Find snow this weekend: follow the cold to Clarens

Posted by Melanie van Zyl on 15 June 2016

Bit chilly hey? This time last year I tried to make the most of it and went on a last-minute trip to catch sight of snow with my sister. It seems like right now there’s another good forecast of snow about to hit the Eastern Free State again – just check out Snow Report! Here’s how you can find snow this long weekend (and keep warm too).
Also read: Five great places to stay in Clarens


Snow in the Golden Gate Notional Park

Distant snow-capped peaks in the Golden Gate National Park.

From Johannesburg the gorgeous Golden Gate National Park is just three hours away (and it’s more or less the same driving time from Durban and Bloemfontein too). All you need is a full tank, some supplies, a bag filled with warmth and a good dose of courage for the cold. Check in (like most places) is at two o’clock, but if you arrive early like we did, make the most of the incredible mountain scenery and start your break with a short walk to give the old bones a bit of warming friction.


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There are seven short nature trails in the Golden Gate National Park and most begin from Glen Reenen – I promise the views are worth it!


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Then you can reward yourself with heated mugs and self-satisfied smiles.

To really make the best of a cold weekend though, one’s got to make like the Basotho do and wrap up in a beautiful woollen Basotho blanket that offers warmth and protection from rain, wind and – if you’re lucky – snow. The mielie is the most widely used motif in the collection of heritage blankets (all designs are approved with the blessing of the Lesotho Royal Family) because in Basotho culture maize is a food staple and also a symbol of wealth and fertility. The Blanket Shop – a quaint stop that’s part general store, part warmth-provider – has been going since the 1940s and stocks shapes and patterns to please all people.


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Colourful traditional designs at The Blanket Shop.

My sister and I had both stayed at Golden Gate before, but neither of us realised that the Basotho Cultural Village belonged to the park. Perched on the eastern side of the park, we were welcomed by herds of springbok prancing in the distance as moody grey clouds brought the rain. The rondavels were built to replicate the feel of villages as they existed in the 18th century, but the interiors are modern and comfortable with electric blankets.


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The traditional exteriors of the Basotho huts climb up the hillside.


Basotho Cultural Village interiors - Golden Gate National Park

While the huts are roomy and warm on the inside.

The next morning we woke up early to try and defrost and took a drive to the centre of the park. It wasn’t close enough to ball up and throw at each other, but the very tips of the sandstone mountains were sprinkled in white. For breakfast only hot chocolate would do the trick in warming us up. Just outside the park we found two foamy cups at the Sugar and Cinnamon Restaurant, where we were welcomed with smiles and a tot of sherry too.


Sugar and Cinammon - Clarens - Getaway Magazine

Snacks and delicious hot-chocolate at Sugar and Cinnamon.

We had one more thing to do before going home again. It would be a sin to leave Clarens without stopping over for a freshly brewed glass of beer at Clarens Brewery. They have free tastings, heaters and excellent German fare in a great industrial setting.


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We opted for fruit-flavoured ales at the Clarens Brewery.


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I highly recommend the sausage pieces with tasty relishes and comforting warm focaccia.

That about wraps up our snowy escape. We didn’t drink and drive home, but opted to stay on in Golden Gate at a different camp. Read our step-by-step guide to finding snow and keeping warm in Golden Gate National Park and nearby Clarens.


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