Don't judge Namibia by first appearances: much of the country might be sun-baked desert but there are plenty of fascinating and accessible attractions scattered around the country including wildlife-filled reserves, beguiling scenery and friendly towns. It's tough to fit all of Namibia's places of interest into a single itinerary but there are several can't-miss-destinations: Sossusvlei is where to go in Namibia for a Namib Desert experience par excellence and Etosha is a shoo-in for some of Southern Africa's best game viewing.
Deep in the Namib, the world's most ancient desert, lies one of Africa's most magical destinations: Sossusvlei, home to Namibia's famous red sand dunes. Up to 300 metres high, these towering monoliths form the centrepiece to this extraordinary ocean of sand but the Namib Desert has many surprises: make your base at one of the many excellent lodges here and discover the secret wildlife and astounding views of this beautifully haunting landscape, much of which falls under the protection of the Namib Naukluft National Park.
Read more about a Sossusvlei safari.
Read more about a Namib Desert safari.
One of Africa's biggest and best conservation areas, Etosha National Park is in Namibia's far north but is easily accessible and its gravel roads can be negotiated in a family car. Dominated by its huge salt pan, Etosha is big game country and offers an enticing blend of classic African animals such as elephant, zebra and giraffe together with desert species such as black rhino, gemsbok and springbok. Lion, hyena and cheetah are often seen and Etosha's famous wildlife-packed waterholes are a must-do in the May to October dry season.
Accommodation is available in the park but we'd recommend staying at one of the adjoining private reserves for luxury, exclusivity and a wide range of safari activities.
Read more about an Etosha safari.
An inland region of rugged mountains, gravel plains and flash-flood rivers, Damaraland is where to go in Namibia for unadulterated scenic beauty. By day, the views are grand and breathtaking while at night the sky glows with countless, dazzling stars. Intimate lodges are hidden away in discreet locations and make for comfortable bases from which to explore the region. Damaraland is a hotspot for Bushman art and geological oddities while the wealth of animal life will surprise you - desert-adapted elephant, black rhino and many antelope species are among the A-list.
Read more about a Damaraland safari.
The battered shipwrecks that litter the beaches of the Skeleton Coast National Park may have given Namibia's far northern shoreline its name but there's more to this region than ghost stories: huge seal colonies provide scavenging opportunities for brown hyenas and jackals while vegetated inland river valleys support yet more animals and birds. A genuine off-the-beaten-track destination, travellers looking for complete isolation, tranquillity and sensational views need look no further than the handful of exclusive lodges in the area.
Read more about a Skeleton Coast safari.
The famous ochre-painted Himba people have long made Namibia's far northern region their home but it is only in recent years that access to the Kaokoveld has been made possible. Perhaps Southern Africa's last true wilderness, the wild, sun-baked and remote Kaokoveld offers intrepid travellers an insight into how life can flourish in seemingly impossible conditions: head for the handful of riverside lodges in the Kaokoveld, interact with local Himba communities and discover the secret wildlife of the area.
Read more about a Kaokoveld safari.
The perfect stop-over and stock-up destination, the seaside holiday town of Swakopmund blends its German colonial heritage with an unmistakable African character. Often blanketed by early morning sea fog, Swakopmund is where the Namib Desert meets Namibia's Atlantic coast and offers easy excursions into the desert, a wide range of adventure and leisure activities plus many local places of interest.
Read more about a Swakopmund safari.
Clean, safe and friendly - it's little wonder that Windhoek is one of Africa's favourite capital cities, and its central location and international airport means that Windhoek is an ideal base from which to begin or end a Namibia safari. Stock up on supplies, catch up on emails and give yourself a break - there's plenty of accommodation ranging from international chains to boutique hotels and lodges and you won't be short of places to eat and drink either.
Read more about a Windhoek safari.
Once the forgotten frontier of Southern Africa, the Caprivi Strip (newly renamed as the Zambezi Region) has shed its notorious past and has emerged as one of the region's top wildlife destinations. Much of the Caprivi is taken up by conservation areas and it offers a wetland experience second only to the great Okavango Delta. Stay at one of the excellent lodges in the area and go on guided game drives and river cruises - it's a great destination to tick off elephant, buffalo, hippo and many antelope species and it's where to go in Namibia for the country's best bird watching.
Read more about a Caprivi safari.
The second largest canyon in the world, the Fish River Canyon is absolutely magnificent. Breathtaking in its immensity, it comes as something of a shock when you arrive at its edge: a flat arid plateau suddenly drops half a vertical kilometre into 160 twisting kilometres of canyon - a kaleidoscope of purples, greys and pinks, formed over hundreds of millions of years by the erosive power of the Fish River.
Somewhat off the beaten track, it's worth visiting if you are in the southern half of Namibia - combine it with a visit to Ai-Ais where a pleasant resort has grown up around natural hot pools, or as a detour when self-driving from South Africa to Windhoek or the dunes of Sossusvlei.
The 200 metre-high, flat-topped Waterberg Plateau is sometimes described as the Lost Eden. Isolated in a flat landscape, the wooded grasslands of this brick-red block of sandstone are home to a wide range of animals that includes leopard, cheetah, white rhino, buffalo, plus the rare and endangered roan and sable antelopes and 200 bird species. The Waterberg Plateau can only be accessed on a Nature Conservation guided game drive or guided wilderness trail, both starting from the resort set at the plateau's base.
At a Glance
It's home to dramatic desert and mountain scenery, the world's highest sand dunes and wildlife-packed game reserves but safe, friendly and wide-open Namibia is an easy country to visit and even self-drive around.