Namibia itineraries & maps
Make the most of your time
Any vacation to Namibia will inevitably involve many hours of traveling through its famed empty landscapes. Fortunately, the roads are well maintained, and those who prefer to travel independently will realise this is one of the best destinations in Africa for self-drive safaris - as there is an abundance of hire cars, well-marked routes and clear road maps. Fly-in safaris also allow you to make the most of your time - while discovering Namibia from a wonderfully different perspective.
Here are three of our top Namibia itineraries, incorporating our favourite highlights. Click on the map points below for more information about each location.
AfriCat began as a rescue centre for big cats found on Namibian farmland, transporting them and releasing them in safer areas. It is now a sanctuary for carnivores which have been orphaned, or which are not fit to be returned to the wild. Visitors can tour the education centre, track radio collared cats, and take night walks to look for porcupines and other strange nocturnal creatures. Income from tourism supports research and education.
Though the town itself is tiny, it lies in a key area for flora and fauna. Aus is mainly known for the wild horses which can be seen in nearby Garub, but it is also the crosspoint of three unique habitats, meaning that 500 plant species can be found here. These include rare succulents, which can provide stunning floral displays following rains.
The Brandberg massif includes Namibia's highest peak at 2,573m, and the mountain attracts hikers, climbers and campers. It is also renowned for a strange rock painting known as the White Lady - now widely regarded to be a man. To make the most of your visit, combine it with a trip to Windhoek's State Museum, which has an exhibition on rock art.
Cross Cape Seal Reserve
Up to 100,000 Cape fur seals inhabit this raucous colony year-round, and visitors can enter the reserve daily to observe - and smell - the seals, along with the odd stalking jackal. Enormous bull seals weigh up to 360kg, while tiny pups are born in November-December. Cape Cross is named after the stone cross erected here by the Portuguese explorer Diego Cão in 1486. Two replicas mark the site today.
Desert elephants and rhinos
Tracking black rhino on foot is absolutely thrilling; the rarity of seeing them in their natural habitat makes it even more special and fees support rangers and research. Desert-adapted elephants cover vast distances daily in search of water on their extra large feet, which help them walk across the sand. Expert guides know how to track them and lucky visitors will be able to watch a herd at close range.
Etosha National Park
Etosha translates roughly as 'Great White Place', thanks to the enormous Etosha Pan, a salt-crusted, dry lakebed that dominates the 22,900km2 national park. The 144 mammal species that live here include lions, elephants, black and white rhinos, and the endemic black-faced impala. During the dry season, these species jostle for space around the few remaining waterholes, creating a game-viewing spectacle quite unlike any other.
Fish River Canyon
Fish Fiver Canyon rips a 160 km-long scar through the parched plains of Namibia's south. Over half a kilometre deep in places, the world's second largest canyon can be trekked on foot or mule back over four or five days, sleeping under the stars each night. There are no facilities in the canyon, and it can only be hiked from May-October, when weather conditions are favourable.
Himba village tours introduce you to this semi-nomadic community as they go about their daily life. Paint your skin with ochre and ash; waft yourself with a deodorising smoke; see goats being milked; and step inside the privacy of a Himba hut for an experience as far removed from your daily life as you can get. You can contribute further by purchasing jewellery and other souvenirs at the end of your tour.
Legend has it that diamonds could once be scooped up by the handful in Kolmanskop. In its 1920s heyday it boasted of ice and lemonade factories, a swimming pool, the region's first x-ray machine and a theatre. Now it is one of the world's most famous - and photogenic - ghost towns. Dunes have all but covered the decaying architecture; doors hang off hinges and shuttered windows throw ripples of light across the sand.
This fantastically remote, German-style town is one of Namibia's most surreal spots - as well as being the leaping off point for penguin and seal tours, and day trips to Kolmanskop. Kite surfing and windsurfing can also be enjoyed here, while the less adventurous might prefer an oyster tour or a lesson in Luderitz's past at the town's museum.
Quiver Tree Forest
Visit this odd-looking "forest" at dawn or dusk for the best photography opportunities. The trees are said to have been named after their lightweight branches, which were crafted into hollow arrows by the San. The nearby Giant's Playground - a labyrinthine scattering of huge boulders - is also worth exploring while in the area.
The iconic dunes of Sossusvlei are some of the world's most towering. Hike the crest of Dune 45 or the even taller Big Daddy for a view over the vast sand sea, descend into Dead Vlei with its cracked white surface and centuries-old camelthorn tree skeletons, and let the sun, shadow and sand inspire you to get creative with your camera.
Namibia's adventure capital is the base for activities such as dune boarding, skydiving, and camel riding. The town itself is small and quaint, with German-inspired architecture and bakeries, excellent seafood and lively nightlife (by Namibian standards!) during local vacation periods. If you have a free day, we highly recommend taking a tour of Mondesa, the nearby township, with a local guide for a lesson in Namibia's history and culture.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site comprises one of the largest collections of rock art in southern Africa. Over 2000 engravings and paintings cover the red cliffs and boulders. The engravings, mainly based on animals and their tracks, are believed to be depictions of the spirit world - as well as being visual tools used to educate young tribe members.
Boat tours - including seal, dolphin and whale watching - depart from Walvis Bay. Nearby Sandwich Harbour is a key birding area, with flamingos, pelicans and other waders. Kayaking, kite surfing and windsurfing are also offered here.
This reserve protects several species, including the endangered white rhino, introduced after conservation efforts in the 1980s. Breeding colonies of several endangered species have been established here and a "vulture restaurant" feeds Namibia's last remaining colony of Cape vultures. The Cheetah Conservation Fund is based nearby - a conservation, research and education centre where visitors can learn about cheetahs.
10 days: North
Windhoek ► Brandberg ► Twyfelfontein ► Rhino Tracking ► Himba village ► Etosha ► ► AfriCat, Okonjima ► Windhoek
10 days: South
Windhoek ► Quiver Tree Forest ► Fish River Canyon ► Aus ► Luderitz ► Kolmanskop ► Sossusvlei ► Swakopmund ► Windhoek
14 days: Dunes & wildlife
Windhoek ► Sossusvlei ► Swakopmund ► Walvis Bay ► Cape Cross ► Brandberg ► Twyfelfontein ► Himba village ► Etosha ► Waterberg & CCF ► Windhoek
Driving times in Namibia
The following times give you a rough idea of the driving times between the main attractions in Namibia. Driving after dark is not recommended on most routes because of the risk of colliding with wildlife.
- Etosha-Damaraland: 4 hours
- Windhoek-Swakopmund: 4.5 hours
- Windhoek-Sossusvlei: 5 hours
- Swakopmund-Sossusvlei: 5 hours
- Swakopmund-Damaraland: 6 hours
- Windhoek-Etosha: 6 hours
- Windhoek-Fish River Canyon: 8 hours
- Windhoek-Luderitz: 13 hours