The Best Things to Do in Mpumalanga, South Africa


The Best Things to Do in Mpumalanga, South Africa

Mpumalanga, often referred to as "the place where the sun rises," is a province in eastern South Africa renowned for its spectacular landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and abundant wildlife. Nestled between the Drakensberg Mountains and the vast Lowveld, Mpumalanga borders Eswatini and Mozambique. The province offers a diverse array of activities for nature lovers, adventure seekers, and history buffs. Here are the best things to do in Mpumalanga to ensure you experience the best of this captivating province.

1. Discover the Panorama Route

The Panorama Route is one of South Africa's most scenic drives, winding through the rugged mountains and lush valleys of Mpumalanga. The route features breathtaking viewpoints, impressive waterfalls, and fascinating geological formations.

Key Stops on the Panorama Route:

  • God’s Window: This iconic viewpoint offers sweeping vistas of the lowveld, with the view extending as far as Mozambique on a clear day. The lush rainforest at the viewpoint adds to the area's ethereal beauty
  • Blyde River Canyon: The largest green canyon in the world and the third-largest canyon overall, the Blyde River Canyon is a stunning natural wonder.
  • The Three Rondavels: These three massive spiralled rock formations are another highlight here, and have picturesque views over the canyon and the river below.
  • Bourke’s Luck Potholes: Named after a prospector who hoped to find gold, these unusual rock formations have been carved by centuries of swirling water. The potholes are a fascinating natural phenomenon and a great spot for photography.
  • Berlin and Lisbon Falls: These two picturesque waterfalls are easily accessible and feature beautiful picnic spots. The Berlin Falls drop a dramatic 80 meters, while the Lisbon Falls are the highest in Mpumalanga, cascading 94 meters into a deep pool.


2. Explore Kruger National Park

A trip to Mpumalanga would be incomplete without a visit to the world-renowned Kruger National Park. Covering nearly 20,000 square kilometres, Kruger National Park is one of Africa's largest game reserves and home to an incredible diversity of wildlife, including the Big Five (lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard, and rhino).

Activities in Kruger National Park:

  • Self-Drive Safaris: One of the most popular ways to explore Kruger is by self-driving in a vehicle. The park has an extensive network of roads that allow you to navigate through various ecosystems and spot a wide range of animals.
  • Guided Game Drives: For a more informative experience, join a guided game drive. Professional guides share their knowledge about the park's flora and fauna and enhance your chances of encountering elusive species.
  • Walking Safaris: For an intimate encounter with nature, go on a walking safari. Accompanied by armed rangers, you can explore the bush on foot and learn about the smaller, often overlooked aspects of the ecosystem.
  • Bird Watching: Kruger is a paradise for bird enthusiasts, with over 500 species recorded in the park. Bring your binoculars and keep an eye out for vibrant species like the lilac-breasted roller and the African fish eagle.


3. Visit the Historic Town of Pilgrim’s Rest

Step back in time with a visit to Pilgrim’s Rest, a historic gold-mining town that has been preserved as a living museum. Walking through the streets of Pilgrim’s Rest is like taking a journey to the late 19th century when the town was bustling with prospectors hoping to strike it rich.

Highlights of Pilgrim’s Rest:

  • The Royal Hotel: This charming hotel retains its Victorian-era decor and provide a glimpse into the town's past. Enjoy a meal in the hotel’s restaurant or stay overnight in one of its period-furnished rooms.
  • Alanglade House Museum: Once the residence of the mine manager, this well-preserved house now serves as a museum. Guided tours provide insights into the lifestyle of the mining elite during the gold rush.
  • Gold Panning: Try your hand at gold panning, a fun activity that gives you a taste of what the early prospectors experienced. Who knows, you might even find a few specks of gold!

4. Visit the Sudwala Caves

Explore the fascinating Sudwala Caves, one of the oldest cave systems in the world. These ancient caves are believed to be around 240 million years old and provide a riveting glimpse into the Earth's geological history.

Exploring the Caves:

  • Guided Tours: Join a guided tour to learn about the caves’ history and geology. You'll see impressive stalactites, stalagmites, and flowstone formations.
  • Dinosaur Park: Adjacent to the caves is the Sudwala Dinosaur Park, where life-sized models of dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures are displayed. It's an entertaining and educational experience for visitors of all ages.
  • Crystal Tour: For an extra adventure, consider taking the Crystal Tour. This extended tour takes you deeper into the cave system, where you'll encounter stunning crystal formations in the Crystal Chamber.

5. Go on an Adventure in Sabie

The town of Sabie, nestled in the Drakensberg escarpment, is an adventure lover’s paradise. Surrounded by forests, mountains, and waterfalls, Sabie has a wide range of outdoor activities.

Popular Activities in Sabie:

  • Hiking: Sabie has numerous hiking trails that cater to different fitness levels. The Bridal Veil Falls Trail is a favourite, leading to a beautiful waterfall that resembles a bridal veil.
  • Mountain Biking: The area around Sabie is known for its excellent mountain biking trails. The Misty Mountain Reserve has a network of trails that take you through scenic forests and along mountain ridges.
  • Fly Fishing: The rivers and dams around Sabie are well-stocked with trout, making it a popular destination for fly fishing. The Sabie River has particularly good opportunities for catching rainbow trout.
  • Canopy Tours: For a thrilling adventure, try a canopy tour. Zipline through the treetops and enjoy a bird’s-eye view of the lush forests and waterfalls below.
    Recommended Spots:
  • Mac Mac Pools: These natural rock pools are fed by the Mac Mac River and are perfect for a refreshing swim. The surrounding picnic area is equipped with tables and braai (barbecue) facilities.
  • Lone Creek Falls: A short walk through a forested path leads to the impressive Lone Creek Falls, which plunges 70 meters into a pool below. The area around the falls is ideal for a peaceful picnic.

