Spotting lions on a safari, climbing huge sand dunes, experiencing the rugged coast or making beautiful hikes? Namibia has it all. But it can be difficult to put together the perfect itinerary for experiencing all this on your trip in a limited amount of time. Because Namibia is big. Very big. The country covers more than 825,000 km2. The highlights of the country are not easily located in the same area, but in the far north and south of the country. We will give you all the tips you need to combine all highlights and off the beaten track destinations in the ultimate Namibia itinerary for your self-drive safari road trip in Africa’s most diverse country!
How much travel time for Namibia?
Namibia is not just very big, the highlights of the country are spread throughout the country. You will therefore have to make a choice between the big highlights or be willing to spend a lot of kilometers on the road. We chose the second and drove over 5000 km in three weeks time. Wow, that’s really a lot. We did not feel like we were driving a lot though and driving around Namibia is a highlight itself, the scenery is so beautiful! We were therefore quite surprised to find out about this high number of kilometers at the end of our trip.
But because of these distances we advise you to spend at least two weeks in Namibia. Or three like us, if you want to be able to take it slow and see some off the beaten track destinations. Do you have less than two weeks? Then make a choice between the south or north and don’t try to squeeze in the whole country in your trip.
Getting around Namibia: road tripping with a 4×4
The best way to travel through Namibia is with a rental car or on an organized group tour. There is only little public transport in Namibia. It can only be found between some of the larger cities, but as you are probably visiting Namibia to enjoy the nature, these cities are not exactly the places you’ll want to visit. Thus, Namibia is not a country easily explored by public transport. We advise you to arrange for your own transport – read our blog about driving in Namibia and tips for choosing the right car (online soon!) – or to join an organized group troup. Because we prefer to travel by ourselves and thought it would be a cool adventure to cross the country without a guide, we rented a car and we travelled with just the two of us. For those who find it a bit too exciting to travel alone, we especially recommend reading our blog about driving through Namibia (online soon!). We were amazed by the great roads and the ease of exploring the country by car!
The best travel time to visit Namibia
All travel guides will recommend the Namibian winter as the perfect time to come here, so from April / May to October / November. The temperatures are pleasant, but not too hot, and you skip the rainy season. Because of this the weather is comfortable, but moreover: the animals will more active as well and it is much easier to spot game in the parks. Without the rain the animals will gather at the water holes, which makes your safari a lot easier!
However, we would advise you to consider travelling to Namibia in the low season, as we did ourselves. Though it was supposed to be the rainy season, we only experienced a few drops in Windhoek at the end of our trip. Moreover, it wasn’t hard at all to spot wildlife in Etosha, where the animals gathered around the water holes anyways. Summer is actually the time a lot of new animals are born in the park, so in January we were lucky to see lion cubs, baby elephants and small gazelles, giraffes and zebras. The biggest advantage of the low season is in our opinion the lack of crowds. We only saw a few other cars while driving through Etosha, we didn’t have to book the campsites in advance, the campsites were almost empty and we were able to experience the vast country in peace. As usual in all countries, the low season is much cheaper as well. The prices for rental cars and stays were much, much cheaper. For some lodges even a 60% discount applied!
Are there any downsides? The heat! The afternoons can be very hot. Around the coast the climate is pretty much the same all year round, but in the inland you wil be melting in the afternoon because of the heat. The best way to handle that, is to find a place to stay with a swimming pool. Getting up at 6.00am at sunrise and doing morning activities was not a problem for us, but it can put you off. Also, beware that some hiking trails – including the famous five-day hike through the Fish River Canyon – are been closed due to the summer heat.
Where to stay in Namibia: camping or luxury lodges
In your rooftop tent! At least, we enjoyed that so much ourselves that we would highly recommend you to do the same. Our trip through Namibia has become such a special experience because of our tent. The ease of setting up your tent anywhere and the large number of campsites in the country gave us a priceless sense of freedom. Most other campers had a rooftop tent as well, though we have also seen a few regular tents. Is camping too uncomfortable or too adventurous for you? Then you will have the chance to stay at the most beautiful safari lodges, actually often on the same camps as the campsites. To make things easier for you, we have listed our favourite sleeping places in Namibia in this blog!
The perfect Namibia itinerary for 2 to 3 weeks
We will share our perfect itinerary for Namibia for over 3 weeks with you. When thinking back to our stay in Namibia, we cannot think of anything that we have done differently with all our hindsight knowledge. It was really the perfect itinerary!
You can also do our itinerary in 2 weeks, but only if you are willing to spend some long drives in the car and skip some of the stops. Our advice would be to sleep a night less in Etosha, Swakopmund, the Fish River Canyon and Windhoek, to skip Namib-Naukluft and Lüderitz and to choose one or at maximum two stops after the Fish River Canyon.
Do you have less than 2 weeks? Then we recommend to make a choice between the northern part – with a safari in Etosha – and the south – with the famous Sossusvlei and impressive Fish River Canyon. You can then use the first or second half of our route.
