Clarens, Eastern Free State Highlands
Every region has its ‘Jewel’, and Clarens is undoubtedly the Jewel of the Eastern Free State. Tucked away in breathtakingly pretty valley in the scenic Free State Highlands, in the foothills of the Maluti mountains, Clarens is well-known in South Africa as an ‘artist’s haven’, a destination for art lovers and those who enjoy scenic outdoors, hikes and other outdoors activities.
Over the years, Clarens has drawn those who breathe inspiration, but it is also a popular hideaway for others seeking rest, relaxation and food for the soul, and for city dwellers from Gauteng seeking tranquility, clean air and country activities.
This small town is a perfect weekend getaway, with many activities offerings in the surrounding countryside, including great hikes, horse riding and white water rafting, and art galleries, arts & crafts and coffee shops. Clarens is also very close to the beautiful Golden Gate National Park.
The area around Clarens is characterised by magnificent Maluti mountain scenery, with fabulous sandstone formations, with lines of Lombardy Poplars that turn magnificent shades of gold and red in autumn. In winter the surrounding mountains are often white with snow. The town itself is very rural in character, with pretty sandstone buildings and guesthouses (including a fairy-tale castle called Rapunzel’s Tower) and more art galleries (not to mention artists) per square metre than anywhere else in South Africa. Clarens is simply lovely in all seasons.
If you don’t know who ‘moved your cheese’ and where, look for it in Clarens…and buy some art while you are there. There are many art galleries and resident artists to choose from.
Getting there: Clarens lies on the R712. From JHB take the N3 toward Durban, taking exit 169 for Frankfort after 105km. Turn right on to the R103 after 1km. Turn right again for the R26/R34 after 29km, then right again on to the R26. Travel along the R26 for a further 111km to Bethlehem. At Bethlehem continue on to the R712. Clarens is a further 30km.