Graskop is situated at the southern end of the Blyde River Canyon and is perched on a spur of the Mauchsberg, at an altitude of 1 439m. The town dates back to the 1840s, when Andries Potgieter left the women of their party at a camp in this area while the men went down the escarpment in search of an ox-wagon trail to Delagoa Bay (present-day Maputo in Mozambique). The town came into existence as the result of gold finds in the area, and more specifically the gold rush to Pilgrim’s Rest. Graskop is mentioned in the legendary story of Jock of the Bushveld, a tale about man’s best friend, which dates between 1885 and 1887. Sir Percy Fitzpatrick, owner of the dog Jock, established his camp at Paradise Berg. This is referred to in his book under the chapters Paradise Camp and The Leopard and the Baboons, both set in this area.
The mining activities around Pilgrim’s Rest started winding down in 1972. The railway line between Pilgrim’s Rest and Graskop, previously used for mining-related transport, is now used to serve the timber industry. Latterly Graskop has developed into the focal point of tourism on the escarpment.
Reasons to visit
Graskop is vibrant, with plenty of restaurants while arts and crafts and curio shops are abundant, as well as a wide range of accommodation. There are also plenty of adventure activities in and around Graskop, from quad-biking to trails and hikes. The natural wonders around Graskop are said to be some of the most viewed and photographed scenes in South Africa. They are not only magnificent, but also within easy reach from the town.
The people of Graskop are friendly, hospitable and always eager to share their knowledge of this historic place with visitors. Graskop has a moderate climate. Summer temperatures range from 23-30°C (during the day) and between 15°C and 23°C in winter.
Graskop provides a habitat for the Blue Swallow in the summer, which breeds in gentle north-facing slopes on moist, montane grassland. In winter these birds migrate to the non-breeding grounds in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. Graskop also forms a platform to Mpumalanga’s larger Panorama Route, that not only connects with the greater Kruger to Canyons Route to the north, but extends to the south. And since the town is historically linked to Pilgrim’s Rest it also makes for an interesting day-trip.
Points of interest to the south of Graskop include natural pools and waterfalls, with arts and crafts displayed at each point.