In the heart of southern Africa, Namibia offers sumptuous panoramas, between arid deserts, steep coasts beaten by the waves and sand dunes undulating ad infinitum. Spot cheetahs on a safari in Etosha, learn about world history from the petroglyphs of Twyfelfontein or try your hand at sandboarding in Swakopmund.
This wonderfully wild country is one of the few on the planet that still offers you a truly immersive experience away from mass tourism.
So, what to visit in Namibia? Here is a selection of the most beautiful places to explore!
1- Etosha Park
What to do in Namibia at all costs? Etosha Park, inevitably. The safari promises to be unforgettable in this preserved area of about 22,000 hectares, only a third of which is open to the public. There are 114 species of mammals and 340 species of birds. The big game is to try to see the Big Five, i.e. the lion, the leopard, the elephant, the black rhino and the buffalo.
You are advised to go near the waterholes, early in the morning or at the end of the day – when it’s cooler – to have a better chance of spotting them. You can sleep in the park, lodges and campsites welcome you under a starry sky, in a silence only broken by the clucking of hyenas. A magical night that will no doubt remain engraved in your memory for a long time!
Sossusvlei, in the Namib Desert – one of the oldest in the world – is inevitably high on the list of places to visit in Namibia. Of course, it is a long way to get there, but what a sight to see once you get there! The sand dunes stretch out to the horizon and offer many points of interest.
One of the most popular is the Deadvlei, which has served as the backdrop for many films and commercials. Take out your camera to photograph the picture formed by the white clay basin, the red dunes, the calcified acacias and the blue of the sky. The shot is incredible! At sunrise or sunset, you can also start climbing Dune 45 or Big Daddy to get a sumptuous panorama of the surroundings.
3- Fish Canyon River
The second largest canyon in the world after the United States, Fish Canyon River is a must see if you plan to visit Namibia. A natural jewel located at the extreme south of the country, on the border with South Africa, it captivates the imagination with its 160 kilometers long, 27 wide and 550 meters deep.
Contemplatives will go from belvederes to viewpoints to enjoy exceptional landscapes. The most courageous will opt for the Fish River Hiking Trail that will take them to the bottom of the canyon, on an 85-kilometre walk in 3 to 5 days. Hot springs will allow you to relax while observing the faults dug by 2 million years of erosion.
Lovers of unusual excursions, if you are wondering what to do in Namibia, don’t miss the ghost town of Kolmanskop! Kolmanskop came out of the sand at the beginning of the 20th century, following the discovery of a diamond in the area. For a while, it sheltered families of miners looking for a juicy vein.
A casino, a hospital and even a swimming pool were built, before the village was depopulated in the 1930s by more profitable mines. Today, you can explore the area, gradually invaded by sand. A few pieces of furniture and a small museum will allow you to learn more about the history of Kolmanskop and its inhabitants.
5- Pelican Point
If you’re still wondering what to do in Namibia to vary the pleasures, how about a kayak trip among the seals? Walvis Bay and Pelican Point are home to an impressive colony of thousands of seals, which you can approach with the strength of your arms.
The smell is a bit confusing at first – not to say nauseating – but the malice of the seals that come to play with you will quickly make you forget this slight unpleasantness. Other animals spawn in the area, such as the poetic flamingos, the curious jackals or the pelicans with the oversized goat that gave the place its name.
Situated on the Atlantic coast of the country, Swakopmund is a small seaside resort that forms the gateway to the Skeleton coast, which we will tell you about shortly afterwards. Start by wandering through the quiet streets of the town, to gaze at the façade of Woermann Haus – a beautiful colonial mansion – or to push open the doors of the museum, to learn more about local history, wildlife and flora.
But the whole point of Swakopmund is to visit the surrounding area and surf the sand dunes that rise up near the ocean. Once at the top, you will enjoy a magnificent panorama, before you speed down on your board. A place to add urgently to your list of places to visit in Namibia.
7- Skeleton coast
Skeleton coast is undoubtedly one of the most surprising places to do in Namibia. It owes its name to a writer, John Henry Marsh, one of whose books relates the sinking of a ship, the Dunedin Star. And there are stranded ships all along the coast that testify to how difficult it is to come to moor here.
Here and there, you’ll also find whale bones on the beaches, and budding birdwatchers can spot nearly 250 species of birds in their binoculars. There are two modes of transport available to visit the area: a helicopter tour, to fly over the area and take in the view, or by car (4×4 is recommended, the road is sometimes difficult to drive on certain sections, especially those made of earth).
8- Sandwich Harbour
Impossible to visit Namibia without making a detour to Sandwich Harbour! Another unmissable part of the Skeleton Coast, this time the excursion must be done with a guide, to avoid getting lost.
You will discover a magical place where the sand dunes meet the ocean, sometimes covered with a somewhat ghostly mist. The guide will undoubtedly take you to see a colony of flamingos that has taken up residence in the area, or some lizards and geckos that live in the sand.
Visiting Namibia also means going back in time to the first men who set foot on its land and left their mark on the north-western region of the country. At Twyfelfontein, you can discover one of the largest concentrations of rock art and petroglyphs in Africa, moving testimonies of the hunter-gatherers who lived here more than 6,000 years ago.
Accompanied by a guide, you will enjoy an informative walk around the site and contemplate motifs as diverse as a giraffe, an elephant, a human footprint or an ostrich carved into the red rock. The surrounding landscape is grandiose, as is often the case in this country.
When you wonder what to do in Namibia, why not take a detour to the north of the country, to meet the Himbas inhabitants? Associations organize guided tours in the villages, which will allow you to learn more about the ancestral way of life of these Bantu tribes.
Here, the women dye their bodies and their long braids red, using a mixture of ochre powder and grease, to protect their skin and hair from the sun and the harsh climate. They will be happy to share with you some recipes of their cosmetic preparations.
If you plan to visit Namibia from France, you will inevitably land in Windhoek (pronounced “Windouk”), the capital of the country. Perched at high altitude and organized in the American style according to a grid plan, it is very pleasant to walk around.
It has many interesting sites, such as the Owela Museum, dedicated to the history and culture of the country, a good way to get to know the local customs. Then it’s on to the two churches worth seeing, Christuskirche and St. Mary of Windhoek, before continuing on to one of the city’s monuments, the Reiterdenkmal. In the evening you can share a beer with friendly locals in one of the pubs in the center.
12- The Caprivi Strip
What to do in Namibia that is not in the desert or in an arid region? The Caprivi strip, located in the north-eastern part of the country, is a welcome bucolic stopover for lovers of greenery and lake scenery. Flood plains, palm trees and forests contrast happily with the rest of the country.
Most of the time, one discovers this region before going to Chobe Park in Botswana or the Victoria Falls. Many birds live here and to see them, opt for a boat cruise on the Chobe or Zambezi Rivers. At Sunset, it’s even more romantic !