Armed with the knowledge that Namibia is a beautiful country with almost endless opportunities for things to do, Jon and I attempted to visit as much of the country in 1 week. One challenge we found in planning is there is limited information available on how to do it. Here is rough idea on how we did it, hopefully it will help fellow travelers!
- We arrived (by plane into Windhoek) around 15h00. We rented a vehicle*1 in advance with Avis through Expedia and drove it from the airport to the city.
- We checked into The Cardboard Box backpackers.*2
- We visited Joe’s Beer House for dinner and beer. This is a must visit restaurant in Windhoek with its crazy decorations, variety of beers and game meat dishes.
- Make sure to grab groceries for the next 2 days, including A LOT of water. The air is very dry in the Sossusvlei area and it is hot during the day.
- We rented camping gear (sleeping bags and mats) (~N$850 for a six days). Regretted not getting some chairs as a lot of the camp grounds did not have anywhere to sit.
- We started off to Sossusvlei around 10, had a picnic lunch on the side of the road and arrived around 16h00.
- We stayed at the Sesriam Camp site inside the gates of the park. While the camp ground here is really nothing special, it does allow you to leave first into the park, which if you are wanting to see any of the sites at sunrise (for optimal shadowed photos) this is a must.
- We checked into the park (N$60 pp – for SADC residents, slightly more for foreigners)
- We hiked Elim Dune for sunset. This is a fairly steep hike and takes about 1.5 hours to do.
- We got up early to make it to Dune 45 for sunrise. This is a steep hike full of people, but very lovely! This took an hour and half – two hours.
- After breakfast we drove on to Deadvlei where we took a shuttle to Deadvlei itself. (N$130 pp)
- Deadvlei is a much easier walk and we spent just over an hour at the actual site.
- Then we drove back to the gates of the park to visit Sesriem Canyon. This is beautiful, note, you can actually climb down into the canyon and walk around!
- Next we headed to the Solitaire gas station. Their bakery is a must after all of the dune climbing!
- Finally we drove to Walvis Bay. We just stayed at Loubser’s Backpackers. This was a great affordable find. The owner runs tour companies and dorm rooms are fitted with little kitchens!
- The Raft restaurant for dinner was a food highlight for us for sure. The food is great, the restaurant is beautiful and the service five star! A must!
- Toured the esplanade to see the flock of wild flamingos. This is incredible to see! Tour the whole esplanade in town, as we found the larger flock just around the corner from where we were told to visit them. If your lucky you may see dolphins!
- Also can visit the salt factory, an interesting site.
- Drove to Swakopmund. This is a very easy drive (biggest challenge is to not be distracted from the beauty of the dunes!), it took around an hour.
- We stayed at the Skeleton Beach Backpackers. This place is like being in a home away from home with a big living room, nice breakfast and really great showers (after being in the dunes – you will want to rinse away the loads of sand with ease!).
- We chose the environmentally friendly activity of sand boarding for the afternoon. This was extremely tricky sport unless you are already a great snowboarder, but very fun. There is also a carpet option if you don’t want to board.
- Dinner that night was at the Farmhouse Deli located in the beautiful Strand Hotel. This is an adorable restaurant – they even offer blankets to cuddle up with for those chilly night meals! Downside – the service is not amazing there.
- We realized that we were really missing the local connection to Namibia and had very little understanding of the dunes. Therefore, we decided to do the Living Dessert Tour. We did it with one of the cheaper dune tour companies called Charly’s Desert Tours (living Dunes). This was a very cool experience. It was like going on a slow, in and out of the car safari. Our guide was incredibly knowledgeable in finding small creatures and Namibian culture. We felt much more connected after this experience. The tour was 3 hours.
- In the afternoon we visited the Living Desert museum in Swakop. It allowed us to see a lot of the reptiles from the area. Good way to spend an hour.
- We went back to the Strand Hotel for another amazing meal. This time to the Brewer and Butcher. One of the best vegetarian burgers we have had in ages!
- We set off early to drive up to Cape Cross (~2 hours) to see the seal colony. With approximately 10,000 seals this is an incredible experience not to be missed!
- We continued on to Brandberg mountain (with another picnic lunch). We arrived around 14h00. (N$100 pp) The hike is fairly easy, just keep in mind it is going to be very hot! This was one of our favorite activities. The mountain is just beautiful, and we saw so much wildlife we couldn’t believe it. Including the black mamba and ostriches.
- We wanted to be as close to Spitzkoppe as possible in the morning so we drove to Uis to spend the night. We stayed at the Uis White Lady Guesthouse and Campsite. This place was just great! (N$100 pp for camping). Note, there was not a restaurant open in town, nor any open gas stations, or grocery stores. We were lucky we had some food in the car.
- On the way to Spitzkoppe, we stopped at the Living San Museum. As a development practitioner I was hesitant about the activity. But was pleasantly surprised. The museum is run by the San people themselves, and they benefit financially from all sales. Money which they use to send their children to school and for hospital visits, in the cases when traditional medicine is not strong enough. This was another highlight of the trip for sure.
- We ended up deciding we did not have enough time or gas to do Spitzkoppe, and that the rock formations around the museum were similar enough in style that we ended up skipping this destination and drove straight back to Windhoek. We attempted to return the car in the evening, but they were closed as it was a Sunday night and they had not considered that in the booking. So we kept the car an extra night (for free!).
- We enjoyed our lovely bacon and egg breakfast at Unite Backpackers before returning the vehicle. Note vehicles need to be returned clean and there are very limited options for cleaning cars in the city (compared to Lusaka at least). So make sure you budget a couple of hours to clean your car.
- Then we took a stroll through the Nation Botanical Garden. It was a very interesting experience to see all of the unique vegetation found in the country. And side bonus – its free!
- Afterwards we went to the Intercape bus station and prepared for our 30+ hour bus back home to Lusaka.
And that is Namibia in a week! While it is a very full trip with a lot of early mornings, you spend so much time in the car moving from place to place it is still quite relaxing!
We hope you enjoy Namibia as much as we did!
*1: We did this entire trip on the cheapest Sedan rental. No need for a bigger vehicle unless you really intend to off-road. We felt no need to off-road at any point of the trip. However we do suggest you get the extra tire and windscreen insurance. A lot of this trip is on gravel roads, which does a number on both tires and windscreens
*2 Cardboard Box was alright, nothing special but not bad either. We much preferred the Back Packer Unite we stayed on the way out – a much better breakfast was included! (Camping N$80, Dorm N$120, Double rooms N$395).