A road trip in Namibia is one of the greatest adventures to be had on this planet. When we arrived in Namibia for our road trip we had come with our preconceived notions, but we were not prepared. It is a land of inhospitable beauty and solitude. If you’re looking for some headspace then Namibia is where you’ll find it.
Road trips in Namibia are surreal. With a population of only two million mostly living in the capital city, the 34th largest nation in the world has some desolate regions. However, despite being sparsely populated Namibia is well developed for an African Nation and can be easy to travel.
It’s been described to us as “Africa for beginners,” or “Africa light,” and since we had little time to plan and it was the first country we drove through on our journey to Kenya. A journey that was full of difficulties to purchase our Land Cruiser in South Africa. When we finally had the keys to Charlie, our Land Cruiser, we had three days to leave South Africa, service the truck, purchase gear, and pack all the equipment we needed to overland Africa for the next eight months.
We managed to spend a month exploring the Namibia and Botswana practically had to rip us out! In this post, we break down what to see and where we went on our Namibia road trip.
Namibia Road Trip Itinerary
Fish River Canyon, Namibia
Fish River Canyon is a good starting point if you are coming from South Africa. The canyon is located about three hours from the Noordoewer border post; however, we wouldn’t cross the border late in the day. The road between the border and the canyon is desolate, turns to dirt, and has no street lights – welcome to Namibia. The canyon is the second largest canyon on earth. It costs 80 NAD for foreigners to enter the area around the canyon, but the price is well worth the impressive view.
One of the best viewing points is from the Hobas viewpoint. We would recommend grabbing some cold Windhoek beers at the entrance gate and enjoy the Canyon at another viewpoint away from the crowds. It’s possible to join a hiking trip through the canyon and see the canyon from a different point of view. However, these hiking permits are only issued between May and September as the Namibian heat gets intense in the summer and flash flooding is a threat. We spent three days in the area, but if we were to do it over we think one day and two nights camping in the area is ideal.
Gondwana Canyon Village
We suggest camping under the impressive Namibian night sky. Gondwana’s Canyon Road campsites are great and they have one of the only restaurants and fuel stations in the area. The NWR has campsites on offer, but they looked like a lesser value compared to the Canyon Road campsites. The second option is Ai Ais a hot spring campsite.
Luderitz may be one of the strangest towns we have ever set foot in. The German town is nestled between the turbulent Atlantic Ocean and the massive sand dunes of the Namib desert. When we made it to Luderitz it didn’t even feel like we were in Africa anymore, more like another planet. German architecture, beerhouses, and street signs such as Bismark dominate the town. The vibe of the whole town is wonderfully strange, like something out of the twilight zone.
The main site 10 kilometers outside of Luderitz is Kolmanskop. Kolmanskop is an old abandoned mining town that is being swallowed by the desert. Kolmanskop rose to tourism fame when Nat Geo featured this famous photo. Ever since tourists flock to check to go snap happy at the ghost town. You need a permit to enter Kolmanskop which can be purchased at the gate day of. Permits cost 75 NAD and include a tour that runs every day at 9:30 am. The tour lasts about an hour, but we would recommend waiting a few hours till the crowds die down to get photos.
On the B4 140km outside of Luderitz is the tiny mountains town of Aus. This is where you can see the last wild horses of Garub. They aren’t so wild at the moment as people are having to feed them during the drought to keep them alive. They are still incredible to see and appreciate how these horses survive in the middle of nowhere.
Airbnb in Luderitz
I would recommend an Airbnb in Luderitz and grabbing some coffee and oysters at the Diaz Coffee Shop. There are a few small guesthouses and one rather harsh looking campsite. However, if you have time Luderitz is well worth a stop on your Namibia road trip.
No visit to Namibia is complete without seeing the highest sand dunes in the world. A stop in Sossusvlei is on most travelers Namibian itinerary and for good reason. The red dunes are best seen in the morning light and in my opinion if you arrive anytime between 8:30 and 4:00 you are wasting your time (especially if you cherish photography). The sand gets almost too hot to walk on and depending on the season you may be sweating before you exit the car.
The only way to be the first at the dunes is if you stay at the Seriesm Campsite. Guests staying inside this gate get the opportunity to head to the dunes at 5:15, and then it’s a mad dash to beat the sun. Staying outside the gates are also an option, but you will have to wait until 6:15 when the gate opens – hence missing the sunrise. Dune 45 is the highest dune in the park and is the popular place to watch the sunrise at. However, it can get crowded with overlanders so if you have your own vehicle I would venture a bit further to find a spot all to yourself.
After sunrise continues on to Deadvlei. Vlei is the Afrikaans word for “marsh” and that’s exactly what Deadvlei is – a dead marsh. You will 100% need a 4×4 to get to Deadvlei, but if you don’t have one there is a spot to park and guides will take you in for a small fee. I would recommend getting to Sossusvlei at sunrise and wander around the dunes and Deadvlei for a few hours. By noon you will be ready to leave as it is HOT – trust me.
The Sesriem campsite is decent, but do not let them put you in the “overflow” space. They have a full restaurant and bar there but if you want to stay cheap there is a small (and I mean small) grocery store across from the campsite. If you are on a higher budget Wolwedans is divine and a good place to relax on any Namibian road trip.
