10 Best Places to Visit in Clarens

Posted on 6 December 2023

Clarens, the “Jewel of the Eastern Free State,” is a quaint town in South Africa that beckons with its blend of natural splendor and rich history. Cradled in the foothills of the Maluti Mountains and established in 1912, it bears a historical connection to the Swiss town of Clarens, where Paul Kruger, a key figure in South African history, spent his final days. This charming enclave is more than just a scenic retreat; it’s a vibrant tapestry of culture, history, and nature. The town offers a variety of experiences, from exploring the artisanal Clarens Brewery and playing a round of golf at the Clarens Golf & Leisure Estate to savoring the aromatic delights of the Highland Coffee Roastery.

Beyond its culinary and recreational offerings, Clarens is a haven for nature lovers and art enthusiasts alike. The Golden Gate Highlands National Park presents a breathtaking landscape of rolling hills and vast open spaces, perfect for those seeking a tranquil connection with nature. Meanwhile, the Clarens Village Conservancy provides a peaceful escape among indigenous wildlife. The town’s cultural heart beats in its art galleries, like the Addy & Hoyle Art Gallery and the Blou Donki Gallery, showcasing local artistic talents. For gastronomic pleasure, Clementines Restaurant & Bar Clarens and the German-inspired Roter Hahn offer a rich variety of dining experiences. Each corner of Clarens reveals a story, a piece of art, or a natural wonder, making it a uniquely captivating destination in South Africa.

1. Clarens Kloof Dam

Clarens Kloof Dam

Picture: Facebook / @Titanic Challenge Trail Run

Discover the serene beauty of Clarens Kloof Dam, a hidden gem perfect for a day of relaxation and enjoyment in nature. Just a short walk from the parking area, this picturesque spot offers idyllic settings for picnics, peaceful walks in the forest, and simply soaking in the scenic views. While visiting, immerse yourself in the tranquility of the area, but be sure to obtain a permit for a hassle-free experience.

The dam, surrounded by lush forestry, becomes particularly enchanting after rainfall, revealing a captivating waterfall. While navigating the area is straightforward, do note that signage is minimal. Many visitors choose to explore without a map, letting the natural beauty guide their way. The dam, nestled within a nature reserve, boasts lovely hiking trails and provides an ideal spot for nature lovers. It’s advisable to explore in groups as the reserve’s open access means you might find yourself in solitude.

The dam’s surroundings offer much to discover, including spectacular views of Clarens from higher ground. While swimming is not permitted, the dam’s edge is a quiet retreat for contemplation or leisurely activities. The approach can be slippery in wet conditions, so appropriate footwear is essential, and carrying an umbrella is recommended for shade or shelter. The Clarens Kloof Dam, with its cleanliness and natural allure, is a must-visit spot for both relaxation and adventure.

Address: Clarens

Opening times: Monday – Sunday, All hours

2. Golden Gate Highlands National Park

Places to Visit in Clarens - Golden Gate Highlands National Park

Photo by Trav Wade on Unsplash

Golden Gate Highlands National Park, located in the Free State, South Africa, near the Lesotho border, is an awe-inspiring natural wonder that promises an unforgettable adventure. Covering an area of 340 km², the park is a treasure trove of wildlife and natural beauty, making it a top attraction for visitors to Clarens. Famous for its striking golden, ochre, and orange-hued sandstone cliffs, especially the iconic Brandwag rock, the park is a paradise for wildlife enthusiasts and bird watchers, with over 200 species recorded.

For those seeking an exhilarating challenge, the Wodehouse Peak Trail in the park offers a rewarding experience. This 11.5km loop trail, winding over the mountains, is a testament to the area’s rugged beauty. Though it demands a degree of fitness, the trail rewards hikers with magnificent views of the park’s diverse landscapes. Each step along this strenuous hike unveils a new perspective of Golden Gate’s majestic peaks and serene valleys.

The park is not just about natural wonders; it also offers excellent facilities and accommodations. Nestled against the backdrop of the Maluti Mountains, the park’s environment is impeccably maintained, ensuring a pristine experience for all visitors. Staying in the Highlands Camp is particularly recommended, as it offers stunning views against the mountainous terrain. While entry to the park is ticketed, the focus remains on the visitor experience, with well-kept trails and modern amenities. The Golden Gate Highlands National Park is a must-visit for those who cherish the outdoors and the unspoiled beauty of nature, offering a memorable escape into South Africa’s scenic heartland.

