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Best things to do & places to stay:

Last updated: 03 December, 2022
Expert travel writer: Richard Holmes

Agoraphobes take note; Namibia is probably not for you. But if you love wildlife and wide-open spaces, pristine landscapes and towns in a time warp, then this quiet corner of southern Africa should be top of your list.

You won’t need more than a night in Windhoek, the capital city, and from there the country is your sandy seductive oyster: south to the ancient dunes of Sossusvlei, west to the quirky seaside town Swakopmund, or north to the game-rich plains of Etosha and verdant rivers of the Zambezi region.

It’s wild, welcoming and one of the most affordable destinations in Africa.

Orientation

Namibia is a land of harsh extremes, from the ancient dunes of the Namib Desert in the west, to rocky Kaokoland and the ochre sands of the eastern Kalahari. In the north the Zambezi region (formerly the Caprivi Strip) offers some respite with wide rivers and lush grasslands.

The country’s main staging points are as follows:

Windhoek

Namibia’s capital city, in the centre of the country, offers few charms, and most visitors simply pass through en route to the deserts and game reserves further afield. If you have time to spare in the city, visit the Independence Memorial Museum to discover the country’s difficult road to independence.

Swakopmund

Blending eye-catching Lutheran architecture with a firm reputation as Namibia’s adventure capital, this charming seaside town offers an array of desert and ocean activities, alongside an excellent selection of restaurants and boutique hotels. The town is well connected by rail, road and domestic flights.

Etosha National Park

One of Africa’s most famous game reserves, Etosha conserves 22,750km sq – larger than Wales – of savannah and woodland habitat to offer remarkable game viewing, that’s easily accessible for self-drive visitors. Summer rains transform the central Etosha saltpan into a vast shallow lake that attracts flocks of migrant birds.

Sossusvlei

The towering sand dunes of the Namib-Naukluft National Park are a highlight of any trip to Namibia, and are best discovered at Sossusvlei. Here you’ll also find the enigmatic Dead Vlei, with desiccated trees dating back nearly 1000 years. Hot-air balloon trips offer the best views of this ancient landscape.

Skeleton Coast

In a land known for harsh landscapes, the Skeleton Coast raises the bar. Stretching along 500-kilomtres of Namibia’s northern coastline, this desolate national park offers enigmatic landscapes and remarkable wildlife sightings. Only a handful of lodges operate here, ensuring you’ll have the wilderness (almost) to yourself.

The bucket list experiences our writer says you must do in this destination

Sand dunes of Sossusvlei

Namib-Naukluft National Park, Erongo Region, Namibia

An otherworldly landscape of towering ochre dunes in an ancient desert. Climb Big Daddy for eye-watering views of a sandy sea stretching away to the Atlantic.

Best for ages: 13+ | Free | 1-4 hours

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Skeleton Coast National Park

Kunene Region, Namibia

This deserted corner of north-western Namibia hides myriad charms beneath a façade of sun-baked desolation. An enigmatic landscape of lonely beaches and shifting sands.

Best for ages: 13+ | £200

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Other worthwhile experiences in this destination if you have the time or the interest

A large group of seals looking at the camera at Cape cross
Experience

Cape Cross Seal Colony

Cape Cross, Erongo Region, Namibia

One of the largest seal colonies in the world, Cape Cross is a worthwhile day out from Swakopmund, and the lonely 200km round-trip offers fantastic sea and desert panoramas.

Best for ages: 4+ | Free | 1 day

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The green gold course at Roosmund
Experience

Desert golf at Rossmund

Swakopmund, Erongo Region, Namibia

Set in the dry Swakop River, with the Namib Desert as a backdrop, the Rossmund Golf Resort offers an 18-hole par-72 layout with striking views, grassy fairways and wildlife to keep players on their toes.

Best for ages: 8+ | £12 | 2+ hours

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an aerial shot of the landscape of the canyon
Experience

Fish River Canyon

Ai-Ais Richtersveld Transfrontier Park, Karas Region, Namibia

The world’s second-largest canyon is a dramatic natural wonder in the south of the country. Tackle the 5-day, 85-kilometre hiking trail, or admire the canyon from viewpoints near Hobas.

