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.
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.
Skeleton Coast Park, +7 9522613395
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.
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.
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.
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.
Hoba meteorite, Hoba West Farm, Grootfontein, +264 61244375
Etosha National Park
Centered around an enormous salt pan, so large that it can even be seen from outer space, is the stunning Etosha National Park. Here, game viewing is almost always good around the watering holes, and the park can be visited the whole year through.
Etosha National Park, +264 811800016
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.
The harsh and unforgiving Kaokoland is recognised as one of the last true wilderness areas in southern Africa. Desert elephant and rhino tracking are popular activities in the region, which is also home to the Himba people who have survived in the desert for thousands of years.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Duwisib Castle, +264 63295030
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.
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.
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 forms part of the Namib Naukluft National Park and includes a bay in the north and a lagoon to the south. Here, giant sand dunes run straight into the icy Atlantic Ocean and the lagoon wetlands are considered one of the most important in southern Africa. Fabulous scenery and plenty of outdoor adventure awaits.
Sandwich Harbour 4×4, Atlantic Str, Walvis Bay, +264 811473933
Sossusvlei is an iconic Namibian landmark and one of the most-visited locations in the country. Red dunes, eerie silence, still air and the enormity of the desert make this a genuinely one-of-a-kind destination.