Address: Clarens

Opening times: Monday – Sunday, All hours

Contact: 058 255 1000

3. Clarens Brewery

Source: Facebook / @ Clarens Brewery

Clarens Brewery is a highlight for beer enthusiasts visiting South Africa. This brewpub, one of the country’s first, is known for its dedicated team that skillfully crafts a variety of beers, ciders, and distillates. It’s a popular spot for both lunch and dinner, offering a comfortable atmosphere suitable for any dining preference.

The brewery is not just known for its drinks; the food menu, featuring European-influenced pub classics, also draws guests. Popular choices include beer tasting platters and a variety of hearty meals. Many visitors make a point of taking home a case of their favorite beer after their visit. With its variety of beers, including unique options like the Yetti Dubbel and a highly praised stout, Clarens Brewery is a must-visit for anyone in the area looking for good beer, tasty food, and a great vibe.

Address: Shop 1, Rosemary Centre, 326 Market Straat Oos St, Clarens

Opening times: Monday – Thursday, 10:00 am – 7:00 pm; Friday – Saturday, 10:00 am – 10:00 pm; Sunday, 10:00 am – 6:00 pm

Contact: 058 008 5089

4. Clarens Waterfall

The Clarens Waterfall, a hidden gem just 6km from the heart of Clarens, offers an inviting hike perfect for those looking to step out and immerse themselves in nature. This stunning trail, though steep in parts, is generally manageable and offers a rewarding experience for hikers of all ages, including families with young children. The path to the waterfall, marked with orange arrows, splits into a blue trail and then a red one, leading hikers through a beautiful and serene landscape.

Once at the waterfall, although it may not be grand in size, especially during drier months like July when the water flow is minimal, it still presents a lovely sight and a peaceful spot for a brief respite. The trail, while easy and taking about 15 minutes to the waterfall, can have a few slippery spots and obstacles, so appropriate footwear is recommended for a safe and enjoyable hike.

The trail to the waterfall, slightly overgrown and not as distinctly marked, adds a sense of adventure and authenticity to the experience, appealing to those who appreciate a more natural and less manicured path. This element of the hike, combining ease with a touch of wilderness adventure, makes the Clarens Waterfall an appealing destination for a short and refreshing walk in the conservancy, offering both beauty and tranquility.

Address: Clarens

Opening times: Tuesday – Sunday, 8:00 am – 4:30 pm

Contact: 058 256 1270

5. Smiley Face On Mount Horeb

Picture: Facebook / @Greater Clarens Tourism

Mount Horeb, part of the Clarens Mountain Estate, is not just a hiking destination but also a canvas for creative expression. The trail starting right in the Estate leads to an intriguing landmark known as Smiley Face. This large, cheerful emblem painted on the side of Mount Horeb by an unknown artist adds a unique twist to the hiking experience. Beyond the Smiley Face, the trail continues to ascend towards the summit of Mount Horeb, where the rewards for this moderate, full-day hike are plentiful.

Reaching the top of Mount Horeb, hikers are greeted with a Trig Beacon and a visitors’ book, where they can leave their mark alongside many who have made the journey before them. The panoramic view from the summit is breathtaking, encompassing the towns of Fouriesburg and Clarens, as well as vast expanses of the Golden Gate Highlands National Park. Whether you’re visiting the Smiley Face for a bit of fun or pushing yourself to reach the summit for that unparalleled 360-degree view, Mount Horeb offers a fulfilling adventure for every level of hiker seeking to explore the natural beauty of the Clarens area.

6. Castle in Clarens – Rapunzel’s Tower and Aladdin’s Palace

Best Places to Visit in Clarens - Rapunzel's Tower and Aladdin's Palace

Picture: Facebook / @Castle in Clarens

Castle in Clarens, nestled amidst the breathtaking Maluti Mountains, offers a self-catering experience like no other, transporting guests into a world of fairytale elegance and enchantment. Here, the magic of a bygone era comes to life in Rapunzel’s Tower and Aladdin’s Palace, each castle offering a unique opportunity to live out grand castle fantasies. Every inch of Castle in Clarens is steeped in luxury and rich detail, designed to make guests feel like royalty from the moment they step inside.

The interiors of Rapunzel’s Tower and Aladdin’s Palace are a feast for the senses, showcasing an exquisite collection of décor and objets d’art sourced from around the globe. From cornerstones of Windsor Castle to tapestries from Dubai, light fittings from America, and tiles from Europe, every element contributes to an immersive and unforgettable experience. Castle in Clarens is more than just accommodation; it’s an invitation to step into a realm of fantasy and splendor, where every stay is an exclusive journey into the heart of elegance and opulence. Welcome to Castle in Clarens, where your majestic fairytale escape awaits.

