In the Eastern Free State, South Africa, you will discover a realm of unsurpassed beauty where Creation’s tools of wind, water and fire have chiselled a landscape which beckons the visitor to “tlo bone” – a friendly Sotho invitation to “come and see”. The mystique of the Dragon Mountains extends way back beyond the wildest imaginings – to a time when the area was a vast swampland interspersed with forests dripping with rain, and dinosaurs roamed freely. Then the winds changed, swamps dried, forests died, and the dinosaurs could not survive. The winds continued to blow, all the while piling up sand where the swamps had been, creating colourful layers of orange, yellow and gold for form a magnificent heritage of sandstone mountains. Millions of years later the crust of the earth erupted in a fiery fountain depositing layers of basaltic lava and so the mighty Drakensberg and Maluti Mountains were formed. The rains fell, the water surged over the steep mountain cliffs cutting crevices in the dark basalt rock eventually forming deep valleys to carry the rushing waters to the ensuing rivers.
The hills and mountains stand like sentries, as if to protect the very heart of the inhabitants, whose warm-hearted hospitality in turn embraces all who visit the Highlands. From Harrismith to Fouriesburg with the beauty of Sterkfontein Dam, Qwa-Qwa, Kestell, Golden Gate, Clarens and Bethlehem in between, you will discover hidden treasures.
What to See & Do in the Eastern Free State
More to see and do in a shorter time, than anywhere else in Africa
Golden Gate National Park
The Golden Gate National Park is located in the north eastern part of Free State and derives its name from the brilliant shades of gold cast by the sun on the sandstone cliffs, especially the imposing Brandwag rock. The area is famous for its captivating scenery, invigorating climate and the accommodation offered in hotel rooms, rondavels (round huts) and self-catering chalets.
The park is a real highlight for visitors to the Free State. Popular attractions include the vast, colourful sandstone formations, which shine golden-yellow in the evening sun, and from which the area derives its name. Vegetation in the Golden Gate Nature Reserve consists mainly of wooded ravines, gullies and grasslands.
See more about the Golden Gate National Park here.
The village of Clarens lies at the foot of Mount Horeb, on the Free State Highlands Route close to the Golden Gate National Park. One of the most popular holiday towns in the eastern Free State, its location inspires not only its own residents but everyone who stays there. An easy three to four hours’ drive from Johannesburg, Clarens has become the long weekend mecca of those after an arty, sleepy hollow with just enough entertainment not to be dull.
The town that first enjoyed a revival when it became something of an artists’ haven during the early nineties is now premium second home property. It helps that it lies in a particularly scenic spot, surrounded by Rooiberge and the Maluti Mountains a little further southeast; its tree-lined streets and enticing restaurants, art galleries and boutique style stores a reason to amble away the weekend in the town’s square.