Regarded as one of the most picturesque spots in South Africa where wide horizons meet clear blue skies, idyllic Clarens is situated in close proximity to the Golden Gate National Park with its golden, ochre, and orange-hued, deeply eroded sandstone cliffs and outcrops – the most notable being the Brandwag buttress, and the mountainous Kingdom of Lesotho – home to one of southern Africa’s premier ski resorts.
Located 336 km from Johannesburg, 284 km from Bloemfontein and 389 km from Durban, Clarens is a country escape for all seasons and a well-known attraction for artists and photographers throughout the year, especially in autumn when the leaves turn a golden crisp colour. The laid-back village environment combined with magnificent views and a mild climate has turned this picturesque, arty little town into a popular weekend retreat for city dwellers looking for a getaway teeming with an aura of peace and tranquillity, or for those wanting to trade the confines of their home offices for a stunning, stress-free environment, and be inspired by the splendour of nature.
Clarens is renowned as a hub of creative activity where an array of art galleries curate modern, stylish and trendy ambiences showcasing unique artwork by leading and emerging artists from across South Africa, housing fine collections of exquisite paintings, ceramics, functional art, sculptures and photography. Around the vibrant village square, Clarens boasts inventiveness and artistic expression of a different kind through its varied and ever-expanding offering of exceptional restaurants and sidewalk cafes where culinary arts take centre stage, and conceptualised recipes with an emphasis on freshness and only the highest quality locally-sourced ingredients, result in hearty, home-made food.
The quaint town of Clarens offers the ultimate escape from city life thanks to its gentle atmosphere and abundant natural beauty, but while it may be tranquil, energetic adventurers and outdoor enthusiasts in need of an adrenaline rush will revel in the varied selection of exhilarating experiences and heart-racing action activities on offer. Whether it’s a hike following one of the many conservancy trails leading out of the village, horseback riding with trips ranging from relaxed scenic rides to full-on cattle herding encounters, all-year round grade 3 and 4 white water rafting on the Ash River – one of South Africa’s unknown treasures with its cold and superbly clean fast-flowing water courtesy of the Katse Dam high up in the Maloti Mountains in Lesotho, or kicking up some dust on an exhilarating mountain bike trail – the Free State’s adventure capital has something for everyone, no matter your age or level of fitness.
Other activities in this part of the country, known for its spectacular sandstone mountains – a characteristic feature of the area – include guided tours to view some of South Africa’s most valued San (Bushman) rock art and paintings (one of the finest, oldest and most enduring artistic traditions in the world) in the caves and rock overhangs of the Free State’s glorious sandstone buttresses, fly fishing in the many pristine dams, rivers and streams that earned Clarens the accolade of being one of the top trout fishing spots in South Africa, as well as a round of golf at the Clarens Trout and Golf Estate where scenes of river crossing, leaping trout, cascading waterfalls and lush green grass are found tucked up in the basin of the surrounding Mount Horeb mountain range, complementing a course that is challenging, fair and extremely rewarding to all levels of golfer.
So what are you waiting for? Add the charming town of Clarens to your bucket list and come discover that welcome feeling of solitude and getting away from it all for yourself. And once you do get here, you’ll finally understand why creative people gain such inspiration from the beautiful surrounds – for when it comes to nature, breathtaking scenery, art and good old fashioned fun – Clarens is the ideal getaway for the whole family.