With 17 days to explore Namibia's natural wonders, wildlife and culture, this comprehensive itinerary connects all the highlights on a spectacular self-drive. Two deserts, the world's second largest canyon, Etosha National Park, Luderitz, Swakopmund and Damaraland are all included. You'll cover a lot of ground but still have time to relax and savour every moment.
- Discover both the Kalahari and Namib Deserts
- Explore the mighty Fish River Canyon
- Climb the giant sand dunes at Sossusvlei
- Visit Luderitz and take an optional tour of the ghost town of Kolmanskop
- Explore Swakopmund and join an optional kayak or boat trip to witness the marine life of Walvis Bay
- Track desert-adapted elephants in Damaraland
- Marvel at the ancient rock art at Twyfelfontein
- Spot wildlife on a self-drive through Etosha
- Take an optional day visit to the AfriCat Foundation
- Accommodation in rooms with private bathroom
- All breakfasts, 6 dinners
- Car rental throughout
- Meet and Greet on arrival
Namibia is easier to drive than you might think. Not only are the roads in good condition, but you drive on the left-hand side and there's little traffic. This 17-day itinerary traces a loop around the country, joining the dots between Namibia's must-see highlights, as well as some of the less-visited attractions in the south.
You'll be able to gaze into the Fish River Canyon from viewpoints along its rim. At Sossusvlei you can drive into the heart of the Namib Desert and walk to the top of some of the world's highest sand dunes. In Damaraland there are desert-adapted elephants and ancient rock art to track down, while Etosha National Park allows you to drive yourself on safari, staking out waterholes bustling with big game during the dry season.
Namibia's coast offers a dramatic contrast. Luderitz and Swakopmund are fascinating colonial towns and gateways to adventures ranging from a tour of the abandoned diamond-mining town of Kolmanskop to a sea kayaking trip with fur seals in Walvis Bay.
To round off this free-spirited, far-reaching self-drive, there's also an opportunity to visit the AfriCat Foundation at Okonjima.
Prices & Dates *
Airfares start from around £700 per person and are quoted separately to the holiday price. When enquiring, our Travel Specialists will provide the best fare possible from your preferred airline / airport.
From prices per person based on 2 sharing a room with private bathroom, including car hire
|Departure||Duration||Accommodation||Car Category||Twin Price (pp)||Single Price|
|Year round||16 nights||Standard||Toyota Fortuner (or similar)||£2,137||£3,254|
- Accommodation in rooms with private bathroom
- All breakfasts, 6 dinners
- Car rental throughout (Toyota Fortuner or similar)
- Meet and Greet on arrival
- 24 hour emergency assistance from our team during your holiday
- No surcharge guarantee
Itinerary & Accommodation
Itinerary & Accommodation
Arrive at Hosea Kutako (Windhoek International) Airport, where you will receive your rental vehicle. Once you have sorted out all the formalities for your vehicle, drive to Windhoek, the capital city of Namibia. After checking-in at your accommodation, you can explore the city. Windhoek is a city of many contrasts; modern skyscrapers blend with historic buildings from the German colonial era. Windhoek attractions you may wish to explore this afternoon include the Christ Church (Christuskirche), the capital’s best-recognised landmark, the National Museum of Namibia which houses an excellent display on Namibia’s independence and Katutura, a former apartheid-era black township. Windhoek has a selection of restaurants for you to dine at this evening. Joe’s Beerhouse is a Windhoek institution.
After breakfast depart Windhoek and drive via Rehoboth, the centre of Namibia's Baster community into the red dunes of the Kalahari Desert. The Kalahari is not a true desert as it receives more rain than a true desert should. It is technically categorised as a fossil desert, meaning that the dunes are usually greener than the Namib Desert and at the start of the year can be covered in flowers. The best known of the Kalahari's inhabitants are the San Bushmen, a nomadic hunter-gatherer tribe that have inhabited Southern Africa for at least 20,000 years. The Kalahari is a great destination for birders and here you may see raptors including the martial eagle and lappet-faced vulture. Other wildlife in this area includes giraffe, zebra and meerkat.
A full day's journey takes you south through the desert-dominated landscapes to a picturesque quiver tree forest. This prehistoric tree reaches skyward with graphically forked branches making them rewarding subjects to photograph. Finally, you will arrive at Fish River Canyon where you will spend the next 2 nights. The impressive Fish River Canyon is the biggest attraction in southern Namibia and arguably the country’s most spectacular geological phenomenon. At 27km wide, 550m deep in places and 160km long, it is reputed to be the second largest canyon in the world after the Grand Canyon in the USA. However, it attracts far fewer tourists meaning you can often experience complete solitude here. The canyon, which takes its name from the 650km long Fish River, is over 500 million years old, with part of the strata formed as far back as 650 million years ago. You will have one free day to explore; there are several different options including scenic drives or hikes in the canyon or along the rim.
