Namibia Travel Guide
Golden sand caressed carelessly by the voracious waves of the Atlantic Ocean is a one-of-a-kind sight that you can only appreciate once you are in Namibia. Welcome to Africa´s most beautiful landscapes reunited in only one country. Everything in this African paradise is awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping and mind-blowing. From the rolling sand dunes that meet the Atlantic, to the oldest desert in the world that’s bursting with hundreds of colors every time you pour sand; and the majestic dead tree valleys that could grace hundreds of National Geographic magazines. When you travel to Namibia you realise it is nature’s masterpiece and the power of it can be truly felt in some unique places like the ghost town that’s being swallowed by the desert and the skeleton coast which is a graveyard for shipwrecks.The sheer beauty of Namibia is so dramatic and often makes you wonder whether you were transported to another planet altogether.
What’s more? Namibia is a top destination for a road trip and camping. The overwhelming sounds of silence under the star-studded skies while you are camping on top of a car, the distant roaring of lions and the incredible landscapes you come across will be life-long memories.
Namibia is quite underrated in terms of the wildlife viewing, however, if you think of a typical African landscape, chances are you´ll find it here. From the endless golden sea of sand and forgotten treasures of the Kalahari dunes to the depths of Namib desert where you can find hardy desert lions, elephants, giraffes and cheetahs to one of the best national parks in Africa, the Etosha National Park, where you can see one of the greatest congregation of animals. The landscapes and the wildlife of Namibia changes drastically. Distances in Namibia are smaller in time than they are in diversity.
On your Namibia travel you will notice the landscapes and wildlife are as beautiful as the rich human history of brave tribesmen and women. The wisdom and customs of the oldest inhabitants of the world have outlived centuries of colonialism and oppression. Learn, be inspired and touched by the struggle of the Himba and the San, soulful people with an atrocious past. Namibia is naturally, effortlessly beautiful, like the smile of the people living in it.
The process to apply for Namibian visa is not easy and you will be required to provide all the documents, from confirmed plane tickets, itinerary, hotel bookings (you can just book hostel in Windhoek and Swakopmund and cancel it later), yellow fever vaccination, two visa forms and proof of funds.
Acquiring a visa to travel to Namibia is not as simple. The visa takes atleast two weeks to process and you will have to send the documents at the Namibian Consulate in Delhi.
The official language of Namibia is English, although very few people speak it outside of the tourist trail. There are about 30 different languages in Namibia and the most commonly spoken ones are Afrikaans, German (Namibia was once a German colony), Ovambo, and Herrero.
About 90% of Namibians are Christian and out of that figure, 50% are Lutheran.
The local currency is called the Namibian Dollar (NAD) and it is pegged to the South African Rand. SAR is also widely accepted. At the time of writing, $1 is worth 14.50 Namibian Dollars.
In the capital city there are plenty of ATMs. Credit cards are also widely accepted. However, outside the capital and other big towns, you will struggle to find any ATMs, and even petrol stations may only accept cash. Even though credit cards are accepted on most campsites, before you travel to Namibia, you must withdraw enough NAD for all the other necessities and unforeseen circumstances.
Is Namibia safe? The answer is yes, thanks to having the second lowest population density, political stability, and low crime rates makes Namibia one of the safest countries to travel in Africa. However, it is still recommended to remain cautious in big cities like Windhoek. Walking alone at night is not advisable.
Best time to visit
You can visit Namibia anytime but for the best wildlife viewing and weather, you should travel to Namibia in the winter season (dry season), which is from June to September. The summer season (October to January) can be extremely hot and rainy. Right after the wet season, from April to June is also a good time to travel to Namibia because the landscape transforms with greenery and flowers give beautiful colours to the desert.
Namibia is a very sparsely populated country and has very few big towns, hence expect to be without internet for the vast majority of the trip. Even in the towns of Swakopmund and Windhoek the internet speed is slow. Most car rentals come with a satellite phone, in case anything goes wrong. You must also carry a map with you and it’ll certainly come handy during your road trip.
There are only 2 providers, Mtc and Tn mobile. Mtc has much better coverage than Tn mobile, however if you travelling with few people, one should get Tn mobile because in certain places Tn Mobile works where Mtc doesn’t.
