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Namibia Country Guide

From sand dunes to sky safaris, everything you need to know

With its vast sweeping landscapes, incredibly photogenic locations and excellent wildlife, it can be hard to know where to start planning for a trip to Namibia but that’s why we’re here to help! Our Namibia country guide takes you from the bottom to the top and everywhere in between, helping you to plan the perfect trip for you. Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie looking for thrills in Swakopmund or if you’re on the lookout for desert-adapted animals in Damaraland we’ve got you covered. Read on and get started on planning your own adventure.

Sossusvlei and NamibRand Nature Reserve

The area most people imagine when they think of Namibia, Sossusvlei, draws attention almost like nowhere else. Those eerie, scorched trees surrounded by cracked white earth and the towering blood-red sand dunes, that’s all to be found right here. There’s no two ways about it, Sossusvlei is incredibly popular and we’d be lying if we said it wasn’t where most travellers in Namibia head to. Early mornings are the name of the game here in order to try and get into the park and get your photos of those jaw-dropping vistas before everyone else arrives. But like we always say, popular spots are popular for a reason and whilst you might not have it all to yourself, you won’t regret visiting this incredible place. And if you are travelling to Sossusvlei, you really do have to tack on a trip to NamibRand. At 200,000 hectares in size, it’s one of the biggest private reserves in Southern Africa, meaning that you’ll often feel like you’re the only ones there. You might even spot a mythical fairy circle or two if you’re lucky. It’s safe to say that these two areas look like nowhere else on earth and their handy placement next to each other makes them perfect to pair together.

How do I do it?

Windhoek is a great place to start many trips to Namibia (and if you are starting here and have some time to spare, have a read of our 24 hours in Windhoek guide for some ideas on how to pass the time) and the most popular way to get to Sossusvlei is to hire a car and drive the scenic five hour route. If you’re short on time you can fly but bear in mind that they are charter flights so you’ll need to factor the extra spend into your budget. One of the benefits to driving is of course the freedom it gives you to explore on your own and make your own way across to the NamibRand Nature Reserve. Windhoek isn’t short of great places to stay, some of our favourites include Olive Grove, Zannier Omaanda and Habitas Namibia. In Sossusvlei, you’ll find yourself spoilt for choice, have a read of this to find out some of our favourite places to stay in the area. If you’re spending a night or two in the NamibRand we love Wolwedans Boulders Camp or for those adventurous few, the Tok Tokkie Trails.

Where do I start?

Namibia is the perfect country for a road trip and it probably won’t be the last time we mention it! Few other places lend themselves to a self-driving trip – imagine vast open roads, huge skies and unbeatable landscapes, it more than lives up to the hype. Our classic Namibian self-drive journey is an excellent place to start, taking you first down to Sossusvlei (of course adding NamibRand as we’ve already insisted you must!) before taking you on a tour of some of Namibia’s greatest destinations.

Sossusvlei
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Etosha

Etosha is the sort of destination spoken about in reverent tones by those who visit, with incredible wildlife spotting opportunities around every corner. You might immediately think of Kenya, Tanzania or South Africa when you’re planning a safari but Namibia truly shouldn’t be overlooked. With a shimmering salt pan the size of Holland the landscape is already a sight to behold but visit in dry season and you’ll also see collections of animals akin to something you’ll have seen in the Lion King as they gather around the few water sources available. It’s a photographer’s dream as huge numbers of wildlife travel from far and wide including elephant, lion, giraffe, zebra, honey badgers, warthog, jackal and many more, all congregating in vast numbers. And wet season isn’t to be overlooked either, as the rains come they transform the dry salt pan into a sparkling lagoon and the arid land into a green oasis. It’s forever one of our Namibia highlights.

How do I do it?

As with most spots in Namibia, the most cost effective way to reach Etosha is via road. Approximately 6 hours from Windhoek, once again we always love the road trips as they give you an idea of the sheer scale and beauty of the country. There are also two airstrips near the park which you can charter flights to, in case you’re adverse to long journeys and not short on cash! Etosha has a great selection of lodges suiting a range of different budgets. Andersson’s at Ongava, Little Ongava and Mushara Bush Camp are some of our favourite places to rest our heads after a long day on safari.

