Mpumalanga means 'place where the sun rises'. It is bordered by Mozambique and Swaziland in the east, and Gauteng in the west. It is situated mainly on the high plateau grasslands of the Middleveld, which roll eastwards for hundreds of kilometres. In the northeast, it rises towards mountain peaks and then terminates in an immense Escarpment. In some places, this Escarpment plunges hundreds of metres down to the low-lying area known as the Lowveld.

The area has a network of excellent roads and railway connections, making it highly accessible. Because of its popularity as a tourist destination, Mpumalanga is also served by a number of small airports.

Nelspruit is the capital of the province and the administrative and business centre of the Lowveld. Witbank is the centre of the local coal-mining industry; Standerton, in the south, is renowned for its large dairy industry; Piet Retief in the southeast is a production area for tropical fruit and sugar, while a large sugar industry is also found at Malelane in the east; Ermelo is the district in South Africa that produces the most wool; Barberton is one of the oldest gold-mining towns in South Africa, and Sabie is situated in the forestry heartland of the country.

The province falls mainly within the grassland biome. The Escarpment and the Lowveld form a transitional zone between this grassland area and the savanna biome. Long sweeps of undulating grasslands abruptly change to the thickly forested ravines and thundering waterfalls of the Escarpment, only to change again to present the subtropical wildlife splendour of the Lowveld.

Sabie and Graskop provide a large part of the country's total requirement for forestry products. These forestry plantations are an ideal backdrop for ecotourism opportunities, with a variety of popular hiking trails, a myriad of waterfalls, patches of indigenous forest, and a variety of nature reserves.