The R40 from Barberton over the Bulembu Pass is one of South Africa’s best-kept secrets. As you twist and turn your way over this scenic mountain pass you will see some of the oldest rock formations on Earth and be granted magnificent views of Mpumalanga's beautiful valleys.

Did you know?

Bulembu was purchased by Bulembu Ministries in Swaziland and is now a safe haven for orphans.

You may have heard of Mpumalanga’s historic little town of Barberton, once the bustling hub of the 1880s gold rush, but few visitors are aware of the spectacular Bulembu Pass that is accessed from Barberton.

The Bulembu Pass is a scenic route that takes you over and through some of the oldest mountains on Earth. This mountain pass twists and turns along winding roads and hairpin bends, bypasses mountain streams and crosses rivers before finally taking you to Bulembu, the former asbestos mining town just over the Swaziland border.

But be warned, while a sedan car can handle the journey, it is recommended you use a 4x4 as the road is extremely steep in places and full of potholes.

Set out from Barberton on the Sheba road and go south on the R40 to the Bulembu Pass. For the first 9km you’ll be on a steep tarred road that takes you over the Saddle Back Mountains. Be sure to stop at one of several lay-bys to admire the spectacular views.

Be sure to go left onto the Shiaylongubo Dam road, down 6km to Peglar’s Bush. This stand of magnificent natural forest in the midst of pine plantations is a highlight of the Bulembu Pass.

Once back on the mountain pass look out for the old Havelock-Barberton aerial cableway – used to ferry asbestos in the old days – that crosses the road in front of you and enjoy great views of the Songimvelo Game Reserve to the west.

One other must-do on the route is just 2km before the Swaziland border post. Turn right and descend into the Msauli Valley – a gorgeous spot full of waterfalls and rivers.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Mpumalanga Tourism Authority
Tel: +27 (0) 13 759 5300/1
Email: info@mtpa.co.za

How to get here

Barberton is easily accessed from Mbombela (Nelspruit) on both the N4 and R28. The closest airport is Kruger Mpumalanga International, 70km outside Mbombela.

Best time to visit

The road is in better condition during winter as summer rain makes the surface very slippery.

Get around

A well-sprung sedan car is fine but a 4x4 is better.

Length of stay

It will take a few hours to drive the route as you will want to stop and admire the scenery.

What to pack

Carry your passport with you so you can pop over the Swaziland border if the mood takes you.

Where to stay

Barberton Manor Guest House is a good bet as a base from which to explore the area.