The Panorama Route (along Blyde River Canyon)


Blyde River Canyon

The Panorama Route

If you are in the area, we recommend the Blyde River Canyon panorama drive, either as an excursion or as a scenic transfer to (or from) the northern game reserves of Timbavati or Thornybush.

The Blyde River Canyon is the third largest river-formed canyon in the world after the Grand Canyon and the Fish River Canyon. It runs parallel to the escarpment for 26km. The river is flanked by towering cliffs stained red, yellow and orange by lichens and iron oxides in the river sediments. From the scenic road above the canyon, you look out over a sudden drop of 1000m down to the savanna plains below and across the Kruger National Park

Mist: It can be misty on the Panorama route but it’s still worth taking this road (instead of the R44) if you are travelling from the Hazyview area to the northern game lodges of Timbavati. The road is scenic and well-maintained, unlike the busy and slightly pot-holed R44. You will probably be able to visit some of the sites – such as the Bourke’s Luck Potholes and the various waterfalls – even if the viewpoints may not be worth it.

History of the name of Blyde River Canyon

In the mid 19th century, the Voortrekker leader, Hendrik Potgieter, led an exploratory party trying to reach the Mozambican coast. Given the fear of malaria in the mysterious Lowveld, most of the party were left on the Drakenberg escarpment whilst others made the climb down. They waited and waited and the men did not return. Finally, having named the river where they camped, the Treur River, (meaning ‘sorrow’), they set off back to the Highveld. However, the next day the explorers returned. The reunion took place as they were about to ford another river. So, this river was promptly named ‘Blyde’ or ‘joy’, hence the Blyde River Canyon.

Some of the highlights of the Blyde River Canyon Panorama Route include:
  • God’s Window – This gives excellent views down to the Lowveld 1000m below. Plus, an even broader panorama can be achieved by climbing up through the rainforest to a small, unfenced area.
  • Close by are two waterfalls, the Berlin Falls (45m) and the Lisbon falls (90m). The Lisbon falls are generally more impressive but we recommend visiting at least one of them during your tour. But the falls will be less dramatic at the end of the dry season (late August to November).
  • Pinnacle Rock viewpoint
  • Bourke’s Luck Potholes were caused by the confluence of the Treur and Blyde Rivers. The cavities were formed by the continual swirling action of the pebble-laden floodwaters.
  • Three Rondavels – three buttresses rising from the canyon floor provide beautiful views and great photos if the light is right. The local people called the outcrop ‘The Chief and his three wives’. The flat-topped peak to the right is the Chief. The three buttresses are the three wives in descending order of importance!

You can now enjoy a “gorge fall” from the Canyon. (But we’ve not done this ourselves, so cannot vouch for it yet.)