How to explore the Panorama Route

How to explore the Panorama Route

  • 01 January 2020
  • |
  • Hennie van der Merwe

By Hennie van der Merwe

There is so much to experience and explore along the iconic Panorama Route in Mpumalanga. Places that simply take your breath away, that will leave you with teary eyes and lasting memories of a beauty that words can never truly explain. 

This is how we explored Sabie and Graskop and what we learned along the way.

Stop 1: Lone Creek Falls
Entrance fee: +- R20pp
Best time of the day: Any
Adventure rating: Easy (200m)
Main attractions: Indigenous forest walk, waterfall with a big pool and natural beach, great for hot summer days.

Tip: Take your cozzie, towels and sunscreen for a tanning session at the Lone Creek "beach".

Stop 2: Kadishi and Leopard Trail
Entrance fee: +- R50pp
Best time of the day: Early morning/ late afternoon
Adventure rating: Easy to moderate (2-10km)
Main attractions: Indigenous forest walk, waterfall with a big pool and natural beach, great for hot summer days.

The Hidden Oasis of Kadishi.

This is not a spot your average person will ever get to see. We had to leave the trail, hop across a few streams and go through a Thorny Rope forest (vines that are covered in 6cm thorns and yes it is actually called ‘Thorny Rope’ and it HURTS!)

Tip: Not the most glamorous hike, but when you come across places like this, it ends up being totally worth it.

Monkeying around on the Kadishi Trail

Never be afraid to act like a kid whenever you get a chance! We’re all so caught up in being “adults” or at least acting like it, that we completely forget what it’s like to find joy in silly little acts such as climbing a tree and how stimulating it is, both mentally and physically. It kept us healthy and strong when we were kids. Climbing trees, falling out of them, crawling around in the dirt, building mud castles, swimming naked in the streams and just being constantly stimulated by nature taught me more about myself than anyone or anything else ever could.

Tip: If there is one little piece of advice I can leave with you today, it would be to go out and learn how to be a kid again.

Kadishi Trail

Leopard trail

I was so blown away by the beauty of the Blyde River Canyon and other surrounding natural wonders that I genuinely found it hard to decide on a favourite spot.

It was my first time back since childhood, so I didn’t really know what to expect and as you all know, everything seems so much bigger and more "WOW", when you’re a kid! So I actually didn’t want to have any expectations in fear of being disappointed. Fortunately, that was not the case, I felt like a kid again and simply couldn’t stop smiling for the entire time we were there.

This little ledge we found on the Leopard Trail is a sure highlight for me.

Leopard Trail

Stop 3: Jock of the Bushveld Trail (Fairyland)
Entrance fee: +- R40pp
Best time of the day: Early morning/ late afternoon (almost no shade along the entire hike)
Adventure rating: Easy (+-10km)
Main attractions: Meandering hike through Marshlands and rolling hills. Beautiful rock formations.

Barefooted adventure through the mist

This was truly a unique experience - a first for me. We ended up hiking just over 10 kilometres, in soaking wet marshlands with our bare feet.

The Jock of the Bushveld trail in Graskop had a decent amount of rain the night before, so when we decided to head out on the trail, we got a lot more than we bargained for.

Apart from having to do the entire trip without shoes on, we discovered places that absolutely blew my mind, such magical beauty and unspoiled nature, straight out of Lord of the Rings trilogy. The mist was so dense and the sun so low, we got lost in the dark and had to navigate our way back to the starting point with only our senses to help. It was an incredibly eerie experience with all the sounds of the night and visibility to no more than 15meters! But to me, that made this one of my most epic adventures yet!

Jock of the Bushveld Trail

Stop 4: God's Window
Entrance fee: +- R20pp
Best time of the day: Any
Adventure rating: Easy
Main attractions: Breathtaking viewpoints, indigenous forest walk, African markets.

Tip: At the right place, at the right time, moments before the sun slips beyond the horizon, you can experience a little piece of heaven from God’s Window.

