This one-of-a-kind natural site is a must-see when visiting South Africa! With many things to do in Blyde River Canyon Reserve, you’ll find many Blyde River Canyon activities like game parks and safaris, boat trips, paragliding, abseiling, kayaking, helicopter flights, and a 68m free-fall bungy jumping swing to name a few.
Not only is it the world’s greenest canyon but The Blyde River Canyon is the third largest canyon in the world. At about 26 kilometers in length and 800m deep, the canyon is one of the easiest to view, with the Panorama Route Road out of Graskop winding along the canyon’s top.
Geological formations are the drawcard in this region, there are many Blyde River canyon activities, from a variety of wildlife to the Blyde river canyon hike to the Three Rondavels (aka The Three Sisters), Bourke’s Luck Potholes plus the Pinnacle Rock many more.
The term Blyde is a Cape Dutch (Afrikaans) word that means “glad”, “joyous” or “happy”. The canyon is surrounded by the highest mountain range in South Africa, the Drakensberg.
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What is Blyde River Canyon
The Blyde River Canyon is a deep cleft between escarpments or cliffs resulting from the ancient supercontinent in the zone where Gondwanaland split 200 million years ago. This happened when Madagascar and Antarctica broke free from Africa.
It’s located close to one of the ten UNESCO World Heritage Sites in South Africa, the Barberton Greenstone Belt – the oldest mountain range on Earth (3.6 billion years old)
Where is Blyde River Canyon
On the north you will find the Drakensberg escarpment (that’s the highest in the country), averaging a depth of 762 meters.
Traveling from Johannesburg to Blyde River Canyon
The fastest and most expensive way get from Johannesburg to Blyde River Canyon is to fly into OR Tambo International Airport (JNB) in Johannesburg then get a connecting flight to Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (MQP) in Nelspruit. From the airport, you will have to rent a car and drive to The Blyde River Canyon. The distance between Nelspruit Airport and Blyde River Canyon is about 153 km (3 to 3.5 hours depending on traffic).
Alternatively, you can drive from Johannesburg to Blyde River Canyon. This takes 6-7 hours depending on the traffic.
The Blyde River Canyon entrance fee
The Blyde River Canyon entrance fee is R35 for adults and R20 for children and pensioners. This includes entry to the canyon viewpoint and The Three Rondavels.
Things to do in Blyde River Canyon
1. See God’s Window
Just one look down and you will understand why it is called “God’s Window”.
God’s window is a viewpoint, from where you can see the beginning of the Blyde Canyon landscape. The panoramic view of the Lowveld more than 900m down into the lush indigenous forest-clad ravine.
If you visit on a clear day, you can see all the way to the Kruger National Park and Mozambique. Glance towards the east and you’ll see the Three Sisters, also known as the Three Rondawels. Just two kilometers north is Wonder View, the highest viewpoint in the region.
2. Hippo Trail Blyde River Canyon
The Hippo Trail Blyde River Canyon is an 18km hike. A permit can be purchased from the Blyde River Canyon Forever Resort (Monday – Saturday).
3. Visit Pilgrims Rest
This village was once the center of the 1870s gold rush. You’ll see many of the original buildings, like the Royal Hotel, the general store and the newspaper office (where the Irish editor kept a pair of loaded pistols on his desk), as you walk up the steep hill to the village.
Mining continued until 1972 and today Pilgrim’s Rest is a living museum, preserved in the exact architectural style of the gold rush period, boasting various buildings that have remained unchanged externally for more than a century.
While in Pilgrims Rest, head to Alanglade House Museum – for a living museum experience!
See the magnificent Blyde River Canyon from a boat on the Blyde River. You’ll also visit the Kinyonga Reptile park to learn about the endangered and interesting reptiles in South Africa.
5. See the Bourke’s Luck Potholes
The potholes were formed millions of years ago by the swirling of sand and pebbles, which resulted in the carving of the potholes into the underlying riverbed.
