There are many more things to do in Namibia than one would expect. This southern Africa country is incredibly vast, yet it marks as the second less densely populated country in the world, dominated as it is by the desert. Needless to say, the landscape is beautiful and one of the best ways to visit Namibia is on an overland trip that goes to both the north and the south of the country.
An overland tour of Namibia provides the opportunity to discover the best nature, wildlife and culture that the country has to offer. I went on a 2 weeks overland Namibia safari with Wild Dog Safaris and it was a memorable experience. I fell in love with this incredibly underrated African country, and I wish to visit it again soon.
This post highlights some of the unmissable attractions and things to do. Keep in mind this list is not exhaustive, as I have only spent 15 days in the country and didn’t get to see some of the places to visit in Namibia such as the Caprivi Strip. Also, hint: it’s possible to enjoy all of them while on an overland safari.
35 Simply Unmissable Things To Do In Namibia
Do An Overland Safari
Doing an overland Namibia safari is a great way to get to know the country, to see its amazing landscape, to meet other like minded travelers and to live plenty of adventures. I did one with and it was a fantastic experience that I wholeheartedly recommend. I actually went camping in Namibia (read more about my experience camping in Namibia here).
Take A Cheeky Photo At The Tropic of Capricorn
Ok, this really isn’t a must at all. But while there, why not? Just take a cheeky photo under the sign that marks the Tropic of the Capricorn. I had done this years ago during my first trip to Argentina, so I didn’t want to miss out while on my Namibia safari.
Enjoy A Sunset Game Drive In The Kalahari
There’s nothing quite like a good game drive. I did a few while in Botswana and sure enough I jumped at the chance of doing one in the Kalahari. In fact, a sunset game drive in the Kalahari is a must. My game drive started at Bagatelle Kalahari Game Ranch, and during that I could admire several species including kudus, impalas, oryxes, jackals and ostriches. The views of the desert at sunset were beautiful (and the fact I was enjoying a glass of wine had nothing to do with it, I promise!).
Be Mesmerized By The Desert Sky
The best places in the world to look at the stars are all in the desert. I learned this when visiting Atacama, in Chile. With so much of its surface covered by desert of semi-desert, with no clouds ever obstructing the view and little to no light to disturb it, it is a must to admire the stars.
On my very first night of my Namibia safari, which I spent camping in the Kalahari, I was speechless as I admired the moon rise in the sky and then completely illuminating the deserta round me. The starts never looked so bright.
Brace Up Against The Cold Night In The Desert
Speaking of desert, be prepared against the cold. My first night camping in the Kalahari was mostly sleepless. I honestly thought I was going to freeze in my tent as it was so cold (the temperatures got down do 0 degrees Celsius in the middle of the night). I wasn’t properly geared for the cold that night, I surely had underestimated the weather. After that first night, I successfully devised several ways to keep the cold away at night.
Check out my post on what to wear in Africa for a full packing list and detailed tips on what to carry.
Visit A Mesosaurus Fossil Site
One of the most interesting places to visit in Namibia is the Mesosaurus Fossil Site right outside Keetsmanshoop. The best part of it is that the man who takes visitors around, explaining enthusiastically what each fossil used to be and the various research project and excavations in the area, is the same person that, as a child, actually found the first fossils in the area.
Admire The Quiver Trees
Quiver trees are one of the most unique sights in Africa. To be fair, they are not trees at all: they are a type of aloe that dot the landscape of Namibia and that, for as common as they are here, are one of the world’s rarest flora species.
Photograph Classic Cars In The Desert
Who doesn’t love vintage cars? I have seen many of them when I visited Cuba, but this is not the only country in the world where old Ford and vintage Chevrolets, as well as vintage motorbikes complete with side cars can be admired. Classic cars are scattered around the desert in Namibia. I saw many in the desert near Mariental.
Cause A Traffic Jam (Or not)
Much like with the photo of the Tropic of the Capricorn sign, one almost stereotypical photo to take in Namibia is while sitting or standing in the middle of the road, with absolutely nothing or nobody around. I know, it has been seen many times before. Yet I could not resist the temptation of sitting down to see how little traffic this country gets.
