The Free State is a rural province of wide horizons and blue skies, with farmland, mountains, goldfields and widely dispersed towns. This tranquil land of the windmill is famous for its warm South African hospitality and a mix of culture which is clearly evident in street names, public buildings, monuments and museums.
Dressed sandstone buildings abound in the highlands, while beautifully decorated Sotho houses dot the grasslands. Some of South Africa’s most valued San (Bushman) rock art is found in the Free State.
Nestled in the rolling foothills of the Maluti Mountains of the north-eastern Free State lies the Golden Gate Highlands National Park.
The park derives its name from the brilliant shades of gold cast by the sun on the park’s sandstone cliffs, especially the imposing Brandwag rock, keeping vigil over the main restcamp.
This 11 600ha of unique environment is true highland habitat, providing home to a variety of mammals – Black Wildebeest, Eland, Blesbok, Oribi, Springbok and Burchell’s Zebra – and birds, including the rare bearded Vulture (Lammergeier) and the equally rare bald Ibis, which breed on the ledges in the sandstone cliffs.
Bloemfontein was established by Dutch and English settlers in the middle 1800s, and is a true blend of the past, present and future. Its majestic and stately sandstone buildings are a celebration of the city’s architecture. Bloemfontein’s rich cultural and historical heritage is reflected in its museums, art galleries and cultural festivals.
The city also offers excellent recreational, shopping and entertainment facilities. From its very beginnings it has welcomed visitors to stay and become part of the everyday fabric that its citizens weave. Bloemfontein is a City on the Move.
Situated in the heart of the Free State and indeed the country, Bloemfontein’s status as a pass-through city is unfounded. The city has a lot to offer the visitor who ventures out and discovers the many attractions. There is no rush in the City of Roses, life is lived at a slower pace, take the time to enjoy your day and meet the locals. ‘Bloem’ welcomes you and invites you to centre yourself in the heart of South Africa.
Clarens, a true kingdom in the sky with its spectacular mountain landscapes, holds everyone breathless in its charm. Situated in the Eastern Free State Highlands, it is known for its spectacular sandstone mountains and wonderful climate, and is one of the most picturesque spots in South Africa. The village has become known as the ‘Jewel of the Free State’ – rich in beauty, with an aura of peace and tranquility. Clarens is endowed with more trees than most other Free State towns – the fresh, light green willows and colourful blossoms of the many fruit trees are an unforgettable sight in spring time, whilst the magnificent autumn shades of the Lombard poplars attract artists, photographers and nature lovers. The centre of the town has many restaurants and trading stores for whatever patronage appeals to you, be it antique collectables, fine art, clothing, gemstones, woodwork or metal fabrications, to name a few. Restaurant seating spills onto the pavements and makes one feel instantly welcome. The choice of daily activities is spread over a wide spectrum ranging from river rafting to horseback trailing, mountaineering and abseiling, hiking, trout fishing, canoeing and even picnicking in the company of baboons in front of a majestic weather-carved sandstone wall of mountain that’s notoriously rich gold in colour. The road meandering through the valley leads you to many exquisite sites that make discovery seem like feeding out of the hands of the gods. All around are the sandstone cliffs with their multi-coloured layers – this horizontal strata is a unique geological feature of the area, and is known as the Clarens formation.
Visit Titanic Rock overlooking the entrance to Clarens or the Clarens Museum at the information center on the square. It’s advisable to take your time with discovery as there’s so much to see and do and the nature of the inhabitants ensures a happy smile. Clarens offers a wide range of indoor, outdoor and sporting activities such as golf, tennis, bowls, squash, clay pigeon shooting, a huge variety of hiking trails, 4X4 trails and horse riding as well as bass and fly fishing and game viewing.