God's Window

Stop 5: Three Rondavels
Entrance fee: +- R20pp
Best time of the day: Any
Adventure rating: Easy
Main attractions: Definitely one of the most breathtaking views of the Blyde River Canyon, short trails to different viewpoints, African markets.

The Last Morning

It was our last morning in Graskop. We woke up at 4 am to get to the Three Sisters viewpoint overlooking the beautiful Blyde River Canyon.

The morning mist was hanging low across the winding roads that led to our destination, threatening to block our view of the sun’s arrival completely. When we got to the gate, we noticed that the park only opened at 7 am, but to our luck, the gate was left open, so we could sneak in and start making our way to the viewpoint.

The universe was most definitely on our side. As we approached the top of the road, the clouds started dissipating and left us with a view we will never forget.

Three Rondavels

Stop 6: The Pinnacle
Entrance fee: +- R20pp
Best time of the day: Any
Adventure rating: Easy
Main attractions: The "Pinnacle" rock formation

Tip: A short walk from the car park brings you to a stunning view of the Pinnacle. Carry on down the trail down to your right to reach the top waterfall, which runs down past a huge rock spire to an even higher fall that can only be seen from a bird’s eye view or drone.

The Pinnacle

Stop 7: Maria Shires Waterfall and surrounding forest
Entrance fee: Free
Best time of the day: Any, but there's something special about the forest walk in the late afternoon.
Adventure rating: Easy (200m - 4km)
Main attractions: Waterfall, forest walks and Maria Shires gravesite

Tip: The gravesite is practically hidden along the road between Graskop and Sabie, if drive too fast and you'll miss this little gem. Named by Joseph Brooke Shires Jr, whose mother’s name was Maria. He played a massive role in the forestry industry of the entire Sabie region in the late 1800’s. An absolute must for a late afternoon adventure.

Maria Shires

The White Tree

These forests have a special place in my heart. It was incredible to see how life absolutely flourished here. So much so, that it was hard to find an open spot of bare soil that didn’t have a little plant or fungi growing there. Especially in this clearing.

There was a beautiful white tree (which must have died from natural causes), that was surrounded by a whole host of plants to whom the trees’ death was a blessing. They are now exposed to more sunlight than their neighbours (that are hidden underneath the dense forest canopy), allowing them to grow much bigger. It really was a magical scene.

Stop 8: Bridal Veil Falls
Entrance fee: +- R10pp
Best time of the day: Any
Adventure rating: Easy (100m)
Main attractions: Indigenous forest walk, high-pressure shower under the waterfall.

Tip: Take mosquito repellent!

One of the best showers I have had

What a way to end off our last day. We started early to meet the sunrise over Blyde River Canyon, then chased one last waterfall.

Tip: The Bridal veil has a 146m drop - it was an incredible sight to see. Even better to experience the power of the water, crashing down on my shoulders. Definitely worth the R10 entrance fee and the short hike to the falls.

Bridal Veil Falls

Stop 9: Lisbon falls (my personal favourite)
Entrance fee: +- R20pp
Best time of the day: Any (especially on cloudy days)
Adventure rating: Easy (10m - 5km)
Main attractions: Mpumalanga's biggest waterfall, African Market

Tip: A 10-second walk from the car park to Mpumalanga's biggest falls. For the more adventurous, follow the trail to the left of the viewpoint all the way to the bottom of the hill to the river, hop on some rocks up to your right and walk straight up to the bottom of the falls.

A view from the top

Just moments before the sun started slipping beyond the distant mountains, I took one step closer to the edge, gazing across the Lisbon Falls with a huge smile on my face. Realising yet again that these majestic falls will always be one of my favourite places in the world.

At the bottom of the falls

We have all experienced moments in our life where it feels like time is standing still. Where nothing else matters and every part of you resonates in absolute bliss.

Like the moment you had your first kiss,
The first time you tasted chocolate,
Like the day you got your first puppy,
Or the first time you fell in love.

I fell in love this day, all over again, as I do every single time I get to explore and experience the beauty of our planet in all her glory at natural wonders like this.

This was my moment...

Lisbon Falls

Before you go, get all you need for your explorations here