East of Polokwane, the Letaba is a forested, lush, mountainous area, contrasting very sharply with the hot lowveld and bushveld abutting it east towards Kruger and west towards Polokwane. It marks the first dramatic rise of the Drakensberg Escarpment as it begins its sweep south through Mpumalanga. The forest begins around the mountain village of Haenertsburg and follows two very scenic parallel valleys to Limpopo’s second-largest but missable town, Tzaneen. The valleys are filled with lakes surrounded by dark pine forests, sparkling rivers, misty peaks and, towards Tzaneen, subtropical crops such as macadamia nuts and avocados. With some very comfortable and beautifully located guesthouses, farm-stalls and tea rooms, hiking trails and trout fishing, the Letaba is in many ways an attractive, less-well-known alternative to Mpumalanga’s crowded highlands, although it is gradually making solid inroads onto the tourist route.
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