Some 20km west of Golden Gate Highlands National Park lies the tree-fringed village of CLARENS, the most appealing of the settlements along the Maloti Route. Founded in 1912, Clarens is especially remarkable for its dressed stone architecture, which glows under the sandstone massif of the Rooiberge (Red Mountains) and the Malotis to the southeast. The best time to see the village is spring, when the fruit trees blossom, or in autumn, when the poplar leaves turn golden russet. But at any time of year, Clarens’ relaxed air makes it a rare phenomenon in the Free State – a dorp you’d actually want to explore, or sip a sidewalk lager and simply hang out in. All year round, but especially during autumn, when the leaves turn gold, the scenery is a magnet for artists and photographers.

Clarens is an arts and crafts centre, with a number of studios and shops peppering the streets. If you arrive around lunchtime on a weekend, there’s a chance you’ll catch some local live music at one of the streetside cafés around President Square, effectively the town centre in the middle of Main Street.

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