Beautiful Places In Namibia: My Favourites

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Namibia is a seriously stunning country.  If you are a fan of wide open spaces, spectacular, unique scenery and just getting “away from it all”, you’ll love Namibia.  There are more beautiful places in Namibia than I could include in this post.  But here are some of my favourites.

It’s a pretty big place – larger than Texas, and more than double the size of Germany.  And with a population of just over 2 million, it’s not surprising that there isn’t a particularly extensive public transport network.

Here's my list of 8 must-see beautiful places in Namibia.

Note:  In order to fully enjoy this amazing country, I strongly recommend hiring your own car – preferably one with four-wheel drive.  Although a large number of roads are paved and in excellent condition, some of the most beautiful places in Namibia can only be accessed via dirt roads.

Spitzkoppe

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The granite peaks of Spitzkoppe can be seen from a long way off, rising dramatically out of the desert.  

Popular with rock climbers, hikers (and geologists), these huge formations are as impressive as they are unique.  Towering almost 700 metres above the desert below, they really are a sight to behold.

It’s also relatively easy to get to Spitzkoppe – about 2 hours’ drive from Swakopmund, or 3 hours’ from Windhoek.  (That’s a short drive by Namibian standards!)

In order to enjoy this place at its best, I’d definitely recommend spending the night here.  There is an epic campsite nestled at the bottom of the main formation.  This is without a doubt one of the most spectacular campsites I’ve ever stayed at.  Sitting by a fire, watching the sunset paint the mountains orange and gold, is definitely one of my strongest memories of that trip.  

And the stars… They’ll blow your mind, I promise.

The campsite also has a few basic facilities including toilets, rubbish bins and braais (i.e. BBQs).

For more information on camping, climbing, hiking and star gazing at Spitzkoppe, head over to spitzkoppe.com.

If you’re interested in doing a bit of wild/bush camping in Namibia, make sure you’ve got the right gear.  Check out this guide to the best wild camping tents.

In short… One of the best tents that money can buy is the MSR Hubba Hubba 2-person tent.

The Desert - The Kalahari & The Namib

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Over half of Namibia is desert.  The Namib desert runs the entire length of the country’s Atlantic coast.  “Namib” means “vast” in the Nama/Damara language.  It is one of the oldest and driest deserts in the world, rivalling the Atacama desert in Chile on both counts.

The Namib desert is not the burning hot place that you might expect.  In fact, bizarrely, it’s often misty and chilly!  This phenomenon is caused by cold, damp air from the Southern Atlantic hitting hot, dry air from the inland regions of Southern Africa.  

It can also result in some spectacular thunderstorms, especially at sunset.

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Thunderstorm in the Namib Desert

Inland to the east, the Kalahari desert spans much of the Namibian interior.  It also spreads into neighbouring Botswana and South Africa.  Wild, untouched and still – it’s a very quiet, peaceful place.  The red sands and acacia trees go on seemingly forever under an endless sky.

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However, the Kalahari is not a dead place.  It’s home to a rich variety of wildlife, birds and plants.  Expect to see plenty of meerkats, oryx, weaver birds, ostrich and maybe the odd lion or African wild dog.

Sossusvlei

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At Sossusvlei you will find some of the most impressive red sand dunes in the world.  

Located in Namib-Naukluft National Park, in the southern Namib, this area is one of Namibia’s most popular tourist destinations – and for good reason.  A vast sea of towering red sand dunes, spreading as far as the eye can see.  

Some of the dunes are well over 350 metres tall.   From the “summit” of any of these monsters, the view is spectacular.  All you can see in every direction is a sea of red sand.  

The wind blowing across the Namib is constantly changing the shape of these giant mountains of sand.  They are sometimes referred to as “star dunes”, as the winds blow the sand into shapes with multiple arms that look like stars from above.

This place is utterly timeless.  You could spend hours gazing at these stunning formations.

It’s definitely one of the most unique and beautiful places in Namibia, if not the world.

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For more information and a range of accommodation options, check out sossusvlei.org.

Deadvlei (one of the most beautiful places in Namibia for photography)

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Deadvlei is a white clay pan next to Sossusvlei.  Its name means “dead marsh”, due to the presence of hundreds of dead acacia trees.  These haunting, skeletal remains are believed to be almost 900 years old.  

The dark black trunks and branches contrast strikingly against the white ground, red dunes and perfectly blue sky.  A photographer’s paradise, Deadvlei is as instantly recognisable as it is surreal.

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Whilst not technically “fossilised” as commonly believed, the wood has been preserved by the dryness of the desert.  This place is literally too dry for dead trees to rot!

It’s hard to believe that a river used to flow through this place, supplying the water which allowed the trees to grow.  When the river dried up the trees no longer had enough water, so they died.

I can’t recommend Deadvlei enough – it’s one of those places you just have to see.

The main site is about 1 km from the parking area.  It’s a relatively easy walk, though be sure to bring plenty of water.  It gets seriously hot during the day, and there’s no shade.

Dune 45

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Dune 45 is probably the most famous dune in the Sossusvlei area.  It is located 45 km (hence the name) from the Sesriem Gate entrance to the Namib-Naukluft National Park.