It was named after Tom Bourke who discovered alluvial gold in the area during the late 1880s. Bourke’s Luck had nothing to do with the potholes but rather a lucky strike in this gold-rich area.
Entrance Fees: R65 for adults | R25 for children and pensioners.
6. Graskop Lift
The viewing lift takes visitors 51 meters down the face of the gorge into the forest below, where wooden walkways & suspension bridges meander along a 600-meter trail through the indigenous forest with interactive exhibits.
The Graskop Lift is one of the best Blyde River canyon activities and also wheelchair friendly.
7. Go on Safari
South Africa is a wildlife haven! In this region, you can easily visit the Kruger National Park or one of the many game reserves in the area.
The closest Kruger entry gate is Phabeni Gate, only 55km from Graskop, making visits to Kruger a popular day trip from Graskop.
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8. The Three Rondawels
Known as the “three rondavels” due to the rocky outcrops, whose points look like rondavels.
The Three Rondavels are also known as ‘The Chief and his Three Wives’. The flat-topped peak to the right is named Mapjaneng – the ‘Chief’, whilst the three wives are named Maseroto, Mogoladikwe, and Magabolle.
Towering in isolated and massive splendor behind them is the 1944 m high peak named Mareiepskop, which forms the southern portal of the canyon mouth. To the north of Magabolle is the magnificent, almost arrogant, jutting profile of the Swandini Buttress, which forms the northern portal of the canyon mouth.
It offers a superb example of the powerful effect of wind and water on raw rock interspersed with layers of shale.
9. Pinnacle Rock
One of the best things to do in the Blyde River Canyon Reserve is to see Pinnacle Rock. This 30 meter-high ‘needle’ of quartzite rises dramatically from a ravine, whilst below you, you can see down the valley for kilometers. The views here are as good as God’s Window but without the crowds.
Entrance Fee: R20 for adults |R15 for children and pensioners.
10. Visit the waterfalls
Mpumalanga Province is known for its amazing scenery and waterfalls.
From The 68m high Lone Creek Falls to the aptly named Horseshoe Falls – in the shape of a horseshoe. The Bridal Veil Falls – resembling a bridal veil – is another amazing waterfall to visit in this region. Located 6km from Sabie town. Go through a challenging 750m walk through an indigenous forest leads to the 70m high waterfall. Mac Mac Pools and Sabie Falls are also located in this area.
Accommodation at Blyde River Canyon
Luxury ($$$) – Kapama Southern Camp
Kapama Southern Camp is situated in the Greater Kruger Park area within the Kapama Private Game Reserve. Surrounded by nature in a tranquil setting, this luxury accommodation offers modern and air-conditioned suites with views.
Decorated in warm earth tones, the suites come with a private patio, a full en suite bathroom, a minibar, and tea-and-coffee-making facilities. The more spacious Luxury Suites have their own private lap pool, inside and outside showers, and a fireplace.
Moderate ($$) – Mount Sheba, a Forever Lodge
Mount Sheba, a Forever Lodge is located 30 minutes’ drive from the historical town of Pilgrim’s Rest. Surrounded by rain forest, the hotel offers a variety of leisure activities.
The thatched rooms are equipped with a flat-screen satellite TV, cozy fireplace, tea-and-coffee-making facilities, and a patio. All rooms have an en-suite bathroom with a bath and shower.
Budget ($) – Blyde River Canyon Forever Resort
The Blyde river canyon forever resort is located a mere 160 kilometers from Nelspruit (Mbombela) and 50 kilometers from Graskop. Blyde Canyon is a premier choice for blissful Getaways, Conferences and Weddings. It is also the ideal destination for Hiking Trails and Scenic Trips by car, to well-known Mpumalanga locations such as Pilgrim’s Rest, Bourke’s Luck Potholes and God’s Window.
Travel Insurance for South Africa
Use travel insurance while visiting South Africa so you are covered for theft and medical expenses. There are a lot of adventurous activities to do in SA, and it’s best to have peace of mind while driving, hiking, and trying some of the best food in the world.
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