Explore the Mpumalanga highlands and enjoy one of the world’s most scenic drives. The northeast of South Africa is dominated by the Klein Drakensberg Mountains that stretch across the South African grasslands. Near South Africa’s famous Kruger National Park lays the panorama route. The route takes you from one breathtaking viewpoint to the next with the Blyde River Canyon and God’s Window being the highlights of the route. It passes several large waterfalls, caves and forests that are well worth a visit.
The town of Graskop is the starting point of the Panorama Route. The town was established in the late 1880’s as a gold mining camp and is considered a gateway to the nearby Kruger National Park. As the town of Graskop is quite remote and there is no public transport, we recommend picking up your car hire in Johannesburg or Pretoria. The South African capital Pretoria is approximately 220 miles from Graskop while Johannesburg is 240 miles away.
Start driving down the R532 road from Graskop to visit the first viewpoint on the route. Follow the road signs to the Pinnacle. It is a short walk to the edge of the canyon from the parking lot. From the viewpoint, you will see a massive single rock column standing separate from the wall, which offers unique and great views of the area.
The Second stop on the route is God’s window. As the name God’s window reveals, the viewpoint offers a spectacular view of the cliffs and the 650 metre lower grasslands. It is often hazy at this viewpoint, which might obscure the area below. Even with a cloud cover the view is breath-taking. When you walk further up the hill, follow the signs to the rainforest viewpoint, it is just a 200 meter walk. From this viewpoint, you will see grasslands and forests all the way to the horizon. The views are so magnificent along the ridge that it is difficult to say which viewpoint is more stunning.
Just off the road, you will see the signs to Berlin Falls and Lisbon falls. These waterfalls, named after the capitals of Portugal and Germany, lie close to each other and are a nice place to take a small break. At the bottom of the Berlin waterfall there are rocks and tree trunks that are the ideal resting place. At the higher Lisbon falls there is a viewing platform just above the falls from which you can see the river below.
The next stop on the route is the Three Rondavels, three distinctive rock formations standing out of the canyon wall. They are known as the Three Rondavels (huts) or the Three Sisters. Using some imagination, it is easy to make out three orange-reddish coloured huts that are set against a picturesque background. The Blyde River Canyon is the highlight of the route and offers picture-perfect scenery. With the viewpoint being far up, you look down into the deep canyon and the swirling river below. The river has carved through the landscape for thousands of years and created one of the world’s largest canyons. The Blyde River Canyon is one of the must-see places when visiting South Africa. Nearby lies one of South Africa’s geological highlights; the Bourke’s Luck Potholes. Thousands of years of beating water have caused the rock to erode. Due to the circular flow of water, the rock surface has formed round shaped holes that look like the potholes similar to these commonly seen on the South African roads. The dark coloured water and the colourful rocks offer quite an amazing view.
Due to the diverse area and varied plant life, many different animals can be encountered in Blyde River Canyon National park. The area is home to all five species of primates found in South Africa. The most common of the five is the Vervet monkey, which has grey coloured fur and is very intelligent. Due to their curiosity and intelligence, they can become nuisance for tourists and locals alike. Therefore we advise to keep your windows closed while parked or while viewing the animals, as on occasion it happens that the animals smell food from the vehicle and will come through the window and go through your belongings. Deeper into the park you can also see hippopotamus and crocodiles near the river. The area is also popular among birdwatchers as there are many types of birds the area is.
For those planning to stay in the area, there is an array of activities to do. The river offers the possibility to go river rafting, tubing or taking a boat ride, while the mountainous terrain offers ideal circumstances for abseiling. The dense forests are a great place for hiking or horseback riding. For the adventurous traveller it is also possible to go hot air ballooning or quad biking.When driving the South African roads, we advise you to pay special attention to the road as it can have large potholes, which can cause damage to your vehicle. For more information regarding driving in South Africa please visit our South Africa driving guide.
The route most people take is the following: Graskop –The Pinnacle –God’s Window-Rainforest viewpoint-Berlin & Lisbon Falls-Three Rondavels-The Blyde River Canyon-Bourke’s Luck Potholes. The route is approximately 80 miles long but there are lesser known waterfalls and viewpoints in the area that are just waiting to be explored.
Whichever part of the panorama route you take, make sure to book your car hire with Auto Europe. We offer the best rates on the web with great customer service. Be sure to call our hotline to check which car best suits your needs.