The Panorama Route is one of the most famous roads in South Africa. With views for days and impressive waterfalls, it’s not rocket science why they call this the Panorama Route. When you’re in the area, you should absolutely visit some viewpoints along this route. It can easily be combined with a safari experience at the nearby Kruger National Park. In case you’re on a tight schedule as I was, it’s good to know that the route can be done in one day, but I recommend you to start early in the morning. All viewpoints are already open at 7 AM and the sun is already high up in the sky by that time.
Our starting point was Hoedspruit. A small strip of the Air Force Base was turned into an airport for tourists. But don’t expect too much of it. It is literally a strip of tarmac in between the bushes. The building has one waiting area and one bathroom. Hell, I’ve seen bus stop that were larger than this airport. Your luggage is handed to you through a hole in the wall of what can be described as an oversized carport. Meanwhile, monkeys are playing in the airport’s grass. Arriving at Hoedspruit is an enjoyable experience. It’s totally not crowded and you feel like you’ll have the entire place to yourself, which is a great feeling to start off you adventure, knowing that the panorama route is the number two most popular attraction in South Africa.
Blyde River Canyon
Off we went to explore the region and what this whole Panorama Route is all about. And what better way to do this than to start at Blyde River Canyon. This canyon is the largest green canyon in the world, and the third largest canyon overall! Pictures don’t do this canyon any justice. It’s hard to grasp on camera that the river is flowing a whopping 800m below the viewpoint!
Unfortunately for me, the itinerary was way too rushed. Imagine the pictures you can take if you have a bit more time and can look for the best angle!
From the Blyde River Canyon viewpoint, you can also see the Three Rondavels, a geological wonder of the world. They resemble the shape of the traditional African homestead, which explains their name.
Bourke’s Luck Potholes
From there we made our way to Bourke’s Luck Potholes. There was a real gold fever in this area back in the day. The name comes from Tom Bourke who was an explorer coming to look for his piece of nature’s fortune. The swirling of Blyde River and Treur River have carved away the rocks into this peculiar shapes. Officials have done a great effort in creating paths and bridges everywhere, which justifies why there’s a small entrance fee. This takes away a bit of authenticity tough but considering the erosive rocks, it definitely made the experience a lot safer.
Lisbon Falls en MacMac Falls
There is no doubt that Lisbon Falls is the most impressive waterfall of the Panorama Route. It’s 94m high and this makes it the highest waterfall of the entire Mpumalange region. The nearby hills offer a stunning backdrop. If you have a lot of time, you can find your way down to the foot of the waterfall, for another impressive view. MacMac Falls is another great alternative. The waterfall is very beautiful, but there’s fencing everywhere so you can’t thoroughly enjoy the view.
God’s Window is another viewpoint over the massive panoramic landscapes you can find along the Panorama Route, but we decided to skip this one. In all fairness, if you have done other attractions such as the Blyde River Canyon viewpoint, God’s Window will be a bit of a letdown.
Important information to know before visiting:
-While all of the above are natural attractions, at most places you have to pay a small entrance fee.
-Most attractions close at 5 PM. While at some viewpoints, it would technically still be possible to visit between 5 PM and sunset, I wouldn’t recommend it. If the guards are still around, they won’t let you in. It’s better to do a bit of planning and act accordingly.
– There are a lot of viewpoints along the route and I only listed my favorites. When you do the Panorama Route yourself, you’ll notice you can’t visit them all and you have to make a selection.