Clarens is a village (2011 population about 6,500) in the Free State. It attracts more visitors than most other villages for two reasons. Many artists live in or visit the region and the village has several galleries. Also, it is a convenient base for visiting Golden Gate Highlands Park.
The town is known as the "Jewel of the Free State". The town is named after Clarens in Switzerland where President Paul Kruger of the South African Republic died in exile.
Clarens is part of the scenic Highlands Route and is surrounded by mountains. The Rooiberge is the range encompassing the village, whilst further towards the southeast are the Maluti mountains in shades of purple and blue. All around are the sandstone cliffs with their multi-coloured layers - these horizontal strata are a characteristic feature of the area. Many homes in the Clarens Valley are made from or clad in sandstone.
It is 336 km from Johannesburg, 284 km from Bloemfontein, 389 km from Durban.
- 1Golden Gate Highlands National Park (17 km from Clarens). It has numerous caves and shelters displaying San rock paintings. Wildlife featured at the park includes mongooses, eland, zebras, and over 100 bird species. It is the Free State's only national park, and is more famous for the beauty of its landscape than for its wildlife. Daily fee: South Africans R59 per adult, R29 per child; SADC nationals R118 per adult, R59 per child; international visitors R236 per adult, R118 per child.
- It has been acclaimed as the best trout fishing waters in South Africa.
- Activities include: horse riding, abseiling, hiking, fly fishing, fossil hunting, white water rafting and golf. Live music is often performed on weekends
There are various establishments offering accommodation, including bed & breakfasts, self-catering, lodges, backpackers and farm guest houses in the surrounding area.