After our week exploring Joburg it was time to hit the road for Graskop. Graskop is a little town in Mpumalanga that acts as the gateway to the Panorama Route. This little slice of paradise is home to rolling green hills, pine forests, countless waterfalls, sprawling valleys and planes, canyons and freshwater swimming spots. Our trip to the Panorama Route happened during their rainy season (South African summer: October- February) which meant we had to plan our days to avoid afternoon showers and thunderstorms, but allowed us the treat of brilliant green, lush vegetation and waterfalls flowing at full force.
Where to stay?
While in Graskop we stayed in a cute A-frame cottage called the Wild Forest Inn. It was incredibly affordable and gave us everything we needed. The set up is quite basic with a very little kitchen and a bath instead of a shower. But it sleeps four people with a double bed and two single beds in the loft. The living area was quite small but there was a braai with wood provided. Cosy but comfortable. It is the only cottage in a big garden with the largest avocado tree imaginable.
We spent four night’s in Graskop which allowed us ample time to discover everything the Panorama Route has to offer as well as do a day trip to the Kruger National Park and explore the Blyde River Canyon. This is the break down of what we did when. Each day was filled to the brim with adventures because this area has so much to offer! This itinerary is only a guideline and can be spread over a few more days if you prefer a slower pace. This blog post will focus only on the Panorama Route attractions and will be followed by another two blog posts on Kruger National Park: how to plan a day trip and the Blyde River Canyon.
Drive from JHB to Graskop
(be sure to stop at The Udderlicious Milkshake Bar in Dullstroom for every milkshake flavour under the sun!)
Graskop Harrie’s Pancakes for lunch
God’s Window for sunset
Mac Mac Pools
Blyde River Canyon
Day trip to Kruger National Park
Drive Graskop to JHB (stop in Pilgrim’s Rest for a look around the town)
God’s Window is a short 5-10 minute drive from Graskop and entrance fee is R17 per person.
There are various viewing points which all give you the most picturesque view of the Lowveld. Picture sprawling green planes as far as the eye can see (even as far as to Mozambique on a clear day!). Make sure you head to God’s Window during dusk as the light rays that peek out from behind the mountains and spill onto the plains make for the most glorious view! Keep an eye on the time though as they close at 5pm. When we arrived a thunderstorm had just begun to roll in. So we watched as bolts of lightning lit up the sky, coming closer and closer as time passed. Glorious is the only word fit to describe such an incredible and raw experience with nature.
Mac Mac Pools
Mac Mac Pools is a 15 minute drive from Wild Forest Inn following the road down towards Sabie and entrance fee is R30 per person.
This is a beautiful leafy area filled with picnic spots and braai areas. There is a beautiful big mountain pool to swim in flanked by little waterfalls. Park off here for the morning dipping in and out of the water, warming up in the sun and looking out towards Mount Sheba. This is the perfect spot for your picnic lunch.
If you’d like you can continue further down towards Sabie to Lone Creek Falls or pop over to the neighboring Mac Mac Falls. We didn’t have time for either of these spots but both look beautiful from the pictures I’ve seen.
Berlin Falls is a 15 minute drive from Wild Forest Inn or a 30 minute drive from Mac Mac Pools following the road up towards Blyde River Canyon. The entrance fee is R15 per person.
This was my favourite waterfall we visited along the Panorama Route. A backdrop of green fields, pine forests and a sheer cliff with a single stream of water crashing down into a pool of water. Absolutely magnificent! Unfortunately for us we went mid morning which meant the sun was behind the waterfall casting a big shadow over it which made it very difficult to photograph. Don’t be like us, go in the afternoon!
Driving back towards Graskop for 5 minutes, you’ll arrive at Lisbon Falls. The entrance fee is R15 per person.
Lisbon Falls is a mighty and majestic waterfall that crashes down with power and force. There are lots of other smaller waterfalls surrounding Lisbon Falls creating a really beautiful spot. We tried to walk down towards the bottom of Lisbon Falls to get more of a front-on view but couldn’t find the path. We managed to get about halfway down before stopping and just taking in the beauty of this magnificent waterfall.
Drive back another 5 minutes towards Graskop and you’ll arrive at Pinnacle Rock. The entrance fee is R17 per person.
Pinnacle Rock is a massive shaft of quartz rock sprouting up from the middle of a green forested valley. The view behind it is the same view you see from God’s Window. The area is surrounded by bright green cycads and there was a little waterfall to the side. We went early morning and again had the sun directly behind the Pinnacle which wasn’t ideal lighting for photos. If you’re going to go in the morning I think it needs to be VERY early in time for sunrise, otherwise I would suggest late afternoon/ dusk.
Other things to do around Graskop
Head to Graskop centre and enjoy a delicious savoury or sweet pancake at Harrie’s Pancakes. A perfect spot for breakfast or lunch.
This little town is just a few kilometres outside Graskop and is a historical site. There is one main street that is lined with little shops, cafes, a post office, liquor store, and a barber, each building has remained nearly unchanged from the gold rush days in the 1870s. The main street is also lined with jacaranda trees which bloom in brilliant shades of purple from late October to early November. We had a little walk around the town on our way back from Graskop to Joburg.
All the Panorama Route attractions are found along one stretch of road and have short distances between them. This makes it the perfect self-drive route. The roads are lined with expansive pine tree plantations and brilliantly green hills dotted with cycads. The landscape is so unique and beautiful making it a truly beautiful part of our country to discover.