6. Indulge in Adventure Activities in Graskop

Graskop is a small town on the Panorama Route that serves as a gateway to many of the region's natural attractions. It’s also a hub for adrenaline-pumping activities.

Must-Do Activities in Graskop:

  • Graskop Gorge Lift: Experience the thrill of descending into the lush Afromontane Forest via the Graskop Gorge Lift. This glass elevator takes you down into the gorge, where you can explore elevated walkways, suspension bridges, and a waterfall.
  • Big Swing: For the ultimate adrenaline rush, try the Big Swing at Graskop Gorge. It’s one of the world’s highest cable gorge swings, with an exhilarating free fall of 68 meters before swinging across the gorge.
  • Ziplining: Graskop has several ziplining opportunities that allow you to soar above the treetops and enjoy breathtaking views of waterfalls and the gorge below.
  • Curio Shopping: The town has a variety of curio shops selling local crafts, art, and souvenirs. It's a great place to pick up unique items that reflect the culture and creativity of the region.

7. Discover the Natural Beauty of Lowveld Botanical Garden

Located in Nelspruit (Mbombela), the Lowveld Botanical Garden is a verdant oasis spanning 159 hectares, that showcases the diverse flora of the region.

Highlights of the Botanical Garden:

  • Cascades and Waterfalls: The garden is home to the stunning Cascades and Nels River Falls. The sound of rushing water adds to the tranquillity of the garden.
  • Cycad Collection: The Lowveld Botanical Garden boasts one of the largest collections of cycads in the world. These ancient plants, often referred to as "living fossils," are fascinating to observe and learn about.
  • Medicinal Plant Garden: This section of the garden is dedicated to indigenous plants used in traditional medicine. Informative displays explain the various uses and significance of these plants in local cultures.
  • Rainforest Walk: Stroll through the lush rainforest section, where you'll find a variety of exotic plants and towering trees. The elevated walkways provide a unique perspective of the forest canopy.

8. Relax in the Town of Dullstroom

Dullstroom, known as South Africa's premier fly-fishing destination, is a charming town with a peaceful atmosphere and is an ideal spot for a relaxing getaway.

Things to Do in Dullstroom:

  • Fly Fishing: Dullstroom’s numerous dams and streams are stocked with trout, making it a haven for fly fishing enthusiasts. Local shops provide equipment rentals and can arrange guided fishing trips.
  • Horse Riding: Explore the beautiful countryside around Dullstroom on horseback. Guided horse riding tours cater to all levels of experience and are a unique way to see the area.
  • Bird of Prey Rehabilitation Centre: Visit this centre to learn about the conservation efforts for birds of prey, through educational presentations and flight demonstrations featuring eagles, hawks, and owls.

9. Enjoy the Scenic Beauty of Kaapschehoop

Kaapschehoop, a small village perched on the edge of the escarpment, is known for its scenic beauty, wild horses, and unique rock formations. It’s a great place for hiking and soaking in the natural beauty of Mpumalanga.

Activities in Kaapschehoop:

  • Hiking Trails: The Kaapschehoop Escarpment has several hiking trails with panoramic views. The Battery Creek Falls Trail is particularly popular, leading to a beautiful waterfall in a lush, secluded setting. The trails are well-marked and cater to different fitness levels.
  • Wild Horse Viewing: Kaapschehoop is famous for its wild horses that roam freely through the village and surrounding areas. These horses are believed to be descendants of those left behind by British troops during the South African War.
  • Adam’s Calendar: Sometimes referred to as "Africa's Stonehenge," Adam’s Calendar is an ancient stone structure considered to be over 75,000 years old. It’s believed to have been used as a calendar or astronomical observatory and offers a fascinating glimpse into ancient human history and is set in a beautiful natural environment.

10. Experience Wildlife at the Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre

The Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, located near Hoedspruit, is dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of injured and orphaned animals. A visit to the centre gives one a unique opportunity to learn about wildlife conservation and see a variety of animals up close.

What to Expect:

  • Educational Tours: Guided tours provide insights into the challenges faced by wildlife and the efforts made to rehabilitate and reintroduce animals into the wild. You'll have the chance to see lions, leopards, cheetahs, hyenas, and various bird species.
  • Animal Encounters: The centre provides close encounters with some of the animals, allowing you to learn about their behaviours and conservation needs firsthand.
  • Conservation Talks: Learn about the broader issues of wildlife conservation, anti-poaching efforts, and the importance of preserving natural habitats.

11. Go Bird watching in Wakkerstroom

Nestled in the high-altitude grasslands of Mpumalanga, the quaint village of Wakkerstroom is one of South Africa's premier birding destinations.

What to Expect:

  • Rare bird species: Wakkerstroom’s wetlands and surrounding grasslands are home to over 350 bird species, including many rare and endemic species. The area’s well-preserved habitats provide excellent opportunities for both novice and experienced bird watchers to spot a wide variety of birds in their natural environment.
  • Guided birding tours: These tours give expert insights enhancing the bird-watching experience.

Recent Articles