The Mpumalanga Province of South Africa is called the place of the rising sun. It is the province for outdoor living with rising mountains, open spaces, multiple waterfalls, valleys covered in mist and mighty rivers. In this article, we explore the tourist attractions in Mpumalanga, ranging from waterfalls, game reserves to museums and cultural villages.
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Map of The Tourist Attractions in Mpumalanga
This map shows the tourist attractions in Mpumalanga covered in this article:
Tourist Attractions in Mpumalanga
These are the best tourist attractions in Mpumalanga:
Drive the Panorama Route
The best-known attraction in Mpumalanga, after the Kruger National Park, is the Panorama Route. The route covers many natural wonders, including waterfalls and scenic views. You can participate in hiking, bungee jumping, white-water rafting and gold panning. Unlike the Garden Route, which can be completed in one day if you are pressed for time, the Panorama Route is long and needs multiple days to explore fully. Rent a car if you don’t have one, as the Panorama Route is best done as a self-drive route.
Some of the best attractions on the Panorama Route drive are God’s Window (the third-largest canyon and the greenest in the world), the Blyde River Canyon, Bourke’s Luck Potholes, Three Rondawels and the Mac Mac Pools and Falls. Some towns of note along the route include Sabie, Pilgrim’s Rest, Graskop, Hazyview and Ohrigstad.
One of the best viewpoints on the Panorama Route is God’s Window. You can see the extraordinary beauty of the Lowveld with its pine and mango plantations. You enter the area by paying a small entrance fee. There are various hiking trails, but be careful, they can be slippery after rain. There is a parking lot with public bathrooms and vendors selling local goods. One thing to be aware of is that if it is a misty day, you may not see anything from this viewpoint. Watch the weather forecast before planning your visit to this attraction.
Bourke’s Luck Potholes
The swirling waters created Bourke’s Luck Potholes in the stone riverbed. When you arrive, take a short hike to the pools and waterfalls. The potholes were named after John Bourke, who staked a claim in the area to find gold. Unfortunately, Bourke’s was unlucky and didn’t discover any gold here.
The Three Rondavels is another popular viewpoint on the Panorama Route. From here, you can peer into the Blyde River Canyon to see the Blyderivierspoort Dam and the “island” in the middle of the Blyde River. The Three Rondavels’ name was given to them because they resemble the locals’ rondavels or cylindrical thatch houses. The Three Rondavels were named after the three wives of a famous Bapedi chief, Maripi Mashile.
Mac Mac Pools and Falls
The Mac Mac Falls is a waterfall with a height of 65 m. It is located between Sabie and Graskop. The falls are a national monument. You can find a set of natural rock pools nearby. You can swim in the pools, relax here, or have a picnic or braai. Nearby you can hike the 3 km loop Secretary Bird Walk trail.
Blyde River Canyon
The Blyde River Canyon is one of the world’s deepest canyons. It measures 1400 meters in height and 25 km in length. The canyon offers a range of outdoor activities, including hiking. One hike to try in the Blyde River Canyon is to hike Blyderivierspoort. This is a 2.5-day walk from God’s Window to the Bourke’s Luck Potholes through the Blyde River Canyon. The canyon is part of the Drakensberg escarpment. Visitors can find multiple viewpoints of the canyon along the R532.
The Shangana Cultural Village
The Shangana Cultural Village is between the Blyde River Canyon and the southern section of the Kruger National Park. Here, you can learn about the locals and their cultural practices. Local people own and run the village. Their purpose is to protect their heritage and teach visitors about their way of life and beliefs. There is a market where you can buy locally-made arts and crafts. Make sure to visit in the evening, as you can interact with the Shangana at the Chief’s Kraal to experience their hospitality.
The town of Graskop is a central place to stay while exploring the Panorama Route. One of its major attractions is the Graskop Gorge Swing, the highest swing in the world. If you are adventurous enough, you can go from 0 to 180 km/h at a height of about 130 metres, from where you can get a unique view of Graskop Falls.
Where to stay in Graskop: Angels View Hotel
Pilgrim’s Rest Offerings
Explore the historic town of Pilgrim’s Rest, one of South Africa’s national monuments. This small town shows life in the 1870s gold rush. It has tiny historic houses, museums and shops. One of the places to visit is the Alanglade House Museum. Most of the places have been restored to retain their original appearance. It’s thus a village lost in the 1870s gold rush.
Some attractions in Pilgrim’s Rest are the Police Station, the Dredzen Shop & House Museum, the Printing Museum and the Anglican Church. Most of these buildings are more than a century old. You can also try gold panning or dress up in old-fashioned clothing! There is also a historic graveyard to explore.
If you want to stay in Pilgrim’s Rest, consider staying at the Royal Hotel. The Hotel was built in 1894 and has 11 rooms and 39 cottages. The Hotel is a national monument and another central place for exploring Blyde River Canyon and the Panorama Route.
Do the Highlands Meander
The Highlands Meander is another beautiful route in Mpumalanga. It is located in the higher sections of the escarpment. It is the perfect spot for fly-fishing, surrounded by majestic mountains and rivers.
