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The Panorama Route in South Africa is certainly a must-visit. Between the gorgeous views at Blyde River Canyon and the delightful waterfalls, a Panorama Route itinerary is the perfect addition to your time in South Africa.
There are opportunities for some smaller hikes, to witness incredible views, and visit some charming towns along the way. And the best part is that you can even do this in just one day!
We’re here to show you how to have the ultimate Panorama Route itinerary in a day that you’ll ever need!
What is the Panorama Route in South Africa?
Let’s start out by answering what the Panorama Route is in South Africa.
The Panorama Route is a scenic driving route located in the Mpumalanga Province in the northeastern part of South Africa. The drive connects multiple points of interest including the 3rd largest canyon in the world, Blyde River Canyon, to waterfalls, historic towns, and more!
This is actually a great day to add after a safari near Hoedspruit, which is what we did. After 3 nights on safari, we had a morning game drive and were off on the Panorama Route for the day before ending in Hazyview and flying to Cape Town the following morning.
Panorama Route Itinerary in a Day
Here is a quick run-down of the best way to see the Panorama Route in a day!
- Stop 1: Three Rondavels
- Stop 2: Blyde River Canyon
- Stop 3: Bourke’s Luck Potholes
- Stop 4: Berlin Falls
- Stop 5: God’s Window
- Stop 6: Late lunch in Graskop
- Stop 7: Arrive in Hazyview and dinner
Keep on reading for even more details on the perfect Panorama drive in South Africa!
Panorama Route in South Africa 1-Day Itinerary
There are certainly several things to do along the Panorama Route, and while you could spend 2-3 days really diving deep and visiting cultural and historic places like the Shangana Cultural Village and the Lydenburg Museum, if you only have a day, we recommend focusing on the natural landmarks along the route.
Without further ado, here is the best way to see the Panorama Route in one day.
Stop 1: Three Rondavels
The first stop along your Panorama Route drive is the Three Rondavels. Located within the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve, the Three Rondavels are round, grass-covered mountains.
They are named after the 3 wives of the 19th-century chief, Maripi, who was known for defeating the Swazis in a battle. The flat mountain beside the rondavels is called Mapjaneng, or “the chief.”
This area can be quite foggy at times, but on a clear day, you have epic views of the Drakensberg Mountains from here.
The lookout point for the Three Rondavels is easy to get to from the car park, and you can stay here for a bit to really take in the views of the Rondavels themselves as well as the surrounding canyon scenery.
The cost to visit Blyde River Canyon is R35 (about $2) for adults and R20 (about $1) for children and retirees and includes the Three Rondavels and the canyon.
Stop 2: Upper Lookout Point at Blyde River Canyon
When most people think of the Panorama Route, they likely picture Blyde River Canyon, particularly the Upper Lookout Point. This is the 3rd largest canyon in the world, and the views are incredible.
It is 26 km (about 16 miles) long, and unlike the much larger canyons like the Grand Canyon in the US, this is a grassy canyon.
It is named after the river that runs through it, and it winds around a lovely bend, making for a fantastic spot to take photos during your time along the Panorama Route.
Blyde is actually old Dutch for “happy” as this was near where the voortrekkers were reunited with the remaining trekkers who thought they had died on their expedition. Conversely, there is another river near the reserve called Treur River which means “mourning river” where the trekkers left behind stayed and thought the other trekkers had died.
Today, this area is also called Motlatse Canyon, and the river is also called Motlatse River.
This is definitely one of the more scenic parts of the canyon, and you’ll definitely want to take your time here to admire the view!
Stop 3: Bourke’s Luck Potholes
Next up is a stop at Bourke’s Luck Potholes. Still located within the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve, this place has some otherworldly views!
Situated at the confluence of the Blyde and Treur Rivers, there are some stunning waterfalls as well as really neat-looking holes, or “potholes” as they call it.
It is named after Bernard Thomas Bourke who thought that there would be a lot of gold here as the potholes made a natural gold pan.
This is a lovely hike if you want to walk all around the area. There is a path that crosses the river where you can see the potholes below as well as the waterfalls.
It costs R65 (about $3.50) for adults and R25 (about $1.50) for children and retirees to visit.
Stop 4: Berlin Falls
While there are many beautiful waterfalls along the Panorama Route, if you’re shorter on time as we were, definitely make a stop at Berlin Falls.
This is a great place to stop on the way to God’s Window, and it is an 80 m (260 ft) waterfall with red cliffs behind it. This skinny waterfall almost looks like a candle as it cascades down into the pool below.
The walk to the waterfall lookout is very short from the car park, so you don’t have to hike far at all to see it!
Entrance is around R15 (about $0.80) per person.
Stop 5: God’s Window
For the last natural wonder during your South Africa Panorama Route itinerary, you’ll want to head to God’s Window. This is located at the southern end of the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve.
