Mbombela (Nelspruit)

Mpumalanga’s capital city (previously called Nelspruit) started life in the 1890s as a hub for gold diggers, farmers and traders. It’s now a thriving commercial centre and a shopping magnet for neighbouring countries Swaziland and Mozambique. Expect shopping malls, good restaurants and lively nightlife.


Cradled by the Makhonjwa Mountains (a mecca for international scientists because of its microfossil plant life), this historic little town was born in the rowdy 1880s gold rush days and boasted South Africa’s first gold stock exchange. Heritage walks, working gold mines and adventure activities are on offer.


As its name suggests, this little town is often surrounded by mountain mists. Its proximity to two of the Kruger National Park gates makes it a good place to stock up on groceries and supplies before entering the park. There’s an aerial cableway and the visitor-friendly Elephant Sanctuary just outside the town.


Situated in the heart of the Panorama Route, and in the middle of one of the world’s biggest man-made forests (450km2 of pine and eucalyptus trees), this busy small market town, which once depended on gold, now derives its wealth from timber. It’s close to the Kruger National Park and magnificent waterfalls.

Pilgrims Rest

This village was once the centre of the 1870s gold rush.

You’ll see many of the original buildings, like the Royal Hotel, the general store and the newspaper office (where the Irish editor kept a pair of loaded pistols on his desk), as you walk up the steep hill to the village.