Explore The Fish River Canyon
Exploring the Fish River Canyon, or at least admiring it from above, where the views are simply astonishing, is a must. This is supposed to be the second largest canyon in the world after the Grand Canyon, measuring 170 km in length, 27 km in width and almost 500 meters at its deepest. There are many hiking trails around the area.
Luderitz almost feels like it doesn’t belong to Namibia. This lovely small coastal city would look more in place in Bavaria, for its colonial style buildings are right in style with those of a traditional German town. The city is right in the middle of the desert, and faces the ocean – be prepared for some splendid sunset views. The surrounding areas are wonderful to explore (more about this later) and it is a great place to gorge on delicious seafood.
Make sure to read my complete guide to Luderitz.
See The Other Side Of Luderitz At Its Township
Namibia used to be part of South Africa until 1990. This means one obvious thing: apartheid was a thing here too. One way to discover a bit more about the troubled past of this incredible country is by visiting one of the townships that are scattered around the country. The one in Luderitz is a good one for this purpose.
Get Up To Diaz Point
Diaz Point is at about 18 km from Luderitz and it makes for a nice visit during a tour of Luderitz Peninsula. The wooden causeway isn’t exactly in good shape, yet walking all the way to the top is fairly easy and once there, the views of the Atlantic Ocean and of the marine life (it’s possible to spot seals) incredible.
See The Pink Flamingoes In Luderitz Peninsula
During a Namibia safari there’s many chances to admire wildlife. Not far from the city of Luderitz, pink flamingoes can be found. They are a common sight for me, as there’s many of them in Sardinia. What’s unique in this case is that it is possible to get quite close to take incredible photos – though keep in mind that making a lot of noise or walking up to them too quickly will make them fly away.
Wander Around The Ghost Town Of Kolmanskop
I have a passion for abandoned cities. After visiting Chernobyl when it was covered in snow, I was definitely keen to explore Namibia’s ghost town, Kolmanskop. Located at a mere 10 km from Luderitz, the city was founded at the beginning of the 20th century, when diamonds were found in the area, and later on abandoned when it was no longer profitable to extract them. Since then, the desert took over the city, which however remains well preserved.
Kolmanskop can be visited every day, on guided tours that last around 1 hour (but visitors can stay as long as they want for photos and to explore the area on their own), from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm.
See The Wild Namib Desert Horses
The fact that horses can live and thrive in the desert gives a good idea of how much these animals can adapt to the environment. There’s around 150 horses that live, divided in small groups, in the desert of Namibia, supposedly descending from the animals that were abandoned by the Germans after World War I. They can be easily spotted on an overland Namibia safari while driving from Luderitz towards Sesriem.
Take In All The Desert Views
I guess this should come as a given, since most of the landscape in Namibia is arid. Just make sure to be aware of this when planning a trip to the country.
Here are some great tour options for the Namib Desert:
Admire The Sunset From Sesriem Dunes
Speaking of desert, Sesriem is one of the nicest places to visit in Namibia, and any good Namibia safari should go there. One of the nicest things to do in Namibia is walking up the dunes in Sesriem to admire the sunset. It is a rather sandy experience, and walking on the sand can be quite tiring, but it is worth the effort: the light is simply splendid.
Admire Sunrise From Dune 45 In Sossusvlei
There’s nothing quite like seeing the sunrise in the desert. Among the most incredible things to do in Namibia there’s walking all the way up Dune 45 in Sossusvlei to take in the beautiful light of sunrise. Keep in mind that the access point to Sossusvlei is Sesriem Campsite, whose gates are opened for non-guests at sunrise – keeping in mind that it is a 45 minutes drive to get there, those who are keen on seeing sunrise from the dunes should consider spending the night at the camp for privileged access to the area.
Hike Up Big Daddy Or Big Mama
While Dune 45 is the most popular one to hike in Sossusvlei, other dunes are equally beautiful and even more challenging. Big Daddy, with its 325 meters, is the highest one in the area. Another challenging one is Big Mama, located nearby.
