The Panorama Route is undoubtedly one of the most stunning drives in South Africa. The route traverses the Mpumalanga Region in the north-eastern section of the Drakensberg Mountains along the R532, with breathtaking views of mountain scenery, picturesque waterfalls, and a huge canyon. All these natural wonders make the Panorama Route an epic drive to undertake.
The magnificent Panorama Route is one of the continent's great natural wonders and one of the world’s most beautiful driving routes. The mountainous escarpment of the Mpumalanga highlands is famed for the stunning views of the Lowveld and some of the province’s most spectacular scenery. Centered around the Blyde River Canyon, the world’s third largest canyon, the Panorama Route offers a dramatic terrain of lush mountain peaks scarred with ochre cliff faces. Dozens of magnificent waterfalls, raging rivers.
While many may take the Panorama Route as an afterthought to the undeniable lure of the region's game parks, its proximity to Kruger National Park and other famous private reserves make it a perfect addition to any safari holiday. Another option is to take a few days and drive the Panorama Route from Johannesburg to Kruger National Park. More than just an awe-inspiring landscape, South Africa’s Panorama Route also offers plenty of activities.
2-3 Day Panorama Route Itinerary
Wondering how long to spend on the Panorama Route? With so much to see along the route, the area deserves at least two to three days to spend enough time at each place and enjoy the region. To rush the Panorama Route would be to miss so much of the beauty.
1 Day Panorama Route Itinerary
If you only want to see the big ticket attractions, the main sights are clustered in three areas. Within these clusters, many of the attractions are just a short drive to the next. So, if you were short on time, it is feasible to tick off the highlights on a good, albeit long day trip itinerary.
Panorama Route Self Drive
Hazyview, Sabie, and Graskop are often the most popular towns to base yourself on if you do plan a self-drive Panorama Route itinerary over a couple of days.
Panorama Route Attractions
The most popular stretch of the route is the R532 which runs from the town of Sabie past some of the area’s most spectacular waterfalls to God’s Window, the Blyde River Canyon, and the Three Rondavels, and Bourke’s Luck Potholes.
Blyde River Canyon
The Panorama Route’s popularity is not just its proximity to Kruger National Park. It is the gateway to one of the province’s major scenic draw cards, the Blyde River Canyon Reserve.
One of the largest canyons in the world and the second-largest on the continent. This is one of South Africa’s most impressive natural landmarks, up there with Table Mountain.
Whether marveling at the canyon itself or the Three Rondavels, without a doubt, this is the most awe-inspiring stop along the Panorama Route. A magnificent vista of rocky peaks and deep valleys of dense forest where cliff edges can drop a staggering 800 meters. The Blyde River snakes through the canyon until it reaches the pristine Blydepoort Dam, a bright contrast of blue in the lush forest that surrounds it.
Three Rondavels, also called the Three Sisters are three massive rock edifices of dolomite rock rising from the Blyde River Canyon. One of the three iconic landmarks in Blyde River Canyon Reserve The Three Rondavels takes its name from the traditional African huts they resemble. An overwhelmingly beautiful view is formed by the slow erosion of the underlying soft stone, leaving exposed quartzite and shale that form the 700-meter-high rondavels.
Best Time to Visit Blyde River Canyon
Early morning or late in the afternoon are the best times for this lookout. As the area is such a major tourist drawcard, it can get hectic. It is much nicer to enjoy the view without crowds of tour groups. The afternoon offers better light for photographers.
Burke’s Luck Pot Holes
One of South Africa’s most fascinating geological formations, Bourke’s Luck Potholes in the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve is a striking natural phenomenon formed over millennia. Churning whirlpools at the confluence of the Treur and Blyde rivers have gradually etched away at the rock faces leaving cylindrical potholes in the bedrock. The Potholes are named after the gold digger Tom Bourke, who staked a claim nearby.
Waterfalls on the Panorama Route
The Panorama Route’s high altitude and rocky landscape make it the perfect environment for no less than ten awe-inspiring waterfalls.
The most dramatic, at over 90m, Lisbon Falls is the highest in the Province. You guessed it, these falls were named by sentimental Portuguese miners. Lisbon Falls are the highest in the region at 94 meters and can be easily viewed from the viewing platform or short stretch of the path at the top of the waterfall. You can also hike down to the waterfall but it's a slippery path so wear good shoes. The hike will take about 45 minutes
Declared a national monument, the beautiful Mac Mac falls has a viewing platform so the entire 70-meter drop can be viewed from above.
The Berlin Falls is an 80m waterfall often described as being candle shaped. This is due to the wick-like appearance at the narrow top end of the falls, which widens and falls in a straight line to the pool below. This gives the appearance of a large white candle positioned in front of a reddish-orange cliff surrounding it. European miners searching for gold named each waterfall in the area after their respective home towns, or places in their home countries.
