Sitting on a Gold Mine

There's gold in them thar hills, between the towns of Lydenburg and Sabie. You just have to know where to look.

Blog homepage

There's gold in them thar hills, between the towns of Lydenburg and Sabie. Above the clouds and eerie mists that swirl between lush green valleys and waterfalls, burning off at the top of the escarpment where the land plummets down into the depths of the Blyde Canyon. This area, known as the Panorama Rout, is home to some of the most spectacular scenery in the country, not to mention some of its most fascinating history. Declared a National Monument in 1986, the curious, historic gold mining village of Pilgrim's Rest is now a living museum and literally teems with the ghosts of prospectors, diggers and highwaymen.

Pilgrims rest, mpumalanga, south africa, travel, history, culture, slowtravelsouthafrica, hiddengems

pilgrims rest, pilgrims pantry, mpumalanga, panorama route, south africa, travel, slowtravelsouthafrica, offthebeatentrack, hiddengems

The gold rush is long since over, but the shops, homes, churches and taverns of the diggers and their families are in tact, and contained within them are the echoes of hundreds of years of stories and legends, preserved only by the people who live here and remember.

pilgrims rest, gold rush, history, culture, panorama route, travel, slowtravelsouthafrica

At the heart of the village is the home of the once local midwife, 'Mamma' Van Wyk, which now houses a wonderful little tea shop called Pilgrim's Pantry. Passionate pilgrim, owner Sharon is on a one-woman mission to save Pilgrim's Rest from crumbling into the pages of the history books, with the admirable aspiration to rejuvenate the village and local community by becoming a training centre for crafts, starting with her own ceramic studio and workshop next door.

pilgrims rest, pilgrims pantry, mpumalanga, kruger, south africa, slowtravelsouthafrica, travel, history, culture, coffee shop

pilgrims rest, pilgrims pantry, craft, history, culture, social upliftment, mpumalanga, kruger, panorama route, travel, slowtravelsouthafrica

Sharon already has her own nugget of gold, in the form of Elma, a veritable treasure trove of information who will bring to life the history and characters of Pilgrim's Rest as you enjoy scones with home-made rose jam, Turkish Delight milkshakes, excellent hazelnut cappuccinos (sprinkled with gold dust), or for would-be prospectors, a mampoer (moonshine) milkshake.

south africa, slowtravelsouthafrica, travel, mpumlanga, kruger, coffee, pilgrims rest, pilgrims pantry, cappucino

Sadly, Pilgrim's Rest, and often even the Panorama Route itself, is seen as a quick stop en-route to the Kruger National Park, but there is so much to explore and absorb in this tiny village alone that it should be a destination in itself: the doctor's house, the printing museum, the transport museum at the Central Garage, the digging site - where you can see for yourself how hard the conditions must have been for those early entrepreneurs - and the wonderful Edwardian Alanglade House, home of the Mine Manager and built by his wife, Mrs Barry. Museums aside, the scenery is breathtaking and perfect for hiking and mountain biking, with mountains and valleys to explore and waterfalls galore.

panorama route, kruger, three rondavels, travel, south africa, slowtravelsouthafrica, mpumalanga

No-one ever struck gold without patience and perseverence. Travel slowly and you will hit the jackpot.

Check out our hand-picked accommodation in this area here. Find more information about Pilgrim's Rest here. Pilgrim's Pantry can be found on Facebook

Follow The Greenwood Guide on Facebook and Instagram!


by Rebecca 10/05/2016

More events and things to do in South Africa