Few countries make a road trip feel so appealing as Namibia. Between sun and sand, a wide open path awaits in a wild desert oasis. Those amber dunes are begging to be explored, and what better way to see the heart of a country than with a 4x4? In a countryside so radiant as this, it can be pretty easy to lose yourself and forget the way you came.
What to expect
Namibia is not your typical road trip. Much of the routes remain unpathed, and whilst the gravel is generally in good condition, drivers need to keep an eye out for landforms, loose rock and local animals. Drivers are also strongly advised against driving at night except within major cities due to gravel roads and poor lighting.
A road trip in Namibia is truly one of a kind… so long as you plan properly and pack accordingly. Especially because it is not unusual to drive for hours in the desert without passing by a gas station or even another vehicle. To find out everything you will need, check out this list provided by Namibia’s tourism board.
The good news is you are in safe hands when planning a road trip in Namibia. As one of the country’s most popular activities, you have a few options when it comes to renting a 4x4 car.
Although the family business Namibia Car Rental is a little on the pricey side (we’re talking €135+ a night for a 4x4 vehicle and camping gear included), they are great at what they do. With all the necessary equipment provided for you, all you need to prep is your personal items, and food and drink! But if you are seriously looking to save some cash, try the more general websites like Kayak; or even split the cost by travelling with a group.
Want to see the best of Namibia but are unsure on driving? The Adventure People offer several guided group tours in this country alone, but the ones you may be most interested in are this 7-day nomad tour, or this 13-day camping trip!
Planning your trip
Deciding when to go can have a major influence on your trip, as the weather inevitably affects the road conditions and safety of driving. Although July to October is Namibia’s peak tourism season, do not rule it out. The warm but mild weather makes all the difference for your planned activities — including wildlife spotting! But, if we had to narrow it down, September is the best month for seeing everything Namibia has to offer.
To make the most out of your time here, 2–3 weeks is an ideal amount of time as it gives you a good balance of being on and off the road. Namibia’s greatest selling point is its untouched scenery. Here are 2 of the self-drive routes you could take.
In order to avoid long hours spent driving, both itineraries have been broken up into 1–3 hour average car journeys, with a maximum of 5 hours on the road at a time. So, if you do not mind driving for an extended period of time or are looking to save some cash, you could always cut out some of these stops and focus on the following: Windhoek, Etosha National Park, Sesriem & Sossusvlei.
The 10-Day Route
Day 1, Windhoek: After a long flight, the last thing you will want to be doing is more travelling. Use this time to get settled in and make sure that yourselves and the rental car is ready before your road trip begins.
Day 2, Windhoek to Okonjima Lodge: Your morning begins with a 2 hour drive to the Okonjima Lodge, a private reserve located in the Central Highlands. More famously known as Africat, this non-profit organisation is dedicated to the long-term conservation of rare and endangered species.
Day 3, Okonjima Lodge to Etosha National Park:
Whether you opted for camping or luxury lodgings, you will hardly want to leave this natural paradise. But if you rise and shine early this morning, you can take another morning tour before it is time to go!
Once you have checked out and hit the road, expect another 2 hours before reaching one of Namibia’s most popular spots: the Etosha National Park. The park has 6 camps in total; but since you will be arriving through the southern Andersson’s gate, the Okaukuejo Camp is most recommended.
Day 4, Etosha National Park: The entire day is yours to explore, so make the most out of this park’s stunning scenery by following its main route and side routes that lead to secret nature-watching spots.
Day 5, Etosha National Park to Otijwa Safari Lodge: It is time to say goodbye to Etosha as you make your way over to the Otijwa Safari Lodge, Namibia’s oldest game farm just 2 hours away. Aside from rhino tracking and game drives at sunset or nighttime, you could also opt for horseback riding or cycling!
Day 6, Otijwa Safari Lodge to Lake Oanob Resort via Windhoek: Say hello to Windhoek once more, where after a 2 hour drive, you will want to enjoy a leisurely lunch at one of the capital’s best restaurants. When you’re ready, drive for another hour until you reach the peaceful Lake Oanob Resort. As the name suggests, there are a few different water activities that you can sign up for here — including hiring a canoe, taking a guided boat tour or tubing! No matter what you like, there is bound to be an activity that you will enjoy.
Day 7, Lake Oanob Resort to Sesriem & Sossuvlei:
Now that you have taken the chance to unwind, get ready for a great adventure! The canyon and dunes are absolute must-see sights when visiting Namibia, making it well worth the 3 and a half hour drive to reach this destination.
