The Highveld Heritage Route, Mpumalanga
Did you know?
2 500 Boers defeated 7 500 British in a night attack during the Battle of Chrissiesmeer.
The centre of the Highveld Heritage Route is the little town of Ermelo in southeast Mpumalanga. This route will take you on a fascinating journey packed with culture, history, wildlife, mystery and relaxation.
Let's visit the ancient past first, in the Batwa Valley with its giant mushroom rock. Early tools, soot-blackened cave walls and rock art speak poignantly of a San people called the Tlou E'Tie who once lived here before the assegais of the warring Nguni tribes drove them out.
Fast forward to the South African War and the 1901 Battle of Chrissiesmeer, where Boers and Brits fought and fell. Boers who didn't support the cause were known as 'joiners' or 'henshoppers', and when you visit the town cemetery you'll find them buried side by side with their fellow countrymen. With one big difference – their graves (along with the British graves) – face the opposite direction.
Enjoy the little town of Chrissiesmeer and its beautiful old sandstone houses before taking in some of the other attractions of the Highveld Heritage Route. Take a township tour to Wesselton where you'll get a warm welcome from the vibrant community before slaking your thirst at a local shebeen.
Then pop into Ebutseni, a traditional Swazi village at Oshoek, close to the South African-Swaziland border. Or go wild in the Nkomazi Game Reserve and Songimvelo Nature Reserve. You might fancy a dip in the hot mineral springs at Badplaas or choose the tranquillity of the Matotoland lake district where 270 lakes shimmer like jewels among lush grass and wetlands. Birding is superb here.
Finally, add some mystery to your Highveld Heritage tour by visiting the ghost village of Bonnefoi with its deserted mansion, silent post office and derelict hotel. Or marvel at the hand-built stone circles, estimated to have been built thousands of years ago. But built by whom? Nobody yet knows the answer.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Highveld Visitor Centre
Tel: +27 (0)17 819 4707/9
How to get here
The Highveld Heritage Route starts in Ermelo, situated in southeast Mpumalanga where the N2 meets the N17 and N11, 154km from Mbombela (Nelspruit).
Best time to visit
September is a lovely month to visit as the spring flowers are in full bloom.
Hiring your own car is best as it allows you to explore at your own pace. Do take comfortable shoes, however, as you'll be doing a fair bit of walking.
Length of stay
Two to three days at least. A week and more if you have the time to spare.
What to pack
Comfortable walking shoes, sunscreen, binoculars, camera and a sense of wonder.
Where to stay
Choose from charming B&Bs, luxury lodges and small hotels.
The Arts & Craft Shop at the Highveld Visitor Centre in Ermelo has a small but interesting range of local arts and crafts.