The Best Things to do in the Lowveld
In the far eastern part of South Africa, lies everyone’s favourite holiday destination: the Lowveld.
Well-known for its absolute beauty, its unbelievable weather, and its many, many things to do, those who are planning a holiday in the Lowveld are spoiled for choice, whether it is their hope to have a laid back vacation or an action packed adventure!
Choosing what you want to actually do when visiting the region can be a little tricky, because the list is long and your time here is likely not going to be long enough to really be able to do all of the things you’ve hoped to do.
But not having enough time is really just a great excuse to make a return visit!
The Lowveld is possibly most famous for being home to the Kruger National Park, but there are plenty of other things to see. The Lowveld is known for having the most waterfalls in the country and you can easily spend a full day exploring the sights and scenes of the Panorama Route. And then there are historical attractions of all kinds and more action filled activities than you’d know how to fit into your days here.
And if you are struggling to fill out your itinerary, these are our recommendations for the best things to do in the lowveld.
View our rooms if you are currently searching for Nelspruit luxury accommodation at affordable rates.
The Kruger National Park
Let’s get this one out of the way, before we jump into anything else.
The Kruger National Park is quite easily the only attraction that most of those coming to the Lowveld are going to want to experience. As one of the biggest and most famous wildlife parks on the planet, the Kruger is a place where the days are spent enjoying safari drives, while the nights are spent enjoying nothing but the beautiful sounds of nature and the sight of the Milky Way.
A trip here is guaranteed to become one of your most memorable trips, so if you have not yet been here, then be sure to add it to your list.
The Barberton Makhonjwa Geotrail
Don’t be fooled by the name, you won’t need a 4×4 vehicle to enjoy this trail that is designed to take a billions of years back in time.
The mountains surrounding the ancient mining town of Barberton are known to be some of the oldest in the world. In fact, they are so old that they are regarded as a fairly accurate portrait of what the earth looked like around 3 billion years ago. The Geotrail has been built to show people the best geographical highlights of the area. There are various lookout points all along the way, complete with interesting information, and the views are just indescribable.
The Geotrail is suitable for all ages, and it’s free!
Gold Panning in Pilgrim’s Rest
The very foundation of the Lowveld was built on the gold mining industry.
Gold rushes characterise the history of most of the area, and to this day, there is gold in the mountains around Barberton, up in the sleepy village of Kaapsehoop, and in Pilgrim’s Rest, which is considered to be the best place to try your hand at gold panning. At a place called Diggings in Pilgrim’s Rest you can learn about the history of the Pilgrim’s gold rush, and you can get in on the action by going down to a nearby creek and panning for gold that still sits beneath the waters.
To experience this activity, you will need to buy a ticket at the museum in town.
Fly over Blyde River Canyon
Did you know that the Blyde River Canyon, which is around 3 hours away from the area’s capital city Nelspruit, is the world’s only green canyon?
The third largest canyon in the world, the Blyde River Canyon is a unique place not only because of the natural rock formations, but also because of the sheer variety of vegetation. On top of the canyon as well as within it, is natural Lowveld forest, while around the canyon, on various slopes, is drier grassland. The area also has fynbos in places where the forest give way.
The best way to see the canyon is from the air so have a look at the local helicopter companies offering flights, there are a few.
Horseback Rides in Kaapsehoop
In the forested mountains around Kaapsehoop, lies the Kaapsehoop Horse Trails. The village is already quite well known for having a big wild horse population, who are the descendants of horses left behind by those who travelled to the region while in search of gold. The Kaapsehoop Horse Trails offers a once in a lifetime trip through the mountains and forests of Kaapsehoop. There are various trails to enjoy and all are done in the company of a guide.
To book a horseback ride, you can contact the company for more information.
If heights are not something that scares you and if you are big on collecting unique experiences, a day spent at Skyway Trails is something you should definitely add to your list of things to do. Situated just outside of Hazyview, the company makes it possible for guests to glide along the canopy of one of the last natural forests in the area. From the aerial cable trail, you can observe and learn more about the wildlife and the plants that spot as you move from one tree platform to the next.
If this sounds like something you want to do, you can book a trip by visiting the official website – Here.
