Given some of the distances involved, at least 12 days is needed to explore Namibia.
Three days in Windhoek to witness its architecture, food and nightlife.
Five days of water, sports, beaches and seafood at the Germanic coastal towns of Swakopmund, Walvis Bay and farther south, Lüderitz.
Four days in Etosha National Park, the world’s fourth-largest game reserve.
Five days at Fish River Canyon, the second biggest canyon in the world. The adventurous can walk the 85km trail.
Three days in the Namib Desert and on the misty Skeleton coast.
One day at Spitzkoppe, a 1,800-meter tall island mountain in the Erongo region.
Why You Should Go
What’s Cool: Safaris, quaint German architecture in Swakopmund, ember red sand dunes in the Namib Desert, exploring ghost towns on the Atlantic and the infamous and very foggy Skeleton coasts, the excellent beer and abundance of tasty meat.
What’s Not: Scorching desert heat, an HIV/AIDS rate that afflicts around 25 percent of the population, drink-driving, pick-pockets, the small number of bars, lack of options for vegetarians and the emphasis on race - a legacy of Namibia’s apartheid past.
When to Go
Namibia is a country of sunshine and cool desert nights. The winters, between May and September, are pleasant, sunny and warm although temperatures can drop below freezing at night in the desert. During the summer, from October to March, temperatures can reach 104°F (40°C), but it remains cool at night. This is generally the only time of year that sees rain, but with more than 300 days of sunshine a year, it never gets too wet. There are however two short rainy seasons which often see thunderstorms, between October and December, and again from mid-January to April.
Getting There & Away
Getting in and out of the country is easy enough; it’s getting around that’s hard. Direct flights are available from South Africa, England and Germany among other countries, with Windhoek being the usual port of disembarkation. Given the fairly long distances involved, the sparse population and wildlife in the way, driving in Namibia can be challenging, although many of the roads are sealed and of good quality. Travelers can hire taxis or share with others between towns and cities throughout the country.
Health & Safety
Hospitals and clinics are of a high standard in Namibia compared to much of the rest of Africa, meaning tourists should be well catered for in the event that things go wrong, but many parts of the country are remote and the desert is as unforgiving here as anywhere else. The high HIV/AIDS rate here is lower than some surrounding countries, but is still off the scale by European and North American standards. The country also has a high crime rate, spurred by huge unemployment levels, particularly among the ethnic African populations. Be careful on the roads at night as drink-driving is considered inconsequential here despite the obvious dangers which are further complicated by wildlife straying into the road.
Food & Hospitality
Namibian cuisine is a tasty hotchpotch of German and African meat, meaning that carnivores will enjoy the varied dining options on offer but vegetarians may feel a little left out. Along the coast, the seafood is fresh and reasonably priced, with rock lobster being a particular favorite. Windhoek remains the epicenter of Namibia’s nightlife, with an interesting yet limited collection of bars that often serve up good live music with their excellent beer. The coast, particularly Swakopmund, caters for tourists well. Namibia is generally a comfortable and efficiently-run destination that operates to western standards, offering accommodation for both backpackers and those with a lot of money to spend.
Windhoek: Namibia’s capital is located at the centre of the country at an elevation of 1,600 meters and features impressive colonial architecture and a soft spot for naming streets after dictators - Fidel Castro street and Robert Mugabe avenue anyone?
Swakopmund: Namibia’s premier seaside resort, with a colonial feel and a variety of water sports on offer.
Etosha National Park: a chance to view game in one of the world’s largest reserves, which surrounds the Etosha salt pan.
Lüderitz: a recently deserted old German colonial town, Lüderitz is now enjoying a renaissance despite the encroaching desert. Rock lobster is a local favorite here.
Sossuvlei and the Namib Desert: bright red sand dunes and cool, starry nights. In winter, it’s sometimes possible to see the curious sight of dunes covered in snow.
Fish River Canyon: long walking trails and the world’s second-largest canyon are among the major attractions in this sometimes unbearably hot part of the country.
Spitzkoppe: a rocky outcrop soaring nearly 1,800 meters.
Skeleton coast: offering misty mornings, few people make it to this ships’ graveyard, a spooky outpost of the Namib Desert.
Going on safari: see South African wildlife up close including springkok, wilderbeast, lions, zebras and rhinos - if they’ll let you.
Riding a camel: let a camel do all the hard work as you enjoy Namibia’s spectacular sand dunes.
Trekking: escape from your four-wheel drive and get out on a trail around Fish River Canyon and Spitzkoppe.
Sand boarding: high-speed boarding on Namibia’s stunning sand dunes is popular outside of the main coastal towns.
Hot-air ballooning: see the desert and the country’s green savannah from a bird’s eye view.
Partying: with names like Blitzreig Bunker Bar and Funky Lab, Windhoek is great place to go out and enjoy its excellent beer of the same name.
Relaxing: escape the danger of wild animals and hot deserts and relax at various up-and-coming destinations on the Atlantic coast.
Festivals & Events
Mainly Christian Namibia celebrates a number of holidays throughout the year. Here are the most memorable:
March: Namibia’s Independence Day is a public holiday and a major party, marking the end of South African rule.
August/September: the Kuska Carnival in Swakopmund is one of the country’s most colourful.
October: a German tradition, Ocktoberfest is an excuse to drink beer and remains very popular in towns and cities.
December: Christmas carols are sung by candlelight at coastal resorts including Swakopmund.