Local History and Secrets

Cannibal Cave

Situated in Golden Gate National Park and known to locals as 'Lehaha la Modimo' this cave was used for Cannibals to watch the surrounding area and grab stragglers or lone travelers that passed by.

Titanic Rock

Titanic Rock, Clarens Photo by: Sigal Zahavi

The same year that the Titanic sank, Clarens became a village. A guest once pointed to the rock and asked the owner of the first guest house in Clarens "does that rock have a name" when no one answered she said: "let's call it the Titanic."

Mount Horeb - Setlofe

Mount Horeb, Clarens
Mount Horeb, Clarens
Mount Horeb, Clarens

Photos by: Sigal Zahavi

According to a Basotho legend, the mountain Setlofe (2449m above sea level), is a shy maiden. It is believed that when Setlofe is covered in cloud, it will soon rain in Clarens.
The early pioneers also recognized this forecaster if rain and called Setlofe "Reenmakerskop".

The Square

Clarens Square
Clarens Square

Photos by: Sigal Zahavi

It was not until 1961 that the village council decided to design what was to become President Square.
The square has also been know as Market Square and in fact is presently named Wilson Mosia park after a long serving municipal worker, however local never call it that and there in unfortunately no sign to honor Mr Mosia.

Surrender Hill

Surrender Hill

An Anglo-Boer War battlefield against the backdrop of snow-peaked mountain, this heritage site, proclaimed in 1986, marks the place where Free State Boer commandos surrendered to British troops on July 31 1900, following a series of fierce battles fought between Fouriesberg and Golden Gate.

Clarens Village High Up

Clarens, Free State, South Africa Photo by: Sigal Zahavi
Clarens, Free State, South Africa Photo by: Damien Culson

Clarens with an altitude of 1850 meters is the highest habitable village in the Free State and the 3rd highest in South Africa.

Golden Gate Highlands National Park

Golden Gate got its name from Jan van Reenen of the farm Vuurland because of the sun casting soft rays against the sandstone cliffs. The park was established in 1963 and was made up of three farms encompassing an area of 4792 hectares, after the amalgamation with the former Qwa Qwa National Park it is now some 11 624 hectares in size.

Uitspan Stone

500 meters down the road from the Mount d'Or Hotel opposite Di Mezza blanket shop, is an old sandstone post that marks where the trek Boers would "uitspan" (rest) on their journeys through the Naauwpoort Nek, in the early days. A nearby graveyard has a number of Boer children buried there from these early travelers to our valley.

Lights, Camera, Action

A number of movies or television series, such as 'Meersters' have been filmed in Clarens or the surrounds. However it is the movie called "The Angel the Bicycle and the Chinaman's finger" directed and filmed between February and March 1992 that we are best known for.


The land used today for the local football field in Kgubetswana was originally marked out on the map in 1912 as an area where a jail was to be built.

Di Mezza Blanket Shop

The shop opened in 1946 and was originally called Di Mezza & De Jager. The business however started many years prior to the shop opening, when Mr de Jager was a "smous" trading in hides, chickens, fruit, wool, in fact anything marketable.

Smiley Face

Smiley Face on Mount Horeb Photo by: Damien Coulson

Look up towards Mount Horeb for the drive in screen with a smiley face painted on it by a local "skollie". The structure was a radio relay station for the Clarens Police station.

The Old Butchery

Very little history of this small building on Van Zyl Street is available, however it is estimated that it was originally built sometime between 1920-1940 and used as a butchery by Mr van Biljon to sell fresh produce. Today, after many years standing empty, the building is used as an art gallery to diplay the works of owner Neil Moss.

Berg Cottage

Hendrik Grobler completed this house in 1929 just so that would be able to marry a local farmer's daughter. Hendrik had fallen in love with Sarie, but Sarie's father said that he would give his blessing to the union on the condition that Hendrik build a home for Sarie to live in, before their wedding taking place. Building was on a ad hoc basis when money or materials became available.

The Museum

The quaint yet compact building on the square, has been used in many different capacities over the years. Today it houses a small museum, as well as the business premises of the Clarens Community arts & crafts project. Built sometime between 1945-1950, its initial use was as the local municipal offices.

