Unmissable Attractions in Namibia

Sesriem, Namibia
Sesriem, Namibia | © rdebbo / Alamy Stock Photo
Gill Lange

Desert abundance may sound like an oxymoron, but in Namibia the phrase rings true, with countless spectacular natural attractions spread across the dusty, arid landscape, unique in their beauty and stunning to behold. Here is a selection of Namibia’s most unmissable attractions.

The Fish River Canyon

This magnificent canyon is the largest in Africa and one of Namibia’s most frequently visited attractions. Its enormous ravine houses the longest interior river in the country, and hot springs can be found near its lower reaches.

Skeleton Coast

Namibia’s Skeleton Coast is a harsh and unyielding landscape where only the hardiest of desert-adapted animals survive. It is also notorious for its rough seas and thick fog that has claimed the lives of many sailors over the years. A coastline littered with shipwrecks attests to the treacherous conditions.

Kolmanskop

This ghost town was once a thriving diamond mining area but now lies semi-buried by the sands of time. Its haunting beauty is only overshadowed by the eerie feel of abrupt abandonment that whispers through the broken windows and down the lonely streets.

Desert-adapted wildlife

Namibia is home to spectacular and unusual wildlife, with many species having made physical adaptations in order to survive in the arid desert conditions. In many cases, the scarcity of water is overcome by drinking droplets of condensed fog from plant leaves.

Dead Vlei

Some of the most iconic photographs of Namibia come from this area of the country. Dead Vlei is a clay pan characterised by dark, dead camel thorn trees that are believed to be over 900 years old, and stand in stark contrast against the white pan floor. Make sure to have you camera handy when visiting this exquisitely photographic site.

Hoba meteorite

The Hoba meteorite is the largest on the planet as well as the largest naturally occurring mass of iron known to exist on the earth. It was first uncovered in 1920 and remains in the exact location where it crashed into the earth’s surface over 80,000 years ago.

Etosha National Park, Namibia

This spectacular wildlife park is dominated by a massive mineral pan, part of the Kalahari Basin, the floor of which was formed over 1,000 million years ago and fills up only for a short period of time, when rains are heavy. For most of the year it is a shimmering mirage against which the long shadows of passing herds of game can be seen, providing a unique and stunningly stark landscape. Despite its aridness, the park is rich in wildlife and boasts the ‘big five’ and over 100 other mammal species, as well as thousands of birds that flock to the pan.

Welwitschia Drive

This desert route is located in the northern corner of the Namib-Naukluft National Park and includes 13 numbered stone beacons at points of particular interest. The four-hour drive culminates at one of Namibia’s largest, and oldest, welwitschia plants, a strange and highly unique desert species.

Kaokoland

This remote region in northern Namibia is often considered one of the last true wilderness areas in Africa, where desert-adapted elephants roam the dry riverbeds in search of spring-fed waterholes, and the proud Himba people remain unaffected by changes to the modern world. Outside the capital of Opuwo there are no amenities, only a network of dirt roads that lead into a vast and isolated wilderness. The attraction of the area lies in its solitary beauty; it’s a rugged mountainous landscape that is sparsely populated and looks very similar to the way it would have appeared over 100 years ago.

Namib Desert

The Namib Desert claims the title of the oldest in the world and dishes up panoramic landscapes that are second to none. It is an immense expanse of relentlessly moving gravel plains and dunes that stretch along the entire Namibian coastline and holds evidence of human existence dating back to the Stone Age.

Solitaire

Amidst a mass a sandy dunes and dry desert landscape is a quirky little pit stop named Solitaire. It is mostly used as a refueling station and a place to stock up on refreshments, and holds a unique charm all of its own. It is also a favourite location for photographers due to the large number of old cars buried in the sand.

Rock art

There are numerous important rock art sites scattered across Namibia, the best-known being the Brandberg Massif in Damaraland that showcases San hunter-gatherer rock art that is over 2,000 years old. Also in Damaraland is Twyfelfontein, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most important rock engraving sites in southern Africa.

Sesriem Canyon

This natural canyon was carved by the Tsauchab River and is a popular attraction in the Sossusvlei area. Its name means ‘six belts’ and was given by settlers who had to attach together six belts in order to reach buckets down into the canyon to scoop up water. The canyon is still an important water source for wildlife today.

Cape Cross

The Cape Cross Seal Reserve is home to one of the largest colonies of Cape fur seals in the world. They are only found along the southern coast of Africa and a visit to the reserve offers an interesting, if rather smelly, outing.

Duwisib Castle

On the edge of the Namib dune desert and hidden within a remote valley lies Duwisib Castle. Built in 1909 by a German baron, today the castle houses a collection of 18th- and 19th-century antiques, armour and paintings.

Swakopmund

Pretty as a picture, the scenic seaside town of Swakopmund breathes fresh salty air into the dry desert landscape. It is a popular stopover for visitors to Namibia and the quaint and pretty town offers plenty in terms of sights, places to eat and things to do.

Caprivi Strip

Unlike the rest of Namibia, the Caprivi Strip is blessed with lush vegetation and abundant water. There are five protected areas within the Caprivi where big game can be found. The Popa Falls are popular for day trips and it’s a great area to do some bird spotting.

Sand dunes

Namibia sports some of the most spectacular sand dunes in the world, that shift and change shape with the wind, transforming themselves into new visions of beauty every day. Climb them, sand board down them or simply admire them from a distance.

Sandwich Harbour

Lying south of Walvis Bay, this amazing protected natural site was once used as a port by whalers. It consists of a freshwater lagoon that laps the huge dunes of the Namib Desert and is home to a massive variety of marine birds and unique archaeological sites showcasing ancient animal tracks and old graves. It forms part of the Namib Sea Sand, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the biggest sand fields in the world. Entry to this area is only possible with a 4×4 vehicle, and visitors should be accompanied by a guide.

Sossusvlei sunset

Here, mighty sand dunes dominate the terrain, dotted occasionally by unusual plants that survive despite the harsh and unyielding desert-like conditions. Tree skeletons stand out starkly against the red-hued landscape, renowned for some of the tallest and most beautiful sand dunes in the world, while the variation of the desert ecosystem continually amazes visitors with its unexpected sights. Soak up the picturesque dunes and the basalt mountains against the desert sunset, an astoundingly dramatically and glorious panorama.

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