6 Day Roadtrip Through Namibia

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To finish off the greatest year I’ve ever had, I’ve got one final massive adventure up my sleeve. For the last two months of the year, I'll be exploring nine countries across southern Africa, my first time on the continent and one vastly different to anything I’ve ever encountered before.

I flew from Salzburg all the way down to Cape Town via Istanbul with a friend of mine from my city, preparing ourselves for a three-week journey through six countries, after which I would continue solo for another month on the continent.

Our trip began with a week based in Cape Town, a gem of a city situated right on the southern tip of Africa. We landed on a beautiful Saturday morning, picked up our rental car and spent the rest of the day getting acquainted with the city and exploring many of its highlights.

After our exceptional week spent in Cape Town, at the southern tip of South Africa, and one of my now-favourite cities in the world, we dropped off our rental car at before spending the night sleeping on benches in Cape Town airport. From there, we took an early morning flight in a tiny airplane up to Windhoek in Namibia where we picked up our rental 4x4 truck with a roof tent and headed into the city, anticipation at an all time high for the adventure we were about to undertake.

We spent a few hours at a cafe in town - and within those first few hours, our car window was forced open and a suitcase stolen from inside. We got the entire thing on security camera footage (the city is full of them) and spent the bulk of our day filing a police report. It was a horribly unsettling feeling to start a trip on and while the suitcase and about a third of the belongings were recovered four days later and delivered to us in Johannesburg, we wanted out of Windhoek and so as soon as we could, we drove out of the city, four hours deep into the Namibian desert where we camped under the stars, trying to feel at peace and whole.

Although I'd love to say that the trip got easier, I want to be honest and say that it was a challenging six days traversing the intense and wild landscapes of Namibia. Having said that - we absolutely loved this trip. It was wild, challenging and eye-opening but it was also rewarding, raw and strengthening. If you've got some solid travel experience under your belt and are looking for an adventure that will push you to the far edges of your comfort zone requiring a large dose of resilience and perserverance to battle through, a roadtrip through Namibia might be just the thing.

During our roadtrip across Namibia, we witnessed extraordinary places, deep in the desert and thousands of years old. The incredible sand dunes of Sossusvlei took our breath away; the majestic spikes of Spitzkoppe rising out of the flat red neverending horizon were awe-inspiring; the rock carvings at Twyfelfontein are the best preserved in southern Africa; and Etosha National Park was supreme and by far our favourite visited on our cross-Africa trip.

In this guide, I have attempted to summarise the exceptional adventures we undertook in this otherworldly country. Read on for where to stay in each place, driving distances and what to do when you get there.

How to Get to Namibia

Namibia's capital of Windhoek has the main international airport in the country. Flights arrive to Windhoek usually from either Johannesburg or Cape Town in South Africa; the only direct flight to Windhoek from Europe is Frankfurt and there are none from North America, Asia or Oceania.

You can also drive up from Cape Town if you choose to start your roadtrip there, but it's a long stretch and will add a least a few days to your trip and needs to be driven with caution.

It is advised to land at Windhoek during daylight hours so try to time your flight schedule accordingly. We picked up our 4x4 rental car directly at the airport.

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Flying out of Cape Town

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Flying into Windhoek

A Word on Safety in Namibia

I'm no safety expert and I'm being honest when I'm saying that a trip to Africa requires a lot more safety-awareness than you might typically expect of say, Europe. It's just how it is. If you take sensible precautions when traveling around, you should be fine.

As you gleaned from above, we took lots of precautions and still ended up in crap situations - stolen luggage, corrupt borders, bad road conditions.

If you must travel with valuables e.g. camera, laptop, always carry them with you. Leave nothing in your car unattended anywhere, and even when driving, ensure all your belongings are hidden out of sight - smash and grabs are common at red lights.

Never travel at night - stay in a safe, fenced, locked accommodation (campsite, AirBnb, etc.) with security and CCTV before sunrise and after sunset. The roads are poor and filled with potholes and likely to have wild animal crossings, both of which you can't see at night, and the roads are very rarely lit. Gangs also populate the streets after dark look for unsuspecting victims.

Ensure you have all your travel vaccinations up to date, including yellow fever (it's not required, but they may ask for it at the border). Carry ibuprofen, throat lozenges, allergy medication, diarrhea medication and any other pills you may find useful. Malaria is not so common in southern Namibia but it is in the north; I strongly suggest taking daily malaria tablets - you start a day before your trip begins and finish a week after your trip ends.