The next leg of the journey takes you via the small historic village of Aus and through the vast barren expanse of the Prohibited Diamond Area, to Lüderitz. Aus is known for its spectacular scenery and wild horses. The wild horses roam the sparsely vegetated plains of the Namib Desert in small groups. Nobody is sure about how they originally came to be there, but over time they have adapted to survive in the harsh desert environment. Keep your eyes peeled for them as you drive past. The German colonial town of Lüderitz lies dramatically sandwiched between the barren Namib Desert and the windswept South Atlantic Coast. Unchanged for many years, the town is full of German art nouveau architecture reminiscent of a Bavarian dorfchen (small village), with churches, bakeries and cafes. Lüderitz is well-known for its fresh crayfish and oysters, even hosting an annual crayfish festival, as well as for the abundant wildlife of the Lüderitz Peninsula which includes flamingo and penguin colonies.
The most popular excursion from Lüderitz is the ghost town of Kolmanskop. In the early 1900s, Kolmanskop was a thriving town, home to hundreds of diamond workers and boasted a theatre, casino and ballroom. However, the slump in diamond sales after World War I and the discovery of a richer diamond area further south at Oranjemund meant that the inhabitants started to leave, resulting in Kolmanskop being completely deserted by 1956. Uninhabited since then, the buildings have been overtaken by the shifting desert sands, lying knee deep in places and resulting in an eerie ghost town that is a photographer’s paradise. Other activity options include a catamaran tour searching for marine wildlife such as African penguins and flamingos.
Today you travel through some of Namibia's most spectacular scenery. Vast expanses of yellow savannah are dotted with bushes and solitary camel thorn trees. Distant mountain ranges take on different nuances of purple and blue as the day progresses. En route you can visit Duwisib Castle, which was built by Baron von Wolff for his American wife Jayta in 1909; all the furnishings and paintings were imported from Germany. Your destination today is a lodge in the Sossusvlei area, from where you will have excellent opportunities to explore the oldest desert in the world. The Namib Desert is commonly referred to as the world’s oldest desert, dating back at least 55 million years. The desert is a large expanse of moving gravel plains and dunes of all shapes and sizes. Part of the desert, towards the centre incorporates the Namib-Naukluft National Park, which is the largest park in Namibia (50,000 square kilometres) and the third largest in Africa. The Namib Desert is largely unpopulated so there is no light pollution making it one of the best places in the world to stargaze. In 2013 a large part of the desert became a UNESCO World Heritage Site under the name of ‘Namib Sand Sea’.
Today is free to explore Sossusvlei and Sesriem Canyon. The best time to visit Sossusvlei is close to sunrise, avoiding the heat of the midday sun and taking advantage of the natural light to bring out the best of the strong and constantly changing colours of the dunes - warm tints of apricot, orange, red and maroon, which provide excellent photographic opportunities. Sossusvlei itself is a large, white, salt and clay pan. However, the name ‘Sossusvlei’ is often used in an extended meaning to refer to the surrounding area, including Deadvlei and other neighbouring rust-coloured sand dunes. A climb up the dunes is rewarded by spectacular views and is highly recommended. The most popular dunes to walk up are Dune 45 (80m), one of Sossusvlei’s most iconic dunes, and Big Daddy which at 325m is the highest dune in the area, boasting great views of Deadvlei. Close to Sossusvlei, Deadvlei is a clay pan characterised by dark, dead camel thorn trees which stand in stark contrast against the white pan floor. This afternoon you may wish to visit Sesriem Canyon. Shaped by the Tsauchab River over millions of years, it is one of the few places in the region that holds water all year round. The canyon is 30 metres deep in places and only three kilometres long. You can explore the canyon on foot, admiring its stunning rock formations and cooling off in some of its refreshing pools along the way.
Before leaving the Sossusvlei area this morning, you may wish to partake in a sunrise hot air balloon ride over this magical landscape; an unforgettable experience. Leaving the Sossusvlei area, you will drive north to Swakopmund, perhaps stopping off at Solitaire en route to taste some of the famous apple pie on sale there. Swakopmund is a German colonial town located on the Atlantic Coast and encompassed by the Namib Desert. This is Namibia’s most popular seaside town and the beaches are pleasant; however the water is normally too cold for swimming. Swakopmund is a pleasant town to wander around and take in its German architecture and colonial history. It is also renowned for its excellent seafood which you may wish to sample tonight, The Tug restaurant is a particular favourite of ours.