Swakopmund is the ultimate destination for adventure in Namibia. You can entertain yourself with just about anything in Swakop – sandboarding, four wheelers, paragliding, or skydiving all on and over the Namib desert is great fun. Swakopmund is also one of the larger cities in Namibia so you will be able to get almost anything you need here to continue the road trip.
We enjoyed hanging out, sipping coffees, and catching up with other travelers in Swakopmund. It’s also worth heading to Swakop’s sister city of Walvis Bay to see the greater and lesser flamingos. The flamingos eat, sleep, and live on the coast of Walvis Bay all year long so you’re guaranteed to get excellent sightings of the famous pink birds.
Swakopmund Plaza Hotel
I would recommend an Airbnb or stay at the Swakopmund Plaza Hotel. Don’t miss a coffee at Slowtown coffee roasters and make sure to grab a pizza at the Secret Garden Bistro. You can check out some tips and read more about getting an Airbnb coupon code here. Or just take this coupon for your first stay!
The Skeleton Coast
If you have a fully sufficient 4×4 then a trip up the Skeleton Coast completes any itinerary. The Skeleton Coast sounds so dreary because it is. The term was coined from the unforgiving nature of the coast and the endless ships it brings to their demise. If you keep driving north from Swakopmund you will eventually get into no man’s land. The road leads all the way North to Torra Bay, but keep in mind that you are pretty much self-sufficient up here.
Because of time, we drove as far north as the Cape Cross Seal Colony. We debated about burning the fuel to go to Cape Cross, but once we left we determined the experience was well worth it. Thousands and thousands of seals call Cape Cross home and it is an impressive sight to see in Namibia. Just make sure to bring some nose plugs – it’s the smelliest place in Namibia!
Camp on The Skeleton Coast
You’re on your own on the coast. Be fully equipped to camp, there is a campsite at Terrace Bay.
Etosha National Park
We had some great days of safaris in Etosha National Park. This is easily Namibia’s best park to spot a variety of game. Etosha is easy to self-drive in any type of vehicle so we wouldn’t recommend paying for a game viewer and guide here. There are plenty of great watering holes where the animals come to drink. Almost every time we stopped at a watering hole some Lion King magic was going down.
Etosha is extremely popular during school holidays and it is recommended to book accommodation in advance. Roads will get slightly more congested, but you’re still in one of the least populated countries on the planet so it won’t be anything like Kruger National Park in South Africa.
During the winter Etosha is dry, so chances of great sightings are common. We managed to see lions, hyenas, giraffe, rhino, ostriches, and just about everything else besides the elusive leopard roaming about. Perhaps, the best part of Etosha is the admission fee. It cost just 80 NAD to enter one of the best wildlife parks in the world – that’s a bargain in Africa!
Gondwana Etosha Safari Camp
The Caprivi Strip
We made our way to greener pastures after Etosha. Literally up North in the Caprivi Strip, the landscape changes drastically. Long gone is the dry desert air and endless sand that makes up so much of Namibia. The Caprivi Strip encompasses the Okavango River, Chobe River, and Zambezi River. We have to admit after three weeks in mainland Namibia it felt great to see a living tree again.
We also felt like we were once again in Africa once we got to the town of Rundu and continued onward. Not only was the area green, but we found fewer Germans and Afrikaans people, instead we found people, villages, and that general lively soul that makes up so much of the continent.
This was Tasha’s favorite part of Namibia. Just relaxing along the river watching the hippos and spotting the birdlife is magical in the Caprivi Strip. A popular thing to do on the Okavango is to take a houseboat out with a couple of sundowners and watch the sunlight up the African sky.
Hakusembe is a great lodge just outside of Rundu. Right next to the lodge is a campsite along the river. There is a swimming pool, lounge, and lastly a living museum nearby where you can learn about the local culture. You can dine here while watching Angola on the other side of the Okavango.
From Rundu we made our way to the Botswana border, camping at various places and enjoying the Caprivi strip along the way.
Learn More about a Namibia road trip
Namibia is such a great country to explore on a road trip. There are rental companies in Namibia and South Africa that specialize in equipped 4x4s designed for camping. Petrol is relevantly cheap in Namibia at 11 NAD/Liter. Other great places to visit are the northwest where the Himba live, Spitzkoppe, and Damaraland. Read on for 15 travel tips to know before Namibia.
Plan A Road Trip Around Namibia
We rely on a few trusted websites that help save us money and time when booking hotels, flights, and insurance. Check out some of our preferred partners below:
- Tours in Namibia: If you’re not much of a driver you can always opt for an overland tour with one of the many providers on TourRadar. TourRadar is a site that allows you to search for the best tours, compare deals, and score sweet discounts.
- Flights to Namibia: Compare airlines, dates, and prices all in one place with Skyscanner.
- Travel Insurance: We never travel without travel insurance with World Nomads. We ALWAYS travel with travel insurance. Natasha is a bit of a worry wart and would rather stay safe than sorry. World Nomads offers incredible flexible and great plans!