The highlights of the Highlands Meander include the town of Dullstroom, Long Tom Pass, the Gustave Klingbiel nature reserve, Horse Shoe Falls and the Escarpment Trail. The meander offers something for everyone. If you are adventurous, you can do rock climbing and, if you prefer a slower hobby, do birdwatching here. Popular towns in the Highlands Meander include Machadodorp, Waterval Boven and Onder, Belfast and Lydenburg.
The Long Tom Pass
The Long Tom Pass got its name from the cannons used during the Boer War. You can even see an example of these cannons at the crest of the Pass. Wagon drivers used the Pass to travel between Lydenburg and the Mozambique border. Nowadays, the route offers beautiful views of the surrounding area.
The small town of Dullstroom offers visitors a variety of activities to choose from.
- Dullstroom is considered the fly-fishing capital of South Africa. One of the best places for fly-fishing in Dullstroom is the Highland Giant’s Estate. There are also cottage accommodation on the estate.
- The Dullstroom Bird of Prey Rehabilitation Centre was established in 1997. Its purpose is to rehabilitate injured raptors while educating the public. The centre runs a successful captive breeding and release program. Here, you can adopt a bird by paying for its annual upkeep. You can also volunteer here after completing a course. The centre has flight displays and raptor handling days.
- A visit to the Pendle Hill Diary in Tonteldoos, near Dullstroom, is a must for organic cheese lovers!
Where to stay in Dullstroom: Walkersons Trout and Nature Haven
See wildlife at the Gustav Klingbiel Nature Reserve
Lydenburg has the Gustav Klingbiel nature reserve on its eastern side. It covers over 2200 hectares and is a haven for birdwatchers. There are more than 320 bird species and other game species, such as Zebra, Impala and Kudu, in the reserve.
There are 4 hiking trails in the reserve, including the 5 km Pedi route, the 9 km Crane route, the 12 km Protea route and the two-day Ribbok route.
The reserve is named after Gustav Klingbiel, a former town council member from Lydenburg. He campaigned to declare this area a nature reserve.
Where to stay in Lydenburg: Mount High Luxury Country Estate
Explore the Wildlife at The Kruger National Park
The Kruger National Park is the most popular of the tourist attractions in Mpumalanga for locals and foreigners alike. The Kruger National Park consists of two million hectares of Lowveld. The Park is large and overlaps with the Limpopo Province. At the Park, you can do game-spotting, go on safari or game drives and immerse yourself in the South African bushveld.
You can do a walking safari with rhinos at the Wilderness Concession in the Kruger National Park. Access the Kruger National Park via the Paul Kruger Gate to get there.
Where to stay in the Kruger National Park: Pestana Kruger Lodge
Explore Nelspruit’s Attractions
Nelspruit offers a variety of attractions, including:
- These Lowveld National Botanical Gardens comprise a 159-hectare garden in Nelspruit. Two rivers run through the Botanical Gardens: the Crocodile and the Nels Rivers. The Botanical Garden houses more than 600 naturally occurring plants and over 2000 species introduced to the garden. Some unique things to experience here are the Sour Lowveld Bushveld and cycads. It is the perfect place for a picnic.
- Visit the farmers’ market at the Nelspruit Farmers Market. The market occurs monthly, and you can get delicious food and fresh fruit and vegetables here.
- Another of the popular tourist attractions in Mpumalanga is the Sudwala Caves, 30 minutes from Nelspruit. The Sudwala Caves are one of the world’s oldest caves! Here, you can do a tour to learn about the stunning rock formations created over millions of years in these caves. You can do a 30-minute guided tour deep into the caves. There is lighting all over the cave, which makes navigating easy.
- Kids will love the Sudwala Dinosaur Park. The Park features life-sized models of these impressive pre-historic animals, ranging from ancient amphibious reptiles and dinosaurs to pre-historic mammals.
Where to stay in Nelsprit or Mbombela: Protea Hotel by Marriott Nelspruit
Visit Loskop Dam
If you love bass fishing, visiting the Loskop Dam is perfect. The Dam is located north of Middelburg. If you cannot drive to Kruger National Park but want to see some wildlife, visiting the nature reserve at the Loskop Dam lets you see three of the Big 5, including the white rhino, buffalo and buffalo and leopard. Other animals you can see here are hippos, giraffes, sable antelopes, warthogs and numerous bucks. It is also an ideal spot for birdwatchers. If you are lucky, you may spot a fish eagle here.
Where to stay in Loskop Dam: Loskop Dam Forever Resort
Explore Hazyview’s Attractions
At Hazyview, you can enjoy the following attractions:
- You can visit the Elephant Whispers near Hazyview for an interactive experience with elephants. Elephant Whispers is located in the Sandford Conservancy on the banks of the Sabie River. Here, you can learn about these gentle giants, walk with them or even ride them. Definitely a must-visit attraction for families with children.
- Explore the tree tops with a tree-top canopy tour with Skyway Trails near Hazyview to get a view of the Sabie River Valley Forest.
