The Panorama Route: a piece of "heaven on earth".
The Panorama Route, located north of the charming Western town of Graskop, offers an enchanting journey through the breathtaking landscapes of South Africa. The route winds its way mostly along the impressive Blyde River Canyon, a gorge stretching over 30 kilometers and considered one of the country's most beautiful natural wonders. Whether you depart from Graskop, Hazyview, or Pilgrim's Rest, the Panorama Route can be experienced as a day trip or as an unforgettable part of a longer journey from north to south. Let's be guided by the unforgettable viewpoints along this picturesque route, where each panorama unveils a new chapter in the visual poetry of South Africa.
The Panorama Route is not just a road, it is more of an incredible exploration through the beautiful South African landscape. As the name suggests, this route allows you to revel in amazing views and breathtaking spots. Here, amidst a piece of Earth where nature is at its best, you can admire waterfalls, canyons, and gorges, all immersed in the pleasant subtropical climate. Brace yourself for a captivating journey filled with natural wonders that will not only enchant your senses but also capture your heart.
We ascend the stairs, wander among tall trees providing morning shade, and eventually reach a small viewpoint. From there, we gaze out over a valley that lies a staggering 900 meters below. On a clear day, you can even see Kruger Park and Mozambique in the distance.
This piece of nature in Mpumalanga is truly a natural wonder, complete with impressive canyons, rock formations, and waterfalls. No wonder it's called the Paradise Land! Artists from around the world are enchanted by this beautiful landscape. The name "God's Window" truly makes sense when you look down and feel the grandeur of this natural marvel. It's as if nature has painted its own masterpiece here, and every time you visit, you are simply drawn into the magic of this breathtaking view.
After our adventure at God's Window, we spot a sign directing us to the Rainforest. Curious as we are, we follow this sign and climb higher up the mountain. Soon, a trail leads us straight through the lush forest, making it feel like we're right in the heart of a rainforest. Once at the top, we are treated to a breathtaking view. Honestly, I personally found this even more impressive than what we saw at God's Window. Here, the landscape stretches for kilometers, all shrouded in a wealth of green. A green paradise with a view that truly leaves you momentarily speechless.
Our next stop was the viewpoint at the Three Rondavels in the Blyde River Canyon. Here, we saw three round rocks, covered with vegetation, protruding above the canyon. A short path of about a hundred meters led us to the observation platform, where we not only enjoyed the impressive view of the rocks but also caught a glimpse of the Blydepoort Dam in the depths.
The "Three Rondavels" made a truly remarkable impression. They towered high above the canyon, and the view from 1,380 meters was breathtaking. Did you know they owe their name to the distinctive rock formations resembling traditional huts of the Xhosa tribe? Formed by erosion of soft shale, these rocks tell a unique story about the power of nature and the rich African culture.
The viewpoint not only revealed a stunning sight of these striking rock formations but also of the Blyde River Canyon itself. With a length of 25 kilometers, this canyon is the third largest in the world and the largest green canyon globally.
The massive quartzite rock known as The Pinnacle Rock resembles a freestanding tower-like "needle" stretching to a height of 30 meters. A beautiful sight that rises above the dense indigenous forest of Driekopkloof.
Lisbon & Berlin Falls
The Panorama Route is renowned for its abundance of waterfalls, and the "Lisbon Falls" are the absolute highlight. It is the tallest waterfall in Mpumalanga, and believe me, it is truly impressive. The water cascades forcefully from the cliff in two streams, rushing down 94 meters and then merging with the Lisbon Creek.
The "Berlin Falls" stand out as a remarkable highlight within the Sabie waterfall cluster. This waterfall, shaped like an impressive "white candle," plunges as a powerful water flow for 80 meters, ending in a round pool.
The comparison to a candle becomes clear quickly. The water follows a natural sluice in the rock, takes a short free fall (the candlewick), and then fans out into a broad stream that plunges straight down into the "pool" (the candle itself).
But why the name "Berlin" when it has no African origin? The answer lies in the history of European miners who tried their luck during the gold rush. They named the waterfalls after cities and places from their home countries. Thus, the Lisbon Falls were named by Portuguese miners, and the Berlin Falls owe their name to nostalgic German prospectors. The Panorama Route not only unveils natural beauty but also a touch of history, captured in the names of these breathtaking waterfalls.
The Mac Mac Falls
The Mac-Mac Falls are not only an impressive natural spectacle but also a silent witness to human history. With a height of 65 meters, these waterfalls, once a single stream, were recognized as a National Monument in 1993. Gold prospectors from the 1870s used dynamite at that time to split the waterfall into two powerful streams, hoping to uncover valuable treasures. This intriguing history, coupled with the stunning surroundings, makes the Mac-Mac Falls a unique stop on the Panorama Route.
Bourke's Luck Potholes
Bourke's Luck Potholes not only bear the imprint of nature but also carry a piece of history with them. The name stems from the legend of gold prospector Tom Bourke, who sought gold here in the 19th century. While Bourke had no luck with gold, he did discover these distinctive cylindrical holes in the rock, formed by the swirling movements of river water.
These natural potholes are a result of centuries of erosion, where rivers converge and create whirlpools. The area is not just a visual spectacle but also a tangible reminder of the gold rush era and the pioneers who explored the South African landscapes in search of wealth. Walk along the wooden walkways and follow in the footsteps of those who once hoped to find their fortune here, and now discover the rich history that Bourke's Luck Potholes carry on the Panorama Route.
On the Panorama Route, you'll find a gem often overlooked: the Lowveld Viewsite. While it may be passed by many, this spot offers a breathtaking view where you can peacefully take it all in. Take the time for a short walk from the parking lot, along a partially paved path, to the intimate platform. From here, you can enjoy an undisturbed panoramic view of the expansive Blyde River Canyon.
De Graskop Gorge Lift
The Graskop Gorge Lift, unique in South Africa, is a highlight along the stunning Panorama Route.
Step into the glass elevator for a 51-meter descent to the forest below, where wooden walkways and suspension bridges await.
Thrill-seekers can try the Big Swing, the world's highest cable gorge swing. Here, you are harnessed upright and experience a rapid free fall of 70 meters, enjoying the breathtaking view at a speed of 140 km/h.
If you prefer to stay on the ground, there is also a suspension bridge at 130 meters height over the gorge for an exciting but less intense experience. An adventurous getaway along the beautiful Panorama Route!
Pilgrim's Rest, founded in 1873 during the gold rush by miner Alex "Wheelbarrow" Patterson, initially got its name because of Patterson's gold discovery, which he transported in a wheelbarrow. Originally named after him, it later became known as Pilgrim's Rest, serving as a resting place for both pilgrims and miners. This village, now a national monument, commemorates the brief but intense gold rush that lasted fifty years. The miners' village remains entirely intact, giving you the literal feeling of stepping back in time. The largest gold nugget found weighed 11 kg!
Thank you for reading about my adventures along the Panorama Route!
If you're inspired to explore this beautiful place yourself, I'm here to help. At our travel agency in South Africa, we're ready to make your dream trip a reality. Whether you're looking for breathtaking landscapes, captivating culture, or unique experiences, we have something special for you. Feel free to contact us, and let's plan your perfect journey together. The Panorama Route is just the beginning of what South Africa has to offer, and we look forward to embarking on a discovery journey with you.