Do Not Bag Up Desert Sand
I have yet to understand what the deal is with bagging sand from around the world and taking it home. Tourists do it in Sardinia all the time, and get fined when caught (sand is protected here). Besides, what do people do with it once they are back from their travels? I have seen several tourists do it in Sossusvlei, although this is a highly protected area and a UNESCO site and bagging sand is forbidden.
Check out other ways to be a more ethical tourist on my post The Complete Guide To Becoming A More Responsible Traveler.
Walk Around A Dead Trees Forest In Deadvlei
The most iconic images of Namibia are probably those of the seemingly petrified trees of Deadvlei. Located at around 6 km from Sossusvlei, these trees are not petrified at all. Indeed, they are simply dead – they have been so for 900 years. The combination of hot and dry air is such that they do not decompose. The contrasting colors of the black tree trunks, bright orange sand and the intense blue sky are such that this is an incredible place to walk around and take photos.
Hike Around Sesriem Canyon
Sesriem Canyon isn’t as majestic as the Fish River Canyon, but it’s a nice place to spend a couple of hours when in the area, and a good location from where to admire sunset.
Visit The Africat Foundation At Okonjima
Feline lovers should mark down Africat, in Okonjima. This used to be a cattle farm that regularly lost calves to leopards. It was created in 1991 with the intention to rescue the many large carnivores that had been trapped by other farmers. Since 1993, 1080 predators have been rescued, with 85% of them being released back into the wild.
Since 2010, Africat and the Okonjima Nature Reserve are used as environmental education and research center, and as a rehabilitation center for captive carnivores. There is a campsite on the ground where it is fantastic to spend a night or more, as well as many hiking and mountain biking trails and plenty of activities to make it one of the nicest places to visit in Namibia.
Admire All The Wildlife In Etosha National Park
Speaking of wildlife, Etosha National Park is a must stop on any overland Namibia safari. The park is vast, and there’s plenty of opportunities to see animals. On a lucky day, it is possible to spot various antelopes, zebras and giraffes, elephants, lions, hyenas, cheetahs (I was lucky to see one with 3 cubs), ostriches and even rhinos.
Walk Up To Okaukuejo Waterhole In The Middle Of The Night
If visiting Etosha is one of the unmissable things to do in Namibia, so should be walking up to the Okaukuejo Waterhole. Sunrise and sunsets are great times to see animals drinking or bathing at the waterhole, but even the middle of the night is a great time to do so. I walked up at around 4:00 am, all bundled up in my warm clothes (other visitors carried their sleeping bags there) and with my flask of hot coffee and listened to the lions call. It was incredibly peaceful and truly enjoyable!
Visit A Traditional Himba Village
To be completely honest, I am not sure that visiting a traditional Himba village should be one of the things to do in Namibia. Sure enough, learning about the traditional way of life of this indigenous group is interesting. These people have managed to survive to date with very little water. They are famous for putting red clay on their skin and hair, to protect from the sun and pest, and their traditional source of income is animal (usually cows, but also goats and sheep) farming.
But for as interesting as this traditional way of life is, I am always a bit wary about the spectacularization of an entire group of people, especially when this relies on money coming from tourism in order to survive and the traditional economic means are no longer viable to survive.
Is it worth preserving at all costs a culture that appears to be dying out, or changing? One of the biggest points of my research on culture and cultural identity in the years I worked in academia is that culture is ever changing, and not a fixed thing, and that just because a group embraces modernity it doesn’t mean that its traditional culture has died. I guess the point I am trying to make is that yes, the Himba villages are some of the places to visit in Namibia – but when going, ask yourself a few questions.
Make sure to read my posts 13 Ways To Help The Himba People And Culture In Namibia and Everything You Should Know Before Visiting The Himba Tribe In Namibia.
Eat The Best Apple Pie In Solitaire
Lovers of pie, beware! On the way from Sesriem to Wolvis Bay there’s Solitaire, nothing more than a settlement, really. What’s important about it, and what makes stopping here a must, is that there is a vintage general store and petrol station, with plenty of classic cars ready to be photographed, and a bakery that makes the most delicious apple pie in the continent. It’s a pleasant place to stop, stretch the legs and refuel on gas and energy.
