Take a road trip through Namibia, seeing the country's top highlights along the way. Climb ancient dunes at dawn in Sossusvlei, see German-colonial architecture in coastal Swakopmund, and hike the vast landscapes of Damaraland before two incredible days of safari in Etosha National Park—the best place in the world to see an endangered black rhino.


  • Safari in Etosha National Park, the best place to spot black rhinos
  • Dig into German architecture and adventure sports in Swakopmund
  • Climb some of the biggest dunes in Africa in Sossusvlei
  • See ancient engravings and rock formations in Damaraland

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive n Windhoek Windhoek
Day 2 Explore the Namib Desert Sesriem
Day 3 Explore Sossusvlei Sesriem
Day 4 Transfer to Swakopmund Swakopmund
Day 5 Explore Swakopmund Swakopmund
Day 6 Transfer to Damaraland Damaraland
Day 7 Explore Damaraland Damaraland
Day 8 Transfer to the Etosha National Park Etosha
Day 9 Explore Etosha National Park Etosha
Day 10 Visit Okonjima (Africat Foundation) Otjiwarongo
Day 11 Transfer to Windhoek, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Windhoek


Enjoy a day at your leisure in Namibia's capital city. Windhoek has a continental atmosphere, mixing German colonial architecture with the tempos of a modern African city. Browse displays of African drums and woodcarvings on the pavement, along with elegant shops offering sophisticated Swakara garments and Namibian gemstones.

Sidewalk cafés offer Namibian-style breakfasts, or fruhschoppen, which can be enjoyed with a glass of sparkling wine or locally brewed draught beer. In addition to steak houses and coffee bars serving snacks, the city has a wide range of restaurants offering everything from French to Taiwanese cuisine.

Day 2: Explore the Namib Desert


Let the road trip begin! The first leg of your journey takes you from Windhoek to the Namib Desert.  Be sure to stop in the quirky outpost of Solitaire decorated with brightly painted cars from a bygone era, where you'll find a filling station, convenience store, and small café. After refueling, continue south along route C19, running parallel to the Namib Naukluft Park for most of the way except for a short corridor, which joins the plains of the Namib Desert to the Naukluft Mountains. This serves as a migratory passage for the gemsbok (oryx antelope), which migrate between their summer and winter feeding grounds.

Day 3: Explore Sossusvlei


Rise early for an excursion into the Namib "Sand Sea," including the famous Sossusvlei dune belt. This area has some of the highest known dunes in the world. Sossusvlei is situated at the end of the Tsauchab River, a dry riverbed that only flows in years of exceptional rainfall.

Sossusvlei is a word of Nama descent, which directly translated means "a place with many endings." Many visitors to Namibia say that no part of the desert is more stunning than Sossusvlei, with its monumentally high dunes, the shadows of their sinuous crests continually changing as the day waxes and wanes. The warm tints of the sand, ranging from pale apricot to brick orange and deep red, contrast vividly with the dazzling white surfaces of the deflationary clay pans at some of their bases.

An optional afternoon excursion to the Sesriem Canyon, a small and picturesque canyon carved over millions of years into the Tsauchab River, may also be included today.

Day 4: Transfer to Swakopmund

German-colonial architecture in Swakopmund
German-colonial architecture in Swakopmund
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After breakfast, leave for the coastal town of Swakopmund. This route follows the gravel plains of the Namib Desert through the spectacular Gaub and Kuiseb Canyons before crossing the Namib Desert. Make a stop at the Walvis Bay Lagoon, an important wetland renowned for its seasonal abundance of flamingoes.  From here, join the main route, which leads between the coast and the dune belt to the coastal resort town of Swakopmund.

Founded in 1892 during the period of German colonial rule, Swakopmund served as Namibia's main harbor for years. Now, this quaint town nestled between desert and ocean is enhanced by lush green lawns, palm trees, and carefully tended gardens. There is a good selection of restaurants and coffee shops selling traditional German cakes and pastries, while the coastline and the desert respectively offer many options for adventure or relaxation.

