WHEN you’re exploring a country, there are few things better than stopping your car at a viewpoint and being rewarded with the kind of scenery that brightens your day and broadens your horizons. On the Panorama Route in Mpumalanga, every viewpoint gives you that opportunity.
Breathtaking views, plunging waterfalls, eagles flying above you and a rich history, quite literally, as it includes the gold rush years, are the kinds of things you better get used to when you visit the Panorama Route.
“Guarded” by the small town of Graskop, this famous route is home to mountains, forests and canyons, most notably, the Blyde River Canyon, which is also the world’s largest “green canyon”.
The awe-inspiring Lisbon Falls, Berlin Falls and Mac Mac Falls are just a short drive away. As are scenic landmarks such as Wonder View, the Pinnacle, Bourke’s Luck Potholes, the Three Rondavels and God’s Window, where you can walk in the thick, indigenous mist forest that stands amongst the clouds some 800m above Blyde River Canyon.
Bourke’s Luck Potholes are an unusual geological formation and well worth the visit. These giant potholes formed at the confluence of the Blyde and Treur rivers and mark the beginning of the Blyde River Canyon.
Make sure you stop at God’s Window, so called for its panoramic view of the Lowveld more than 900m down into lush indigenous forest-clad ravine. The majestic cliffs plunge over 700m to the Lowveld and the private game reserves that have made the area one of South Africa’s main wildlife destinations. God’s Window is a small part of a 250km long earthwork of sheer cliffs and extravagant beauty.
Viewing sites are provided along the length of the spectacular Blyde River Canyon including God’s Window, and there are numerous fantastic walks, hiking, horse and mountain bike trails. From the parking area, a very steep stepped footpath along the edge of the escarpment leads to the actual viewpoints.
While you’re there, why not add some historical romance to the mix? A short 30-minute drive from Graskop will take you to the gold rush town of Pilgrim’s Rest where you can relive the 1873 gold rush in surroundings of unparalleled beauty. You can even try your hand at panning for gold.
Over and above the scenic beauty and historical learnings found on the Panorama Route, you will also experience a wealth of plant and animal life in the region, including klipspringers, Dassies, Grey Rhebuck, Oribi, Kudu, bushbuck, bushpigs, monkeys, bushbabies, Chacma baboons, Black-Backed jackals and many species of birdlife, including resident pairs of nesting eagles that might well look you in the eye.
Some of the Panorama Route’s lesser-known, but no less fascinating attractions, are clustered around Ohrigstad where the Echo Caves extend 40km into the limestone rock. At Ohrigstad Dam Reserve, you can fish for yellowtail or carp in tranquil waters surrounded by mountains, an ideal refuge from the crowds in peak season. One literally can spend hours here just admiring the unsurpassed scenery of this breathtaking area.
Did You Know?
The Blyde River Canyon’s lush subtropical foliage makes it the world’s largest green canyon.