Admire The Highest Mountain In Namibia
With its 2573 meters, the Brandeberg is the highest mountain in Namibia and a fantastic sight when driving through Damaraland on a Namibia safari. Known as the Fire Mountain, hiking it is super fun. There are many trails going to the top, but as they are quite hard it is better to hire a guide to get there.
Discover The Rock Engravings At Twyfelfontein
One of the nicest places to visit in Namibia is the Twyfelfontein rock engravings that date back to around 6000 years ago. It is thought that the engravings are the work of hunter gatherers that used to live in the region. The site is UNESCO protected since 2007.
Enjoy The Sunset In Damaraland
Sunsets in Namibia are stunning – I have said this before. The ones in Damaraland are unmissable. Climb up the rock formations that can be found in Damaraland, a drink at hand, and enjoy the view as the sun goes down. The crips air, the silence, the light make it a memorable experience.
Visit Cape Cross Seal Colony
Visiting the seal colony of Cape Cross is one of the things to do in Namibia. There’s around 100000 seals that live in the colony, and watching them getting in and out of the water and fight for their territory is definitely fun. These animals are very vocal, so expect it to be noisy. And make sure to take a scarf or something to put around your nose: the smell is overwhelming!
Although visiting the Cape Cross colony is a must when in Namibia, there are a few things to keep in mind when doing that. This post by How Dare She helps bring clarity to the issue, but let me sum it up here for as much as I can. This is a very large breeding colony, and when the pups are born the population goes as high as 210000 seals.
Namibia is one of the very few countries (actually, just 2 at the moment: the rest have finally changed their ways) in the world that is still infamous for culling the seals. Though the seals are free to move, come and go as they please, and they are not fed or enticed in any way to stay in the reserve, every year around 80000 seal pups are clubbed to death. According to the Namibian authorities, this is done for the purpose of “sustainable seal harvesting.”
Most countries have come to terms with the fact that they can no longer argue that killing seals has a positive impact on fish stocks and that there’s a need to control the population of seals. They can no longer hide that there is nothing responsible in this practice and that the harsh reality is that they make a lot of money from the seal pelts and oils that they (illegally) export to the rest of the world.
So, with all this in mind, why would visiting a seal colony be one of the things to do in Namibia? For the simple fact that it is a way to get to know about the issue, and to convince the local government that there is a great monetary value in protecting the seals for tourism purposes.
Drive Along The Skeleton Coast
Any good Namibia safari goes along the Skeleton Coast. Shipwrecks are scattered along the coast, giving it its name. What’s most impressive is that here, the sand dunes get all the way to the Ocean. This is the only area of the country where the sun doesn’t shine all day and the air isn’t terribly dry: in fact, it can be quite hazy!
Swakopmund is a small city located on the Atlantic coast and a fantastic place for any adventure sports lover. There’s plenty of things to do – sand boarding, sky diving, walking in the desert are just a few of them. To top this off, the restaurant scene is fantastic, with a great selection of places to enjoy the most delicious seafood. Visiting is one of the unmissable things to do in Namibia.
Here are some tour options if you want to visit Swakopmund:
- Half-Day Swakopmund Tour from Walvis Bay
- Guided Local Highlights Tour in Swakopmund
- Full-Day Guided Spitzkoppe Tour
- Scenic Desert Bike Tour
- Township Walking Tour with a Local Guide
Make sure to read my post A Great Guide To Swakopmund, Namibia.
Spend A Night Out In Windhoek
Fair enough, Windhoek certainly isn’t the most interesting of capitals. Most travelers use it as a base to start their Namibia safari, and end up spending a few nights there. The good news is that there’s a few good places to hang out. One of them is Joe’s Beer Home. A favorite of the locals, tourists go there to try exotic meats such as kudu and zebra. Personally, I don’t think this is one of the things to do in Namibia. But to each their own!
