The town of Clarens in the Eastern Free State, is an artist's hideout. One can easily see why creative people gain inspiration from its beautiful surrounds. For nature, art and fun, Clarens is an ideal getaway. No sooner have visitors arrived in Clarens than they find themselves in a frenzy of art-buying, restaurant-hopping, cycling, game driving, trout fishing, birding and late-night partying; then ask themselves where exactly did that quiet weekend or couple of days go.
And that’s the point: a visit to Clarens is so rich with experiences, you need to make sure you set aside enough time in the area because it passes all too quickly. Situated along the Highlands Route, a stone's throw from the Golden Gate Highlands National Park, Clarens is blessed with soul-stirring views. The Golden Gate gets its name from the shades of gold and ochre cast by the sun on the sandstone cliffs for which the region is famous.
Many of the homes, restaurants and shops in Clarens were crafted from sandstone, contributing to the town's appeal. Make a point of popping into the local arts and crafts stores. Ask about the Artists Amble, a fun route that incorporates a number of galleries run by local artists. If you're in the mood for shopping, make a point of addling the colourful traditional Basotho blankets, arts and crafts to your list.
Ask any of the stores for a copy of the local community magazine, 'The Speckled Bean', which has loads of information on activities in Clarens, as well as insights into various social and community projects in the area.
The more adventurous should head out to a choice of holiday farms - such as Bokpoort Holiday Farm - in the Maluti Mountains near Golden Gate, which specialises in horseback adventures. Alternatively, find out about the fossil-hunting safari or visit the rock art at Schaapplaats Farm. History buffs should head for the Clarens Museum, Surrender Hill and other Boer War sites not far from town.
Clarens offers a fleet of attractions and is an adventure tourism hotspot, with quad biking, paintball, abseiling and white water rafting all available nearby. So plan a trip to Clarens now and find out for yourself why is called The Jewel of the Free State.
How to get here
Clarens is in the Eastern Free State highlands, approximately a 3-hour drive from either Johannesburg or Bloemfontein.
Best time to visit
Any time of year is good but autumn and spring are particularly beautiful.
Where to stay
Clarens and the surrounding area has a variety of accommodation establishments catering for all tastes and budgets.
Around the area
Enjoy fly-fishing on farms in the area. There is also golf, tennis, mountain-biking and horse-riding available, as well as a number of hiking trails in the Clarens Valley. A popular activity is the pony-trail into Lesotho.
DID YOU KNOW?
The town of Clarens was established in 1912, the same year the Titanic sank.