Where do I start?

As we’ve already made clear, we do love a Namibia road trip but the country is also absolutely spectacular from the air. Why not visit some of our favourite hotspots with our classic Namibia by plane trip combining the wonder of Etosha with Sossusvlei, Swakopmund and Damaraland, whilst also marvelling at the out-of-this-world landscapes from the sky.

Etosha
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Skeleton Coast and Damaraland

If your bucket list includes somewhere utterly remote with a good dose of epic wildlife and astounding scenery, then the Skeleton Coast National Park is the place for you. Indeed the name is likely derived from the many whale bones you’ll spot and the remains of ships that found themselves at the mercy of Namibia’s wild shores. Whilst this 500km long stretch of coastline can seem arid and unforgiving, there’s an incredible beauty to it that just yearns to be explored. In what might seem an uninhabitable environment, you’ll find plants and animals that have not only learned to survive the harsh conditions but thrive in them. Watching elephant, giraffe, hyena, oryx and many more creatures as they stroll across this derelict landscape is always a wonder. Neighbouring Damaraland is a place of unspoiled and wild beauty and is the perfect pairing to the Skeleton Coast. Here you’ll find, in our humble opinion, one of the most scenic areas of the whole country – and the best part? Tourism is very limited so you’ll often feel as though you have this spectacular landscape all to yourself. Petrified trees dot the mountainous landscape and ancient murals cover the rock faces, reminding you of the indigenous tribes of the region and the footsteps that have walked before yours. If all that weren’t enough, again you’ll find amazing herds of desert-adapted animals including the incredible black rhino, ostrich and springbok.

How do I do it?

Damaraland is much like other regions of Namibia in that it is best navigated by car (all the better for taking your time to just gaze at the incredible scenery) and it’s easily done. We would recommend starting your trip in Windhoek and breaking the drive up with stops at either Erongo or Otjiwarongo (to give you a hiatus but also because they’re beautiful stops to make along the way!). There’s no shortage of fabulous lodges to enjoy (with options for all budgets!) in Damaraland some of our favourites include Mowani Mountain Camp, Sorris Sorris Lodge, Camp Onduli and Grootberg Lodge. Now Skeleton Coast is a little bit trickier… ok that’s an understatement, it is known for being a pretty tough spot to reach but not impossible. Where there’s a will there’s a way! If budget allows, then absolutely the easiest way to reach the coast is to fly by charter flight to Mowe Bay. But if you’re on a budget it is also possible to make your way to Mowe Bay from Damaraland. Once you’re there, your lodge will help arrange your transfer making everything as easy as possible. Shipwreck lodge sets you right in the heart of the action And Hoanib Valley Camp and Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp place you a bit further back to enjoy an inland adventure. Fear not, if you are on a budget and still desperate to see the coast, Terrace Bay is for you!

Where do I start?

Our Safaris, dunes & shipwrecks is the perfect start if you’re looking to explore this wild area leading you from Etosha to Damaraland and the Skeleton Coast, then down to Swakopmund and NamibRand to finish! And of course you might have heard of the famous Schoeman flying safari, a spectacular adventure giving you an unbeatable view from the sky of this incredible stretch of coastline.

Skeleton Coast
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Swakopmund and Erongo

If adventure is what you’re looking for in Namibia then Swakopmund is the place for you. Try your hand at sandboarding as you zip down the dunes of the Namib. Similar to snowboarding except you can enjoy it under the warmth of the African sun! You might have tried out quad biking on an open road or maybe through a field but have you ever tested your skills in the desert? In Swakopmund you can put your four-wheeled skills to the test on the sand dunes and see how you fair! Don’t worry adrenaline junkies, there’s something for you as well, specifically hurling yourself out of a plane as you skydive over the desert town. Swakopmund itself has deep German roots and the feeling of Gemütlichkeit (warmth, geniality and hospitality) is impossible to ignore. This city is the capital of the larger region known as Erongo, which we urge you to explore if you are in the area. Whilst you’ll find an undulating landscape of gently rolling hills, and a light smattering of lush, green woodland, the real drawcard is the Erongo Mountain Range. Humongous 60 million year old boulders rise up to 2300 metres and really have to be seen to be believed!

