There is something special about the light in this place and along with the scenery it has attracted many artists to paint here and make this their home.
Clarens is a pretty little town with a buzzy square at weekends and many characterful buildings. This “Jewel’ of the Free State is one of the best small towns in South Africa and a great place to safely stroll around to explore galleries, studios, quaint shops while sampling the excellent Clarens Craft Beer, gins and cherry liquors as nearby is a major cherry growing area. Chill at a lovely place to eat, Clementine’s, while enjoying great South African wines. Don’t miss out on Bibliophile which has been described as being ‘how all book shops should be’.
There is a lot more to Clarens than art, but we suggest you join an art class to really experience the place. Tina de Beer ‘s class is the one to join. It will give you an appreciation of what you are seeing as you stroll around as well as being a fun way to unwind and explore your own creativity. Of all the galleries and studios, we guide you to the most interesting. The area is history rich as the town sits within the valley setting of one of the worst defeats in the Boer War with the British. Signal Hill still has the bare earth which resulted from many tons of confiscated Boer ammunition being blown up.
Its history is prehistoric too as this is a dinosaur and earlier fossil rich area. A few hours with the right guide and you will be fascinated, can handle the fossils and walk alongside dinosaur footprints.
The area is great for activities as there are fantastic hikes, easy to challenging places to mountain bike, an incredibly clean river to enjoy, visit a local village of the charming Sotho people, places to explore with San Rock Art and a fertility cave which has spiritual significance for early tribes as well as many modern faiths.
A short drive from Clarens are the ancient sandstone cliffs of the Golden Gate National Reserve, made up of desert sand from 200 million years ago. They stand in amongst over 50 species of grasses. The towering cliffs are known as the ‘golden gates’ for their position which catch the rays of the setting sun in such a way as to glow. A spectacular sight.
Wonderfully preserved dinosaur eggs were found here and a museum is in progress to show them off.
The scenic 68-kilometres from Clarens to Golden Gate National Park is said to be the most incredible piece of road cycling in the country with smooth cambering, good road shoulders and minimal traffic.
The vast expanse of water which is the Sterkfontein Dam lies a few kilometers from the edge of the Drakensberg Escarpment. The cool, fresh, deep waters are a wonderful blue as no river feeds into it. It is a popular angling spot. It is the third largest dam in South Africa with sailing and other water-sports. The surrounding landscape is scenically stunning – characterized by rugged mountains, lush ravines and rolling grasslands.
The Sterkfontein Dam Reserve covers 18 000 hectares and is perfect for long walks, hiking, biking, game viewing and bird watching.