You can buy both Sim Cards at the airport. Prepared to pay a high price because data is expensive in the country.
The car rental service is quite developed and it is the preferred choice to travel around Namibia. A 4×4 is advised because although the roads are in superb condition, there are many times when you will have to drive on gravel roads (or even worse!) because some of the routes are yet to be developed. Namibia is also a top destination for camping and many companies offer a 4×4 with camping equipment (mostly tents on top of the car). A 4×4 camper is the way to go if you are travelling on a budget because accommodations are really expensive. Expect to pay around 1100 to 1500 NAD per day for a 4×4 camper depending on the season with a further 300 to 600 NAD per day for insurance.
Top Places to See in Namibia
The Etosha National Park is truly a hidden gem thanks to the dozens of exotic animals that flock to the watering holes. In fact, the wildlife and landscapes are as impressive as many of the top national parks around the world. Etosha supports a healthy number of lions, elephants, cheetahs, leopards, and even the endangered black rhinos. The dry season brings in one of the densest game viewing in the world as the animals congregate around the waterholes and opportunistic predators plan their attack.
Best time to visit
The best time to visit Etosha is in September and October, also known as the driest and the hottest months, as it is the perfect time for seeing wildlife gather around the waterhole. Make sure that you book in advance if you are travelling in that period. Also, it is worth noting that the temperatures are soaring high. November to April is the wet season, meaning that the wildlife is spread out and the predators are generally hidden in the vegetation.
National Park entrance and timings
The entrance fee for foreigners is NAD 80 per day for adults. Children under the age of 16 are free of charge. The fee for car is NAD 10 per day. The timings of the park depend on the sunrise and sunset. Make sure you check it at the gate and plan your drive around the park accordingly.
Where to stay
The best time to view wildlife is early in the morning, which is why I recommend staying inside the park. The range of accommodations available inside the park (anywhere from camping to chalets) is comparable to the ones outside the park.
Okakuejo is the most famous place to stay in Etosha. Although the accommodation and the campsite is not that great, the exceptional wildlife found around the area and one of the best waterholes in Etosha make it worthwhile. You can see animals almost 24/7 in the waterhole where elephants, black rhinos, hyenas, and even lions are frequently spotted.
The prices range from NAD 1200 per person for a double room to NAD 2500 per person for a premium waterhole chalet.
A night in the campsite costs NAD 350 per person.
Halali is the next best option for wildlife viewing. Like Okakuejo, Halali is close to many waterholes, including one that can be seen within the premises. Halali being close to the north is a great option to stay for those who want to explore other parts of Etosha. Most leopards are spotted in the region surrounding Halali as well.
The price ranges from NAD 1200 per person for a double room to NAD 1950 per person for a honeymoon suite (peak season). A campsite costs NAD 350 per person.
For those travelers who love to chase sunsets (or sunrises!) around the world, you can’t get a better view than at Namatoumi. This campsite is built into an old German fort and offers amazing panoramic views of Etosha. Namatoumi is the best option to stay for those who want to exit via the eastern gate.
The price ranges from NAD 1500 per person for a double room to NAD 1750 for a chalet. A campsite costs NAD 300 per person.
Best Sites to see wildlife
The best waterholes for great views of the wildlife are Ozonjuitji m’Bari, Okaukuejo, Chudob, Groot Okevi, Ombika, Gemsbokvlakte, Charitsaub and Rietfontein.
Salt Pan Viewing
This is the best place to get a great view of the vast and the stunning salt pan of Etosha. Once in blue moon the landscape transforms when a cloudbursts and flamingos in huge number migrate to Etosha for breeding.
How to get there
Etosha is easily accessible from Windhoek and it is the first stop on the road trip circuit for most people. Only 4 hours away from Windhoek, the roads are some of the best in Namibia. To cut the trip short you can have lunch at Outjo Bakery or see the Cheetah Conservancy in Otiwarango.
Etosha is one of the easiest national parks for self-driving because of the well-marked paths and the ease of spotting wildlife in and around the waterholes. Taking a guided tour is expensive because it costs NAD 650 per person and you cannot go at your own pace or to the locations you prefer. Hence, self-driving is the way to go.
