Mpumalanga is one of my favourite provinces in South Africa. Meaning “the place where the sun rises”, it is blessed with breath-taking natural beauty and abundant wildlife – which attracts tourists from around the world. Personally, I become more enamored of this province every time I go there. I am also surprised by how many South Africans have not been there yet. There are so many amazing things to do in Mpumalanga that every South African should visit at least once. If you are visiting South Africa, then you should definitely add it to your itinerary.
Click here to see 22 photos of Mpumalanga that will make you want to go there.
Here are 10 things to do in Mpumalanga
1. Go on a safari
The world-famous Kruger National Park is one of the oldest and largest wildlife reserves in the world. The size of a small country, the park is home to over 140 animal and 150 bird species, including the Big Five (lion, elephant, rhino, buffalo, leopard). The Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve, South Africa’s most prestigious private game reserve, lies next to Kruger National Park, and shares unfenced borders with it along with other private reserves. Between them, the area boasts some of the top luxury safari lodges in South Africa. The game viewing experience is unparalleled and it is not uncommon to see the Big Five and many more, in one game drive. You can also go on night safaris, photographic safaris and bush walks with armed guides.
2. See unique landmarks along the Panorama Route
The Panorama Route in Mpumalanga is one of the most spectacular routes on the African continent. Following the Blyde River, it is home to several unique natural geographic formations like the Blyde River Canyon, Bourke’s Luck Potholes, The Pinnacle and The Three Rondawels.
- The 26-kilometre Blyde River Canyon is the third largest canyon in the world (after the Grand Canyon in USA and the Fish River Canyon in Namibia).
- Bourke’s Luck Potholes are giant cylindrical potholes formed at the meeting place of two rivers, at the beginning of the Blyde River Canyon.
- The Pinnacle is an enormous tower-like quartzite pillar. which looks as if it’s shot right out of the forest below.
- The Three Rondavels are natural rock formations in the shape of traditional round African homesteads. Did you know that they are named after the three troublesome wives of Chief Maripi Mashile’s, namely, Magabolie, Magoladikwe and Maseroto.
- The expansive views from the viewpoints along this route, like God’s Window, are incredible.
3. Chase waterfalls
Mpumalanga has more waterfalls than anywhere else in southern Africa. Some are on the Panorama Route. They are all beautiful and unique in their own special way. The most popular ones are Berlin Falls, Lisbon Falls, Mac Mac Falls and Lone Creek Falls. The Lisbon Falls are the highest waterfalls in the area.
4. Encounter ghosts of the past at Pilgrims Rest
Pilgrims Rest was once the centre of the 1870 gold rush. The whole town is now a national monument. Here, you will see many of the original buildings as they used to be. Although it is a bit run down now, you can still walk around the old town and try your hand at gold panning. You will probably not find enough gold to make any jewellery but you can experience what it was like to be a prospector in the 18th century.
A lesser known but fascinating attraction here is the Alanglade House, once the residence of the town’s prominent mining manager. The house is said to be haunted and there are ghost tours at night.
5. Visit some of the oldest caves in the world
More than 240 million years old, the Sudwala Caves are some of the oldest caves in the world. The caves consist of a fascinating labyrinth through the earth. You can go on an hour-long guided tour on foot and marvel at the amazing rock formations. If you want to be more adventurous, you can go on the five-hour Crystal Tour, where you occasionally have to get on your hands and knees to crawl through small tunnels. The Sudwala rainforest can be found at the base of a huge cliff close to the caves.
6. Get your adrenalin rush at the Graskop Gorge
The Graskop Gorge is home to one of Mpumalanga’s latest attractions, the Graskp Gorge lift. Opened in December 2017, it is Africa’s first viewing lift . You can ride the glass elevator down the face of the gorge into the forest below, where an extensive network of elevated walkways, suspension bridges and interactive exhibits will lead you along the forest trails and across streams. You can also experience the world’s highest cable gorge swing and free fall for 68 metres or fly across the gorge on the High Wire slide, 130 metres above the ground.
7. Have pancakes at Harries Pancakes
Harries Pancakes are well-known for serving the best pancakes in South Africa. They are not your average pancakes. Think light, fluffy pancakes stuffed with fig preserve, or apple pie, or chocolate mousse. Although branches can now be found in other parts of South Africa, the original restaurant was opened in Graskop in 1986. This is a traditional stop for most visitors to the Panorama Route.
8. Go hiking
With its vast mountain ranges and lush scenery, Mpumalanga is a hiker’s paradise. There are hiking trails everywhere, suiting different levels of experience. Some of the most popular ones are the Blyderivierspoort Hiking Trail which starts at God’s Window and ends at Bourke’s Luck, the 75km Fanie Botha hiking trail and the Escarpment Trail.
9. Trout-fishing in Dullstroom
The picturesque town of Dullstroom is a fly fishermen’s paradise. It has many dams and lakes, stocked mainly with rainbow trout or brown trout. They cater for a range of fishermen; from amateurs to experienced professionals. Some dams are catch-and-release only, while at others, you get to keep your fish.
10. Shop for unique arts and crafts
There are many stores and stalls selling arts and crafts in Mpumalanga. You will see them in the towns, at the waterfalls and along the Panorama Route. However, one that really stood out for me was the Delagoa Arts and Crafts shop, next to Harries Pancakes in Graskop. They’ve got a wide range of unique, witty and creative, South African products. Think Koo Baked Beans and Bovril stools, Lion matches trays, Marmite trays, Chappies T-shirts etc etc. There are also many products imprinted with African proverbs and sayings.
Have you been there? What are your favourite things to do in Mpumalanga ?
Where to stay in Mpumalanga
Walkersons Hotel and Spa – Dullstroom
Kruger Park Lodge – Hazyview
Sabi River Sun – Hazyview
Crystal Springs – Near Pilgrims Rest
Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge – Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve
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