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For other destinations and types of holiday, visit Kuoni
For other destinations and types of holiday, visit Kuoni 

Things to do in South Africa

Through breathtaking scenery on the Panorama Route

It’s one of the world’s most spectacular drives, so should definitely be on your itinerary – the landscapes are incredible…

By Zona Swanepoel
Senior guide with Echo Africa Safaris

It’s one of the world’s most spectacular drives, so the Panorama Route should definitely be on your itinerary – the landscapes are incredible. It’s centred around the 26km-long Blyde River Canyon, one of the largest on Earth, which is unusual in that it’s a ‘green canyon’, covered in subtropical vegetation. So you have that, with the river snaking through it, and lots of unusual rock formations and huge waterfalls, with the Drakensberg escarpment in the background. It’s a complete contrast to the savannahs of Kruger, which is where the company is based and where the guests start the trip.

There are so many possible places to stop that you can’t fit all of them into one day, so we try to pick the real highlights. So we visit one of the two waterfalls: Berlin Falls, which everyone says looks like a giant white candle, or Lisbon Falls, which is just as impressive. There’s the Three Rondavels, a trio of rocky pinnacles shaped like traditional beehive huts; the views from here over the canyon are a photographer’s dream. And we couldn’t leave out Bourke’s Luck Potholes, where the sandstone has been eroded by water into extraordinary shapes over thousands of years, and God’s Window or Wonder View depending on the weather – you can get some quite misty or cloudy days here in summer. 

We also take a break in Graskop, a small town on the edge of the Drakensberg escarpment, where we have lunch at the famous Harrie’s Pancakes, which everybody loves. If guests request it – it’s not on the regular itinerary –  there’s a nice extra you can do nearby, the Graskop Gorge Lift, which takes you down the side of the gorge into the canyon where there are wooden walkways and suspension bridges through the forest. It’s very, very beautiful.

As I mentioned, you’re in a completely different biome here, and it’s particularly rich in birdlife. I know there are over 240 species in the area, some of which you won’t find in Kruger. Obviously, you’ll see more from the quieter parts of the hiking trails that cut through here, but I once spotted a bald ibis on its nest close to the Lisbon Falls, so you just have to keep your eyes open. My most amazing encounter, though, happened one day when I was driving along with some guests. The road was very quiet and as we came around a corner, there was a leopard sitting beside the road. That was definitely a ‘wow’ moment!

Categories

  • Scenery
  • Trips to take

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Alfred & Zona Swanepoel

Zona Swanepoel spent her childhood on Mariepskop, the highest point of the Blyde River Canyon, growing up in the now-abandoned radar station where her father was deployed. After six years with Echo Africa, she remains just as excited about guiding clients on the Panorama Route through landscapes she’s known and loved her whole life.

Alfred&

Your journey will start with one of our UK team – someone like Andy, who's travelled extensively in South Africa. They’ll shape your ideas into the trip of a lifetime. But they won't do it alone. They'll draw on the expertise of our contacts on the ground, connecting you to the people who'll make your holiday one you'll always remember - ex banker who can show you the hottest foodie spots in Cape Town, the award-winning young sommelier who can introduce you to Stellenbosch's finest wines and the walking safari ranger who can guide you to the best game.

Freephone an expert 01306 744 656