Etosha is in the zone which is affected by malaria, so be sure to carry mosquito repellent spray.
All campsites have a local shop, restaurant, bar, and filling station. The food is basic and generally expensive. Make sure you carry enough food before entering Etosha. The restaurants and bars close by 10pm.
It is recommended to stay at least two days to truly experience Etosha and to give yourself enough chance to see the wildlife. Exploring different regions can be the key and therefore, plan to stay in two different campsites.
From the desert to the ocean, everything is within easy reach when you stay at Swakopmund. Adventurous travelers, take note: this town is quickly turning into a premier destination for adventure sports, as people from all around come here to try surfing, skydiving, and sandboarding to name a few. Some of the most iconic places to travel to in Namibia are also just a tour away. The town itself is very beautiful with German influenced streets, architecture, and offers a great view of the Atlantic Ocean.
How to get to Swakopmund
One of the destination you cannot miss out on when you travel to Namibia is Swakopmund. It is very well connected to other towns and is basically in the centre of the major attractions of Namibia. The journey from Windhoek is 3.5 hours, 5.5 hours from Sossusvlei, and 5 hours from Etosha. People doing the north circuit first come from Etosha to Swakopmund.
Places to stay
A favourite amongst backpackers that travel to Namibia, Swakopmund has a host of hostels that are all very much comparable to each other. Along with the hostels there are luxurious hotels, camping sites, guesthouses, and apartments all available in the town.
Salty Jackal Backpackers
Located in the centre and offering a range of activities and a cosy chilling area .A night in a dorm costs $15 without breakfast.
Desert Sand Boutique
The apartment is extremely nice and spacious, and the perfect place to split with your friends. Located in the centre, offers a delicious breakfast, and a range of activities.
Where to eat
The tug restaurant
Great place to enjoy the sunset over the Atlantic Ocean. One of the premier restaurants in the town, the food is delicious but quite expensive.
An Indian restaurant in the heart of the city.
An Italian restaurant with a delicious variety of pizzas. A great place for drinking with many choices of beer and a projector for sporting events.
Swakopmund offers a whole range of activities. The top ones are sandboarding, skydiving, paragliding, and ATV. The best company offering these tours is Namibia Desert Explorers. You can find the list and prices of all the different activities here.
You can also go surfing, kite surfing, and wind surfing by renting equipment from the Element Riders Surfshop.
There is also an option to take a scenic flight and look at some of stunning landscapes of Namibia from above. Most people find this experience to be one of the best, although prices are very steep. You can find different options and prices here.
Cape Seal Colony
One of the largest gatherings of Cape Fur Seals can be found in Namibia. The numbers of the seals can reach up to 50,000. Witnessing so many seals together is a fascinating and rare experience, and one not to be missed when you travel to Namibia. The colony can be found only one hour’s drive away from Swakopmund.
The entry costs 80 NAD per person and 10 NAD per vehicle. The gate is open from 8am to 5pm.
This tour takes you to a place which you may have only dreamt of and although the name sounds odd, Sandwich Harbour is an experience that you cannot afford to miss. The highest dunes in the world hide a treasure for those brave enough to reach the other side. The road to grasp your destination is made of dreams and fantasy and once you touch the highest point, you will not believe your eyes. The relentless desert suddenly dunes plunge straight into the ocean and is one of the most beautiful sight the planet has to offer.
Flamingos on a pink pond seem like a creation of your mind but it is only part of the decoration of this uncanny place on Earth. When the surreal becomes part of the sight you know you´ve made it to the right place.
Information about the trip
The price of the tour is NAD 1900 per person (minimum 3 passengers), which may seem steep, but is definitely worth it in the end.
If you are a vegetarian, tell them in advance and they will prepare food for you accordingly. The food is absolutely delicious and the best we had in our whole trip.
The tour starts at 10 am and finishes at 4 or 5pm. If you have a group you can contact the company and start earlier or later (not later than 11 though).
