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A village proclaimed in its entirety as a national monument and a living museum, Pilgrim’s Rest in the Mpumalanga Province of South Africa gives the visitor an insight into the gold rush era of the 1870s. The place is filled with stories of characters and legends borne of that time, and several historic buildings have retained their original design. The standout feature is the number of corrugated iron buildings, the largest of which is the town hall.
The origins of the name are unclear, however, a popular story goes that a prospector who had found gold shouted ‘The pilgrim is at rest!’ and the name Pilgrims Rest stuck.
Pilgrims Rest lies on the Panorama Route, a breathtakingly beautiful ramble that begins in Nelspruit to the south and ends in Hoedspruit, near to the Kruger National Park.
A visit to Pilgrims Rest is a must; the town is truly unique and a welcome change from the average small town.
Top 8 reasons to visit Pilgrims Rest
1. Walk through the town to experience the ‘wild west’ atmosphere. Stop in at the historic Royal Hotel, visit the cemetery to see the Robber’s Grave facing at right angles to all others, check out the museums and dress up for a vintage photo of yourself as a keepsake.
2. Almost every visitor to Pilgrims Rest will have stopped off at Harrie’s Pancakes to sample one of their excellent combinations of toppings on a freshly made pancake. The restaurant offers a variety of sweet and savoury toppings.
3. Enjoy the supernatural? Take an evening ghost tour through the old Alanglade House and nearby cemetery. It’s here that the Barry family lost their 3 sons at a young age and the mother is said to haunt the place.
4. Pilgrims Rest has a well-wooded 9-hole golf course set amongst forests and mountains. Hole 4 at the Pilgrims Rest Golf Club is a tricky dog-legged 340m approach to the green.
5. Head out on the road to visit Pinnacle Rock and God’s Window, a 900m-high view site with panoramic vistas of the area. Further on is Burke’s Luck potholes where whirlpools along the river have created fascinating circular formations in the rock.
6. Walk through the tunnels of the old Jubilee Mine just outside of town. Try your hand at gold panning at the Diggings Site, a recreation of the 1873 mining operation.
7. Take a river boat cruise on the Blyde River through the spectacular canyon, the 3rd largest in the world. The cruise passes an interesting tufa waterfall, which has built up to form an unusual outcrop. Hippos and crocodiles frequent the river.
8. The climate in Pilgrims Rest is subtropical and nuts such as the macadamia, along with litchi, mango and avocado fruits, are abundant. Stock up at a roadside stall or in the town.
The Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport in Mbombela (Nelspruit) is 100km from Pilgrims Rest. International flights arrive via Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban. An alternate airport is Eastgate Airport in Hoedspruit, 118km away for chartered flights. Car rental agencies are located at the airports and Nelspruit, otherwise order a vehicle online. Shuttle operators and metered taxis offer transportation between Pilgrims Rest and other towns but it’s best to hire a car.
Did you know?
During the South African War, the Boers started a mint in Pilgrims Rest and with foreign help, produced gold coins called the Veldpond (Field Pound, directly translated). The handmade coin never went into production and there is a sample to be seen at the ABSA Bank money museum in Johannesburg.
There is a small risk of contracting malaria in this region, take the necessary precautions before visiting.