Clarens is an artists' haven with many well-known artists either living in or frequenting the village, with many art galleries scattered around the village square and the town. The tranquil village ambience combined with scenic views and a mild climate has made Clarens a popular getaway for city dwellers from Johannesburg, Bloemfontein and Durban, among other places. Clarens is known for its spectacular sandstone mountains and wonderful climate; it is one of the most picturesque spots in South Africa and has recently been acclaimed as the best Trout Fishing waters in South Africa.
The Golden Gate Highlands National Park with its sandstone formations and cliffs is 17 km from Clarens.
Close to Clarens is the outlet from the Lesotho Highlands Water Project that brings fresh water from Lesotho to feed into the As River (Afrikaans for "axle" because a wagon broke its axle when crossing, but has been mistakenly translated into English as "ash"), Liebenbergsvlei and Wilge Rivers fed into the Vaal Dam. Water from the Vaal Dam is then abstracted, treated and pumped to the Rand Water supply area.
Clarens is part of the scenic Highlands Route and is surrounded by mountains. The Rooiberge is the range encompassing the village, whilst further towards the southeast are the Maluti mountains in shades of purple and blue. All around are the sandstone cliffs with their multi-coloured layers - these horizontal strata are a characteristic feature of the area. Many homes in the Clarens Valley are made from or clad in sandstone.
There are various establishments offering accommodation, including bed & breakfasts, self-catering, lodges, backpackers and farm guest houses in the surrounding area.
Activities include: horse riding, abseiling, hiking, fly fishing, fossil hunting, white water rafting and golf. Live music is often performed on weekends.