Address: Bokpoort Farm, R712, Clarens, 9707

Contact: 083 268 0497

7. Titanic Rock

Titanic Rock

Picture: Facebook / @Titanic Challenge Trail Run

The Titanic Rock, standing just 2 kilometers north of Clarens, serves as a historical sentinel at the gateway to this charming destination. This notable sandstone formation is more than just a natural landmark; it is an integral part of the town’s rich history and geological identity. Clarens, easily accessible for those seeking respite from the bustling cities of Durban, Johannesburg, and Bloemfontein, draws visitors both near and far with its unique blend of scenic beauty and historical intrigue.

Clarens itself is built upon a foundation of sandstone, a feature that vividly characterizes the town’s architectural and geological heritage. This distinct sandstone is evident in the structures throughout the town, from residential homes to restaurants, nature reserves, activity centers, accommodations, and even wedding venues. It’s this very essence of sandstone that weaves a thread of continuity through the fabric of the town, creating a cohesive and charming aesthetic.

The Titanic Rock, in particular, holds a special place in the heart of Clarens. Its striking shape, reminiscent of the bow of the ill-fated Titanic ship, led to its naming by a local resident following the ship’s tragic sinking. Today, this immense rock formation not only marks the entrance to Clarens but also stands as a symbol of the town’s unique geological history and the stories etched into its landscape.

Address: Clarens

Opening times: Monday – Sunday, 7:30 am – 4:30 pm

Contact: 058 256 1136

Also read: 10 Places to visit in North West

8. Clarens Dinosaur Hunting Expeditions

Embark on a journey back in time with Clarens Dinosaur Hunting Expeditions, where the ancient world of dinosaurs comes to life. In Clarens, nestled within the Free State’s natural landscapes, you have the unique opportunity to walk in the footsteps of these prehistoric giants. The expedition offers a glimpse into a time when creatures with enormous bodies, long necks, and tails roamed the Earth, hatching from eggs multiple times larger than a hen’s. It’s an engaging experience for anyone fascinated by the mysteries of our planet’s distant past, providing both education and adventure in the vast, open spaces of the Free State.

The Dinosaur Hunting tour in Clarens is more than just a walk; it’s a comprehensive exploration into the geological and paleontological history of the region. Your journey begins with an informative session about the area’s ancient history, setting the stage for the adventure ahead. You’ll then visit an old river or lake bed, where you can see and follow the fossilized trackways of various dinosaur and mammal-like reptile species. This expedition isn’t just about seeing fossils; it’s about stepping into a historic walk, learning about the Earth’s ancient environment, and understanding the formation of the various rock layers. With expert guides leading the way, this tour is perfect for anyone eager to delve into the thrilling world of paleontology.

Address: 1 Market St, Clarens, 9707

9. Clarens Xtreme Adventure Company

Clarens Xtreme welcomes families and friends to a world of adventure and unforgettable experiences. This destination is more than just an adventure company; it’s a place where every guest is valued and cared for. Visitors to Clarens Xtreme have the opportunity to conquer their fears and dive into adventures that will last a lifetime.

Offering a wide array of activities, Clarens Xtreme caters to a diverse range of interests and preferences. From adrenaline-pumping adventure sports to serene cultural tours, family vacations, and customized expeditions and corporate packages, there’s something for everyone. The activities are designed not only for thrill-seekers but also for those who have a deep curiosity about experiencing the rich offerings of the country. Here is a glimpse of the exhilarating activities available at Clarens Xtreme.

Address: 531 Sias Oosthuizen St, Clarens

Opening times: Monday – Sunday, 9:00 am – 5:00 pm

Contact: 058 256 1260

10. Blou Donki Gallery

Located in the Windmill Centre at the heart of the charming village of Clarens, the Blou Donki Art Gallery stands as a beacon of contemporary South African art. This gallery, with its modern, stylish ambiance, is a celebration of artistic expression, showcasing an impressive array of work from leading and emerging South African artists.

Visitors to Blou Donki are treated to a diverse collection that spans a range of media. The gallery features everything from captivating paintings and evocative photography to functional art, intricate ceramics, and thought-provoking sculptures. Each piece in the collection is carefully curated to represent the vibrant and dynamic spirit of South African art.

Visitors often find themselves enchanted by the gallery’s offerings, including nostalgic items like Wilson toffees, alongside a variety of homemade products. With new discoveries around each corner, Blou Donki provides a unique and immersive artistic experience. Recognized as one of the best art galleries in Clarens, it is an essential stop for anyone visiting the town, promising an enriching and memorable encounter with the finest art the region has to offer.

Address: Windmill Centre, Main Street, Clarens, 9707

Contact: 058 256 1757

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