- Water: We found most of the water in Namibia fine to drink, if you want extra assurance then we love traveling with our Lifestraw Go Waterbottle.
- Guide Book: You’ll want to do some planning when you’re off in the bush. (Trust us, the bush doesn’t have WiFi). For those wireless nights we like planning with Lonely Planet.
Book A Safari in Namibia
Traditionally if you wanted to book a safari you’d have to go to a travel agent and have them book your safari for you. They made suggestions for camps and lodges then presented you with a large bill. Most of the industry still operates in this fashion.
However, Timbuktu is a new platform that allows you to select the lodges you’d like and see the pricing per day that way you can select the best itinerary for yourself. They will then contact the lodges and help you through booking your safari. With experts on staff, they can also provide suggestions and arrange the little details much like a travel agent.
Check Out Some Lodges in Namibia
Wolwedans Dune Lodge
Wolwedans Dunes Lodge features ten chalets mostly constructed out of wood instead of canvas tents. Each room opens up to the east, offering incredible views of the sunrise every morning. We slept with the canvas tents rolled up and could gaze at the stars all night. We felt at one with nature while still having an extremely comfortable sleep.
Wolwedans Dunes Lodge has a massive pool attached to the pharmacy (or the “bar”) and continues to spill into one grand lobby area. This is where Cameron and I spent most of our day – basking in the intense Namibian sun surrounded by cool water and a good book.
Chobe Water Villas
Chobe Water Villas sits on the wildlife-filled Chobe River. It’s also the most modern accommodation we have seen in Africa. Walking into the main area transports you into a varying array of time zones and locations. The interior was decorated in chic white and gray décor and stark shapes.
Exploring the architecture and decoration of the hotel leads to sources of inspiration from around Namibia. From the skeleton of a whale, to the seasonal rains that bring life.
Gondwana Canyon Village
The Gondwana Canyon Village was set up in the form of a small village lost in the desert. Turning off the main road you wind 3km down a sandy track before arriving at the main lodge a low stone building with a massive thatched roof.
We arrived early in the day eager to explore the area. After checking in we wasted no time and took advantage of the cloud coverage before the sun was in full swing.
What to Pack For Namibia?
Overland Tour in Africa
Traveling Africa on your own can be daunting to many travelers. However, there is no need to fear with overland tour companies who will show the ropes and a great time. You can check out some of them here to compare the different companies and possibly score a discount.
Travel Water Bottle
Plastic pollution is a problem in Africa so it’s best not to contribute to the problem buying plastic water bottles everywhere. The tap water in Tanzania is generally not safe to drink, but a water purifier, like the Grayl waterbottle, works well!
However, we also love filtered water bottles in areas we’re uncertain of the water supply. Read more about favorite water bottle for travel in our post.
Chances are you’ll want a camera for your trip to Africa. Our favorite pocket-sized point and shoot camera for quick trips are the Sony RX100V. It takes fantastic photos and video and is the size of your palm.
For more professional photographs we use our Fuji XT-3, and LOVE IT.
Lightweight pants that are made from synthetic material are tremendous to have in your pack. It’s what we wear most days when traveling around Africa as they’re comfortable, antibacterial, and protect our legs from mosquitos (malaria).
We recommend neutral colored pants as they’re great at hiding dirt and can match most shirt colors. What’s great is they’re useful beyond Africa as they are a travel staple and we pack a pair everywhere we travel.
I like two pairs, one pair is made by prAna and rolls into capris and the other are convertible pants. For men, prAna makes the Stretch Zion Pant, a tremendous pair of hiking pants for a reasonable price.
If you’re wondering what necessities to bring to Africa then sturdy shoes are perhaps the most important thing you will need before you get to Africa.
I cannot stress a good pair of shoes enough because if you land anywhere outside of South Africa a quality pair of hiking shoes will be hard to come by. If you plan to walk around a lot get thick rubber soled shoes as acacia thorns are prone to stab through thin shoes. Cameron learned the hard way one day when he pulled a thorn out of his foot that went straight through his thin rubber sandals.
I love my buff. I usually wear it for keeping my hair back, but it’s also served its purpose as a scarf and wet rag too. Buffs last for years and aren’t only helpful in Africa. I actually wear mine every day when I’m snowboarding in the mountains. It’s been one of my top travel accessory investments ever!
Skin cancer is for real! Don’t forget your SPF when traveling around Africa. We recommend ordering some online before leaving the house as you will need it underneath the sun in the summer.
We highly recommend getting an eco friendly sun cream that does not contain harmful chemicals.
Make sure to protect your eyes from the sun. There are a lot of options for sunglasses and everyone should own at least a pair. It’s best to make sure they do have UV protection for the health of your eyes.
We made our first investment in quality polarized sunglasses with a pair of SMITH Optics Lowdown 2. Truthfully, not everyone needs to invest $150 in a pair of sunglasses, but they do make a huge difference from the crappy $10 ones.
Most hotels will provide you with a towel, but they often aren’t suitable or allowed on the beaches. I like to travel with a microfiber towel because they are light and fold up small, and they also don’t cling on to sand our dirt. Here are a few of our favorite travel towels.
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