Clarens has it all: a cosy village atmosphere, great farm stays, and picturesque mountains and landscape views.
It’s no surprise that Clarens has become a popular choice for weekend getaways amongst city-living folk in recent years. Just a 3 hour’s drive from major metropolitans, Johannesburg and Durban, and an even shorter trip from Bloemfontein, there is little excuse not to pack up and travel there for a weekend break.
Known (and verified by the high number of galleries) as an artists’ haven, the real charm of Clarens is that there are no franchises or big outlets. The closest Wimpy, Woolworths and 1-Stop are all 40 kilometres away in Bethlehem ‒ just the way it should be. Every establishment is owner-run. No restaurant is replicated elsewhere in the country; the stores are small, unique boutique outlets and, except for the Protea Hotel, so are the accommodation options.
So Much to Do
For a small town, there is no shortage of entertainment and things to keep yourself occupied with. The extraordinary mountain setting and Ash river running by, make for great hiking and mountain biking trails.
The aforementioned art galleries will keep the art-lover occupied for hours on end while the Basotho Cultural Village and Golden Gate National Park serve as great choices if you would like to get your culture on. For the adventurers, there is a multitude of adrenalin-filled activities such as skydiving, quad biking, paintball, and even some of the best white-water rafting that the country has to offer.
Clarens is every shopaholic’s dream. You will find everything from pottery, leather goods, curios, rugs, furniture, vintage clothing, and antiques to a shop specialising in homemade teddy bears. You will also find exciting delis with locally produced goods, a cheese shop, and a bakery with home-baked goods like Chelsea buns for snacks on-the-go.
Best Town to eat
Most, if not all, of the establishments in Clarens, are owner-run and the extra attention to detail in preparation can be tasted in every bite – something that has become a lost art in most places in the cities. Some of the most popular Clarens eateries include Clementine’s, Clarens Brewery, Bon Appetit Deli and Bistro, and the Highland Coffee Roastery if you would like to get your caffeine kick.
If you really need an excuse to visit the town for a weekend, perhaps the Clarens Craft Beer Festival will win you over. Taking place annually since 2011, the festival attracts more than 20 of the top breweries in the country, strutting their stuff, not to mention over 7000 festivalgoers from all over to enjoy the brews that are on offer.