The company offers other tours in the region — you can see the prices and information here. <<LINK>>
If anyone tried to summarize the Skeleton Coast in two words, it would be “brutally beautiful”
One of the loneliest and remotest areas in the world, Skeleton Coast is not for the faint hearted: the treacherous coast is surrounded by high rise sand dunes and an eerie build-up of dense fog, caused by the cold currents from the Atlantic which has led to dozens of shipwrecks over the years. These ships can still be found rusting and being swallowed by the desert here. Few places on Earth expose nature´s wrath in a more honest way. You will truly feel desolation walking the windy beaches of this ship cemetery.
The phrase “land made in anger” applies to this desolate place and one can imagine that the fate of the crew members was sealed once the fog stranded them here. Seeing the Skeleton Coast is a hauntingly beautiful experience and an opportunity to feel the powers of nature.
Entrance to the Skeleton Coast National Park is either through Ugab Gate to the south or Springbokwasser to the east.
Ugabmund / entry 7:30-15:00; exit 7:30-19:00
Springbokwasser / entry 7:30-17:00; exit 7:30-19:00
Spitzkoppe is a beautiful mountain oasis and a perfect getaway, made up of distinctive peaks that jut up in different areas. The dramatic peaks are all that remain of a 700 million year old volcano. Spitzkoppe is a camper’s paradise and certainly one of the most beautiful campsite in Namibia. Nicknamed the “Matterhorn of Namibia” due to its distinctive shape, Spitzkoppe is a favourite for rock climbing and hiking. The immense number of stars that are visible in the night at Spitzkoppe is also a big draw that you cannot miss out when you travel to Namibia.
How to get here
Spitzkoppe is only a short detour away from the road to Etosha to Swakopmund or vice versa. It is situated 4.5 hours away from Etosha and just 2 hours away from Swakopmund.
One of the top campsites in Namibia with stunning views. Make sure you reach early to get a good location to set up your tent. The campsite is massive and hence you have a lot of space to yourself.
The campsite costs 170 NAD per person per night and if you are only visiting for the day you have to pay 60 NAD per person.
The campsite has guided tours including walks and mountain climbing, costing NAD 60 pp (2 hours) and NAD 300 pp (6-8 hours) respectively.
You can find more information about the campsite here. <<LINK>>
For those travelers who want to take beautiful and unique photos – this is a place that is truly not to be missed. Sossusvlei is otherworldly and jaw-droppingly beautiful. The never ending sun-baked dunes of different shades of red, orange, and pink are some of the highest and the most beautiful in the world. Namib Desert is the oldest desert and hence most of the dunes are very bright, as iron slowly oxidizes and gives the dunes of Sossusvlei their bright colour.
At first glance it may seem that the place has remained constant for ages, but even today the winds are changing the shape of the dunes and the sunlight is changing the colours.
Part of some of the oldest and driest ecosystems, the national park reaches it’s peak where the petrified trees have long been dead on a salt pan surrounded by orange hued dunes. The sight is totally spellbinding and will forever take a place in your heart.
How was the Deadvlei formed?
Many years ago, the Tsauchab River flooded into the area and created pools of water that were cut off from the river. The water led to the growth of camel thorn trees and other plants. Eventually some 1000 years back the climate dried up and there wasn’t even enough moisture left to decompose the trees. So their remnants can still be seen and will probably remain this way for a long time to come.
Dune 45– The dune is located 45 kilometers away from the gate and is one of the highlights of the trip. Dune 45 is certainly the most climbed and photographed dune in the world. This majestically shaped dune is a perfect point to see the sun, light up the desert oasis and the shadows give way to the stunning colors of the dunes.
You need to get up early and start your ascend by 6am in order to see the sunrise. Climbing Dune 45 is not easy and will take a tleast 15-30 minutes. Carry 2 litres of water with you. It is also important to note that staying inside the park is necessary because the gates of the national park only open after the sunrise.
Similar to DeadVlei, HiddenVlei is much smaller and less touristic. People often tend to skip it on their Namibia travel, but if you want uninterrupted photos of the petrified camel thorn trees than HiddenVlei is a great option.
Just 2 kilometers away from the entrance, Sesirem Canyon is a small but charming canyon. You can even go down and walk around the canyon.
Elim Dune is a stunning dune with bright orange colour and it is very close to the entrance. If Dune 45 is made for sunrises, Elim is made for sunsets. You get a panoramic view of the blue Naukluft Mountains fading in the distance, and the contrasting colours of the mountain, savannah, and the red dunes is a sight to remember.
