The jewel of the Free State, Clarens is one of those places you stumble upon expecting little, then find yourself talking about it long after you depart. With a backdrop of craggy limestone rocks, verdant green hills, spun gold fields and the magnificent Maluti Mountains, Clarens is a picture-perfect village of whitewashed buildings and quiet shady streets.
Kroonstad & Around
The province’s third-largest town, Kroonstad, on the N1, is typical of rural Free State and makes a good base for exploring nearby Koppies Dam Nature Reserve. The 4000-hectare Koppies Dam Nature Reserve, about 70km northeast of Kroonstad on the Rhenoster River, is popular with anglers. Yellowfish, barbell, mudfish and carp are all abundantly available.
Although looking a bit scrappy these days, Harrismith is still a jumping-off point for exploring the Drakensberg range. It’s a quiet country town with picturesque old buildings around a grassy square, distant Dragon Mountain views and lots of trees. The very helpful N3 Gateway Tourism Information Centre is in the cluster of restaurants and retail near the entrance to the N3.
In a valley surrounded by jagged peaks, just 16km from Lesotho’s capital Maseru, Ladybrand is an attractive, small town loaded with sandstone buildings, dramatic scenery and ancient history. It’s also a handy place to overnight on your way to and from South Africa’s mountain kingdom.
Phuthaditjhaba & Around
Phuthaditjhaba, about 50km southwest of Harrismith, was the capital of the apartheid homeland of QwaQwa (master the ‘click’ pronunciation and you’ll win friends). QwaQwa (meaning ‘Whiter than White’) was named after the sandstone hill that dominates the area. It was created in the early 1980s as a homeland for southern Sotho people.