The Eastern Free State town of Clarens is situated about 20km from the Golden Gate Nature Reserve, 40km from Bethlehem, 40 km from Fouriesburg and is on the Northernmost point of the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho. Clarens is an easy 3 to 4 hour drive for city dwellers from Johannesburg, Bloemfontein and Durban.
Clarens has a flourishing tourist trade as well as an established artist community. It truly is an artist’s haven because of its pure natural light and stunning natural colors as well as its peace and serenity. Many well known artists live in and around the village, whilst others frequent Clarens on a regular basis.
With this as a foundation, Clarens has become the ideal holiday and weekend getaway, with a wide variety of holiday and weekend accommodation to choose from, offering Free State hospitality and suited to all tastes, from bed and breakfast to self catering accommodation or Hotels and exclusive lodges in Clarens for those who want to be nearer the activity in town, to quiet farm accommodation just outside the town. Golden Gate offers camping for the true outdoor enthusiast who wants to be right in the mountains, or the relative comfort of the Golden Gate Hotel also set amongst the mountains of Golden Gate.
There are excellent restaurants to choose from in Clarens that will satisfy the culinary tastes of even the most ardent food lover. The variety of coffee shops, bars, art galleries, retail shops and book shop, as well as the Clarens Museum will take up most of your leisure time, or you could take a ramble along one of the rivers or mountain paths that meander through and around the town, and just enjoy the peace and beauty of this mountain getaway.
Clarens is not known as the adventure capital for nothing, and offers self catering, bed and breakfast or hotel accommodation and the activities that support this demand. It offers good trout fishing, both dam and natural river fishing. The Sterkfontein dam, which is about an hours drive away offers some of the best yellow fish fishing in South Africa. It is also spectacular horse riding country. Clarens offers the visitor a very wide variety of activities such as hot air balooning, river rafting, horse riding, trout fishing, 4×4 tracks, on and off road cycling, quad biking, absailing, tennis, golf, archery and putt-putt. Clarens ensures that everybody, from nature lovers who want to relax and drink in the surrounding beauty, to the more active who want to wander into the mountains or to the real adventure seekers looking for an adrenaline rush or a new thrill – you can all count on a truly remarkable stay.
Clarens is part of the scenic Highlands Route and is surrounded by the Rooiberge, and not far away are the majestic Maluti mountains which border Lesotho. Everywhere you look you will see the multi-coloured layers in the sandstone cliffs which is a unique geological feature and add to the majestic beauty of the area. The nearest Lesotho border post is half an hour away and opens up the whole Lesotho kingdom to the traveler who enjoys skiing, mountains and rough terrain, all set in the spectacular mountain beauty of this country.
The area is well known for its many natural features such as Mount Horeb, Golden Gate, the Mushroom Rock, caves, many with Bushman paintings, Dinosaur trails, and the Fertility Cave. The Basotho Cultural Village is situated in the picturesque Golden Gate Nature Reserve, both of which are worth a visit.
Everywhere you look the views are good, and they change every minute of the day, which usually ends with a beautiful unique sunset.
The sandstone that is mined in the area is a very popular building material and many beautiful sandstone structures have been erected using these natural hand cut blocks.
A prominent rock formation, known as The Titanic, welcomes all who visit the town. Its name dates back to 1912, when Clarens was established. This was also the year of the tragic sinking of the Titanic. A resident in Clarens, unknown unfortunately, looked at this rock formation and remarked that it looked very much like a sinking ship! The name stuck.
The most spectacular mountain overlooking Clarens is Mount Horeb and according to ancient Basotho legend, Setlofe (Mount Horeb) is a shy maiden whose betrothed, the warrior mountain Matsa (Rhebok Kop), left her for another. When Mount Horeb is shrouded in clouds, this is the broken-hearted Setlofe drawing her veil around her head and weeping: it will soon rain in Clarens, bringing new life to the earth. A climb to the top of Mount Horeb is well worth while.
Clarens has become known as the “Jewel of the Free State” – an area extremely rich in natural beauty, where visitors come to drink in the peace and tranquility.
Our quaint village is endowed with more trees than most other towns in the Free State province, which paints the village in the most wonderful colors during spring, when all the fruit trees blossom. This part of the world is blessed with an abundance of fruit such as peaches, pears, plums, apricots, cherries and apples that also grow wild on the sides of the paths and roads, allowing one to enjoy these while on a walk.
In autumn, our stunning Lombard Poplar trees attract photographers, nature lovers and artists from all over to revel in the autumn colors and to capture this natural beauty on camera and canvass.
Many Arts & Crafts shops adorn the village, offering visitors a wide selection of original artwork and curios.
Come take a leisurely walk around President Square and up Main Street and browse through the wide variety of curio shops available, or appreciate the talents of the many artists who display their products in the Arts & Craft shops, or simply sit down at one of the many restaurants and coffee shops and relax with a drink of your choice while taking in the peace and tranquility of our wonderful village.
Close to Clarens is the outlet from the Highlands Water Project, that brings fresh water from Lesotho to feed into the Ash, Liebenbergsvlei and Wilge Rivers and on into the Vaal Dam. Water from the Vaal Dam is then abstracted, treated and pumped to the various users in the Rand Water Supply area.
The name Clarens was derived from an attractive village in Switzerland, situated on the Northern shores of Lake Geneva – the second largest fresh water lake in Europe – near Montreaux, where President Paul Kruger spent his last days as a voluntary exile.
The Clarens region in Switzerland was immortalized in Rousseau’s novel Nouvelle Hèloïse (1761). Lord Byron also spent some time there and this is where he wrote the third canto of Childe Harold (1815).
It all started for our Clarens in 1910 when the farm “Leliehoek”, and in 1911 the farm “Naauwpoort“, were both sold to a company who wanted to establish a village in the mountains.
These two farms were then divided into separate stands and sold for the then majestic sum of fifty pounds each. To finalize the negotiations a commission was appointed in 1912 and a decision was made to name the village Clarens in honor of President Kruger’s influence in the area.
President Paul Kruger led a commando of burghers against the Basotho leader Moshoeshoe and defeated the Basotho at the Battle of Naauwpoortsnek in 1866, after 5 burghers were murdered by them in the Eastern Free State on 29 September 1865.
A monument in honor of these 5 burghers was originally erected on the farm Ararat just outside Clarens, but was later moved to Clarens and re-sited on the town square.
Surrender Hill, about 15km’s outside of Clarens on the picturesque road to Fouriesburg is where the Free State Boer Commanders surrendered to the British on 31 July 1900 after many battles fought in the area between Fouriesburg and Golden Gate.
The annual Surrender Hill Marathon is now run over these mountains. The gruelling 42km race starts at an altitude of 2,000 meters and rises 500 meters over its course.
Clarens has proven to be an apt name indeed, as the splendor of the surrounding mountains does the original Swiss village more than just credit.
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