South Africa's Charming Town of Clarens Is an Ultimate Escape

Spring time in Clarens is defined by colourful blossoms | © SWWT/Flickr 
Spring time in Clarens is defined by colourful blossoms | © SWWT/Flickr
Photo of Carina Claassens
5 February 2018

Known as ‘the jewel of the Free State,’ Clarens is a charming artists’ town in the foothills of the Maloti Mountains that offers the perfect escape from city life. Think galleries, quaint clothing stores and tons of outdoor activities, there’s much to keep visitors busy.

Go beer tasting at Clarens Brewery

Clarens Brewery is situated in the centre of town and is the perfect spot to people-watch while grabbing a bite to eat and tasting world class beers. Choose between a variety of brews, from the Blonde Ale to the Stout or their Red Stone Cider made from locally sourced produce, there’s something to quench even the thirstiest craving.

Beer | © Quinn Dombrowski / Flickr

Head out on a dinosaur fossil hunt

Take a walk on the wild side and discover the amazing history imprinted in the landscape surrounding Clarens. From footprints to preserved fossils, a knowledgeable guide will lead guests through some of the most scenic, and interesting, parts of the Free State while they learn about the geology and the prehistoric species that once roamed the land.

Contact Clarens Dinosaur Tours on +27 83 469 4703

Face your fears with Clarens Xtreme

If an adrenaline rush is what you’re after then you’ve come to the right place. The Ash river provides some of the best white water rafting opportunities in the country. The whole experience takes approximately three hours and your booking includes everything you need, including transportation and drinks.

Contact Clarens Xtreme on +27 58 256 1260

Rafting on the Ash River | South African Tourism

Hike the surrounds

Hiking is a popular activity in Clarens, and there are many trails to choose from. Whether you’re a beginner or after something a bit more challenging, there’s a route accommodating every fitness level. One of the most recommended shorter routes is the Maluti View trail, a quick 700 metre stroll to a vantage point that overlooks the Maluti Mountains is where you want to watch the sun rise or set.

Visit the Basotho Cultural Village

The Basotho Cultural Village, boasting colourful architecture, gives visitors some insight into the traditions of the South Sotho culture. Meet the chief and his traditional healer (also known as a bone thrower), who will guide you on a Herbal Trail tour on which you’ll be shown San rock art and learn about the medicinal herbs often used by the Sotho people.

The colourful architecture evident of Basotho Cultural Village |

Play a round of golf at the Clarens Golf and Leisure Estate

The Clarens Golf and Leisure Estate is set in a picturesque location with amazing panoramic views from all angles. The 18 hole course winds along a scenic river with willow and poplar trees scattered all over. After the game, head to the beautifully decorated club house for a round of drinks.

Explore on horseback

Bokpoort Cowboy Ranch will transport you into the Wild West as you gallop through open fields surrounded by towering cliffs and rock formations. For those who want the ultimate cowboy experience, book a two-day horse riding excursion where you’ll sleep under the stars and traverse the beautiful landscape.

Contact Bokpoort Cowboy Ranch on +27 83 744 4245

Trek the landscape the traditional way | South African Tourism

Browse the Bibliophile bookstore

Book lovers flock to this quaint bookstore when visiting Clarens. Selling a wide variety of new and second hand reads you’re bound to find a page turner here, and all at reasonable prices. There’s also an artists’ corner where creatives can stock up on supplies.

312 Church St, Clarens, +27 58 256 1692

Spend a day in the Golden Gate National Park

The Golden Gate Highlands National Park boasts rolling hills and expansive views, with the Drakensberg visible in the distance. Khoisan rock paintings are found in caves throughout the park and there are numerous hiking routes and view points. The Brandwag Buttress is a popular trail and hiking it is worth making time for. It shouldn’t take more than one hour to complete and promises to be an unforgettable experience — once you reach the top you’ll understand why.

The Brandwag Rock near Clarens | © Martie Swart/Flickr

Stay in a castle

If a fairy tale setting is what you’re after look no further than The Castle in Clarens. The dreamy guesthouse, also known as Rapunzel’s Tower, is self-catering and sleeps four people in two beautifully decorated en suite bedrooms. It comes complete with a ‘magic’ garden and a Sunset Room, which has been designed in such a way as to get the best out of the surrounding views.

Book by contacting +27 83 2680 497

Get your fill of live music at Lush Festival

Lush Festival takes place from March 29 to April 2 at the Linwood Guest Farm and hosts an impressive line up of local and international musicians, including Albert Frost, Desmond & the Tutus and Jack Parow. Grab you camping gear and get ready for a weekend filled with music, great food and even better company.

Tickets start at R545 and can be booked online.

Visit the many art galleries

Clarens is home to many artists and as such galleries flourish in this small town. The Art and Wine Gallery on Main is the first of its kind in South Africa and it’s here that visitors can purchase art while stocking up on some of the best South African wines. Smudge Contemporary Art and Blou Donki Art Gallery, among many others, exhibit the best of local works and you’re guaranteed to spot a unique piece to add to your collection.

The Art and Wine Gallery on Main in Clarens | © Editor / Flickr

Take a stroll through town

From stores selling mohair products to deli’s filled with the tastiest treats, a day spent wandering the streets of Clarens is a day well spent. It doesn’t take long to cover the whole town, but you’ll be popping in and out of stores and stopping for coffee as you go along. Bossie Knives, tucked away behind the bookstore, sells custom made knives ideal as gifts and souvenirs, there are many clothing stores stocking handcrafted garments and the Clarens Country Market is great for stocking up on artisanal crafts and fresh produce.