Berlin Falls creates an ever lingering impression with its reddish mountain walls and the blueish green oval pool below into which it descends. It can be seen from a viewing deck facing the mountain ridge, and offers a splendid view during sundown.
- Lisbon Falls : Another of the most scenic waterfalls in this region , this is one of the closest from Graskop and is about 10 kms from Berlin Falls. Again, visit this during sunset for the best experience. The waters fall into a depth of over 300 ft and is the largest in this area. The soft light of the setting sun creates a magical setting to the area.
Visiting these seven attractions in a day was a challenge. But we ultimately managed to do so and return home satisfied. Nature with its different variations was the highlight for our halt here. We were satisfied and happy that our decision proved right and the Panorama Route became another highlight of our South Africa trip.
The following afternoon we returned to Johannesburg. We visited the Soweto Towers near Orlando and the home of Nelson Mandela at Vilikazi street. On the same street, just a couple of houses before stands the home of Desmond Tutu another Nobel Laureate for Peace. Night was spent at the Aviator Hotel just outside the O R Tambo international airport.
We were scheduled to catch a Mango Airlines flight to Cape Town for the second leg of our tour the next morning. You can read about our Cape Town experience here !! 🙂