The Drakensberg Mountains – Mpumalanga, South Africa

A Journey to Middle Earth, and Flying Through God’s Window

Few places in the world match the Mpumalanga for physical beauty; it is believed to be the inspiration behind the phantasmagorical setting for The Lord of the Rings, written by South African-born J.R.R. Tolkien.

South Africa’s highest mountains, with pano­ramic passes, valleys, rivers, waterfalls, and forests, characterize the landscape of what was formerly known as the Eastern Transvaal. The entire area offers opportunities for hiking, horseback riding, bird-watching, golfing, and fishing. Visit the magnificent Blyde River Canyon, a gigantic gorge 15 miles long carved out of the face of the Transvaal escarpment, where deep cylindrical holes have been formed by river erosion, or God’s Window, the canyon’s unsurpassed lookout point.

And if touring the spectacular Eastern Transvaal by car or on foot affords remarkable scenery, imagine taking it all in from an eagle’s perspective. Smooth jet-powered helicopters swoop over the dramatic rock formations of the Blyde River Canyon and through lush valleys bursting with vegetation and color. Hover over river rapids and cascad­ing waterfalls and land on a remote mountaintop on an otherwise unreachable grassy clearing. Lunch with a view takes on a new meaning, if the adrenaline rush hasn’t obliterated your appetite. The Veuve Clicquot is popped, and eagles soar above you – and below. Divide your time in the mountains between the area’s two outstanding lodges, the Cybele Forest Lodge and the Blue Mountain Lodge.

Each provides a mag­nificent setting, breathtaking scenery, renowned dining, a stable of horses, fishing gear, and five-star service. In addition, there is a historic gold-rush town and a restored Ndebele tribal village to visit, and the world-famous Kruger National Park is an easy day trip away.

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