Planning a trip to Namibia? Here’s a list of the best things to do in Namibia to help you plan your own unforgettable adventure!
There are few, if any countries in the world we enjoying travelling through more than Namibia. This diverse country has some of the most breathtaking scenery, amazing wildlife and without doubt some of the most spectacular sunsets we have ever seen.
Imbi used to run overland tours through East and Southern Africa and between us we have been lucky enough to overland through Namibia multiple times. It is a country that never ceases to amaze us and there are always new places to discover and old favourites to return to. If you haven’t been yet, do yourself a favour and visit!
Here’s our list of the best things to do in Namibia:
1. Etosha National Park Safari
Located in northwestern Namibia, Etosha National Park is not to be missed! Home to 4 of the big 5 (all except the Cape Buffalo), the park is packed full of amazing wildlife making a visit to Etosha one of the best things to do in Namibia.
Etosha has two seasons and this has a big effect on conditions and the resulting wildlife viewing. The Dry Season (Winter) is May to October, whilst the Wet Season (Summer) is November to April. During the dry months game-viewing tends to be far easier as the wildlife is dependent on the waterholes. The abundant congregating animals and dry landscape make for some amazing photo opportunities. In contrast during the wet season the wildlife is far less dependent on the waterholes and the elephant tend to head up to the north east of the park. Wildlife is well-hidden in lush green vegetation, but for bird lovers the park comes alive with both resident and migratory species.
Look out for others lesser known highlights like the cute Kirk’s Dik Dik, ‘specially protected’ Black-faced Impala, mischievous Honey Badger and the elegant Eland, the biggest of the African antelopes. And, after all that wildlife spotting, what better way is there to bring in the sunset than beer in hand at one of the waterholes. As darkness falls, stay quiet and patient and wait to watch the animals come and drink their fill.
Tip: Okaukeujo rest camp waterhole is one of the best places in Africa to see the critically-endangered Black Rhino.
Read more: Etosha National Park
2. Drive through Damaraland
Is there a more magical place to drive through in Namibia? It’s the perfect place to get a little off track. Located in the Kunene Region in the north-west of the country, the semi-desert wilderness of Damaraland is spectacular. Stunning rock formations like Spitzkoppe, Brandberg and Vingerklip to name a few, means every road through this rough and rugged landscape is picturesque.
And it’s not all about the landscape. There’s some truly amazing flora and fauna here. Both plants and animals have adapted to survive in this arid environment. Keep and eye out for desert-adapted Desert Lions, Black Rhino, Elephants and Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra, along with cute little Rock Hyrax. As well as the fauna, the flora is equally well adapted. There’s endemic desert plants like Damara milk-bush, Euphorbia Virosa, the living fossil ‘Welwitschia’ and even a 260 million year old ‘petrified’ forest .
With a range of overnight options from luxury lodges to free-camping in the middle of nowhere, it’s well worth spending at least a few nights in this amazing area. If you can, get up to a lofty spot to enjoy those magical Namibian sunsets.
Read more: Damaraland and Skeleton Coast
3. Explore Swakopmund
Known as ‘Swakop’ for short, Swakopmund is not what you might expect. It’s Namibia’s adrenaline capital, packed full of German architecture squeezed in between the Atlantic Ocean and the Namib desert! This somewhat bizarre mix makes for a traveller hotspot and there’s loads of things to see and do. The thrill seekers passing through this little town, are drawn to the adrenaline fuelled activities like quad biking around the dunes, sand-boarding down them and skydiving for the best views over them and Swakop.
For nature lovers there’s plenty to discover. Multiple companies offer ‘Living Desert’ tours to find creatures like Palmato Gecko’s, Desert Chameleons and Sidewinder snakes. The nearby Walvis bay is home to Greater and Lesser Flamingo’s and offers dolphin spotting trips to try and find the endemic Haviside and Bottlenose Dolphins.
For those with their own vehicle, you can take the Welwitschia Scenic Drive, named after the aforementioned native Welwitschia plant. There are multiple points of interest including Moon Landscape viewpoint and the largest and oldest recorded Welwitschia plant in the country at 1500 years old.
Once you’ve packed in all those activities, relax in some of the great restaurants in town. But be warned, these are some of the biggest portions you’ll ever see (insert Chris’ happy face!)
4. Stop at the Cape Cross Seal Reserve on the Skeleton Coast
Head west to the Skeleton Coast and follow your nose to find the Cape Cross Seal Reserve. With approximately 100,000 Cape Fur seals, it’s one of the largest colonies of these animals in the world.
When to go? You can go year round, as both mothers and pups will return to the reserve throughout the year. But, from early November the massive males return from the waters to claim their territories. The females are ready to give birth from mid-November onwards. Within only a few of days of birth they can conceive again. So peak breeding season falls from late November through December. Pups are land bound until they are no longer dependent on their mothers milk, which is usually after 5-6 months. This makes visits from December to May a great time of year to see the pups.
