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It’s highly likely that anyone visiting Graskop will have stopped for a treat at one of the many superb pancake houses in the town. Tour buses parked outside a particular establishment hints at its popularity.
But Graskop is much more than this – the town is known as the Window on Mpumalanga, chiefly because of its location at the edge of the escarpment where pine plantations make way for awe-inspiring views of thick indigenous bushveld set amongst canyons and hills.
The area was first established as a mining settlement in 1882. Present day Graskop is a tourist destination with some of South Africa’s most spectacular natural wonders bordering the town. Graskop is included in the popular Panorama Route that runs from Lydenburg in the south to north of the Blyde River Canyon. This route is bursting with panoramas, waterfalls, fruit and nut farms, striking mountains and appealing towns, one of the principal ones being Graskop.
Top 6 reasons to visit Graskop
1. Visit God’s Window to stand at the edge of the escarpment and look 700m below to the Lowveld region. The scenic vistas of pristine forest extends for miles out to the horizon where the earth’s curvature is easily visible. Nearby is the Pinnacle, a 30m rock tower that appears to have been dropped from the skies.
2. Hike the 27000ha Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve to reach the Blydepoort Dam where hippos abound and the call of raptors echo in the valleys. Look out for the shy somango monkey in the forests and the rare oribi antelope along the trails.
3. Graskop is on the Waterfall Route, travel north on the tarred regional road to reach Lisbon Falls, a 95m high waterfall with picnic site. Further on are the 80m Berlin Falls, surrounded by a beautiful rock-strewn amphitheatre. Keep an eye out for the rock bridge on this route, a natural bridge eroded by water through the passage of time.
4. Feeling adventurous? The Big Swing outside Graskop has one of the world’s highest swings over a gorge and riders reach up to 180km/h during the 68m freefall. Other adrenalin-filled rides include a zipline over the canyon and abseiling (rappelling).
5. Travel to the Shangana Cultural Village to gain an understanding of the Tsonga culture. Tours are conducted of the village and include meals, storytelling and traditional dancing.
6. The Sabie Country Club only has a 9-hole golf course, however, it’s one of the most scenic and definitely a challenge to get around the undulating fairways inside a reasonable score.
The Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport in Mbombela (Nelspruit) is 84km from Graskop. International flights arrive via Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban. Car rental agencies are located at the airport and Mbombela, otherwise order a vehicle online. Shuttle operators and metered taxis offer transport between Graskop and other towns.
Did you know?
Mopani worms are considered a delicacy around these parts. They are enjoyed either dried or fried in butter. The worm is found on the Mopani or Butterfly tree where the Mopani moth lays its eggs and the caterpillars (worms) feast on the leaves.
Over 1.5 million people speak Xitsonga (Tsonga) in Mpumalanga. The language is characterised by 3 clicks in their dialect, these being the dental click (the letter c), the palatal click (the letter q) and the lateral click (the letter x). To master the pronunciation, strike up a conversation with a local.
There is a small risk of contracting malaria in this region, take the necessary precautions before visiting.
For a more down to earth experience there are guest houses. Less expensive than hotels, they offer a more homey environment, as well as more privacy. Converted from a private house it’s a much gentler environment and for those with furry friends, there are also pet friendly options. They are usually well situated with shops and places of interest nearby. Being so small it offers a much more personal and intimate attention to it’s upkeep, leaving you with a more polished and homely experience.