Panorama Route ... from Kruger to Zimbabwe.

We visited South Africa during a 3 months roadtrip through Southern Africa
(South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho and Swaziland).
October - December 2014.

Average Exchange rate: 1€ = 14 Rands

Our road trip was finishing, and after our visit to Kruger, we drove from Nelspruit to Polokwane, taking the Panorama Route.

Once in Polokwane, we did the drop-off of the rental car and started a new trip, now travelling with public transport, heading north to Zimbabwe and continuing to the East Africa.


If you have time and are visiting Kruger area, take a drive along this scenic route, another tourist attraction in South Africa, "Panorama route". 

The Panorama Route goes from Sabie to Echo Caves, around 100 km. They are different tourist sopts (most of them with an entrance fee) to keep you busy. We just stoped in a few places, free as possible.

Sabie is just 60 km north of Nelspruit and 50 km west of Hazyview.

The southern part, it´s more a “plantation” route, not so wild and scenic as it sounds, just a few waterfalls and towns with many lodges surrounding by pine plantations.
You have to go futher north to see the real treasure of the route, the Blyde River Canyon, this part is really beautiful. The plantation company controls the access to most of the view points (entrance fee asked to reach most of the view points).
The road is very tourist, specially on holidays as it is near Kuger.

This is the Panorama Route from south to north.

You will pass Sabie (a small town with plenty of accommodation) and waterfalls in the surrounds (one in town crossing the bridge) and Mac Mac Pools and further north Mac Mac Falls (on R532). There´s an entrance fee of 10R/car in all of them. 
We saw the waterfall just down of Sabie´s bridge and just paid and had a look at Mac Mac fall (beautiful fall, just a short walk and lookout).
Mac Mac Falls

Then comes Graskop (many lodges, restaurants), another countryside town like Sabie, for tourists, but nothing very special in fact. 

We didn´t go to Pilgrims Rest (15 km west of Graskop), a ghost mine town where all the organised groups stop. 
Then north of Graskop are a few viewpoints on R534, Pinnacle Rock and Gods Window (entrance fee: 10 R/each, we didn´t go). And also a few free viewpoints, where we stopped. But fog, no views.

Back on R532 there are a couple of falls (Berlin, Lisbon, fees, we didn´t stop) and you reach the Blyde River Canyon area, the real beautiful place on the Panorama Route. 

There´s a picnic area just at Blyderiverpoort (it´s a rural black area), super full on holidays (entrance fee, around 40 R/pp), at Bourke´s Luck Potholes, with BBQ and special rock formations in the cliffs of a river. We passed it.
Then come the lookouts of the Blyde River Canyon, a free viewpoint with splendid panorama at Lowveld View (fantastic views! The best of of the Panorama Route) and then an entrance fee lookout further north at the Three Rondavels.
You are on the top of the canyon, left side. Just small walks around the lookouts. To hike inside the canyon, not too many options from here, high rocky cliffs. Probably easier from the other side of the canyon... it´s a long detour...
Then following down the valley on R532 and taking R36, are the Echo caves (we didn´t go, gravel road, entrance fee).
Then, from the north end of the Panorama Route, it´s around 200 km to Polokwane, our final destination.

Accommodation on the Panorama Route:

Most of the accommodation is south of the route, in the main towns Sabie and Graskop, where you find campsites and Backpackers.

Not too much accommodation in the northern part of the Panorama route. There´s just a campsite at Blyde Canyon (expensive during holidays) as it´s the Forever BlydeResort. Try Manoutsa Holiday Park (north of Mapareng) or around Hoedspruit (further northeast... if going to Kruger Phalaborwa Gate). We also saw a campsite near Echo Caves on the main road.

You also find accommodation in Nelspruit, Hazyview, Kruger NP.

   POLOKWANE ... the biggest town near ZIMBABWE   

Limpopo´s capital town. But not too much there to stop the traveller, usually a stop on the way to Zimbabwe.
You find everything you need: supermarkets, banks, etc.

Accommodation in Polokwane:

Not too many cheap options.

Polokwane municipal reserve: just south of town, animals around, cheap and a campsite. Possible to walk inside. We didn´t go but some travellers told us it was really nice there.

Igloo Inn.We stayed in the cheapest option in town. 
Price for the campsite: 80R/site + 30R/pp (so 140 R/2pp, 10 €). 
Also dorms for 150 R/pp and igloos for 250 R/2p.

Igloo Inn is around 4 km from the city center (87 Pietersburg St., Annadale. It´s the street in front of Makro from N1). Clean and correct, well maintened, but the street can be quite noisy with many trucks passing. 
They let us use a small kitchen in the dorms area.
They offer free pick up (they fetch us at the airport after doing the drop off of the rental car and drove us latter to the bus stop in the center of town). Thank you! The owner is really nice!

Couchsurfing in Polokwane:
Very few people, hard to find a host there.

   Transport from South Africa to Zimbabwe  

As there is a big population of Zimbabwe people working in South Africa, there are plenty of buses and vans connecting the main cities of both countries.

You can see all the details in our post in Zimbabwe (sidebar menu).