Towering over the Deadvlei, Big Daddy is one of the highest dunes in the world. The view of the Deadvlei from the top is, as you can imagine, completely breathtaking.
The climb is very challenging and you must start early in the day when the sun is not so bright. Climbing can take one hour or more and hence having enough water is important.
Where to stay
Sesriem Rest camp
This campsite is not as impressive as the other ones in Namibia. However, if you want to climb Dune 45 to see the sunrise then you must stay inside the park. The only option available is Sesriem Campsite.
One night at the campsite costs NAD 400
Desert Quiver Camp
This property is within 10 minutes of the entrance. Located in the heart of the Namib Desert, Desert Quiver Camp has stunning views of the desert. One of the top rated places to stay in Sesriem.
How to get here
Sesriem is within 4.5 hours of the two major cities of Swakopmund and Sesriem.
Fish River Canyon
Although Fish River Canyon is the second largest canyon and certainly quite beautiful, the journey to get there is long and treacherous. Fish River Canyon also bleaks in comparison to other canyons in the world, such as the Grand Canyon. I recommend skipping Fish River Canyon if you have seen the Grand Canyon because you can spend more time in other places and there really is not much to do in this region other than seeing the canyon.
The campsite is located only 15 minutes away from the Canyon and is the best option to stay in the area. A night costs NAD 250 per person.
How to get here
Hobas campsite is 8 hours’ drive away from Lüderitz and about 7 hours’ drive from both Windhoek and Sesriem.
Another charming colonial town surrounded by the Namib Desert and the Atlantic Ocean. Although there is not much to do here, I highly recommend going to Lüderitz simply because of the stunning drive from Sesriem. Namib Desert never fails to amaze me, and somehow most of the sights you’ll see on the way are even more astonishing than Sossusvlei. All of the different colours and landscapes the desert throws at you are just sensational.
Where to stay
Being a small town, there are not too many options to stay.
Where to Eat
A lively restaurant with good food. Great for having drinks and watching sports.
Restaurant with a great view of the Atlantic Ocean. You can go here for a delicious breakfast feast and luscious milkshakes. Open for lunch and dinner as well.
Kolmanskopp is the reason why most people take the long route from other towns to come to Lüderitz. Only 20 minutes away from Lüderitz, Kolmanskopp was once a thriving town that is now solely left at the mercy of the Namib Desert. The town was founded in the 1900’s and was bustling for many years, with diamonds literally being found on the sand without any digging required. However, World War I and the discovery of another bigger mine slowly led to the downfall of this town. This town is a symbol of humankind’s greed, and especially of who came here for diamonds and left the town to rot in search of more diamonds.
Kolmanskopp had it all, from bowling alleys to casinos and even Africa’s first tramline. Now nature is claiming it all back, starting from bathtubs drowning in the sand and beautiful buildings getting buried in the heap, Kolmanskop is a photographer’s paradise and truly feels like the end of the world.
The moment you step a foot into the Kalahari Desert you will realize that you are not in a regular desert. The Kalahari is fossilized and covered with a huge, lush, green carpet as far as your eyes can see. The scarce vegetation is coupled with some of the most varied wildlife in the region. Beyond the astonishing natural beauty, you can experience firsthand the life of the San people, hunter-gatherers with stone-age technology who reign sovereign as they have for millenniums. Take a trip to the past and marvel at the natural harmony of habitat and humans working together. It is forever lost for us but they are the living proof of where we come from. Welcome to Bushmanland, where the real adventure starts.
What to do in Bushmanland
- Nyae Nyae Pan –The beautiful, natural salt pans fill-up with water from the rain season and attract all kinds of water birds. You can easily spot flamingos breeding, pygmies, pipers, geese and more. In total, you can spot forty-eight species when the water is full. In the dry season, it is normal to spot elephants and other big animals as well as black-back jackals patrolling the area in the 60cm-grass.
- Khaudum National Park – This important national park is a part of the Kalahari Desert and is surrounded by subterranean waterways that look like dry river beds from above but hold precious and clean underground water. You can´t drive yourself there but taking a 4WD and camping under the stars is a one-of-a-kind experience.
