Places to Go

Clarens, Jewel of the Free State

Nestled deep in the Free State, in the heart of the Maluti Mountains, is the small and pretty town of Clarens. The tranquillity of this region has created the perfect haven for artists and writers to disappear in a fantasy world of their own, uninterrupted by the hustle and bustle of city life. As a result, the entire town is sprinkled with galleries that showcase the works of many of the local artists as well as those who come to visit Clarens for inspiration.

Known for its many trees and its breath-taking views of the surrounding Maluti and Rooiberg mountains, Clarens has been dubbed “The Jewel of the Free State”. The rugged starkness of the mountain faces meet with the greenery and fertility of the vegetation, all topped by the pure azure of the African sky.

Due to its convenient proximity to the Golden Gate Highlands National Park, Clarens is the ideal place to stay when exploring this part of South Africa and its fascinating fauna and flora. This park gets its name from the incredible effect created when the sun blazes onto the sandstone cliffs of the park and creates a golden haze. It is home to black wildebeest, oribi, eland, Burchell’s zebra, the rare bearded vulture, the rare bald ibis, and an array of other intriguing animal species.

With this area having originally been inhabited by the Khoisan, there remain drawings on the rock faces and in the caves around Clarens. Seeing these for yourself is an almost mystical experience.

Although Clarens is such a peaceful hideaway, it is actually only about 3.5 hours’ drive from the enormous epicentre of Johannesburg, as well as from the balmy coastal city of Durban. So, it is accessible and convenient, even if you plan to do a bit of travelling around Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.

There are a number of attractions in and around Clarens. For example:

• See the village square, as it is a hive of activity. There are a number of fabulous restaurants around it in which to enjoy hearty meals or light refreshments.

• The Basotho Cultural Village gives visitors a fascinating insight into the history and heritage of the South Sotho people, who arrived in the area of Clarens in the 1500’s. This culture remains a significant one in the area, lending it a characteristic identity of its own.

• Clarens has some of the best fly fishing spots in the country. Whether you’re having a weekend with the boys, a family vacation, or you need some time on your own, fly fishing is the perfect way to spend your time in Clarens.

• The Maluti Mountains provide plenty of hiking, walking and cycling trails for visitors that are looking to be outdoors. For the more adventurous, abseiling down these mountain faces is sure to get the adrenalin pumping.

• There are a number of rivers winding their way through the mountains and gorges. These are favourites among those wanting to feel their power while white water rafting. While exciting, this is also a good way to see the real beauty of Clarens. Do not attempt these wild waters without an experienced guide.

• Clarens Golf Course is an 18-hole course that is designed to suit golfers of all abilities. It includes dams and waterfalls, making for stunning scenery to accompany a relaxing game.