This area is magnificent, especially as it looks out over 700 m (almost 2,300 ft) cliffs! On a clear day, you can even see as far as Kruger National Park and even the Lebombo Mountains along the border with Mozambique.
There are also lovely plants and flowers depending on the time of year you visit, making it all the more scenic.
So to wrap up your time in and around the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve, you’ll definitely want to see this.
Plus, again, this isn’t too much of a hike from the parking lot, in fact, the lookouts are very close.
It costs R20 (about $1) for adults and R10 (about $0.50) for children and retirees to visit.
Stop 6: Lunch in Graskop
What was once a gold mining camp is now a great place for tourists to stop along their Panorama Route itinerary.
This town has some cute boutiques as well as restaurants to stop in for a later lunch/early dinner. A great place to stop in for a meal is Abe’s at the Glass House Restaurant. This place serves up some traditional South African fare like Bobotie, Kingklip fish, pap, boerewors, and more.
Another place to stop in is Harrie’s Pancakes, where you can get savory or sweet pancakes stuffed with various things.
I got the butter chicken pancake which was delightful, but there are also things like the bobotie pancake, biltong with mozzarella cheese pancake, or even a sweeter pancake like the fig preserve and pecan pancake.
Stop 7: Arrive in Hazyview and Have Dinner
To wrap up your time visiting the Panorama Route, you’ll then drive to Hazyview. There are plenty of great hotels in the area, making it a nice place to wrap up your Panorama Route in a day and have a later dinner.
We ended up staying at Perry’s Bridge Hollow and had dinner at their restaurant later that evening. On a warmer day, they have a pool for swimming, and the rooms are spacious and have great views.
That wraps up your one-day Panorama Route itinerary! After that, I recommend that you fly out of Nelspruit airport and head to Cape Town for a few days to continue your journey through South Africa!
More Things to Do on the Panorama Route If You Have More Time
If you have more time along the Panorama Route, then I highly recommend visiting other natural wonders like Lisbon Waterfall, Bridal Veil Falls, Sabie Falls, Echo Caves, Mac Mac Falls, Mac Mac Pool, etc.
There are also more historic towns to visit including Pilgrim’s Rest, which is a restored gold mining town.
And, since you’re very close to Kruger National Park, you can also stay in a town like Hazyview and book game drives or drive around Kruger!
Best Time to Drive the Panorama Route
The best time to visit the Panorama Route is in the winter months in South Africa, or the months of June through August. The weather is a bit drier, meaning you’ll have better views around the canyon and other areas.
However, this is also a prime time to go on safari in Kruger, meaning this area can be quite busy.
We actually ended up visiting in late-May and it was fantastic! The crowds weren’t bad at all, and we had pretty good weather!
I recommend late May/early June for fair weather and fewer crowds.
What is the Best Way to See the Panorama Route?
Personally, we had a driver. This makes it a lot easier to enjoy the surrounding mountain and valley views as you explore the Panorama Route.
We planned our whole South Africa trip with Safari365, and they arranged a driver for us to do this route in a day. I recommend this way if you don’t really want to drive.
For a more affordable option than a private driver, there are some group tours you can book from places like Hazyview, in fact, you can also book things like a Blyde River Canyon highlight tour and boat cruise from Hazyview as well.
And lastly, you can also rent a car. You can pick up a car from Hoedspruit and drop it off in Nelspruit if you only want the car for driving the Panorama Route, or you could rent it in Johannesburg, drive to safari and/or the Panorama Route, and then drop it off in Nelspruit before your flight to Cape Town.
I like checking Skyscanner for rental car prices!
Just be sure to read up on traffic signs and laws ahead of time! In South Africa, you drive on the left side of the road and the signs are in English.
Where to Stay Near the Panorama Route
I personally recommend staying in Hazyview. Whether you want to stay here for a night before heading to Cape Town or you want to spend a few days and go on safari in Kruger National Park, this is a great location.
Here are some hotels to check out in Hazyview:
Perry’s Bridge Hollow– This is where we stayed and it was fantastic! The rooms had indoor and outdoor private showers, and there is a lovely pool. Plus it has a good restaurant, and they can help you plan activities in the area.
Summerfields Rose Retreat & Spa– This is a 5-star luxury resort along the Sabie River with 11 tented suites, a luxury-suited tent, and a forest suite. Escape from it all and enjoy the spa, beautiful farm, and delicious cafe.
Sabi River Sun Resort– Complete with a golf course, spa, and lovely rooms, this is a great place to base yourself whether you want to go on a safari in Kruger or you want to drive the Panorama Route. They also have a great restaurant and outdoor pool.
This is the ultimate guide to exploring the Panorama Route in South Africa! Whether you’re visiting for your South African honeymoon or want a romantic getaway, this is the only Panorama Route itinerary in a day you’ll need.
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