Elephants walking down dry river beds in the search for water, desert lions and other highly-adapted desert animals will welcome you to the harsh weather conditions of this beautifully unique landscape. When the scarce yellow bushes meet the orange rocky formations and contrast a beautiful blue sky nature will show you just how broad the color palette she paints with really is. Ancient stone carvings, a petrified forest, and critically endangered black rhinos are just some of the unique sights of the region. On your Namibia travel you need to experience one of Namibia´s last unofficial regions for wildlife-watching. This prehistoric landscape is the true heart of Africa, welcome to the wild, welcome to Damaraland.
What to do in Damaraland
- Twyfelfontein – UNESCO recognized the stone engravings of this valley a World Heritage Site and it really is quite something to see 6,000 years of culture with your own eyes.
- Vingerklip – The uncanny shape of this rock formation in the middle of the plain desert is a strange sight that will haunt you as it does with thousands of tourists every year.
- Damara Living Museum – Not far from the Twyfelfontein this living museum gives you the chance to experience the ancient Damara culture; a unique understanding you can´t have anywhere else in the world.
- Petrified Forest – Seeing some of the largest fallen trees you´ve ever seen turned into rock is truly a natural wonder. This petrified forest is a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience prehistoric times with the palm of your hand.
Angola and Namibia share a unique quality for the region: they have a natural river flowing as a border between the countries. There is even a waterfall you can visit! The arid landscape merges with green, riverside vegetation and baobab trees hosting nests and witnessing life give the final touch to a landscape that is as beautiful as it is unique. As unique as their home are the Himba people, semi-nomadic original inhabitants of the region. They cultivate a particular sense of beauty and dedicate much time and effort to self-image making the meeting a mind-blowing experience. Learn all about the life on Earth in ancient times and witness the natural harmony of humans, animals, and nature as you have never experienced before.
What to do in Kaokoland
- Epupa Falls – Lush green vegetation is the perfect frame for the meanders that lead to the Epupa Falls. Several water jumps surrounded by arid landscape are a unique scenario to go canoeing and river rafting.
- Kunene River – This is an all-year flowing river, which is a remarkable fact given the aridness of the area. You can go canoeing, rafting and spot crocodiles and many other species enjoying water just as much as you.
- Desert dwelling elephants – These highly-adapted animals walk for miles to find the water and food source that will allow them to keep living. You can follow them and experience the beauty of their pilgrimage.
- Meet the OvaHimba people – Women of these semi-nomadic tribes spend hours in self-grooming and accessorizing with a mix of red ochre, butterfat, and aromatic resin, as well as little stones and shells. They are truly and naturally beautiful.
Namibia Travel Itinerary
When you travel to Namibia, although you can see the highlights of Namibia in 10 days, you should certainly try to spend at least two weeks in the country so that you can truly enjoy the journey and stay longer in Swakopmund to see highlights like Skeleton Coast and do some adventure activities and spend ample time in Sosussvlei to explore the stunning dunes of Namib Desert.
If you plan to travel and see the other attractions in Namibia like Damaraland, Kokoland and Bushmanland you need to spend atleast three weeks in Namibia.
The ideal itinieary
1 day in Windhoek
3 days in Etosha
1 day in Spitzkoppe
3 days in Swakopmund
2 days in Sossusvlei
1 day in Klein-Aus-Vista
1 day in Ludertiz
1 day in Kalahari.
If you plan to travel and see the other regions of Namibia you should spend 4 days in Damaraland, 3 days in Kokoland and 3 days in Bushmanland.
How to get to Namibia
Namibia’s main airport is Hosea Kutako International Airport (WDH) located 40km/25mi east of Windhoek. Air Namibia is the international airlines of the country and has services only to Frankfurt outside Africa. The airlines runs daily flights to the neighbouring countries of Botswana and South Africa (Johannesburg). The city of Johannesburg has several flights all around the world and it’s likely that you will either have a layover in Frankfurt or Johannesburg depending on where you are flying from.
You can check a list of countries Air Namibia is connected to before you travel to Namibia.
Flights from India will generally have two layovers- one in Dubai and one in Johannesburg and should cost around 50-70k.