South Africa is world renowned for its wildlife, its wine country, and for the stunningly beautiful landscape of the Western Cape. For those who choose to spend their entire time in South Africa in the Western Cape, they will by no means be disappointed, but they’ll certainly be missing out on the amazing game drives in Greater Kruger as well as a somewhat lesser known natural attraction: Blyde River Canyon. Other than the Grand Canyon, this is probably one of the most impressive canyons planet earth has to offer. In terms of sheer size, it’s 16 miles long and 2,461 feet deep on average. At its lowest point, it’s 1,841 feet above sea level, while it’s highest point is 6,378 feet above sea level. That’s 4,537 feet deep which makes it one of the largest canyons in the world. Apparently canyons are difficult to compare, but we’ve frequently seen it described as the third largest canyon in the world. Also, the fact that it’s a “green canyon” makes the views of the lush canyon walls that much more spectacular. While there are several lookout points providing sweeping canyon views, perhaps the most popular (for good reason) is Three Rondavels.
Blyde River Canyon is located along the Panorama Route in South Africa’s Mpumalanga province and is a perfect stop for anyone driving between Johannesburg and the Greater Kruger National Park area. It’s approximately 1.5 hours from the Hoedspruit Airport and about a 4.5 hour drive from Johannesburg. It’s more or less right along the fastest driving route between the two so it doesn’t require much of a detour. It’s also close enough to Hoedspruit that you can easily make it into a day trip and the drive is incredibly scenic. The lookout point for Three Rondavels is located on a well-marked road off of R532 and there are plenty of spaces to park within a short walk of the lookout point (there is a nominal entry fee). There are rows of small shops where dozens of locals sell their crafts so if you’re looking for souvenirs this is a good place to pick something up. Also, be aware that there are baboons that frequent the parking lot in search of food.
The pictures should speak for themselves…
The word “rondavel” refers to the traditional circular African dwelling which bears a striking resemblance to the three domed summits towering 2,296 feet over the canyon. They’re also sometimes referred to as the “three sisters” or the “chief and his three wives”. Depending on your views on polygamy, you can call it whatever you want. The fact of the matter is that this is as good a view as you’ll find anywhere in South Africa and if you’re journey brings you to this region of the country it’s absolutely worth a visit. Even if it’s just a quick stop.