The Post House

The Post House, Clarens Photo by: Sigal Zahavi

Built in 1926 by the De Leeuw family and which was to become the center of the village, as well as a meeting place for farmers and villagers alike.
The building later moved to the corner of Van Zyl and Church Streets in late May 1993 and became a restaurant.

Clarens Supply Shop

Dating back to 1912, this landmark was build by Mr Sander. On 20 March 1993 the building was badly damaged by fire. It has seen many changes over the last few years.
The original shop had been previously known as 'Masjoten', 'The Bay Saloon' and 'Witblitz' and the garage was run by 'thousand rand Frikkie' in those days.

Clementines Restaurant and The Bibliophile Book Shop

Somewhat 70 years back, South African Railways opened a bus depot in Clarens to ensure that there was both a passenger as well as a goods service between the village of Clarens and Bethlehem, and other outlaying villages. The terminus and ticket office were situated where the Bibliophile is today and the service shed was built on the stand next door.
It was in 1999 that this very same shed became Clementines Restaurant and joined the ranks, as one of a select few restaurants in Clarens that can boast of being established in an old historical building.

Grouse and Claret Restaurant

This ever-popular restaurant was once a humble home built sometime in the 1930's, owned by Mr J. van Reenen. Over the years it had many owners, newly renovated into a pub.
It is reputed that the Grouse has another type of spirit behind the bar, that of a ghost, believed to be a youngish woman who appears late at night to the staff.

Street Caffe

The shop was built in 1913 and was a corrugated iron homestead, and possibly one of the first houses in Clarens. It was initially used as the DR Kerk Pastorie. The former Pastorie was then purchased by Mrs Fischer who converted the building into a boarding house. As the years passed, a number of people owned the building. They added a long 'stoep' and turned it into a Cafe/tea room in the 80's.

Rock Art

Long before Clarens became the place of choice for people to settle, the Bushmen had already marked their territory. Many of the Bushman paintings are on private property and permission will need to be obtained. However, the two most accessible would have to be at Schaapplaats (one of South Africa's 12 Rock Art National Monuments) and Dassie rock at Kiara Lodge.

Mountain Magic

One of the first mountain sculptures you may notice as you travel to Clarens is the Taxi Rock. Other works of art that have been sculpted by Mother Nature is the surrounds would be Mushroom Rock, Queen Victoria, Paul Kruger, The Sphinx, The Sleeping Giant, The Voortrekker Lady as many others.

The Holkrans

Situated at the top of De Villiers Street, many feel this is where Clarens originated. The Holkrans has meant many things over the years, but a common thread between different people that used the 'krans' at one stage or another has to be spiritual. During the Boer War, the travelling DR Church Dominee would hold services in the caves and it had been used for various other gatherings over the decades.


Signs of plant and animal fossils abound, many ferns and dinosaurs. Massospondylus was most prolific of the dinosaurs found in the area, and it's closest relative would be the Secretary Bird.
Five nests with 18 eggs have been found in the Golden Gate over the years.

Fertility Caves

Fertility Caves
Fertility Caves
Fertility Caves

Photos by: Sigal Zahavi

The Fertility Caves are located at the Motouleng Cave Heritage Site, also called the Holy Cave. Inhabitants of these Caves, approximately 25 residents currently, are traditional herbalists and healers, known as Sangomas. They live in traditional huts inside the Caves and they have come here to learn from their ancestors.

Volcanic Activity

On the way out of the village through Naauwpoorts Nek and just as you draw level with Titanic Rock, you may notice a large grey protrusion from the rock face. This is volcanic rock from a 'pipe' of lava.

Battle of Naauwpoort

The pass through Naauwpoort and Titanic Rock in particular has been witness to shots fired in anger both during the Basotho wars of 1865 as well the Boer war of 1899-1902. The Nek however is probably best known and closely associated with actions taken by Paul Kruger and this Commando in 1865 that saw Clarens being names in this honor.

Lesotho Highlands Water Project

The project began way back in the early 1950's when the High Commissioner to Lesotho, Sir Evelyn Baring realized that the water was the only natural resource that the landlocked country possessed.
By 1978 a joint technical committee, composing of experts from South Africa and Lesotho began a full feasibility study. The scheme includes a high altitude dam, hydroelectric power station and a tunnel through the Maluti Mountains, supplying water to the Ash River in the Eastern Free State.