White Water Rafting
The Blyde River, the Sabie River and the Olifants River are all places where you can enjoy the utter thrill of a trip down a fast flowing river, while seated in a rubber boat. Along with your companions, you’ll navigate the waters, with a guide up front who will take you safely to the end of the trail.
There are various companies offering such an adventure, so it is best to shop around.
Visit the Sudwala Caves
Much like the mountains around Barberton, the Sudwala Caves are one of the oldest geological sites on earth. The caves are a great place to spend the day and there are various guided tours to take part in. One attraction, and something that is really magical, is the crystal tour, which you can sign up for when booking your tour.
Head over to the Sudwala Caves website (Here) for more information and to make your booking.
The Graskop Gorge Lift
Still relatively new to the tourist scene of the Lowveld but a tremendously popular destination is the Graskop Gorge Lift. The glass elevator slides 70m down a gorge into an indigenous forest and as you start from quite a height, you have spectacular views across the valley. Below you can experience the forest up close with a lovely walkway ambling past a thundering waterfall.
You will not miss people hurling themselves off the cliff above you as part of the ‘Big Swing’ high adrenaline tourist attraction or Zipliners swooping past overhead, which is two other ways to experience the 70m height difference from the forest to where the entrance of the tourist destination is perched.
A restaurant, gift shop and a craft centre welcomes you as you enter from the parking. It’s usually quite packed as many travel to Graskop to experience the Graskop Gorge Lift.
The Lowveld Botanical gardens
Boasting its own African Rain Forest that is regularly doused in water with an enormous ‘sprinkler’ towering amidst the African forest trees, the Nelspruit Botanical Gardens are a must see when you are around the Lowveld as they offer a variety of plants scapes and also regular events for animal and plant lovers alike, as well a calendar of festivals.
For more on this amazing Lowveld treasure, do view our dedicated guide to the Botanical Gardens in Nelspruit .
The Scoot Tours in Kaapschehoop
It’s a rush and makes you feel like a kid again to free down a mountain on a Scoot ‘bike’ in picturesque Kaapschehoop where wild horses may nible grass to your left or right as you navigate winding paths, little streams and forest thickets. Short stops are there to appreciate the view or take aim with a ‘kettie’ at a bush-target for those in a competitive mood.
The guides are fun and just as into the trip as you are and comfortable to go slow or at speed, whatever the group likes. You wouldn’t think they had done the trip a hundred times before with the enthusiasm they show during a ride.
Definitely a different way to explore the mountains around Kaapschehoop and who knows, you may spot some mushrooms pushing though the pine needles, a special treat that may even end up on your plate.
Golfing in the Lowveld
With its fantastic weather and the chance of spotting wildlife on some of the golf courses mentioned below, the Lowveld is a golfer’s dream. Throughout its vast terrain it is dotted with some stunning courses that need to be experienced.
Malelane Golf Club & Leopard Creek Country Club
Malelane boasts the Malelane Golf Club and the Leopard Creek Country Club.
Leopard Creek was designed by Gary Player himself and with a little bit of organisation, visitors can secure a chance to tee off as the greens and their stunning views are usually reserved for members only.
The Malelane Golf Club is a 9 hole course with the Kruger National Park a short ride away and is open to visitors who would like to visit its pro-shop or other sport amenities adjacent to the golf course(bowls, squash and tennis).
Drakenzicht The Mountain Links Golf Course
While still enroute to the capital of the Lowveld, Mbombela(Nelspruit), you will enter the majestic Schoemanskloof via the N4 and there, perched high on the Kloof cliffs, is the graceful Drakenzicht Lodge which boasts The Mountain Links Golf Course. This another 9 hole 18 tee course that is open to day-visitors and on a clear day sports amazing views over the Schoemanskloof Valley.
White River Golfing
White River Country Estate Golf Course
The lovely town of White River with its higher elevation and cooler climate serves as a gateway for Kruger National Park Tourists. The towns biggest private estate, The White River Country Estate boasts an 18 hole golf course that meanders amongst beautiful scenery.
With its luxury aesthetic and lifestyle centres like Casterbridge and Baghdad, White River also offers options for those not interested in swinging a golf club.