Tips for Namibia

While English is the only official language of Namibia and is widely understood, Oshiwambo is actually the most commonly spoken language, followed closely by Afrikaans. There is a large German population in Namibia and German is also spoken often.

The weather can get extremely hot in the summer months but prepare for all sorts of weather. We had some intense rainstorms as well as we left the country for Botswana. Bring cool, thin clothing and plenty of layers to accommodate for the changing temperatures.

The currency is the Namibian dollar ($NAD) and is extremely comparable to the South African Rand (NAD$1 ~ R1). As in most of the African countries we visited, many places only accept cash but a surprising number (such as all gas stations) do accept international MasterCard or Visa. They also typically accept most other currencies - we used Rand, NAD, Euro and USD cash in Namibia and all were readily accepted.

Get a local SIM card to ensure you have data while you're roaming the desert and also local calling in case you need to contact your accommodations or encounter roadside issues (or need to phone the police when your luggage is stolen...). MTC is the main network in Namibia and you can get a good prepaid SIM card loaded with enough data/calling for 7 days at the Windhoek Airport.

All of southern Africa drives on the left side (opposite to Europe, same as the UK) including Namibia. You'll find a massive variety of roads - the great "A" roads are paved and usually well-maintained (save for a pothole or two), "B" roads are lesser quality paved roads, "C" roads are good quality gravel roads and then "D" roads are bad quality gravel or sand roads. And "F"... well, don't go there. They're basically dirt tracks.

6 Day Roadtrip Itinerary Through Namibia

We spent six incredible jam-packed awe-filled days driving about 2500km through Namibia, starting in Windhoek and doing a big circle clockwise, ending in Etosha National Park, before crossing the border into Botswana.

We both agreed that we would have loved more time - both to see more things and to spend more time at the places we did go to - but felt that while the days were long, we managed well and scheduled our time nicely.

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Day 1 - Windhoek to Solitaire

After we landed at the Windhoek International Airport and picked up our rental 4x4 car, we headed into Windhoek. Given our experience in this city, I would use it as a pit stop only to get fuel, food (SuperSpar is great) and supplies for your roadtrip but one person should stay with the car at all times (particularly if your car is obviously a rental e.g. has rental stickers indicating luggage likely inside). Once you're sorted, head out of town as soon as you can.

DRIVE: Drive the 250km out west through the desert to the funky little town of Solitaire.

STAY: Solitaire campsite

DO: On day 1, we were so preoccupied with the luggage theft and Windhoek police, we didn't have time for much else. The best thing to do on day 1 anyway while you're getting acquainted with Namibia is to soak in the surrounding views as you drive deep into the desert.

READ MORE: Our Journey to Sossusvlei

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Road to Solitaire

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Solitaire campsite

Day 2 - Sossusvlei to Swakopmund

For our first full day in Namibia, we visited the iconic Sossusvlei desert, home to some of Namibia's most well-known landscapes and the vast red sand dunes stretching far into the horizons. Note that to visit Sossusvlei, you'll definitely need a 4x4 (as with the entire roadtrip) given the sandy roads you need to conquer - if you don't feel comfortable doing this drive, you can join a guided tour with an experienced local driver.

DRIVE: From Solitaire, drive just over 140km to Sossuvlei through Sesriem (where you'll pay an entrance fee). At Sossusvlei, the final stretch to park for Deadvlei is cmpletely sandy (and we got stuck at one point and had to be rescued by one of the local drivers). After Sossuvlei, we drove back to Solitaire and then headed about 200km north to Swakopmund, crossing the Tropic of Capricon along the way.

STAY: Tiger Reef campsite in Swakopmund

DO: Hike into Deadvlei, the incredible white clay pan at Sossuvlei with the famous dead camel thorn trees. Take in the expansive red sand desert around you and try to spot some wildlife (ostrich and oryx are common here). Take a photo with the Tropic of Capricorn sign.

