Hit the road on this 10-day self-drive adventure to explore the highlights of South Africa's eastern region. First, travel along the Panorama Route, one of the most scenic drives in the country, then continue to the majestic plateaus of the Drakensberg escarpment. After enjoying nature hikes and mountain fun, travel to the coast for boat tours and safaris to spot exotic animals like leopards and rhinos.


  • See towering waterfalls and massive river canyons on the Panorama Route
  • Explore mountain towns and soaring peaks in the Drakensberg escarpment
  • Enjoy some beach time in Durban, followed by safaris on both land and water

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Johannesburg, Drive to Graskop Graskop
Days 2 Drive the Panorama Route: Blyde River Canyon & the Three Rondavels Graskop
Day 3 Drive the Panoramic Route: Waterfalls & Rock Pools, Drive to Johannesburg Johannesburg
Day 4 Drive to Clarens, Optional Activities Clarens
Day 5 Drive to Cathedral Peak Drakensberg
Day 6 Cathedral Peak Optional Activities Drakensberg
Day 7 Drive to Durban Durban
Day 8 Drive to St Lucia, St Lucia, Hippo Cruise St Lucia
Day 9 iSimangaliso Safari & Snorkeling St Lucia
Day 10 Drive to Durban & Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Johannesburg, Drive to Graskop

The majestic escarpment in Mpumalanga province, near Graskop

Welcome to South Africa! You'll be arriving in Johannesburg, the financial and commercial heart of the country. Filled with history and culture, "Joburg" is also a great base from which to embark on road trips through the east. That's exactly what you'll be doing on this self-drive adventure, which begins when you pick up your rental car at the airport.

From there, drive about 4.5 hours northeast to Graskop, a small town in the forests of Mpumalanga province. The town itself enjoys a nice location on the edge of the scenic Drakensberg escarpment in the Panorama tourist region, which you'll explore on a drive tomorrow. In the meantime, check in to your hotel and spend the remainder of the day relaxing after your long journey. 

Day 2: Drive the Panorama Route: Blyde River Canyon & the Three Rondavels

The Three Rondavels on the Panorama Route

Get ready to spend a couple of days visiting the highlights along the Panorama Route, which stretches 99 miles (160 km) throughout Mpumalanga. Leave early in the morning for the first day's drive, which will take you to Pinnacle Rock. This massive quartzite rock formation rises 98 feet (30 m) over native forest. Then, if the weather is warm enough, you can stop for a dip at Mac Mac Pools, a group of popular rock pools with waterfalls. There are even picnic areas here where you can enjoy a barbecue lunch.

End the day with a stop at Blyde River Canyon, the third-largest canyon in the world. The views here are incredible, especially those featuring the Three Rondavels—huge rock formations that resemble ancient stone beehive huts. There are plenty of viewpoints from which to admire this natural wonder, and the best time to take photos is during the magic hour, just before sunset. At the end of the day, you'll return to your hotel in Graskop.

Day 3: Drive the Panoramic Route: Waterfalls & Rock Pools, Drive to Johannesburg

Views over Lisbon Falls

After breakfast, hit the road for more sightseeing. Travel to the tallest and most romantic waterfalls in the region, which include Lisbon Falls (308 ft/94 m), Berlin Falls (262 ft/80 m), and Lone Creek Falls (229 ft/70 m). After visiting other highlights, like the Bourke's Luck Potholes rock pools, continue on to God's Window, an incredible viewpoint overlooking a 2,952-foot (900 m) ravine. Plan to make this your last stop, as it's another natural wonder best viewed in the golden light of sunset. At the end of the day, return to Johannesburg and check in to your hotel.

Day 4: Drive to Clarens, Optional Activities

The town of Clarens

In the morning, you'll leave Johannesburg on a 3.5-hour drive south to Clarens. Nestled in the foothills of the Maluti Mountains, this bucolic town is so lovely it was nicknamed the "Jewel of the Eastern Free State." There's much history here, too, as Clarens was established in 1912 and is named after the Swiss town where exiled South African president Paul Kruger spent his last days.

Upon arrival, you'll check in to your hotel and can then stretch your legs on a walk around town. The area has a couple of cool art galleries, and if you're thirsty after your long drive, you can pop in at the local brewery for a pint. For dinner, there are cozy restaurants and pubs both on and around Main Street. 

Day 5: Drive to Cathedral Peak

Amid the peaks
The soaring mountains around Cathedral Peak

After breakfast, you'll drive southeast about 52 miles (84 km) to the Upper Drakensberg and the lovely Cathedral Peak area. Also known as Mponjwana by local tribespeople, this 9,856-foot (3,004 m) mountain is nestled in a secluded valley and is surrounded by other equally majestic peaks. After checking in to your hotel, you can spend the rest of the day relaxing or head out for a brisk walk on a nature trail. If you have the energy, try the three to four-hour hike to Cathedral Peak's summit.

Plan your trip to South Africa
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Day 6: Cathedral Peak Optional Activities

Hike up to viewpoints at Cathedral Peak
Spend the day at Cathedral Peak however you like. Perhaps head out for a leisurely riverside stroll or a more strenuous hike up the mountain. You can also hop in the saddle for a horseback ride or zip along the backroads on an ATV. Maybe take a scenic flight to marvel at this grand mountain range from above. Another highlight is a drive out to Sentinel Point, where you can enjoy incredible views over the plateau.

Day 7: Drive to Durban

Welcome to Durban
In the morning, leave the Drakensberg and drive two-to-three hours to the coastal town of Durban. Located in KwaZulu-Natal province, this hotbed of Afro-Indian culture is known for its sandy beaches, sidewalk cafés, upscale waterfront eateries, and pulsing nightlife. After checking in to your hotel, feel free to venture into the city to experience all those highlights and more. 

Day 8: Drive to St Lucia, Hippo Cruise

Hippo and Crocodile  Boat Cruise
Cruise around the estuary and see hippos

After breakfast, hit the road again on a three-hour drive north from Durban up to St Lucia. This settlement sits on an estuary at the southern end of the magnificent iSimangaliso Wetland Park, which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks to its diverse flora and fauna. After checking in to your hotel, you'll see its most famous residents on a hippo boat tour. Also making an appearance will be Nile crocodiles as well as birds like pelicans, storks, terns, and perhaps the African fish eagle. 

Day 9: iSimangaliso Safari & Snorkeling

iSimangaliso Wetland Park
Get ready for another exciting wildlife tour. In the morning, a game ranger will pick you up in an open-topped safari vehicle for an exploration of iSimangaliso Wetland Park. The excursion includes game viewing on the open grasslands en route to Cape Vidal, a bay on an unspoiled stretch of coastline. During the drive, you'll have the opportunity to spot various species, including leopards, buffalo, rhinos, and kudus. Upon arrival at Cape Vidal, you'll trade your binoculars for a snorkel as you hit the water at this incredible dive site, which is home to Africa's southernmost tropical reefs. 

Day 10: Drive to Durban & Depart

Sunset over Durban
Unfortunately, today marks your last day in South Africa. In the morning, return to Durban and transfer to the international airport. After dropping off your rental car, you'll catch your flight home. Until next time!

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Map of South Africa Self-Drive Adventure - 10 Days
Map of South Africa Self-Drive Adventure - 10 Days