Planning a trip to Namibia but don't know where to start? Check out this Namibia adventure travel guide! Having explored Namibia recently for over two weeks by 4x4 jeep with a roof tent, we can help you decide where and when to go, what to do, how to get around, where to stay, and what to pack.
This Namibia destination guide also includes personal recommendations with useful links that will save you both time and money!
Located in the southwest of Africa, Namibia borders Angola to the north, Zambia to the northeast, Botswana to the east, South Africa to the south, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. Largely covered by the Namib Desert, it is one of the driest countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Home to diverse wildlife and unique landscapes, Namibia is gaining popularity among travelers. Besides the desert landscapes, Namibia is also home to mountains, canyons, and savannas. Visit this unique country to find unspoiled nature that will leave you speechless.
Watch our video below to get inspired by the beauty of Namibia!
Namibia Quick Facts
With a population of roughly 2.5 million (2019) and an average of 3.13 people per square kilometer, Namibia is the second least densely populated country in the world (Mongolia being number 1).
The 'Republic of Namibia' was named after the Namib Desert, which is also the oldest desert in the world with over 55 million years of existence!
The largest population of free-roaming cheetahs can be found here, so you better keep an eye out!
Namibia contains one of the largest concentrations of rock art in Africa thanks to the bushmen who resided in this area for thousands of years.
Given the dense fog and intense storms along the Skeleton Coast, this area is the world’s largest graveyard for sailors and ship.
Sossusvlei & the Namib-Naukluft National Park
Namibia's most iconic and impressive landmark is undoubtedly Sossusvlei. This large, white, salt and clay pan is located in the Namib-Naukluft National Park and is surrounded by some of the world's highest sand dunes, reaching almost 400 meters. The sand dunes are a melting pot of yellow, orange, brown, and red colors that change in the morning and evening light. It is a true photographer's dream!
Sossusvlei is an all-year-round destination thanks to its harsh desert conditions. In spite of this, there are a variety of plants and animals that have adapted to the climate. Watch out for oryx, the national animal of Namibia.
There are many other attractions near Sossusvlei in the Namib-Nakluft National Park. These can be accessed by the tarred road that takes you to Sossusvlei.
Other highlights include:
Deadvlei (right next to Sossusvlei)
Big Daddy Dune (the highest sand dune in the area)
Dune 45 (perfect at sunrise)
Elim Dune (perfect at sunset)
Hidden Gem: Elim Dune
This hidden gem is a high and isolated dune located 5 km (3.1 mi) past the Sesriem gate and camping sites. Walk up this spectacular dune before sunset and observe the evening sun that colors the dunes red. Enjoy panoramic views of the valley and mountains in the distance.
View from the top of the Big Daddy dune
Rather a region than a single tourist attraction, Damaraland is located in the northcentral part of Namibia. It is home to the Damara people and unique but harsh landscapes that are formed by bouldered mountains and arid valleys. Drive through Damaraland and make several stops along the way to breathe in this unique landscape and culture.
The tallest mountain, Brandberg, can be found here in addition to a large concentration of rock engravings, a petrified forest, the Living Museum, an interesting rock formation (Vingerklip), and free-roaming wildlife such as desert elephants and lions. The absolute highlights of the area are Spitzkoppe and the UNESCO World Heritage Site Twyfelfontein. Here you can find Namibia's finest rock engravings, explaining an interesting history.
Hidden Gem: Spitzkoppe
Often referred to as the "Matterhorn of Namibia", Spitzkoppe is an impressive granite peak of 1,728 meters (5669 ft). The area is a hikers' and rock climbers' paradise with multiple routes and rocks to climb or hike up. If interested in history, there are also guided walks to rock art sites.
Highlights include the rock paintings of Bushmen's paradise cave, the rock arch, the currently dry rock pools, and the awe-inspiring sunset over the plains.
Sunset at Spitzkoppe
Etosha National Park
Etosha National Park is the must-see game reserve in Namibia. The name Etosha literally means "great white area" and refers to its large salt pan, considered the biggest in Africa. However, the main draw for travelers is the abundance of wildlife that you can find here. The park is home to 114 large and small mammal species including giraffes, elephants, zebras, rhinos, lions, cheetahs, leopards, hyenas, among others.
Etosha National Park has a total surface of 22,270 km², making it one of the largest parks in Africa. The park can be accessed through multiple gates.
Elephants at the waterhole near Namutoni Camp
Swakopmund, Walvis Bay & the Skeleton Coast
The Namibian Coast is a unique sight because here the Namib Desert touches the Atlantic Ocean. Endless sandy beaches, sand dunes, riverbeds, and canyons dominate most of the area. There is nothing more than the noises of waves crashing and the small gusts of wind. Visit Cape Cross and see thousands of stinky seals, discover the shipwrecks scattered along the coast, or look for some free-roaming coastal lions.
