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Mpumalanga is a tourist’s mecca; places of interest in this north-east province of South Africa are practically boundless and suit all tastes. The region is blessed with natural beauty, wildlife, mining history, battlefields, a sophisticated infrastructure and a blend of modern towns and remote tribal villages.
The capital of Mpumalanga is Mbombela, previously Nelspruit. It’s a vibrant city that links international visitors arriving from all parts of the world to the Kruger National Park . However, overlooking Mpumalanga’s other treasures would be remiss and we recommend setting aside at least a week to explore this striking part of the world.
Due to its diverse landscape, Mpumalanga has two climates: temperatures vary from icy winters and dry, hot summers in the upper plateau Highlands, to a sub-tropical, green environment in the low lying areas of the Lowveld. There is a marked elevation between the western and eastern regions of between 2200m and 180m respectively.
Driving through this province will leave you with a strong desire to remain here forever.
Things to do
South Africa’s most sought after destination is the Kruger National Park in the east of Mpumalanga . There are 3 entrances into the park and various tours ranging from bush walks to 4x4 safaris and hot air balloon rides over the park.
Follow the Panorama Route beginning at the forest town of Sabie and encompassing the impressive 65m high twin Mac Mac Falls, the mining town of Pilgrim's Rest (a living museum), the panoramic God's Window, the stunningly green 800m deep Blyde River Canyon, the uniquely formed cylindrical Bourke's Luck Potholes and Pinnacle Rock, rising like a giant fist out of the surrounding tropical forest.
Tour the Sudwala Caves, believed to be the world’s oldest and dated at roughly 2000 million years old. The cave has fossilised remains of primitive life forms. The life-sized and realistic dinosaur models at Dinosaur Park alongside the caves is sure to enthrall both child and adult.
Hazyview has a number of heart racing activities including abseiling (rappelling), river tubing and a lengthy zip line over the forest canopy, reaching 100kph in some sections. The Elephant Sanctuary at the nearby Illanga Game Reserve allows interactive encounters with the park’s rescued and orphaned elephants.
Pop in to the Lydenburg Museum at Mashishing to see the Iron Age Lydenburg Heads, a series of clay masks discovered in 1957. Access to Mashishing (Lydenburg) is over one of South Africa’s highest passes, the Long Tom Pass.
Looking for an extreme adventure? Try the heart-in-your-mouth 68m freefall Big Swing and death-defying 135m High Wire outside Graskop.
Try your luck at gambling at the super sophisticated Emnotweni Casino and Entertainment Complex in Mbombela.
Spoil yourself with a visit to Tsakani House of African Silks in Mbombela where exquisite organic, hand-woven silk products are created.
Visit Rottcher Orange Wines at the Casterbridge Lifestyle Centre in White River for a wine tasting with a difference: here, wines are made the traditional way but the grape is substituted with oranges.
The town of Barberton has an old mine, ancient rock formations and fascinating history to discover. NASA Scientists have in the past visited Barberton to study the 3.5 billion year old rocks to chart earth’s history.
The quaint little town of Dullstroom is a favourite weekend getaway for Johannesburg and Pretoria residents. Trout fly fishing is popular.
A visit to a South Ndebele kraal is recommended to see the brightly coloured homes and traditional dress that so vividly portray the tribe’s cultural identity.
Where to Eat
The fairly rustic venue of Canimambo Restaurant in Graskop belies the excellent traditional Portuguese dishes served here. The menu has various other options including snack foods.
No stop to Graskop is complete without an obligatory visit to one of their renowned pancake houses. Harries Pancakes is recommended where savoury and sweet pancakes are served .
Potluck Boskombuis invites travelers along the Graskop road to stop for a meat dish on their deck overlooking a river. The potjiekos (meat and veggies stewed in a cast iron pot over an open fire) is worth a mention. Look out for the wild horses roaming the area.
Oliver's Restaurant & Lodge in White River offers exciting dishes ranging from Mediterranean to vegetarian meals.
Kuka's Restaurant & Cocktail Lounge in Hazyview has a relaxed patio area and the menu is a combination of excellent Italian dishes and standard fare, well presented.
Explorers Restaurant at the Emnotweni Casino in Mbombela offers light meals in a modern, well-designed restaurant. The Jackpot Platter is popular for its mix of ribs, chicken wings, spring rolls and dipping sauces.
Orange Restaurant in Mbombela provides exceptional meals in a sophisticated venue overlooking the city. Fine dining at its best, booking is essential.
Sabie’s Wild Fig tree Restaurant is best known for its outstanding unique dishes. Try the crocodile sosatie (kebab)! Nice vibe to the restaurant.
The award-winning Zest Restaurant in Mbombela is a lively venue where top quality meals are prepared throughout the day.
Mpumalanga is celebrated for its fruit and nuts; purchase macadamia nuts, mangoes, pineapples and litchis from any roadside stall to assemble a healthy snack pack for your road trip.
DEJA VU Lounge in Mbombela hosts top national DJs and themed evenings such as Reggae vibes, Biker parties and Jazz nights. Phone first to find out what’s going down.
Enjoy a cocktail 8 floors up and stunning views over Mbombela at the classy, laidback Pinnacle Bar.
The Sabie Sports Bar is where the locals congregate on weekend evenings. Join them for a festive drink and game of pool.
The well patronized Old Rock Café in Barberton has an indoor sports bar, outdoor bush bar and beer garden to enjoy a few drinks and mingle with the locals.
Where to Stay
We have a huge range of elegant, luxurious hotels, lodges, spas and guest houses, charming bungalows and fully equipped self-catering units available throughout the Mpumalanga Province that will all warrant a comfortable and enjoyable stay.
Air Mpumalanga’s international airport is Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport in Mbombela. There are several smaller airports scattered throughout the province, enquire with travel agents regarding the nearest airport to your destination.
Car A vehicle can be hired from most large towns in Mpumalanga otherwise order a rental online.
Taxi Most major towns have traditional taxi services. Uber has plans to begin operating in Mbombela in the near future.
Did you know?
Mpumalanga means The Place of the Rising Sun in siSwati.
In 1900, during the South African war, a fortune in gold bars went missing from the SA Mint. It’s believed that the gold was buried on a farm somewhere between Sabie and Watervalboven in Mpumalanga. The legend persists today and there are people still trying to locate the ‘Kruger Millions’.
In the Ndebele culture, married women will wear a thick necklace called a rholwani until the man provides her with a home. Once she is in her home, she then replaces the necklace with a copper band called an idzilo. Talk about pressurising the poor guy…!
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.