- Visit Perry’s Bridge Reptile Park to see some of South Africa’s most venomous snakes and other reptiles, including the large constrictors, crocodiles, frogs, lizards and tortoises.
Where to stay in Hazyview: aha Casa Do Sol Hotel & Resort
Explore the Labyrinth at Boondocks
A fun family activity is walking the Labyrinth at Boondocks, located near Kaapmuiden. You can find the labyrinth in a garden at the top of a mountain in an ancient woodland village of Impala, Baboons, Duikers, Bushbuck, Monkeys, Red Duikers, and Mountain Rhebuck. The maze is located in a peaceful environment, perfect for meditation.
Visit the Sabi Sands Game Reserve
An alternative to the Kruger National Park is the Sabi Sands Game Reserve. You can participate in various outdoor experiences in this reserve or enjoy the wildlife here.
Where to stay when visiting the Sabi Sands Game Reserve: Burchell’s Bush Lodge by Dream Resorts
Explore Barberton’s Attractions
There are several tourist attractions near Barberton, including:
- Mpumalanga is known for its conservation efforts and sustainable eco-tourism. A good place to visit for its conservation efforts is the Jane Goodall Institute South Africa, or Chimp Eden. You can find the Sanctuary in the Umhloti Nature Reserve near Barberton. The Sanctuary houses multiple rescued chimpanzees. You can do a guided walk here to learn more about the chimps and the Sanctuary’s conservation efforts.
- The Barberton Museum was established in 1884 and represents the town’s history, including the influence of mining, geology and Swazi history. Barberton had been established during the gold rush.
- The Matsomo Cultural Village is located near the Eswatini (formerly known as Swaziland) border. Here, you can watch traditional Swazi dances. You can learn more about the Matsomo culture through the famous legend of the tribe.
- Explore the Barberton Makhonjwa Geotrail to see the 3.5 billion-year-old rocks in the Barberton Greenstone Belt. Several sites have detailed explanations of these interesting geological formations, including banded ironstone, volcanic lapilli, pillow lavas, and many others.
Where to stay in Barberton: Old Coach Road Guest House
Explore the Small Town of Kaapsehoop
Kaapsehoop is a small village in the Highveld Escarpment. The town was established in the 1800s when gold was discovered in its streams. It is about 1468m above sea level. Some of the attractions in this town include:
- The town is now known for wild horses, which you can see while working through the town. They tend to graze in the veld or residents’ lawns.
- The town offers charming stores and hikes. It has several good restaurants, such as Koek’ n Pan for the best pancakes and Salvador’s for a prego with an icy cold beer.
- One of the best tourist attractions in Mpumalanga is the Kaapsehoop Scootours. You start your tour in the historical town of Kaapsehoop before travelling to the forest with its rugged terrain. You will have beautiful scenic views of the forest during the tour.
Where to stay in Kaapsehoop: Coddiwomple Cottage
The Pinnacle Rock
You can climb to the peak of the Pinnacle Rock for stunning views of Mpumalanga’s best scenery. The pinnacle has several lookout points along both sides of its ridges. The Pinnacle Rock might not be as famous as some other attractions in the area, but it is generally relatively peaceful and still has stunning views.
Enjoy a Variety of Waterfalls in Mpumalanga
Mpumalanga has many waterfalls. While driving, you may be able to see some from the road, but others require you to turn off to see. You can find several waterfalls in Mpumalanga, include by doing the Sabie Waterfall Route. This route is 50 km long and starts outside Sabi on the R532. On this route, you can find some of the best waterfalls in South Africa, including Bridal Veil, Lone Creek, Lisbon, Horseshoe, and the Berlin Waterfalls. Each waterfall has unique features and an entrance fee.
The best waterfalls to visit in Mpumalanga are:
- The 90 m-high Lisbon Falls is Mpumalanga’s most popular and highest waterfall.
- For a quieter waterfall, visit the Lone Creek Falls. This waterfall is 68 m high and has a pool at the bottom for cooling off.
What to Bring with You when Visiting Mpumalanga
When you are visiting Mpumalanga, bring your water bottle and camera. Another essential item to bring along is a pair of binoculars to zoom in on the attractions in the area. Use sunscreen and wear a sun hat when you visit Mpumalanga. You can swim in one of the rock pools near a waterfall, and take a swimsuit and towel. Bring a daypack to carry everything in.
How to Get to Mpumalanga
If you want to explore the tourist attractions in Mpumalanga, you have several options to get to Mpumalanga from Johannesburg’s OR Tambo Airport:
- Plane: You can fly from OR Tambo International Airport to Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport near Nelspruit. The flight takes approximately 45 minutes and can be pricey.
- Car: The best way to travel through Mpumalanga is by self-driving. You can drive from Johannesburg to Nelspruit in 4 hours using the N12 and N4. The route includes several toll gates, which add to driving costs. If you don’t have a car, rent one here.
- Shuttle bus: If you don’t want to drive or fly to Mpumalanga, you can book a ticket on a shuttle bus, such as CityBug.
- Tours: You can also book a guided tour that has a fixed itinerary but includes all your transport needs in Mpumalanga.