There are few landscapes as cinematic as Namibia’s, where giant orange sand dunes snake towards the sea and wildlife gathers at waterholes against a backdrop of shimmering salt pans. Namibia is a year-round destination, but wildlife-watching is best in the dry-season winter months of June to September.

The best places to visit in Namibia

Windhoek

Windhoek

The country’s capital Windhoek is well worth a couple of nights’ stay, with its interesting blend of cosmopolitan hubbub and traditional Germanic architecture (Photo: Getty Images)

An interesting blend of cosmopolitan hubbub and traditional Germanic architecture, Windhoek is most people’s first experience of Namibia. The country’s capital Windhoek is well worth a couple of nights’ stay, during which you can visit the Independence Memorial Museum, venture out to Katutura on a sensitively run tour of the city’s former township, and take in a few of the buildings that look like they’ve been picked up and dropped here from Bavaria – the gingerbread Lutheran church of Christuskirche and the colonial castles of Schwerinsburg, Sanderburg and Heinitzburg are the most impressive.

Sossusvlei

Sossusvlei

The stunning cracked clay pan of Sossusvlei rises up out of a gravel plain on a seemingly endless march towards the Atlantic Ocean (Photo: Getty Images)

Namibia’s most iconic landscape, the towering ochre dunes of the Sossusvlei area are a striking sight, rising up out of a gravel plain on a seemingly endless march towards the Atlantic Ocean. There are several spectacular places to visit here: Deadvlei, where the spindly arms of blackened camelthorn trees are silhouetted against a bright white pan; Sesriem Canyon, carved out ten million years ago by the Tsauchab River; and the cracked clay pan of Sossusvlei itself.

Etosha National Park

Etosha National Park

Vast Etosha National Park is home to some of Africa’s last free-ranging black rhinos (Photo: Getty Images)

One of the most distinctive parks in Africa, Etosha is dominated by a sparkling salt pan that stretches for nearly five thousand square kilometres, making it easily the largest of its kind on the continent. The park supports large herds of plains game like zebra and wildebeest, but the best wildlife-viewing is to be had at the numerous natural springs that are dotted along the pan’s margins. These waterholes are where to go if you want to see elephants, giraffes, some of Africa’s last free-ranging black rhinos, and numerous species of antelopes – plus the lions, leopards and hyenas that hunt them.

What to eat and drink in Namibia

Kapana

You’ll hear a kapana man – as the sellers of this extremely popular street-food snack are known – before you see one. The chefs call out for customers to come and try their strips of juicy red meat (usually beef), which are cooked on a charcoal grill, then dipped in chilli and salt or served with a spicy salsa-like sauce of tomatoes and onions.

Omajava

Growing to the size of an umbrella and weighing up to a kilogram, omajava are giant white mushrooms that sprout from the base of termite mounds during the rainy season. They are often sold on the roadside, particularly in northern Namibia, and are best cooked in butter with asparagus and cherry tomatoes.

Spaetzle

Spaetzle

Spaetzle are thick, chewy, delicious egg noodles that are often served as a side dish for meat mains (Photo: Getty Images)

Namibia’s time as a German colony has influenced its cuisine, and one of the dishes to try, particularly in the Germanic towns of Windhoek or Swakopmund, is spaetzle. These thick, chewy egg noodles are delicious and often served as a side dish for meat mains.

Kabeljou

Namibia has the cold waters of the Atlantic’s Benguela Current to thank for its excellent seafood. A fish found on most restaurant menus is kabeljou, or kob, which has a firm, white flesh. There are several great places to eat kabeljou in the coastal towns of Walvis Bay and Swakopmund, either dusted in flour and grilled, fried in butter, or, if it’s really fresh, served as ceviche.

Top things to do in Namibia

Flamingos

Walvis Bay features a lagoon which, at certain times of the year, is home to over 100,000 pink flamingos (Photo: Getty Images)

Walvis Bay is the setting for one of the most fun things to do in Namibia: kayaking among Cape fur seals in a lagoon which, at certain times of the year, is home to over 100,000 pink flamingos. The harbour town is also just half an hour from Swakopmund, from where scenic flights soar over the shipwreck-strewn beaches of the Skeleton Coast and the immense dunes of the Namib Desert – an unmissable trip. There are several great places to base yourself in Walvis Bay, including the Hotel Indongo Walvis Bay, which is set on the Esplanade, with uninterrupted views of the bird-rich lagoon.

In central Namibia’s Damaraland, the rocks of Twyfelfontein were decorated by the local San Bushmen with petroglyphs and paintings depicting lions, rhinos and giraffes. There are plenty of other interesting things to do in the region, including visiting Burnt Mountain and the Organ Pipes, unusual rock formations with equally unusual names.

Focus your time in South Namibia on one or two main sights. One of the best things to do is visit the snaking Fish River Canyon, second in size only to the US’ Grand Canyon but with relatively few visitors. The view from the rim is spectacular, or you can explore it from below by tackling the 85km-long Fish River Canyon Trail.

Hidden gems in Namibia

Kolmanskop

Exploring the abandoned diamond-mining town of Kolmanskop is one of the most unique things to do in Namibia’s little-visited far south

Nestled in the panhandle of the Caprivi Strip, Katima Mulilo is Namibia’s gateway to Chobe National Park in neighbouring Botswana. The town is just an hour and a half from Kasane, jumping-off point for Chobe’s huge herds of elephants, but there are lots of fun things to do in Katima Mulilo itself, chief of which is to soak up the gorgeous view of the Zambezi River.

Exploring the abandoned diamond-mining town of Kolmanskop is one of the most unique things to do in Namibia’s little-visited far south. The desert is slowly reclaiming the buildings here, with sand dunes sweeping in through the doors of the former post office, butcher’s and baker’s, and half-filling the dilapidated houses.

Go deeper

Namibia is home to 13 different ethnic groups, who speak a number of different dialects, and the country was ruled at one time by both Germany and South Africa – yet English is the only official language.

Published: July 26, 2022

Last Updated: June 19, 2023

Article Tags:  Namibia

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