If you are in search of a little more action, go to the vibrant ocean towns Swakopmund and Walvis Bay. Both towns are considered the adventure capital of Namibia, offering a range of outdoor activities. Go quad biking or sandboarding in the sand dunes, or go on a boat tour and watch dolphins and whales. Find more adventurous activities in Swakopmund and Walvis Bay here.
Approximately 30 km (18.6 mi) away from Swakopmund, the Desert Moon Valley is something you have never seen before. This lunar landscape is formed by eroded hills and valleys, where millions of years ago the Swakop River would flow through.
The desert dunes near Swakopmund
Fish River Canyon
The second-largest canyon in the world after the Grand Canyon in the USA, Fish River Canyon is a must-see destination. Located in the south near the border with South Africa, this natural wonder is quite out of the direction of Namibia's other highlights mentioned. The Canyon belongs to the Ais-Ais Richterveld Transfrontier Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site characterized by unique rock formations, many succulents, exotic trees, and a shimmering sky.
Visit the world-class Hell's Bend viewpoint at the Hobas Restcamp and go for a hike around and into the canyon. The day hikes don't go into the canyon, but the well-known Fish River Canyon Trail does. With its 85 km (52.8 mi) in length, it takes approximately 4 to 5 days to complete. Pre-registration is required and the trail is only accessible from April through September.
Fish River Canyon Viewpoint
TOP THINGS TO DO
Hiking the best trails
In spite of the harsh and dry climate, Nambia offers exceptional hiking opportunities. From simple day hikes in the desert dunes to multiple day hikes for the experienced hiker. Find here the best hiking destinations in Namibia.
Waterberg Wilderness Plateau Hike
A short hike along a rocky trail (2 hours total) brings you to the summit of the Waterberg Plateau. Being 150m above the plains, the views of the Kalahari savannah are rewarding. A guide is required, who will explain about the various plants and animals and give you an insight into the culture of the Herero people living in the area.
It is technically possible to climb any of the sand dunes in the Sossusvlei area. However, don't get fooled by the distance. Even though the dunes neither seem far nor high, the deep sand and boiling heat make it a physical challenge! Our favorite trails include Elim Dune at sunset, Dune 45 at sunrise, and the highest dune in the area: the Big Daddy Dune!
Hiking in the world's second-largest canyon is a unique experience! This 85 km (52.8 mi) trail is full of magnificent landscapes, breathtaking vistas, unforgettable sunsets, and an abundance of wildlife. Pre-bookings and hiking experience are required, and the number of hikers per day is limited. Find more information here.
This day-hike in the Namib Naukluft National Park is only 10km (6.2 mi) long which takes about 4-5 hours to complete. The trail itself is rated as moderate but does require some courage as there are pool chains to cross. These are especially scary when the water level is low and the cliff-face becomes steep. Make sure to register at the office first!
Another interesting day-hike in Namib Naukluft Park is the Waterkloof Trail. This 17km (10.5 mi) trail takes 6 to 8 hours to complete and winds through the Naukluft Mountains. You will find small creeks, stunning mountain vistas, and various natural pools along the way which are perfect for swimming! Don't forget to register at the office before heading off.
This 3 day-hike goes through the NamibRand Nature Reserve, which is probably one of the most stunning parts of the Namib Desert. The red sand and mountains surrounding are what make this trail very scenic. This is a guided hike (starts at the Tok Tokkie Farmhouse), and suitable for kids and honeymooners.
On top of Waterberg Plateau, Waterberg Wilderness Plateau Hike
Road trip across Namibia
With its ever-changing and scenic landscapes, Namibia is the perfect road trip destination. Home to deep canyons, untouched mountains, the enormous Namib Desert, free-roaming wildlife, and a rugged coastline, it has some of the most spectacular scenery in all of Africa.
To truly experience what the country has to offer, you need to travel around. And, believe us, there is no better way than discovering this unknown and mysterious place by a 4x4 vehicle. The gravel roads can get wild and bumpy, so you need a proper vehicle. We rented a 4x4 jeep with roof tent for camping, which is a common way of exploring the country. The roof tent allows for more flexibility and adventure while saving on budget. Learn more about renting a 4x4 jeep with roof tent here.
Once you are on the road, you will soon realize how long the distances are. Nearly every first-time visitor underestimates the distance between Namibia's highlights. The fact that not much is happening along the way makes it very exhausting. It is important to plan out your route carefully so you take enough time at each destination.