How do I do it? 

Getting to Swakopmund is a piece of cake compared to some areas of Namibia! If your interest is specifically in this area, you can fly into Walvis Bay, a 40 minute drive to the city. If you want to include it as part of a road trip, it’s also easily accessible and actually a great stopover if you’re driving from Windhoek to Sossusvlei. To explore the Erongo region it’s as simple as hopping in a car and taking yourself on adventure as you gaze in awe at the otherworldly landscapes. In Swakopmund, we love the beachside Strand Hotel or the secluded luxury of Pelican Point and for stopovers in Erongo, the Spitzkoppen Lodge and the Erongo Wilderness Lodge get our vote!

Where do I start?

You’ll find Swakopmund features in many of our popular itineraries but to truly make the most of the area, we particularly love our Self-driving circuit of northern Namibia. This classic trip not only takes in Swakopmund and Erongo but will also ensure you see the wonders of Damaraland, Etosha and Otjiwarongo too.

Erongo
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Kaokoland

Located in the far north corner of Namibia, bordering Angola, you’ll find the epic region of Kaokoland. Arguably one of southern Africa’s least explored locations, you’ll be able to take it in almost entirely by yourself, truly appreciating the landscape without being surrounded by the hordes of tourists you might find elsewhere. It’s a region of extremes, the north is much like other areas of Namibia, showcasing everything from arid deserts to looming mountain ranges but the south feels like another world entirely. Here you’ll find a true desert oasis, so baffling you might feel as though you’ve stumbled upon a mirage! The Kenune river cuts through the desolate desert and as a result finds itself surrounded by tall grasses and lush palms. Nile crocodiles can even be spotted here! Kaokoland is also inhabited by the Himba, an indigenous people recognisable by their unique hair adornments and their ochre pigmented skin. The Himba live a traditional way of life, resisting many modern advancements but it is possible for visits to meet with the tribes to understand more about their way of life.

How do I do it? 

Due to its remoteness, Kaokoland can be a bit tricky to get to and most visitors will travel by chartered flight where they will then be met by their lodge. Perched on the banks of the Kenune river, we love the Serra Cafema Camp for elegant isolation, it’s a place to truly switch off and take in the epic surrounding scenery. Whilst hard to access, the Okahirongo River Camp is absolutely worth your time with its dramatic vistas and luxurious minimalist design.

Where do I start?

Our Hidden gems of Namibia trip will take you on a whistlestop tour through some of our favourite areas in the country beginning with Etosha, Damaraland and the Skeleton Coast, before making its grand finale in remote Kaokoland.

Kaokoland
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Caprivi

By this point you might start to think Namibia is only arid desert (beautiful desert though!) but Caprivi is truly unlike anywhere else in this mystifying country. The area is often known as the Caprivi strip or finger as it’s narrow length reaches all the way out, almost touching Victoria Falls and as a result is bordered by Botswana, Zambia and Angola. Unlike much of Namibia, Caprivi benefits from its proximity to the Zambezi and Kwando rivers, providing it with a lush microclimate and making it home to all sorts of wildlife, flora and fauna. We’re not exaggerating when we say this area is unique in a largely arid country, here you’ll find crashing waterfalls and flowing rapids – because of this you’ll find an array of water-seeking creatures from hippo to crocs! It’s certainly one of the more unusual areas of this country and one we absolutely think deserves further exploration!

How do I do it? 

Air Namibia runs scheduled flights from Windhoek and once there you’ll find it a very drivable area. There are plenty of spots to stay in Caprivi, we particularly love the stilted Chobe Water Villas, the floating wonder that is the Chobe Princess and the safari-style of Nambwa Tented Lodge.

Where do I start?

Due to its proximity to so many other spots, it’s unsurprising that Caprivi lends itself to being paired with other locations, especially Botswana and Victoria Falls. Have a go at creating your own adventure with our trip builder and if you’re not sure, remember our expert consultants are always on hand to help!

Caprivi
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