Click on the orange links to read more about the destinations. We’ve written an extensive guides on almost all parks and highlights.
Day 1: Windhoek. Your trip will probably start in Windhoek, unless you enter the country with your own transport after an earlier trip through one of the neighboring countries. There is not much to see in Windhoek itself – check our blog “24 hours in Windhoek” (online soon) – so quickly travel further after one night and perhaps picking up your rental car.
Day 2: Waterberg Plateau Park. Drive from Windhoek to Waterberg and marvel at the beautiful landscape. Do you already dare to leave the safe and asphalted B-road? Then choose the quieter D-roads and have a chance to spot wild boars, monkeys and giraffes along the way. Sleep in the Waterberg National Park or an accommodation nearby.
Day 3: a morning hike to the plateau and Etosha. Do a morning hike to the edge of the Waterberg plateau before driving through spectacular scenery to Etosha, where you can spot your first wildlife.
Day 4 and 5: Etosha. This is one of the country’s most beautiful national parks, so take your time to spot the oryx, black faced impala, lion, rhinoceros and elephant. Do you have two weeks? Then this is a good time to shorten your trip.
Day 6: from Etosha to Damaraland. It is time to say goodbye to Etosha. Have one last morning drive through the park and then travel to Damaraland. We slept in the village of Khorixas, in the middle of Damaraland.
Day 7: Damaraland. Marvel at the special welwitschia plants, see ancient rock carvings and visit other natural phenomena in the wide Damaraland, while driving towards the Skeleton Coast. We advise you to stay a night at the Torra Bay campsite (only open in December and January) or to book a lodge in Terrace Bay to fall asleep with the sound of the sea.
Day 8: Skeleton Coast. Drive from your sleeping spot along the coastline of the Skeleton Coast National Park. Have stops at the shipwrecks and visit Cape Cross to see one of the largest seal colonies in Africa. End your road trip in Swakopmund.
Day 9 and 10: Swakopmund. It’s time for some rest, so take your time in the German town Swakopmund, if you have enough time to take it slow. Be amazed by the German architecture and sausages, while enjoying some of the adventure activities in the sand dunes with sea view. Sandboarding? Quad biking through meters high dunes? Making a pleasure flight? Maybe even skydiving?
Day 11: Namib-Naukluft park. Drive through the beautiful Namib park, where you can spot a lot of fauna, but also special Namibian flora. You can visit the largest Welwitschia plant of more than 1500 years old here. Spend the night in the Namib park on one of the camp sites along the roads or drive to the Naukluft mountains to sleep there.
Day 12: hike in the Naukluft-mountains and Sossusvlei. Explore the Naukluft mountains on a (morning) hike and continue to one of the highlighst of your trip: the Sossusvlei! Watch the sunset from a sand dune or in one of the vleis.
Day 13: Sossusvlei. Get up super, super early to enter the park as early as possible and enjoy the most beautiful sunrise ever. After, you can explore the other vleis and sand dunes of this impressive national park before you have a beautiful drive at the end of the morning via the C27 and C13. Sleep in Aus or drive straight to Lüderitz on the coast. As the most beautiful campsite in Aus appeared to be full, we chose the latter.
Day 14 and 15: Lüderitz. Are you short on time? Then we can understand that you might want to skip this coastal town, though we enjoyed the cooler temperatures at the coast and the beauty of this area. Our visit to the beautiful peninsula and the ghost town of Kolmanskop were two amazing highlights of our trip. On day 16 you leave Lüdertiz in the afternoon to spend the night in Aus.
Day 16: Aus and Fish River Canyon. Go on a hike through the beautiful area around Aus in the morning before continuing to the Fish River Canyon. Watch a beautiful sunset and sleep in the Hobas camp on the northern edge of the canyon.
Day 17: Fish River Canyon. Visit the canyon and marvel at this enormous natural phenomenon. Then drive to the south of the Fish River Canyon and sleep in Ai-Ais, where the famous five-day hikes through the canyon ends as well.
Day 18: Ai-Ais. Enjoy the hot springs in Ai-Ais and relax with a massage at the spa, before heading to Noordoewer, the southernmost town in Namibia.
Day 20: Noordoewer and Keetmanshoop. The only river in Namibia running all year round is the Orange River that marks the border between South Africa and the Namibian border village of Noordoewer. You can make multi-day or canoe trips on the river, but we chose a morning trip to see the beautiful, green landscape from the water. Then head to Keetmanshoop. Here you can see the orphan cheetahs after visiting the Quiver Tree Forest and the Giant’s Playground.
Day 21: Brukkaros. The next night you’re sleeping on the Brukkaros volcano, a unique experience! If you want to go on a hike over the edge of the volcano and in the crater, we advise you to get here as early as possible or save your hike for the early morning the next day.
Day 22: Kalahari. It is time to drive back to Windhoek, but not before you have spent a night at one of the ranches along the way on the edge of the Kalahari.
Day 23: Windhoek. Time to say goodbye. Did you return your car? Pack you bags? It is time to catch your flight home after one last night in Windhoek.