Certain destinations are quite far out of the direction of the other highlights, such as the Fish River Canyon in the far south and Caprivi in the far northeast of Namibia. Reaching those unique places requires at least a few extra days of travel.
The majority of Namibia's roads are dusty and unpaved
Safaris & Wildlife
Around 19% of Namibia's land is protected within official National Parks and Game Reserves, making Namibia an excellent wildlife and safari destination. Among the most popular ones belong Etosha National Park, the Namib Naukluft Park, and Waterberg Plateau Park.
Etosha National Park is by far the best-known and most significant game reserve. Covering a large area and a variety of landscapes, you can find almost any animal here, including endangered species like the black and white rhinoceros, the cheetah and leopard.
The Namib Naukluft Park is an even more extensive area and home to many of Namibia's highlights, such as Sossusvlei, the Naukluft Mountains, and Sandwich Harbour. The area is inhabited by leopards, cheetahs, zebras, oryxes, giraffes, spring bucks, and many more.
Waterberg Plateau is known for its rhino drives and walks. In addition, there are buffalos, giraffes, roan antelopes, baboons, Damara dik-diks, and a variety of reptiles!
Other National Parks include:
Daan Viljoen Park
Dorob National Park
Kaudom National Park
Kwando Core Area
Mahango National Park
Mamili National Park
Mudumu National Park
Even though the National Parks in the northeast are lesser-known, they have unique wildlife viewing opportunities. Buffalo Park, Kaudom NP, Kwando Core Area, Mahango NP, Mamili NP, and Madumu NP are home to crocodiles, hippos, wild African dogs, and rare antelope species.
With wide-open and starry skies, Namibia is an astronomer's paradise. Ideal stargazing conditions are created by the absence of light pollution, a low population density, and almost no air pollution.
One of the best locations for stargazing is the Gamsberg, 135 km (95 mi) away from Windhoek. It is Namibia's largest table mountain and considered one of the best stargazing venues in the southern hemisphere. Here you can find the International Amateur Observatory (IAS), accessible to hobby astronomers who can make use of the 70 cm telescope for observations and photography. Alternatively, the IAS runs another observatory about 20 km (12.4 mi) away, at a place called the Guestfarm Hakos.
Nevertheless, you can stargaze at many other places in Namibia. If you find yourself in the middle of nowhere, like in Spitzkoppe or Twyfelfontein, you will enjoy a luminous night sky.
Spotting lions on a safari
WHEN TO GO
The best times to travel to Namibia
With over 300 sunny days per year, Namibia is one of the sunniest countries in the world. Add to that the year-round warm weather, Namibia can be visited at any time of the year. However, Namibia has a dry and wet season, affecting travel in different ways.
The Dry Season
The dry season is from July to October. At this time of the year, the days are warm and sunny with an average between 20°C to 25°C during the day and little chance of rain. This is the best time to view wildlife as the drought brings most animals to the waterholes.
However, this is also the busiest travel season, so prices may increase and the attractions and parks may become very crowded. If you are planning to travel during July and August, you will need to BOOK YOUR ACCOMMODATION WELL IN ADVANCE.
Additionally, the desert climate during these months is harsh, with temperatures dropping below 0°C at night. The dryness may become uncomfortable, so make sure to bring moisturizing creams and lip balm.
The Coast and extreme North experience a slightly different dry season. Whilst the Coast is cooler and foggier with temperatures averaging 16°C during the winter, the North is more humid and hotter.
The Wet Season
The wet season is from November to June. At this time, the days are hot with occasional rain and thunderstorms. The temperature generally lies between 25°C and 35°C. Especially the south and north of the country experience intense heat. It is still considered to be a good time to view wildlife, even though some animals might be harder to spot due to the heat and more water in the area.
This is the low season for tourists, which means that you will have a lot more space. You may even find yourself alone at campsites and certain attractions. There is no need to plan in advance, allowing for more flexible travel plans.
The desert nights are pleasant and perfect for camping. However, the day temperature may reach 40°C in some cases. Even during this time, there is little to no rain. Some desert areas haven't seen rain in 5 years.
The North experiences heavy rains and thunderstorms, forming a lush green landscape in contrast with the rest of the country. The Coast remains foggy and has warmer days with an average of 20°C.
The easiest way to get around the Namibia is by renting your own vehicle. Public transportation only connects the main cities, like Windhoek and Swakopmund.
Since the Namibian roads are often unpaved and rough, it is highly recommended that you rent a 4×4 vehicle. We drove a 4x4 jeep with a roof tent, which was a great car for offroading and navigating the Namibian gravel roads. Some parks and roads don't even allow a 2WD vehicle.
