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Located in southwest Africa, Namibia is bordered by the Namib Desert and the Atlantic Ocean, and it’s known for its diverse wildlife and grandiose landscapes. It’s a sparsely populated nation that’s rugged, yet relatively easy to travel around for a first-time visitor. There are so many things to see and do in Namibia, especially if you love outdoor adventure.
Namibia is a top safari destination, but there’s a lot more to this country than the wild animals. So if you’re curious about exploring this unique Southern African country, then add these unforgettable places to visit in Namibia to your travel itinerary.
Giant Sossusvlei Dunes
Even if you’ve seen sand dunes before, the dunes at Sossusvlei are definitely an unforgettable sight. They are gigantic red dunes that look especially amazing at sunrise and sunset. This is an ideal spot to set up your tripod and work on your nature and landscape photography skills. There are consistently high winds here, which make the shape and texture of the dunes ever-changing. If you’re feeling adventurous, climb Big Daddy and take in the view from atop the tallest sand dune in the world. This is also a popular area for hot air balloon tours, so consider booking one with a local guide company to get a bird’s-eye view of the dune terrain.
Safari at Etosha National Park
For many visitors to Southwest Africa, Etosha National Park is the number one reason to visit Namibia. One of the top wildlife-watching destinations in Africa, the wildlife species that call this region home includes zebras, cheetahs, wildebeest, and antelope. You can also see elephants, lions, leopards, rhinos, hyenas, and giraffes. Birdwatching is another big draw to this area, and there are hundreds of species of birds and raptors here. This is a popular place for safari excursions with guided tours or self-driving options.
Nature at Namib-Naukluft Park
Another conservation area that should make it on your travel to-do list is Namib-Naukluft Park, which spans about 50,000 square kilometers. Here you’ll see colorful mountains, take a scenic drive, and maybe even spot some dinosaur footprints from Paleocene times. There are some wonderful eco-lodges in this area that set you up for a few adventurous days of hiking and exploration.
Historic and Adventurous Skeleton Coast
One of the most famous places in Namibia is the Skeleton Coast, which got its name from the violent storms that caused many ships to crash and sink. It’s known as the largest “ship graveyard” in the world and marked by tall sand dune terrain today. The area is often blanketed in fog, but that doesn’t stop adventurous travelers from finding plenty to do here. Popular adventure activities to get your adrenaline pumping along the Skeleton Coast includes paragliding, quad biking, skydiving, and sea kayaking.
Solitude at Fish River Canyon
You might compare the Fish River Canyon in Namibia to the Grand Canyon in Arizona, as both provide breathtaking experiences. The canyon runs about 100 miles long and has an enormous ravine with water that has run through it. Unspoiled by human activity, this is a great place to disconnect from the world and really get in touch with yourself and the beauty of nature.
Cave Art at Brandberg Mountain
Namibia’s highest peak is Brandberg Mountain, which stands about 2,606 meters tall. It’s in the Namib Desert and marked by red color and rugged stone-age rock art. You can see the ancient carvings depictions about hunting expeditions and daily life, including the famous White Lady Lodge.
Twyfelfontein Rock Engravings
Another spectacular place to learn about ancient rock carvings is Twyfelfontein in Northwestern Namibia. It’s believed that the carvings were made by ancient Bushmen over 6,000 years ago. However, you can still distinguish elephants, rhinoceroses, humans, and footprints in the layers of sandstone and imagine what life was like during the time period the carvings were made.
Capital City of Windhoek
Windhoek is the capital of Namibia and has strong German influences. It’s in the center of the country and surrounded by mountains. The German influence is still strong here today, and you can even celebrate Oktoberfest in Windhoek! Expect to find lots of restaurants, shops, market stalls, and good beer here. Windhoek is also a great place for people-watching because of the mix of cultures that inhabit the city today.
Coastal Town of Swakopmund
Another town worth visiting in Namibia is Swakopmund, especially if you’re looking for a beach resort atmosphere. You’ll notice lots of German influences in the architecture here from the colonial days, which is interesting to see tucked away in the desert landscape. Popular activities to try in this coastal city include sandboarding, horseback riding, and surfing. Summers in Namibia is incredibly hot, so this is a great place to come to beat the heat. Whale watching, birding, fishing, and dolphin watching are popular activities among animal lovers traveling here.
Ghost Town of Kolmanskop
Lots of people associate ghost towns with the American West, but visitors to Namibia might be surprised to find one here too. Kolmanskop was once inhabited by German settlers after diamonds were discovered here in the early 1900s. The town was fashioned after German architecture and included a hospital, school, school, and tram in its heyday. The diamond field was eventually abandoned in the 1950s, and now visitors can explore this eerie place with dilapidated buildings full of sand.
Seal Colony at Cape Cross
Namibia might be best known for cheetahs and elephants, but there’s also a huge seal colony at Cape Cross worth seeing for yourself. This area is a part of a protected nature reserve, and the best time to visit is during November and December, which is breeding season.
Kalahari Desert and the San Bushmen
No trip to Namibia would be complete without a trip to the Kalahari Desert and meeting the San Bushmen. Contrary to what you might initially think, the Kalahari isn’t actually a desert because it gets enough rainfall these days to support trees, flowers, and grass. The area is said to have spiritual elements in its wide-open spaces and peaceful nature. Hire a local guide company to introduce you to the San Bushmen to learn about the tribe’s enduring traditions and way of living.
Kaokoland and the Himba Tribes
Kaokoland is a harsh and beautiful land with plains and deserts, as well an elephant population and Himba tribes that call this region home. The Himba people live in harmony with this rugged landscape and still carry on many ancient traditions from their ancestors. It’s considered to be one of the last frontiers on planet earth and often combined with a trip to Damaraland. The population is sparse, as are amenities here. One of the best ways to see this place is in a 4×4 vehicle convoy. It’s somewhat difficult to access, but well worth the effort if you want to explore a truly remote and mysterious place.