Best for ages: 18+ | Free

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Hilton Skybar
Experience

Hilton Skybar

Windhoek, Khomas Region, Namibia

The rooftop Skybar at the Hilton Windhoek is the city’s finest sundowner spot, with glorious views and a particularly impressive gin menu, with a collection of Namibian craft gins infused with local botanicals.

Best for ages: 18+ | Free | 1-2 hours

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Our selection of the best Viator tours of this destination, plus helpful tickets and transfers

10 Namibia Adventures

10 Namibia Adventures

Windhoek

Start your safari in Windhoek. Travel to the southern part of Namibia where you be staying in the Namib Desert , visit the Sesriem canyon an...

€1,420 | Rating 5 / 5 [10 ratings]

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10-Day Namibia Hightlights Guided Tour from Windhoek

10-Day Namibia Hightlights Guided Tour from Windhoek

Windhoek

See the top Namibian attractions on this accommodated guided tour: the Namib Desert, Solitaire, Sossusvlei (the 'Sea of Sand' UNESCO World H...

$3,110 | Rating 4.95 / 5 [60 ratings]

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Tour supplied by:

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11 Day Namibia Experience Fully Accommodated Tour

11 Day Namibia Experience Fully Accommodated Tour

Windhoek

This safari has a fully accommodated itinerary with a selection of lodges and guest houses. It is designed to give you some of the very high...

$3,540 | Rating 5 / 5 [13 ratings]

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12 Day Classic Namibia Camping Safari

12 Day Classic Namibia Camping Safari

Windhoek

This 12 day tour is the perfect overview of Namibia’s highlights. Enjoy sightings of wildlife at the Okonjima Nature Reserve and Etosha Nati...

Z39,600 | Rating 5 / 5 [31 ratings]

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Our writer’s picks of the best places to stay in this destination

Shipwreck Lodge

Skeleton Coast National Park, Kunene Region, Namibia

A remarkable lodge on the Skeleton Coast, offering unique access to one of the most remote corners of Namibia.

Official star rating:

Namutoni Camp

Etosha National Park, Oshikoto Region, Namibia

In the shadow of a century-old Germanic fort, history and wilderness combine at this popular rest camp in the east of Etosha National Park.

Official star rating:

Hotel Heinitzburg

Windhoek, Khomas Region, Namibia

Windhoek’s most elegant luxury hotel, with fine dining and spectacular city views.

Official star rating:

Okonjima Lodge

Okonjima Nature Reserve, Otjozondjupa Region, Namibia

Luxurious safari-style suites on a pioneering conservation reserve; the best place for big cat encounters.

Official star rating:

When to go

With its relative lack of rainfall (except for the sub-tropical northeast), Namibia’s dry climate makes it an excellent year-round destination. April and May are particularly pleasant months, with mild temperatures and lovely scenery after the ‘rainy’ season.

In the coastal deserts, temperatures can soar into the 40s during summer (December to February) and plummet close to freezing in winter (June to August). Spring (September to October) offers the best game viewing in Etosha. Popular tourist areas – particularly on the coast – can get extremely crowded during the Christmas and Easter holidays.

Getting there and away

While direct flights connect Namibia with Germany and Qatar, most travellers arrive via South Africa, which is served by a host of airlines from the USA, Europe and Asia. From Johannesburg and Cape Town a number of regional carriers fly the two-hour leg to Windhoek’s Hosea Kutako International Airport, situated 40km outside the capital. Regional flights to Walvis Bay are also available.

Getting around

Namibia is best explored as a self-drive destination, as limited public transport only runs between major centres. Car hire agencies are plentiful, and the country’s extensive road network (much of it gravel; drive carefully) is generally well maintained. However, distances between fuel stations can be long, so fill up regularly.

Small aircraft charters are widely available, and a popular option especially for reaching remote lodges. If you’re travelling from Windhoek to Swakopmund, take the overnight Desert Express train there (and back again) for a bucket list experience in itself.

The tourist areas of Windhoek, Swakopmund and Luderitz can easily be explored on foot once you are there.

Our writer’s recommended itineraries for this destination

Other guides relevant to this destination