At a “mere” 170 metres, it’s by no means the tallest dune around.  But its relative accessibility makes it a popular destination for visitors to the area.  

It’s a pretty tough slog up to the top.  The sand is very fine, and you might struggle to make progress up the steeper sections.  It’s definitely worth the effort though, the views from the top are stunning.

Running down the side of the dune from top to bottom is ridiculously fun.  Even if you do trip, roll, and get a ton of sand in your eyes like I did…

For the best views and colours, come at either sunrise or sunset.  It’s also more of a bearable temperature at these times.

It should obviously go without saying, but BRING LOTS OF WATER.

Fish River Canyon

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The “Grand Canyon of Africa”, in the south of Namibia, is the second largest canyon in the world.

The sheer scale is staggering:  the Fish River Canyon is 27 km wide and half a kilometre deep in places.  It’s every bit as impressive as its better-known American cousin.  And best of all, you can often have the place entirely to yourself.

For fans of hiking, there is a five day trail which starts near to Hobas.  This trail takes in the majority of the canyon, following the Fish River, and ends at the spa resort at Ai-Ais.  Here you can enjoy the hot mineral springs as you rest up and recover post-hike.

You’ll need a decent pair of walking shoes, lots of suncream, a warm sleeping bag (it can get pretty cold at night!), enough food and water purification tablets.  And obviously don’t attempt to do the hike alone…

If you don’t fancy the hike, there are great views of the canyon from the public viewpoint near Hobas.

Etosha National Park

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If you thought that (i) Namibia was just one giant desert; and (ii) you couldn’t go on safari and see the “Big Five” in the wild here, you’d be wrong on both counts.

Etosha National Park should be on everyone’s list of top places to visit in Namibia.  It’s one of the largest game parks in Africa, and you can see a huge range of animals here.  Vast herds of elephant, zebra, black and white rhino, wildebeest, giraffe, ostrich, lion, leopard, cheetah….  You name it, there are tons at Etosha.

The giant Etosha salt pan covers about a quarter of the national park and glistens white under the sun.  The rest of the park consists of large stretches of woodland and grasslands, with several waterholes.

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These waterholes are great places to watch the amimals come to drink and bathe.  Some of the waterholes are also floodlit, giving you the rare chance to see the animals at night (see rhino above, taken without zoom).  

You can camp overnight inside the park (super awesome) within designated areas.  Hugely recommended!  Alternatively, there are lodges for those who prefer more comfort (and/or not to hear animals sniffing around your tent in the night).

For more information about visiting Etosha, including park fees, accommodation options and travel info, head over to etoshanationalpark.org.

Cape Cross Seal Colony

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On a rocky promontory and a short stretch of beach, 130 km north of Swakopmund, you’ll find the largest colony of Cape fur seals in the world.  During the breeding season in November and December, over 200,000 of the things cram themselves onto the small headland.

They are loud, boisterous and seem to like fighting with each other.  It’s a bizarre, but certainly cool, place to stop for a picnic on your drive along the coast.

Cape Cross is also the site where, in 1486, the first European explorer (Diego Cao, from Portugal) set foot on what is now Namibia.

Okay, so maybe this isn’t one of the most beautiful places in Namibia (and it smells pretty bad), but it’s still an amazing thing to experience.

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The baby seal pups are also super cute.

Skeleton Coast

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There’s an eerie number of shipwrecks along the Namib desert coast.  Thanks to the infamously thick fog, strong Atlantic currents and vast stretches of featureless desert, countless unfortunate sailors throughout the ages have run aground on this stretch of the Namibian coast.

Throughout history, many seafarers who were stranded here died of thirst, leaving their bones along with those of their ships.  You can see why Portuguese sailors used to call this inhospitable, remote place “The Gates of Hell”.  Stuck between the raging South Atlantic and the vast, barren Namib desert, this isn’t a place you want to be shipwrecked.

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In case that wasn’t cheerful enough, it’s also an animal graveyard.  The remains of large numbers of dolphins and whales litter the shoreline.  The name “Skeleton Coast” really is deserved.  

It’s a surreal and desolate place but, in some ways I think, morbidly beautiful.

Caprivi Strip

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Another fantastic place for spotting wildlife, the Caprivi Strip is a thin sliver of northern Namibia sandwiched between Botswana, Angola and Zambia.

After the immense stretches of desert that makes up most of the rest of the country, you’d be forgiven for thinking you had left Namibia when entering the Caprivi.  The Chobe, Okavango and Zambezi rivers all flow through this strip of land.  High rainfall helps to keep the area green, lush and full of life.

The swampier parts are home to large numbers of hippo and crocodile.  On drier land, you’ll likely spot lots of other big African wildlife – elephant, giraffe, buffalo, lion and cheetah to name a few.

The Caprivi is also super close to the famous Okavango Delta in Botswana.  If you’ve got time, I’d highly recommend combining the two destinations.

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She agrees

There are so many beautiful places in Namibia, this list only just scratches the surface.  Have I missed any of your favourites?  Let me know in the comments below.

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