It will take another hour and a half on the road to get from Sesriem to Sossuvlei, so keep this in mind when planning this out. There are multiple accommodation options available in both areas to choose from, with Sossuvlei offering more options as the more famous of the two.
Day 8, Sesriem & Sossuvlei: From driving around to different dunes to visiting the remarkable Deadvlei, this is your chance to see incredible attractions up-close! If you want to take it all in from a distance, then add a special touch to your travels with a Sky Balloon Safari.
Day 9, Sesriem to Lake Oanob Resort: This is likely to be a long day on the road, making a trip to somewhere familiar well-welcomed. By now you should be familiar with this resort’s first-class facilities, including its lakeview restaurant. With your road trip coming to a close, now is the time to celebrate the trip of a lifetime with a feast.
Day 10, Lake Oanob Resort to Windhoek: Leave early in the morning to give yourself plenty of time to arrive in Windhoek to return your car rental and prepare for your flight home. What a journey it has been!
The 21 Day Route
Days 1 to 4 are the same, but instead of leaving Etosha National Park the next morning, stay for an extra two days. As you will be taking a different route on day 7, changing accommodation to the western side of the park is recommended. The park takes around 4 hours to drive through in total.
Day 7, Etosha National Park to Damaraland: One of the most underrated parts of Namibia, this stark landscape is jam-packed with safari and hiking opportunities. This drive will take roughly 4 and a half hours starting from the park's west side - one of the longest drives on this itinerary.
Days 8 and 9, Damaraland: Explore geological wonders like the Vinderklip Lodge in one of the last frontiers. If you could not spot a black rhino before at the Etosha National Park, now might be your chance.
Day 10, Damaraland to Twyfelfontein: Technically in the same region, this should only be a short drive to your new accommodation. Famous for its ancient rock paintings and engravings, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a fascinating look into Namibia’s past.
Day 11, Twyfelfontein: Visit the original Adam & Eve rock and painting, the Organ Pipes or even Burnt Mountain. To get the full rundown on these sites’ fascinating history, booking with a tour guide is desirable.
Day 12, Twyfelfontein to Swakopmund: Leave early for a 4 hour drive down south until you reach Swakopmund, a favourite spot amongst the locals. Sightsee the colonial landmarks, or dig in to fresh seafood at traveller’s choice Farmhouse Deli.
Day 13, Swakopmund: What’s a coastal city without a beach? Whilst the water is too strong to swim in, today’s a great chance to unwind: regardless of whether that means lazily lounging in the sun, or visiting one of the museums here.
Day 14, Day trip to Walvis Bay from Swakopmund: One of Namibia’s more commercial areas, Walvis Bay is famous for its relaxed waterfront. Aside from its famous flock of flamingos that lean by the lagoon, Walvis Bay is also home to seals and dolphins. Taking a boat trip here is highly recommended!
Day 15, Swakopmund to Solitaire: This drive is the most unpredictable on this route, as it is estimated to take anywhere from 3 and a half to 5 hours. Allow yourself plenty of time today for travelling.
After a long journey, you may welcome a bit of peace and quiet in Solitaire (population: 92). Enjoy a slice of the town’s famous apple pie before tucking in for an early night. There is not much to do here aside from checking out the town’s old cars, so use this time to rest and recharge.
Day 16, Solitaire to Sesriem & Sossusvlei: It will take you around 1 hour to get from Solitaire to Sesriem, and another 90 minutes until you reach Sossuvlei. As one of the most popular sights in Namibia, you will want to take your time exploring.
Days 17 and 18, Sesriem & Sossuvlei: Get your cameras ready for all the unforgettable sights, including Dune 45 and Deadvlei. You may even be able to get some panoramic shots of all these attractions if you ride the Sky Balloon Safari.
Day 19, Sesriem & Sossuvlei to Lake Oanob Resort: It takes 3 and a half hours to travel from Sesriem to the tranquil Lake Oanob Resort. If you arrive early enough, you might be able to hop on a boat and enjoy a lazy afternoon on water.
Day 20, Lake Oanob Resort to Windhoek: Only one hour away from the capital, take your time this morning getting ready before checking out and hitting the road one last time. Spend the day however you please, but if you find yourself lost on ideas, why not round your final night off with a traditional cooking class?
Day 21, Windhoek: Now that the rental car has been returned, it is time to head home after an incredible journey into the wild. Who could forget a place like this?