Day 5: Explore Swakopmund

Atlantic Coast of Swakopmund
Atlantic Coast of Swakopmund

Explore Swakopmund at your own pace today.  With shopping, a good stretch of beach (though the Atlantic here is quite cold), and an open-air curio market, this seaside town makes for a pleasant stop.  Swakopmund is also home to a very good museum and the Namibian National Marine Aquarium.

If you're in the mood for something more active, there's plenty of adventure to be had just outside of town. Take a flight over the desert, book a fishing trip from the beach or on the water, ride a quad bike over the desert sand dunes, take a bird-watching tour, and more—adventure seekers can even go sky-diving. 

Day 6: Transfer to Damaraland

Cape Fur seal colony
Cape Fur seal colony

Today you'll make the long drive south toward Damaraland, with a visit to the seal colony at Cape Cross.  At certain times of the year, there can be as many as 100,000 congregating Cape Fur seals in the area.

Day 7: Explore Damaraland

Twyfelfontein Rock Engravings
Twyfelfontein Rock Engravings

Full day in the area.  Between the Ugab and the Huab Rivers in Southern Damaraland lies a vast and unspoiled wilderness. This area boasts magnificent desert scenery, fascinating geological formations, archaeological sites, and a unique variety of desert fauna and flora. It is also the southernmost roaming ground for the rare black rhino and the desert-adapted elephant.

While in the Twyfelfontein area, optional excursions can be conducted to visit the Twyfelfontein Rock Engravings, one of the richest areas of rock engravings and Bushmen paintings in Namibia, and the geological formations of the Burnt Mountain and the dolomite columns known as the Organ Pipes. Continue over the Grootberg Mountain Pass to spend the night in the Grootberg conservancy.

Day 8: Transfer to Etosha National Park

Elephants in Etosha National Park
Elephants in Etosha National Park

In the morning, drive toward Kamanjab, where an optional excursion can be made to a Himba village. From Kamanjab, continue to Etosha National Park, entering via Anderson's Gate. 

Etosha was proclaimed Namibia's first conservation area in 1907 by the then German government and is one of the largest game reserves in Africa.  Consisting of saline desert, savannah, and woodlands, its definitive feature is the Etosha Pan, a vast, shallow depression. Spend the night inside the park at Okaukeujo Restcamp

Day 9: Explore Etosha National Park

Lilac-breasted roller in Etosha National Park
Lilac-breasted roller in Etosha National Park

Wake up bright and early for your morning game drive, on which you'll make your way to Halali, located halfway between Okaukuejo and Namutoni at the base of a dolomite hill.  Take a break here and stop for lunch before continuing to the Namutoni Resort

Day 10: Visit Okonjima (Africat Foundation)

Cheetahs of the Africat Foundation
Cheetahs of the Africat Foundation

After a leisurely breakfast, head south toward the mining town of Tsumeb. Thanks to the wealth generated by the mines, Tsumeb is an attractive town boasting some fine old colonial buildings and a palm-lined central park.  An optional excursion can be included to the Sinkhole Lake Otjikoto. The second town of the maize triangle is Otavi, once an important copper mining town and the scene of many feuds between the Owambo, Herero, and Bushmen.

Next, drive to Otjiwarongo. The town was officially founded in 1906 upon the narrow gauge railway's arrival linking Tsumeb and Swakopmund's coastal town. This is where you'll spend the night.

Day 11: Depart Windhoek

Black rhino in Etosha National Park
Black rhino in Etosha National Park

Depart after breakfast and return to Windhoek via the small town of Okahandja. Okahandja is one of Namibia's oldest established settlements and is the administrative center of the Herero-speaking people. Optional excursions include a visit to the open–air wood carving center and the Herero Graves.

Continue from Okahandja back to Windhoek, where you can either travel directly to the airport or spend one last night in the capital.

More Great Namibia Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Namibia? Check out these other Namibia itineraries, with outdoor adventures, wildlife safaris, and best-of tours to hit the highlights. 


Map of Self-Drive Namibia Exploration - 11 Days
Map of Self-Drive Namibia Exploration - 11 Days
Written by Christine Thirion, updated Sep 28, 2022