God’s Window, The Pinnacle, The Wonder View North of Graskop, take a turn onto the R534 and drive a loop past three spectacular lookout points on the edge of the Mpumalanga Drakensberg escarpment. The R534 loop ends 4km past the Wonder View bringing you back onto the R532. Make sure you reach for the wide angle lens or switch to panorama view on your camera for these stops.
The Pinnacle A freestanding natural skyscraper of rock rising vertically out of the dense forest. Two separate viewing decks give you different perspectives of this impressive vista.
A 900m high viewpoint where the entire Mpumalanga Lowveld stretches spectacularly out through a lush forest-clad ravine. On a bright day, the view reaches all the way to Mozambique, over 200km away.
Hiking the Panorama Route
While it may be one of South Africa’s most scenic self-drive routes, it doesn’t mean the Panorama Route can only be explored by car.
From short and easy half-day trails to more advanced 5-day hikes through the Blyde River Canyon itself. The Panorama Route and the Blyde River Canyon Reserve offer hiking trails to suit all kinds of hikers and fitness levels.
Just as spectacular waterfalls are plentiful, so are hiking trails. Many of which go hand-in-hand such as:
The 3.5km hike to the bottom of the Forest Falls
The 3km Secretary Bird Trail from Mac Mac Falls.
The 2 km Kadishi Trail into the picturesque ravine of the Canyon is a great hike for any age or fitness level. Dotted with waterfalls and swimming holes, it offers many swimming and picnic opportunities.
For a full-day hike, take the circular Loerie Trail. 14 km of mostly level hiking that takes you through stunning pine plantations. Or, for something more advanced, the Fanie Botha Trail and Blyderivierspoort Hiking Trails offer 3 – 5 day hikes.
Where to Stay on the Panorama Route
Your Panorama Route accommodation choice depends on how you choose to do the route and how long you have. In addition to the main towns, you will also find various styles of guesthouses and B&B accommodation scattered throughout the area for those who want to get away and appreciate the landscape.
Graskop is closest to the main attractions and is considered the best place to base yourself. It has plenty of accommodation catering to all styles of travelers and budgets and offers the convenience of town for those who do not wish to self-cater.
Sabie and Hazyview
If you are coming to or from Kruger; Sabie and Hazyview may be more convenient. Although, they are further from the main attractions of the Panorama Route. Hazyview has the best facilities in the area for fuel and supplies
Africamps at Mackers, Hazyview
AfriCamps’ boutique tented camps are dotted around some of the most beautiful places in the country and each camp is totally unique in setting and what it has to offer. However, the tented accommodation stays the same across all of them.
Glamping on the banks of the Sabie river at Africamps Hazyview
The perfect place to chill around the braai (South African BBQ) after a day of exploring the panorama route.
The tents are all self-catering but don’t worry about stocking up before you arrive. You can add meal baskets to your booking, which will be waiting for you when you arrive. The breakfast basket has a continental spread including fruit, muesli, yogurt, juice, bread, and cheese, along with bacon, sausages, and eggs to prepare in the morning. You can also order braai baskets, which contain three kinds of meat, two salads, and garlic bread or other sides.
Enjoy a braai in front of the tent and take in the views from the comfortable deck loungers on the spacious wooden decks. Pull up the front covers and transform the tent into a large outdoor living area. Unwind and take in the serene natural beauty of the South African Lowveld
AfriCamps at Mackers, Nestled in the Lowveld between Hazyview and Sabie is the perfect place to relax and explore the beautiful Mpumalanga bush, the breathtaking Panorama Route, and the untamed Kruger National Park area. The camp is perfect for families, couples, or close friends who want to break away from the busy city, looking for peace and tranquility without breaking the bank!
Apart from the variety of exciting and adrenalin-filled attractions in the area, the camp’s sights and sounds are sure to win you over. Hear the bush babies and owls at night from the comfort of your fully equipped boutique glamping tent, walk a few meters to dip your toes in the soothing Sabie river, cast your fishing lines, and bring a tube to experience the thrill of the lazy river, unwind by the beautiful infinity swimming pool under the warm Lowveld sun, or hike along the river to see wild rapids upstream.
The camp is perfectly positioned to spend at least a day in the Kruger National Park spotting the Big 5, or driving along the Panorama Route experiencing the breathtaking scenery. God’s Window, 3 Rondavels, Bourke’s Luck potholes, and the Blyde River Canyon are all spectacular sights worth a visit. Your hosts, owners Ryan and Michelle McKain will gladly arrange tours for both routes.
Panorama route from Africamps Mackers 2 days
Day 1 starts directly after breakfast to avoid the crowd
Mac Mac Falls
Day 2 start at the Blyde river canyon to avoid the crowd or start afternoon so you be at sunset at the Blyde River Canyon
Drive directly to, Blyde River Canyon
Bourke's Luck Potholes