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On the edge of the Blyde River Canyon at umVangati House!

When adventure and wanderlust are in your blood, there is nothing better than taking a spontaneous road trip and discovering hidden gems that are right on your country’s doorstep.

It gets even better when you meet the most incredible people along the way.

A few days ago, I was itching to get out the house and go somewhere I’ve never been before. For some reason, pictures of the Blyde River Canyon kept popping up in my Instagram newsfeed and when I told my girlfriend (Landi) that we should go to Mpumalanga, she instantly suggested that we stay at a place called umVangati House. She had stayed there once before and was adamant this was the place for us!

Well, we have just arrived back from our short but magical adventure and I want to share with you why she was so right about this magical guest house and also why the Blyde River Canyon region is a must.

When I say it’s on the edge… umVangat House is surrounded by the Blyde River Canyon mountain range!

After giving this trip the green light the night before, we were up at 4am the next morning and on the road an hour later. The drive from Johannesburg to Blyde River Canyon would take us about five hours because we took the longer route via Magoebaskloof to avoid bad roads. It turned out to be the best idea as this is such a beautiful drive. Magoebaskloof deserves its own article.

A few hours later and we arrived safely. We were a touch early to check in so we decided to visit the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve which is a few hundred meters from umVangati House.

It was quite overcast but the views were absolutely insane! The only difficulty is the landscape is so vast which means it’s really hard to capture on camera. This is why nothing beats the in-person experience.

After exploring for about an hour and taking a million pictures, it was finally time for us to check-in at umVangati House for the night. I was obviously excited but I had no clue what I was about to experience.

From the second we parked our car, we were instantly greeted by the incredibly friendly owners of the guest house. It’s that genuine, salt of the earth kind of friendliness that makes all the difference. Our bags were taken to our room and we were offered a welcome drink. And then we walked into the house…

This is where it gets really difficult to explain how mesmerising the house and its views truly are. The pictures above give you some idea but when you walk through the house, which in itself is glorious, and then you venture toward one of two balconies and you’re greeted with those majestic mountain views, something just happens inside of you and you never want to leave.

Once I caught my breath, I was offered a light lunch and this is where I sat down to eat. Words fail me.

Ok let me give you some background info.

umVangati House is owned by Giel and Lidia Geldenhuys who put their life savings into this magical guesthouse in 2012. Things were going quite well for them until the pandemic hit. Sound familiar? Luckily they are as business savvy as they are friendly and they managed to survive.

It also doesn’t hurt that they have such a beautiful home which many South Africans visited during the pandemic when they couldn’t travel abroad. This is how my girlfriend knew about umVangati House because her and a group of friends stayed here almost two years ago.

Within minutes of arriving, I was offered the most delicious homemade chicken mayo toastie accompanied the most spectacular views. As I took each bite, I found myself feeling so grateful for the privilege of being able to be there. This is why I love traveling so much.

As soon as we were done eating, we were taken to our room. Keep in mind, we hadn’t seen it yet. When we got there, I was blown away once again. Just look at these pics.

As I later found out, when Giel and Lidia were designing their house with the architects, their whole aim was to make sure that almost every space in the house had line of sight to the majestic mountain views.

Our bedroom was beautiful but what took it to the next level was the private balcony where you can sit and look at the incredible scenery around you without being disturbed by other guests.

Even our bathroom had access to the mountain range which is why you feel so relaxed from the second you arrive. The end result is that you never want to leave umVangati House!

After driving for five hours and having a small bite to eat, my girlfriend and I decided to partake in a short nap so that we could fully enjoy the evening activities. It goes without saying that it was incredibly easy to nod off in our room because we both felt light and at peace.

90 minutes later and we made our way back to the main house. As we walked in, we were offered a glass of red wine which we both accepted, and we sat on the balcony by the pool and just took it all in.

As beautiful as this picture is, it does this view no justice!

While we were sipping on our wine in front of this incredible view, we happened to meet twelve guests from Sweden staying at umVangati with us. The one guy told me that he had visited South Africa 18 times and he brought a bunch of his friends with him on this trip.

He couldn’t stop raving about South Africa’s beauty and he literally begged his mates to join him. By the time we met them, they had been in South Africa for two days and they kept telling me that all they want to do is bring their friends back with them again.

It doesn’t hurt that South Africa is such a cheap destination for them. And the thing they were most blown away by is the value they get for their money. This just made my heart so happy!

My girlfriend and I had the pleasure of having dinner alone in the wine cellar at umVangati House

An hour or two later and it was time for dinner; a three course meal to be precise. The best part was dining alone with Landi in the downstairs wine cellar. At this point, I decided to put my phone away and enjoy all the delights of the evening with my girlfriend but rest assured, the experience was amazing.

With a full tummy and a glass or two of wine down the hatch, we decided to call it a night so that we were fresh for all our Blyde River Canyon adventures the next day. As we went to bed, our hearts were so full and I was again reminded why I love travel adventures just like these.

Our breakfast was great but these kinds of views totally change the game!

When we woke up the next morning, we made our up to the main house for breakfast. It’s not hard to see from the picture above that we felt like we were in heaven. What made it even more special was the hospitality from Giel and Lidia who are both salt of the earth South Africans.

As we blissfully enjoyed our breakfast, I asked them both a million questions and really connected with their journey. After an hour of catching up with them, I felt utterly compelled to write this article and share our umVangati House experience with all of you.

It’s hard not to feel at peace when you are constantly surrounded by views like this!

I’m pretty sure you can see from the pictures above and the TikTok video on the left that the umVangati House experience is a special one, but what you won’t fully understand until you go there for yourself is the warmth and friendliness of both hosts. Giel and Lidia represent the goodness of South African hospitality and I cannot recommend staying at their house enough.

As we said goodbye to our new Swedish friends and the Geldenhuys family, I made a promise that we would come back sooner than later and we would bring some friends with us to experience the magic.

PS. The umVangati House experience is in the premium category and the price reflects this but they do have many specials for locals throughout the year. Keep an eye out for these because they’re worth it.

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