Namibia is one of the most diverse countries in Africa. The Namibia tourist attractions are all so different: from mysterious plains between enormous sand dunes in the famous Sossusvlei to game watching on a self-drive safari. You might easily come across the most well-known places to visit in Namibia, but after exploring the country for over three weeks, we can list all the best places to visit in Namibia, both famous Namibia tourist attractions and off the beaten track hidden gems.
Read more to prepare your Namibia trip:
- The perfect Namibia itinerary for a self-drive road trip
- 12 ways in which Namibia amazed us
- Renting a car in Namibia: self-drive, roads and rental tips
- Don’t miss these natural phenomena of Namibia
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Best places to visit in Namibia: 15 must-visit tourist attractions
#1 The sand dunes of the famous Sossusvlei
When preparing your Namibia trip and looking for the top Namibia tourist attractions, the Sossusvlei will probably pop up first. It is famous for its endless sand dunes, mysterious dead acacia trees against an unearthly backdrop and magical sunsets, making it one of the most visited places in Namibia. This National Park is named after one of the white clay plains called Sossusvlei, but the massive sand dunes and the acacia tree-filled Deadvlei are much more beautiful than the Sossusvlei.
We recommend you to start your Sossusvlei trip from one of the lodges or the camping area inside the park for an early entrance to enjoy the sunrise from one of the sand dunes. Most visitors will head for the famous Dune 45 – 45 kilometers from the entrance gate – but we continued driving all the way to the Deadvlei to enjoy the sunrise from the sand dunes along the vlei. After the sunrise, we skated down the sand dunes into the vlei and were the first ones to visit this unique white plain filled with mysterious dead acacia trees.
Read more: check out our extensive Sossusvlei blog for practical tips, the best sunrise and sunset spots, camping spots and lodges close to the entrace and best places in the national park.
#2 The sunset and hot springs of the Fish River Canyon
One of the greatest sights in southern Namibia is the Fish River Canyon, an impressive snake-like canyon in the vast Namibian landscape. The Fish River Canyon is much visited, but it’s not too touristy. The most famous viewpoint can get a bit crowded in high season, but other places along the edge of the canyon will be all yours. It’s an amazing experience to sit on the edge and absorb the natural beauty of one of the biggest canyons in the world.
If you stay at the state-owned camp called Hobas, you’ll get the chance to drive to the edge of the canyon around sunset when the views are the best. You’ll have to settle with ‘just’ the views from the edge when visiting the Fish River Canyon, unless you get a permit for the tough 5-day hike in the canyon. If you’d like to do this hike, make sure to arrange it well in advance.
All hikers will end at the Ai-Ais Hot Springs at the end of the canyon, also the location of one more camp with lodges and campsites. The pools are naturally heated with the hot springs, and so is the spa!
Read more: our Fish River Canyon guide tells all about the canyon, hiking inside the canyon, the best camp sites and lodges at the canyon and more.
#3 Hiking in the Naukluft National Park
Most tourists only pass the Naukluft Park on their way to the well-known Sossusvlei. We recommend you to stay a day or more at this off the beaten track destination in Namibia and enjoy the beautiful Naukluft mountains. There are different hikes around the park for all different fitness levels.
We decided to hike the Olive Trail, the easiest day hike at the Naukluft park. We first climbed a mountain for some beautiful views and then hiked through a canyon all the way back to the starting point. The scenery was beautiful and we even spotted some monkeys, mountain zebras and other game. It was an impressive experience and we didn’t even meet any other traveler hiking there.
#5 The views from the Waterberg Plateau
The Waterberg Plateau National Park is located between capital Windhoek and the Etosha National Park more up north. It is a popular destinations for game drives on the plateau, but you can also go up during a hike to soak in the beautiful views of the area.
We stayed at the state-owned camp in the park, offering both lodges and camping spots, and climbed up early in the morning to benefit from the coller temperatures. It’s a tough climb up. You’ll probably see one of the many park monkeys along the way, ending with stunning views from the top as your reward.
