Classic Namibia Route
T he Classic Namibia tour follows a circular route, signifying that there are no long distances between attractions and that there is no backtracking. Prepare yourself to be blown away by a new landscape on every leg of the journey. An abundance of wildlife in our number-one national park, the deserted and hostile land of the skeletons, protected rock-art sites, towering red dunes and a ‘dead’ pan – these are a few of our top Namibian must-sees. The Etosha National Park, Skeleton Coast, Twyfelfontein and Sossusvlei tour could be either self-drive or undertaken on an organised basis.
Windhoek. Photo ©Paul van Schalkwyk
After landing in Namibia, your first taste of the landscape will be from your vehicle as you drive the 40 km from Hosea Kutako International Airport to the capital, Windhoek. Book into your room, have a Windhoek Lager and rest your jet-lagged legs. A city or township tour in the afternoon is a good introduction to Namibia and its history and people. Alternatively, you can take a walk through Windhoek and explore the city on foot. Dinner at the world-famous Joe’s Beerhouse is recommended for a taste of Namibia’s much-acclaimed ‘nature’s reserve’ beef steaks from free-ranging cattle, or super-healthy gemsbok, kudu, zebra and crocodile meat.
View a cheetah at the AfriCat Foundation. Photo ©Annabelle Venter
The first leg of your journey is the 73-km drive northwards on the bitumen-surfaced B1 from Windhoek to Okahandja. A worthwhile stop is at the Mbangura Woodcarvers Market at the entrance of the town to meet craftspeople from the Kavango Region of north-eastern Namibia. For an energy booster and to savour our number-one delicatessen, try some biltong from Piet’s Biltong Shop. A further hour’s drive via the conspicuous twin peaks, the Omatakos, will bring you to Okonjima, home of the AfriCat Foundation, where super-couple Brangelina enjoyed time when they were in the country for their daughter Shiloh’s birth in Walvis Bay.
The Etosha Pan. Photo ©Paul van Schalkwyk
Namibia’s world-famous Etosha National Park is the next destination. A good place to stop for lunch is Otjiwarongo, or Outjo further north-westwards along the C38. Entry to western Etosha is through Andersson Gate. Overnight in the park at Okaukuejo Rest Camp and enjoy late-night animal action at the famous Okaukuejo waterhole. Keep in mind that all roads in Etosha are gravel and suitable for sedan vehicles.
Namutoni, Etosha National Park
Once in Etosha, take a leisurely drive through the park, stopping at waterholes along the way to look at birds and animals, and to observe their behaviour. Halfway between Okaukuejo and Namutoni is the lookout point on the edge of the expansive white pan – which is the heart and essence of the park. This is the perfect place to take spectacular photographs. A good option is to have lunch at Halali and then head eastwards to the Namutoni Rest Camp, developed around the historical Namutoni Fort.
Rock engravings at Twyfelfontein. Photo ©Paul van Schalkwyk
After leaving Etosha through Andersson Gate, you will be travelling to Outjo on the C38. Turn west on the C39 to Khorixas for a visit to Twyfelfontein, to date Namibia’s only World Heritage Site. Twyfelfontein hosts Africa’s largest and most important concentration of rock engravings in Africa. Spending the night in the surroundings would be a good option. While the roads from Khorixas westwards are not tarred, they are scenically beautiful, and well worth the drive over rugged terrain.
The Petrified Forest. Photo ©Elzanne Erasmus
Take time to visit other interesting features in the area, such as the Burnt Mountain, Petrified Forest and Organ Pipes – a mass of basalt slabs in a ravine. This makes for a great geological outing and gives you the opportunity to meet and interact with the Damara people at their cultural village.
Seal colony at Cape Cross. Photo ©Paul van Schalkwyk
Drive on the C39 through the desert landscape of north-western Namibia to the cool and often foggy Skeleton Coast, visiting the seal colony at Cape Cross along the way. Route C34 southwards leads past Henties Bay and Wlotskasbaken, through the Dorob National Park with its lichen fields and still-intact shipwreck, before reaching Swakopmund. This stretch of road has a salt surface, which is tricky to drive on when wet, so drive slowly. This will ensure your safety, plus you’ll see more of the spectacular scenery.
Living Desert Tours
Spend the day in the coastal town of Swakopmund with its distinct German character dating back to the German colonial era of the previous century. With its coffee-shop culture, Swakopmund is the perfect place for relaxing after a hectic dose of admiring nature. If resting is not your thing, fear not. Swakopmund is Namibia’s adventure mecca. This is your opportunity to explore the dunes on a quad-bike, go shark fishing, angle from the beach, skydive from a light aircraft, or whizz down the dunes on a sandboard. Living Desert Tours, visiting the museum and aquarium, and Mondesa Township Tours are all great for getting to know the area.
Flamingos in the Walvis Bay Lagoon. Photo ©Pompie Burger
Wend your way southwards between the sea and dune belt to Walvis Bay, Namibia’s main harbour town. Here you’ll find a world-renowned Ramsar site and a birder’s paradise, the Walvis Bay Lagoon, where a special bonus is the vast numbers of flamingos foraging for food in the shallows. Even more adventure awaits you, with options such as kite surfing, kayaking, 4×4 trips into the dunes, angling from a boat, day trips to visit the Topnaars in the Kuiseb River environs, township tours, a day visit to Sandwich Harbour, and dolphin cruises on the lagoon.
Jackal in the Namib-Naukluft Park. Photo ©Paul van Schalkwyk
Take the C14 to Sossusvlei and stop just outside Walvis Bay to have your picture taken at Dune 7, the highest sand mass in the area. From here, drive through the Namib-Naukluft Park, past Vogelfederberg, across the Kuiseb River, and up the Gaub Pass. Stop at Solitaire for coffee and a slice of Moose’s renowned apple pie, and overnight at the foot of the petrified dunes. A sunset drive in the dune landscape of the central Namib is an absolute must.
The Dead Vlei. Photo ©Elzanne Erasmus
You’ll need to be up and about before sunrise for the 64-km drive between the high red dunes to Sossusvlei, entering the park at Sesriem and crossing the ephemeral Tsauchab River a few times. Beware of flash floods during the rainy season. Take a walk up and over the high dunes to visit Dead Vlei, a ghostly pan of cracked white clay featuring ancient skeletons of camel-thorn trees. Return to Sesriem for a stroll down Sesriem Canyon and a desert sundowner.
A balloon trip over the dunes. Photo ©Paul van Schalkwyk
Your penultimate day in Namibia starts with an iconic balloon trip over the dunes as the sun rises, followed by a champagne breakfast in the middle of nowhere. Take in the beauty of the landscape, spot some desert-dwelling animals, and take your last 100 photos to share with the family back home.
Spreetshoogte. Photo ©Paul van Schalkwyk
After a good breakfast, hit the road for the four-hour drive back to Windhoek. Take the C14 and C24 for a scenic picnic at the top of Spreetshoogte Pass, and soak up your last views of the Namib Desert. These roads are also gravel. Later in the evening, when you scale the steps of the aircraft that will take you back home, you’ll have a million awesome memories and plenty of tears in your eyes. Come back soon!