READ MORE: Our Journey to Sossusvlei

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Driving towards Sesriem

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The roads of Sossusvlei

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Tropic of Capricorn sign

Day 3 - Swakopmund to Spitzkoppe to Twyfelfontein

From Swakopmund, we left the African coast behind for the rest of the trip and headed inland towards Spitzkoppe, a collection of bald granite peaks, thought to be more than 120 million years old. The most symbolic of them all is the pointed triangular mountain rising more than 1700 metres high. The stunning red rocks make for an otherworldly landscape to explore. End your day in Twyfeltonein, a haven in the north and home to world famous rock carvings.

DRIVE: From Swakopmund, drive 160km on mostly easy paved roads to the poignant peaks of Spitzkoppe already visibly bursting out of the horizon from many miles away. Spitzkoppe does have a campsite if you'd like to stay here (which we recommend - you can camp in and amongst the beautiful red rocks under the stars). From Spitzkoppe, drive the gravel road nearly 240km north to Twyfelfontein (the roads get particularly bad for about 50km near the end and the final 30km are on beautiful paved roads - a relief).

STAY: Twyfelfontein campsite

DO: Hike through the incredible red rocks of Spitzkoppe and spot the bushmen art thought to be over 2000 years old. Hike above the camp in Twyfelfontein for amazing landscapes.

READ MORE: A Guide to Spitzkoppe and Visiting the Rock Art of Twyfelfontein

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Our guide showing us the bushmen cave art painted in red oryx blood

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Hiking in Spitzkoppe

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Views of Twyfelfontein

Day 4 - Twyfelfontein to Etosha National Park

We spent day 4 exploring the incredible rock carvings of Twyfelfontein, a UNESCO site and said to be the best preserved in southern Africa. After Twyfelfontein we drove even further north and entered our first national park of the trip, Etosha, which would ultimately end up being our favourite of all the ones we visited across the continent.

DRIVE: The rock carvings are at a site about 8km along a gravel road leading off the main road from the Twyfelfontein Campsite. From there, we drove just over 340km northeast to Okaukuejo and the starting point of our adventure through Etosha.

STAY: Okaukuejo rest camp in Etosha National Park

DO: Visit the beautifully preserved rock carvings of Twyfelfontein, thought to be 2000-6000 years old. Spot wildlife inside the exceptional Etosha National Park - enter at Okaukuejo on the west side and stop at Ombika Waterhole and Okondeka Waterhole. Watch sunset and hopefully spot more wild animals at the waterhole at the Okaukuejo campsite.

READ MORE: Visiting the Rock Art of Twyfelfontein and A Guide to Etosha National Park

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The famous rock carvings of Twyfelfontein

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Zebra near Okondeka Waterhole

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Ombika Waterhole in Etosha

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Giraffe at the Okaukuejo Waterhole

Day 5 - Etosha National Park

Our fifth day on the road was dedicated entirely to exploring the magnificent Etosha National Park. We were completely entranced by this national park. Within a few minutes we had animal sightings of all kinds across the plains. Not only were we lucky enough to spot all the most-seen animals such as giraffe, zebra, springbok, ostriches, wildebeest, baboons and many birds, but we also got to see two rhino and even saw a leopard, hiding high up in the branches of a tree just before the exit at Namutoni.

DRIVE: Enter the gates at Okaukeujo and make the 134km drive east across the park across the southern part of the Etosha Pan to reach Namutoni, the exit gate on the far side of the park. The roads are gravel but very well-maintained and we suggest taking all the detours as this is where you'll have the best chance of spotting animals.

STAY: Goba rest camp in Gobabis (we stayed here on our way to Botswana as the road through Gobabis is one of the two routes - you can also try Roy's Rest Camp which is along the other route to Botswana)

DO: Spot as many incredible wildlife as possible during your self-drive safari through Etosha National Park.

READ MORE: A Guide to Etosha National Park

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A Jana!

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Springbok at a waterhole

Day 6 - Drive to Botswana

Our final day in Namibia saw us heading eastward to cross the border into Botswana. From Etosha, you can drive south through Gobabis and cross the border at Buitepos. Otherwise you can drive east and cross after Tsumkwe.

Otherwise, if you're only doing a trip through Namibia, from Etosha, head south to Windhoek. We'd suggest camping in Namutoni or nearby such as at Ghaub campsite.

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Jana Meerman

Hi! I’m Jana, a British-Dutch-Canadian with a dream of seeing every country in the world. I am a storyteller, photographer and adventurer passionate about documenting and sharing my travels.

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