Coinciding with this weaning period, keep an eye out for predators like the Black-backed Jackals and the elusive Brown Hyena (Strandwolf). When the mothers venture back into the sea to feed, their infants are left incredibly vulnerable and these opportunistic predators make the most of it.
5. Experience a Dune 45 Sunrise
We’ve been lucky enough to do this a few times and every time its been amazing. The dune is named Dune 45, simply because it’s located 45km from the Sesriem Gate. You’ll want to start the drive early to make it for sunrise. Not only for the spectacle, but to avoid the worst of the heat.
From the dunes base, the climb to it’s summit can take between 15-45 minutes, depending on your fitness levels. The ex-personal trainer in me loves the burn in the calves as you wade through the sand. But the effort is worth it. The 360° views are stunning and if you made it up for sunrise, you can watch nature put on a show as the surrounding dune light up around you as the sun rises. For a more solitary experience, push on to one of the neighbouring dunes and you’ll likely have it all to yourself. This is definitely one of the best things to do in Namibia!
Read more: Namib-Naukluft National Park
6. Explore Deadvlei
Deadvlei, the countries most popular attraction, is a clay pan that’s name literally translates to Dead Marsh. It was formed when the Tsauchab river flooded after heavy rainfall many years ago, creating a salt/clay pan. Shallow pools were formed which allowed Camel Thorn trees to grow. Over the years, the climate changed, drought dried everything up, dunes rolled in and around the pan, creating a ‘wall block’ to the river. But it did’t end there, two factors combined to make Deadvlei so unique. Firstly, the lack of moisture in the air meant the trees never decomposed and secondly the scorching sun dried the clay, effectively forming a concrete base to hold the dead trees in place.
The colours here are amazing and it’s these contrasting colours that make it so photogenic! With a white clay pan, black dead Camel Thorn trees, orange/red surrounding dunes and the blue sky above, it really is an eerily beautiful place. For us and many others, a visit to Deadvlei is the best thing to do in Namibia.
Tip: For the ultimate views head up ‘Big Daddy Dune.’ This 325m dune offers the highest view over Deadvlei.
Don’t miss: Namib-Naukluft National Park
7. Visit the Fish River Canyon
The stunning Fish River Canyon is another rough and rugged Namibian beauty. It’s actually the second largest canyon in the world, behind only the USA’s Grand Canyon. But, with a fraction of the visitor numbers, making this a truly unforgettable experience.
The canyon is vast, over 160km long, 27 kilometres across (at its widest point) and over 550m deep! The popular main viewpoint offers spectacular views over the canyon and the curved section of the Fish River (known as Hell’s Corner). Wander further along the canyons edge you’ll find more stunning views, which you’ll likely enjoy all to yourself.
For the more adventurous, there’s some awesome hike options; from day hikes to the mighty 4/5 day 85km Fish River Hiking Trail. For the equally adventurous, though less energetic, there’s helicopter flights offering unparalleled views that really show the massive scale of canyon.
8. Wander through Kolmanskop – Namibia’s ‘Ghost Town’
Visit the Namibian ghost town slowly being reclaimed by sand dunes of the Namib Desert. The once former rich diamond mining town was occupied by the Germans before being completely abandoned in the 1950’s. Now this desolate and eerie place, partly swallowed by the sand surely serves as a reminder that diamonds aren’t forever!
Note that you can’t visit Kolmanskop independently, you do have to join a guided tour. But don’t be put off, these tours are both informative and interesting. And best of all there’s loads of free time at the end to take as many photo’s as you want of the eerie surroundings.
Checkout: Lüderitz to Orange River
9. Head down the Lüderitz Peninsula
Base yourself in the Atlantic coastal town of Lüderitz. Full of German colonial and colourful architecture, the town itself warrants a little bit of exploring. Head up Diamond Hill to see the Felsenkirche (Rock Church) and views over Lüderitz and along the coast.
But make sure to a get little off track and get out of the town to see the natural beauty of the Lüderitz Peninsular. Start at Diaz Point and head up to the view point for Atlantic Ocean views. There’s a nearby Cape Fur Seal Colony, though not on the same scale of Cape Cross. Next stop, lookout over Halifax island and its colony of African Penguins. It’s not an up close experience like Boulders Bay, Cape Town, so you’ll need decent lens if you want to take photos. Finally, head to Big Bay (Grosse Bucht) to try find some Flamingo’s who feed here in its pools. Whilst driving around the Lüderitz Peninsular keep an eye out for the rarely seen Brown Hyena’s (Strandwolf) that roam around this remote area.
TIP: It can get very cold and windy on the peninsular so make sure you have some warm clothes.
Read more: Lüderitz to Orange River
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For more highlights of Namibia, ideas and experiences, checkout our Namibia blogs and guides HERE.