#6 Game watching in the Caprivi Strip
All the way up north in Namibia is the Caprivi Strip located. This part of Namibia is surrounded by Botswana, Angola and Zambia and quite far from all other Namibia tourist attractions. The Caprivi Strip is famous for its wildlife, especially elephants. When visiting the Strip, you might want to consider visiting the nearby Victoria Falls in Zambia as well.
#7 Canoeing the Orange River at Noordoewer
All the way down south, the Orange River marks the border between Namibia and South Africa. Canoeing down the river offers you the unique opportunity to be in two countries at the same time. It also brings you up close with the only river in Namibia flowing all year round. That makes quite a different sight than the dry river beds and vast desert in the rest of the country.
The small town of Noordoewer will probably be your base for your canoe trip. You can opt for a multi-day canoeing trip or a half-day version. We decided to go for a morning trip, offering the opportunity to spot some rare river birds. The trip was organized by our campsite at Felix Unite Provenance Camp, but you can book canoeing trips at many other places in the area.
#8 Self-drive safari at Etosha National Park
Etosha is the most famous national park in Namibia, offering you the rare opportunity to head on a self-drive safari with your rental car. The park is almost half the size of our home country the Netherlands, so you can imagine that there is an endless amount of wildlife.
We spend three days exploring the park, spending the nights at the park camps. There are both lodges and campsites at the Etosha camps, so you can also enjoy these camps without camping. We definitely recommend you to do so, as this is the only way you can drive around the park very early and late when the animals are most active. Or just walk to the waterhole at the edge of most camps to spot some game. At the main camp called Okaukuejo, we even spotted an elephant herd with babies and two rhinos in the evening!
Read more: 25 practical tips for your visit, everything you need to know about camping in Etosha National Park or our three-day travel diary of our self-drive safari in Etosha.
#9 Exploring ghost town Kolmanskop
Kolmanskop is one of the more different type of Namibia tourist attractions and definitely one of the best things to do on your Namibia trip. This ghost town near the town of Lüderitz used to be a prosperous diamond town used by German diamond workers, but it was abandoned pretty much overnight when an even better diamond location was discovered. The town is still there, slowly disappearing into the sand dunes of the desert. A unique and spooky place!And even better: the ghost town Kolmanskop is open to visitors. Make sure to add this abandoned town close to Lüderitz to your Namibia itinerary and join the free Kolmanskop tour to learn more about its history.
Read more: check out our Kolmanskop blog for background information about the town, the free guided tour and more photos of this unique place.
#10 City tripping in European-style Swakopmund
Kolmanskop is not the only German destination in Namibia, Swakopmund at the Namibian coast will remind you of Germany as well. The European-style architecture and German bars with German food are quite different from anything else in this African country. It will make you feel like city-tripping in Europe for a few days.
Swakopmund is the perfect destination to unwind for a few days from road tripping around the country, seeing nothing but nature, rocks and deserts. You can stroll through the Swakopmund streets, enjoy restaurants and bar ánd even relax at the beach. Swakopmund is the only Namibia beach destination where you can actually relax at the beach – in other places it’s just too windy or the beach to rocky. It even has a beach club: Tiger Reef Beach Bar & Grill, right next to the Swakopmund camping Tiger Reef Campsite.
Read more: we listed the 10 best restaurants, bars and coffee spots in Swakopmund.
Other great activities in Swakopmund are visiting the more southern coastal town Walvisbaai and enjoying the adventure activities in the sand dunes between Swakopmund and Walvisbaai. We signed up for some sand boarding and quad driving in the dunes and loved every bit of it.
#11 Wild camping in the Namib National Park
The Namib National Park is often associated with the nearby Sossusvlei, but it’s a great destination to spend one or more travel days as well. It’s mostly a desert – as is pretty much all of Namibia – with mountains, rock arches, canyons wild life and rare plants.
One of the best ways to enjoy the Namib park is by camping at one of the camping spots in the park. There’s not an official campsite, you just pick one of the designated spots and pitch your (rooftop) tent. There are no facilities like electricity, running water or a toilet. But there are trash bins and a concrete picnic table, marking the camping spots. The park permit – buy it in advance in either Swakopmund or Windhoek – also includes permission to camp.