Sabie River Golf Course
This golf course is another 18 hole option, one of only four in the Lowveld, and this course is not for the faint of heart as some of the watercourses have some toothy inhabitants. Around the 15th hole if you lose a ball to the water, you may rather leave it to the hippos or crocodiles that call the main dam on the course their watery home.
Kruger Park Lodge Golf Course
Another option for those who would rather do a bit of golfing than head into the Kruger Park for their day-trip, the Kruger Park Lodge Golf Course offers nine holes and also the possibility of wildlife viewing on the course.
Nelspruit Mbombela Golfing
Mbombela Golf Club Golf Course
Mbombela Golf Club and formerly known as the Nelspruit Golf Club Golf Course is ‘Home of the Jock’ is a 18 holer designed by Bob Grimsdell adjacent to Matumi Golf Estate.
Barberton Golf Club Course
Being one of the oldest golf clubs in the country, the Barberton Golf Club Course offers an uphill course and a yearly tournament, so check your calendar and call ahead.
Komatipoort Golf Club Course
Play the heat the and spot the wildlife as you tee off on this 9 holer in beautiful Komatipoort. Open to visitors with a fully stocked bar.
Hiking in the Lowveld
Sublime weather all year round and some of the most beautiful mountainscapes, forests and gorges, the Lowveld area around the city of Nelspruit has become a popular place for people who love to go hiking.
Taking to the great outdoors is one of the best things that you can do when you are staying at our Nelspruit accommodation, and here’s our top suggestions for some of the most beautiful hiking destinations.
- The Loerie Hiking Trail
The town of Sabie is a 45 minute drive from Nelspruit, and the beautiful route to the town takes you up into the Drakensburg Mountains and through some of the most picturesque pine forests. Its secluded look and feel, and that much welcomed small town vibe that just makes you feel at home, also happens to make Sabie the perfect place to enjoy a day’s hiking. And you are going to be spoiled for choice, when you see your hiking options.
Many of the hiking trails in this area take guests to some of the most spectacular waterfalls and to other hidden areas which are only accessible on foot.
The Loerie Trail meanders through the picturesque Ceylon Forest, where a 10km route takes guests past the Sabie River and through the incredible pine and eucalyptus forest. To take embark on the trail you will need a permit, which you can get from the tourism centre in the Main Street.
- The Escarpment Walk
20 minutes outside of Nelspruit, up in the village of Kaapsehoop, guests to the area can walk along the escarpment and enjoy the kinds of scenery they won’t easily find anywhere else. The escarpment varies from green to gold and back to green as the seasons change, and on this hiking route guests can enjoy looking at the stunning rock formations, and spotting the wild horses and blue swallows that call the escarpment home.
The most iconic thing about this walk is the view down to the Barberton Valley, which lies 1000 meters below.
- The Uitsoek Hiking Trail
Weaving through the Uitsoek Plantation some 80km outside of Nelspruit, close to the Sudwala Caves, the Uitsoek Hiking Trail is a long one and it can be difficult for those who are not experienced or quite fit enough to take it on. The trail has an overnight hut for guests to use, and it covers a 30km stretch of pristine indigenous forest, plantations and mountains.
- The Lindenau Hiking Trail
The start of this trail is 20km from Ngodwana Village and it takes hikers through the breathtakingly beautiful Elands Valley on an old trail that has been reworked. The trail is for the more advanced hiker and will take 2 days to complete, with guests able to stay overnight in the trail hut.
- The Queen Rose Hiking Trail
Outside Barberton, one of the oldest towns in the area, and just a short drive from Nelspruit, the Queen Rose Hiking Trail journeys through iconic Lowveld wilderness and up into the mountains where guests can experience the most scenic views. This trail is suitable for hikers of all kinds and can be completed in less than a day, making it the perfect day trip.
Once guests have completed the trail, they can head back into the town and explore some of the fascinating history of the area. They can also replenish their energy by stopping by one of the local coffee shops or cafes.
And so, our Best Things to do in the Lowveld list comes to an end. We hope that this article provided you with valuable information that resulted in an amazing adventurous experience.