4x4 Car Rentals
Renting a 4x4 jeep or SUV in Namibia is not a daunting task. There are many car hire companies in the main cities like Windhoek and Swakopmund. Most of the rental cars are white Toyota Hilux trucks with roof tents and camping equipment. The roof tents are easy to put together and take down, and the perfect choice for the budget traveler.
Recommended 4x4 car rental companies with great customer service:
Our recommendation is to book early, especially if you are traveling during the high season! Expect to pay at least US$500 per week for the car rental (excluding insurance). The longer the rental the cheaper the daily rate becomes and additional services are added, such as free pick-up and drop-off at the airport.
4x4 jeep with roof tent
PLACES TO STAY
Namibia has accommodation options that suit every budget: from the high-end lodges to the budget campsites. Accommodation can be found in any tourist destination, whether it is in the middle of the desert or a national park.
Camping in Namibia
By far the cheapest places to stay in Namibia are the campsites. You can find campsites all across the country which offer basic to more advanced facilities. While basic facilities include a barbecue, hot water, showers, and toilets, the more luxurious campsites have a bar, restaurant, shop and even a pool at times. Find a map with all the campsites in Namibia here.
The campsites usually cost between US$15-30 per person per night. In the high season, it is essential that you BOOK IN ADVANCE. Especially the campsites near Namibia's highlights sell out quickly. During the low season, on the other hand, there is no need to pre-book. You will even find yourself alone at some campsites!
Camping in Namibia is not only cheap but also a very unique experience. You will feel truly connected to the nature and wildlife surrounding you. We rented the 4x4 with the roof tent, which is perfect for camping, as it was easy to set up and break down. Also, you are safe from wild animals and insects as you're sleeping on top of the car.
Most budget accommodation options are found in the main cities, like Windhoek, Swakopmund and Walvis Bay. Here, you can find B&B's, hostels, hotels, and guest farms. Check out airbnb.com or booking.com to find the best deals.
Unfortunately, it is harder to find cheap accommodation near the major tourist destinations, such as Sossusvlei or Twyfelfontein.
We stayed at a luxury AirBnB in Walvis Bay for a fairly cheap price (US$30 per person). This was by far the nicest place we had ever stayed at for such a price. As such, we would recommend combining camping in remote destinations with staying in budget accommodations in the cities. Because, to be honest, it does feel nice after a few nights of camping to sleep in a soft bed!
Torra Bay Campsite along the Skeleton Coast
GEAR AND PACKING LIST
First things first, make sure to download our free Namibia Bucket List to check off all your amazing adventures on the road as you go.
Thanks to Namibia's year-round pleasant weather, preparing for a trip is relatively easy. You are free to wear whatever you want, whether you like shorts or covering yourself. The locals are dressed in both Western-style clothing as well as traditional tribal dresses (sometimes covering very little of their body).
In the wet season, both days and nights are warm. So make sure to pack mostly loose clothing and don't forget your swimming gear. Also, pack at least one sweater and a pair of long trousers for the cooler evenings. If camping, you will need to bring or rent a sleeping bag if it is not included in the car rental. Don't forget your rain jacket, especially if traveling to the north!
Bear in mind that Namibia is very dusty, hence don't bring clothing that you don't want to get dirty. Also, try to leave expensive jewelry at home. Occasional crime does happen, and you don't want to make yourself an easy target.
One of the perks of renting a 4x4 jeep with roof tent is the fact that it includes camping equipment. This camping equipment typically includes:
Camping table and chairs
Complete kitchen set (with cutlery, plates, mugs, water kettle, etc)
Gas cooker with gas bottle
Dust-free storage box
Fridge/freezer to store food and drinks
Dishwashing basin with dish towels and sponges
Finally, make sure to bring sunglasses, a hat, and sunscreen to protect yourself from the strong sun rays, as well as an insect repellent. Especially in the north, there are many insects and also at times malaria!
If you are planning to go on safaris, don't forget to bring binoculars and a camera with zoom lens! We used the Canon EOS 80D with EF-S 18-135mm zoom lens, which is a great mid-range camera ideal for wildlife photography!
1 day in Windhoek
2 days in Sossusvlei
2 days in Walvis Bay & Swakopmund
2 days Spitzkoppe
2 days at Waterberg Plateau
2 days in Twyfelfontein
3 days in Etosha National Park
2 days driving along the Skeleton Coast
3 or more days at Fish River Canyon (difficult to get there)
3 days at Kaokoveld
at least 5 days if you want to explore the far north (Caprivi area)