The best camping spots are near Mt. Blutkoppe, the sand dunes at Homeb and the rock arches at Tinkas.
Read more: everything you need to know about hiking and camping in the Namib National Park.
#12 Spending the night on the Brukkaros volcano
Our camping trip on the Brukkaros volcano was one of the highlights of our Namibia trip! Can you imagine going off the beaten track wild camping at a deserted campsite on top of a volcano? On a place with stars so bright, observatories were once built here? Without any facilities like water or electricity? Just you, the old volcano in Namibia and the bright stars. Camping at the Brukkaros volcano will be an experience you’ll never forget.
You can drive pretty far up the volcano with a decent 4×4. That’s where you can park your car, or even better: pitch your tent. It’s the location of an old campsite, so there still are some old facilities you can use like a rock wall for shelter or a braai to barbecue your food.
Read more: our Brukkaros blog tells you all about hiking and camping at the volcano, including how to prepare your trip.
It takes 30 to 40 minutes to hike from this parking / camping spot to the edge of the crater. From there, you can hike into the crater or go further up to the ruins of the old observatories for the highest point of the vulcano. The volcano is very old and the only thing that remains volcano-like is its shape. Don’t expact any lava or such things. The crater looks more like a mountain landscape with rocks and even trees, including the quiver trees that are very common in this part of the country.
#13 Road tripping the Skeleton Coast
The Skeleton Coast of Namibia, doesn’t that sound impressive? This rugged coastal strip in the north of Namibia is named after the many ships that have stranded on the cliffs over the centuries. If the crew already survived the shipwreck, the chances were high that they wouldn’t survive this rugged area anyway.
The Skeleton Coast National Park is now a fascinating coastal strip with high sand dunes, empty beaches, mysterious shipwrecks and Africa’s largest seal colony. Road tripping the coastal road of this national park is a must for your Namibia travel itinerary.
You can spend the night at the northern tip of the park – at either Torra Bay or Terrace Bay, but check in advance if the campsite and accommodation is open – and spend the next day driving south to Swakopmund. You’ll pass an impressive landscape, making stops at ship wrecks and the immense seal colony at Cape Cross.
Read more: check out our blog about the Skeleton Coast for more details, including a map with all highlights and shipwrecks.
#14 Enjoying Namibia’s natural phenomenons at the Welwitschia Drive
The Welwitscha Drive is located in the Namib National Park we already mentioned. A park permit for the Namib park includes the Welwitschia Drive, not far from Swakopmund. The drive makes a great day trip from Swakopmund or should be at least park of your Namib explorations.
Read more: check out our extensive Welwitschia Drive blog for all details about the park permit, the stops along the drive and spending the night here.
The drive brings you to thirteen stops, all showing you some of Namibia’s natural wonders or history. The best stops show you some rare African plants: the Welwitschia the route is named after and the delicate lichen. The Welwitschia is a tough, but also very fragile plant: it can survive in harsh desert conditions and can grow up to 1,000 years old! The oldest Welwitschia is one of the final stops.
You’ll also see some lichen during your drive. It is a unique combination of an alga and a fungus. The orange version is the best known. It takes decades for lichen to grow, so damage to the lichen will not quickly recover. That’s sadly also the reason lichen is slowly disappearing and less lichen is visible at the drive.
#15 Driving off road in the Lüderitz peninsula
Just south of the coast town of Lüderitz is a beautiful peninsula. The main road makes a great day trip circling along the peninsula edges, but it’s even more fun to go off road with a 4×4 and explore the smaller bays and rough areas.
The deap blue ocean against a bright blue sky is a lovely sight during this mini road trip. Highlights include the peninsula lighthouse, a penguin island – bring your binoculars to spot them from the coast – flamingos, a pink lake, small bays and rare lichen plants. Don’t plan to go for a swim here though, as the water is freezingly cold.
Read more: we wrote a blog about the best things to do in Lüderitz, including this peninsula tour.