Surrounded by the beautiful Maluti Mountains (also called the Maloti Mountains) and eye-catching rock formations like the Titanic Rock, it would be impossible for visitors not to fall in love with the beautiful small town of Clarens in South Africa. From afar a beautiful display of mountains and sandstone cliffs that stretch all the way to neighbouring Lesotho draws you in, leaving no room for resistance.
Clarens is rightly nicknamed the jewel of the eastern Free State.
A sanctuary for city dwellers, this small town is a haven for adventure and nature lovers because of its tranquility and natural beauty.
As a result, its popularity among travellers is only increasing. It boasts a great collection of art galleries, delectable food and pleasant weather all year round.
Below are a few reasons why you should make your way to Clarens.
The art scene
Art lovers and artists from all over the globe flock to Clarens for a good time at the beautiful, quaint art galleries lining its streets. There are more than ten art galleries, owned by different nationals who have since made Clarens their home. These cater for different types of art lovers as they have a lot to offer. You get contemporary, fine and fusion art galleries.
Set a day aside for gallery hopping, you might just come back a different person. I discovered new art forms and I am exploring more thanks to the Clarens art scene. The town is absolutely brimming with creativity and creative minds.
Basotho Cultural Village
The indigenous people in the area around Clarens are the Sotho or Basotho people. To learn more about Basotho heritage visit the Basotho Cultural Village which is found just a few kilometres outside Clarens. The Basotho Cultural Village lies next to the R712 from QwaQwa to Golden Gate Highlands National Park. Guided tours of the museum are conducted from 9 am to 4:30 pm (up to 5 pm on weekends), seven days a week.
At the Cultural Village, you will enjoy a demonstration of how Basotho huts are decorated, the making of basket ware and the crushing of maize. You can sample local foods, sip on Sotho beer, play Morabaraba (a traditional game), learn about how Basotho people use local flora for medicinal purposes and watch traditional dances.
You would think a small town like Clarens would struggle to pull in crowds, however, it’s actually the opposite of that. This small town sure knows how to cater to its visitors and is the pride of the Free State. Some of the annual crowd pullers are the wine and beer festivals. The Clarens Craft Beer Fest showcasing over 50 craft beers is held in February, while the Pinotage on Tap wine festival takes place in November. It’s important to mark the dates as soon as they are announced and secure your accommodation well in advance.
Waking up at the crack of dawn to catch the Clarens sunrise and head out on a hike is something you won’t regret. There are a variety of trails to choose from. The Golden Gate Highlands National Park alone has six trails, and there are many more around Clarens. The Wodehouse Trail is one of the popular trails found within the national park. This gorgeous trail features the most beautiful views, amazing sunsets and beautiful wildflowers.
Another one to try is the Titanic Rock Trail, found within the Clarens Nature Reserve. On this trail, you get to marvel at the beautiful views of the town and the mountain ranges surrounding it. Clarens has a trail for all types of hikers. Choose what works for you and be merry.
Not even in my wildest dreams would I have thought of Clarens as an adventure town. It is not often that you find such a small town, loaded with so much life. There is quite a variety of activities to choose from. Clarens Xtreme Adventure Company specialises in adventure activities like river rafting, abseiling, paintballing, zip-lining, quad biking, hiking and rock climbing. They also offer put-put, archery, enduro (mountain biking) trails and a variety of day tours.
Important to note is that they offer the best white water rafting in South Africa, on the Ash River, just outside of Clarens. It’s an unforgettable experience. Visit Clarens Xtreme Adventure Company’s website to learn more and book your adventure.
Hot air ballooning
Who would not sacrifice their beauty sleep if it means enjoying one of the best views in South Africa? You might think I’m exaggerating but I know you will agree with me when I say nothing beats looking at amazing mountain ranges framing Clarens, from the sky. That view is just magical. You don’t want to just hear it from other people, go and experience it yourself.
With the beautiful Maluti Mountains, morning or sunset rides on horseback become mandatory. Imagine a scene in a cowboy movie, a horse galloping to the mountains and fading into the sunset. Except you are the cowboy or cowgirl riding the horse towards your next adventure. You can experience the breathtaking landscape of the Golden Gate Highlands National Park and also its wildlife, which includes zebra, wildebeest, eland and springbok. There are also local farms offering riding experiences.
As for food, there is something for everyone. Who doesn’t love homemade cottage pies and some delicacies from the deli and the bakery? For a day of food exploration you can have breakfast at the Post House, lunch at the Mosaic Pizzeria and Dinner at Clementines. It doesn’t matter if you are a hardcore picky eater, you are guaranteed to find something that suits your palate.
Iona Cherry Farm
Always maximise on your trips, go out on a drive to Iona Cherry Farm for an afternoon of cherry-picking in Ficksburg – the cherry capital of the world. You can eat as many cherries and still leave with a full tub. What they won’t tell you is what happens when you overeat cherries. I will just say we learned the hard way. We had a great time being driven on a sleigh while learning about the farm and the cherry growing process. I recommend it for your next trip to Clarens, provided it’s cherry-picking season.
Cheese tasting at Noah’s Cheese
On your way out of Clarens do not forget to make a detour to Noah’s Cheese for some cheese tasting. Noah’s Cheese is a boutique cheesery situated on Farm Node. Noah’s Cheese is one of a few raw milk cheese producers in South Africa. Their range of cheeses includes their unique string cheese, salaté, halloumi, bocconcini, speciality cheese, hard cheese, white mould and blue cheese. Noah’s Cheese is well known for its marinated string cheeses, smoked mozzarella and a range of other products.
A few days can never be enough for this beautiful town with a lot to offer. However, you can try and maximise on the time spent here. There is no bad time to visit Clarens. You can time your trip to coincide with the hiking season, the festivals, adventure activities, cherry-picking, etc. Visiting Clarens is more than just an experience; you leave with a better sense of understanding and newly found perspectives on the Basotho people.