From Swakopmund, there are several excellent activity options, taking advantage of either its marine wildlife or the surrounding desert. Kayaking is a fantastic way to experience the marine wildlife up close and personal including Cape fur seals in their thousands, bottlenose and Haviside’s dolphins, pelicans and flamingos. If you are lucky, you may also spot whales, leatherback turtles and sunfish. Explore the Namib Desert by 4WD or by fat bike and uncover hidden life under the sand, or take a self-drive in search of some of the country’s oldest welwitschia plants. You may also wish to discover the nearby Walvis Bay Lagoon, the most important wetland in Southern Africa, with 170,000 resident birds around the lagoon and some 200,000 more stopping off on migratory routes. The lagoon is the feeding site for around 80% of all the lesser flamingos found in Southern Africa and about 50% of greater flamingos. It also attracts large numbers of chestnut plovers, pelicans, Caspian, Damara, and swift terns, white-fronted plovers and Hartlaub's gulls.
Depart Swakopmund along the Atlantic Coast towards the north, heading to Damaraland. One of the most scenically beautiful regions in Namibia, Damaraland is also the best place in the country to see animals completely unfenced and in the wild. You will not see animals in large quantities here, but the sightings can be more rewarding. Desert adapted elephants are probably the best known of the region’s unique wildlife but it is also possible to see desert adapted rhino, giraffe and lion in this area too. Damaraland is also home to many interesting geological formations and some of the best examples of bushman paintings and engravings in Southern Africa.
Searching for desert adapted elephants is a highlight of a trip to Namibia. Namibia is one of only two countries in the world where you can find desert adapted elephants (the other is Mali). They are not categorised as a separate species but they are special because they have evolved to thrive in the dry, semi-desert environment by having a smaller body mass with proportionally longer legs and seemingly larger feet than other elephants. Their physical attributes allow them to cross miles of sand dunes to reach food and water. Nobody knows how many desert dwelling elephants there are in Namibia, but estimates are between 100 and 600. This afternoon, you may wish to visit the rock art at Twyfelfontein. Namibia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, Twyfelfontein features 2,500 examples of bushman paintings and engravings dating back 6,000 years. The rock engravings are found on a number of smooth rock surfaces and most of them depict animals and their tracks. Explore the site with a knowledgeable guide.
Today you head via Kamanjab to the southern entrance of the Etosha National Park where you will stay tonight. The wildlife jewel of Namibia, Etosha National Park is one of the best game reserves in Africa. Etosha is huge; at 22,270 square kilometres it covers an area larger than Wales and is home to over 100 species of mammals, 110 reptile species, 16 amphibians and 1 species of fish!
Today you will enter Etosha National Park through Andersson’s Gate and drive searching for wildlife. Etosha is dominated by a huge mineral pan, which covers a quarter of the park and was once a lake the size of Holland. Surrounding the pan is a variety of grass and woodlands amongst which live a wonderful variety of animals, birds, insects and reptiles. Etosha’s highlight is its waterholes; there are dozens of them, some natural while others are artificially fed from boreholes. During the dry season, staking out a position at a waterhole viewpoint is a rewarding way to watch game without moving from one spot. The most numerous antelope species in Etosha is springbok, which can sometimes be seen herding in their thousands. Other common herbivores are giraffe, zebra, eland, wildebeest, kudu and oryx. Black rhinos are more rare but still regularly sighted. Herds of fifty elephants are not unusual and often walk right down the middle of the road giving people in cars an incredibly close and thrilling encounter. When it comes to predators, lion, of which there are thought to be over 1000 inside the reserve, are the most visible. For birders there is a large variety of birds including ground hornbill, lilac-breasted roller, eagles and vultures. Exit the park before sunset at the Von Lindequist Gate in the east and spend the night on the Onguma Private Reserve where you can watch animals congregating at the waterhole located just in front of camp as you enjoy a sundowner drink. The following day, return to Etosha to search for more wildlife.
Leave Etosha behind and head south to Otjiwarongo - the perfect location from which to plan an optional visit to the AfriCat Foundation. This non-profit organisation was founded in the early 1990s with the aim of securing the long-term survival of Namibia’s predators in their natural habitat. AfriCat has saved more than 1,000 predators since its inception and over 80 percent of them have been released back into the wild. The organisation is best known for its cheetah conservation programme, but it also works to protect leopards, lions, hyenas and wild dogs. On a day visit (optional), you can view some of the animals in its Carnivore Care Centre. Highly recommended is upgrading to an overnight stay at either Okonjima Plains or Bush Camp, which will also enable you to join game drives tracking the animals that are being rehabilitated in the 200 square kilometre Okonjima Nature Reserve. As enthusiastic supporters of the AfriCat Foundation, we are proud to have adopted Dune, one of its cheetahs. Complete your self-drive by heading back to Windhoek Airport where your holiday ends.
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