Windhoek has a good selection of places to stay. Here are my favorite ones:
- C’Est La Vie is a lovely guest house with clean, comfortable rooms, located in a safe and quiet neighborhood. The owners are real stars. There’s two dogs, 3 cats, a parrot and a rooster on the site, so it’s the place to be for animal lovers. Click here for the best prices and here for reviews.
- Windhoek Gardens is a fantastic boutique hotel with incredibly spacious rooms, each different from one another. The common areas are cozy, and breakfast is superb. Click here for the best prices and here for reviews.
- Hilltop Guest House has fabulous views over the city, and spacious, comfortable rooms. Click here for the best prices and here for reviews.
Tours in Namibia
If you’d rather go on a group tour to Namibia, there are a lot of great options and some also include neighboring countries as well.
- Wonders of Namibia – In this classic, NatGeo-inspired tour, you can spend 10 days circling Namibia. The tour includes Windhoek, Etosha NP, Paimwag, Twyfelfontein, Swakopmund, Namib-Naukluft NP, and Sesriem. Check here for more information
- Cape & Dunes Overland – Choose either the southbound (14 days) or northbound (13 days) direction through Namibia and South Africa. The tour will take you to Cape Town, Cederberg, Gariep River, Namib Desert, Fish River Canyon NP, Swakopmund, Spitzkoppe, Etosha NP, and Windhoek. Check here for more information
- Discover Namibia & Victoria Falls – This 12 day tour covers mostly Namibia — WIndhoek, Etosha NP, Palmwag, Twyfelfontein, Swakopmund, Namib-Naukluft NP, and Sesriem, but it also goes to Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls. Check here for more information
- Classic Cape and Namibia Adventure – If you have a bit more budget, you can enjoy this 12-day tour that begins in Cape Town, goes through Lambert’s Bay, Gariep River, Fish River Canyon NP, Namib Desert, Swakopmund, Etosha NP, and ends in Windhoek. Check here for more information
How To Get To Namibia
The main airport in Namibia is Hosea Kutako International Airport, which is at about 45 minutes east of Windhoek, the country’s capital. South African Airways runs direct flights from Cape Town and Johannesburg. Air Namibia also has direct flights Gaborone, Botswana’s capital. There also are direct flights to other African countries, and some intercontinental flights too.
One of the nicest things to do in Namibia is getting there by bus, which is possible to those that already are in Southern Africa. This is the most budget friendly way to travel across the continent. Intercape Mainliner runs services to and from Cape Town, Victoria Falls, and Johannesburg. Traveling to and from Botswana is not nearly as easy: it is a mix of local buses and taxis, with no real departure and arrival times. As it was so uncertain, I resolved to fly from Maun to Windhoek via Johannesburg.
One of the coolest things to do in Namibia is self-driving. It is possible to cross the border in the northwest of South Africa, at the Vioolsdrift/Nordoewer land crossing. Other land crossings between Namibia and South Africa include: Mata Mata, Rietfontain, Nakop, Onseepkans, Sendelingsdrif, and Alexander Bay. It’s also possible to cross easily from Botswana, Zambia, and Angola. You can check the price of car rental in Namibia here.
Traveling Around Namibia
Namibia is one of the easiest African countries to travel around. One of the nicest things to do in Namibia is renting a car, better if a 4×2 (click here for some good deals), and drive around. Keep in mind that I do not recommend doing this to solo travelers: the driving times can be very long, the desert hard to cope with, and in case of emergency there’s hardly other cars around to ask for help. Sure enough I don’t like the idea of being stuck in the desert with nobody to help me!
Thus, especially if traveling alone I recommend joining a guided tour.
Whichever way you decide to travel around the country, getting travel insurance is a must do in Namibia. You can find a good one here.
When To Visit Namibia
Namibia is a great place to visit at any time of year. I went in June, and it was pleasantly hot (but never unbearable) and dry during the day, and very cold at night. My sister went in October, and she told me the same thing. Sure enough, one of the best things to do in Namibia is being prepared for the weather and layering up, especially at night.
Have you ever been to Namibia? What are the things to do in Namibia that you enjoyed the most?
Are you planning a longer trip to Africa? Make sure to read my posts: