On this self-guided tour of Namibia, you'll encounter the country’s most breathtaking sights. Begin your journey at the vast Fish River Canyon and travel to coastal Luderitz for ocean views and fresh seafood. A trip to Sossusvlei will reveal the world’s most captivating sand dunes, while a safari in Etosha National Park will be an excursion to remember. Your trip concludes in Okonjima, known as a hotspot for cheetahs and leopards.

Highlights

  • Explore the depth of the iconic Fish River Canyon
  • Discover the striking sand dunes of Sossusvlei
  • Embark on big game drives throughout Etosha National Park
  • Observe cheetahs and leopards in their habitat in Okonjima

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Windhoek and Travel to Mariental Mariental
Day 2 Travel to Fish River Canyon Hobas
Day 3 Fish River Canyon Tour - Travel to Luderitz Luderitz
Day 4 Tour Luderitz and Travel to Aus Aus
Day 5 Tour Aus and travel to Sossusvlei Sossusvlei
Day 6 Tour Namib-Naukluft National Park Sesriem
Day 7 Travel to Swakopmund Swakopmund
Day 8 Swakopmund - Self-Guided Tour Swakopmund
Day 9 Tour Henties Bay - Travel to Damaraland  Damaraland
Day 10 Damaraland - Tavel to Grootberg Lodge Grootberg
Day 11 Grootberg Lodge - Travel to Etosha Etosha
Day 12 Travel to Etosha Northeastern Region Etosha
Day 13 Travel to Okonjima Otjiwarongo 
Day 14 Travel to Windhoek Windhoek

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Windhoek and travel to Mariental

Kalahari Desery
Sunset in the Kalahari Desert

Welcome to Namibia! Depending on how late in the day you arrive, you may begin your journey south on the main highway. You will travel through the thin strip of the Kalahari Desert, which turns onto the eastern side of Namibia.

If you arrive later in the day or evening, it is recommended not to drive past 11 pm in Windhoek. Instead, stay for the night in Windhoek, and begin your journey to the desert early in the morning.

Day 2: Travel to Fish River Canyon 

Fish River Canyon

In the morning, you will drive through the town of Mariental (unless you arrived last evening) which is an arid city just off the Hardap Dam. You will then head to Keetmanshoop. This is an old German town where you can grab some lunch. Take in the vast and beautiful views, and if you need to, fill your gas tank.

Then, you will drive to the Mesosaurus Fossil Site and Quiver Tree Dolerite Park, which is a place where past meets present. The gorgeous rock formations all around speak of a lost time. You can embark on a hiking trail, along with a sun-downer drive alongside the Quiver trees, which are looked upon as living fossils, themselves. Explore the dolerite valleys and visit the Schutztruppen graves, which honor two Germans who died in a battle in 1904. While on the site, you can choose to take a guided tour or explore on your own.

Once you have concluded your visit, you can head to Fish River Canyon. You will find several options for campsites. Choose one to settle into, and get comfortable, so you can enjoy your evening of camping in the wilderness.

Day 3: Fish River Canyon tour and travel to Luderitz 

Luderitz
Luderitz at sunset

Good Morning! After your night of camping, it will be time to begin your adventure of Fish River Canyon. This is the second-largest canyon in the world–the first is the Grand Canyon! You can enter the park about 6 miles from Hell’s Bend, which is a well-known viewpoint at the Hobas Restcamp. Keep in mind that at a certain point in the summer, the canyon hike is closed due to the high temperatures. Additionally, the descent into the canyon, itself, is reserved for hikers who are along the Fish River Hiking Trail, only, and not for day visitors.

However, there is much to do and see! The Fish River is the longest of Namibia, and a decent portion of it flows into the Hardap Dam–the largest of the water reservoirs in the country. Along your journey, you can explore the following areas:

  • Sulphur Springs and Viewpoint
  • Hikers’ Viewpoint:
  • Four Fingers Rock
  • Thilo von Trotha’s Grave
  • Main Viewpoint
  • Kooigoedhoogte Pass
  • Rock Pinnacle

Once you have taken in the canyon in all of its splendor, it will be time to depart to your next destination. You will drive to the coastal town of Lüderitz, which is filled with colonial-style buildings clinging to the rocks overlooking the bay. When you arrive, make sure to taste the local flavors for dinner—you will find plenty of fresh seafood here.

In the evening, take a stroll around the town and enjoy the salty breeze before retiring for the night.

Day 4: Tour Ludertiz and travel to Aus

Jackass penguins
Jackass penguins on Halifax Island

In the morning, enjoy a casual breakfast among locals. Diaz Coffee Shop has strong java and delicious pastries, while the Garden Café has some bragworthy treats, too.

After breakfast, you can join a boat tour around Luderitz Bay. Weather permitting, you will be able to travel over to Halifax Island, where you can see the Jackass penguins. Named for their donkey-like braying, these flightless birds are a sight to see! Keep in mind that this boat tour will be subject to availability.

Once you are back on land, you can take some time to further stroll Luderitz. You can visit Felsenkirche, which is an Evangelical Lutheran church that sits on Diamond Hill. A trip to Goerke Haus is a way to experience a home blended into the rocks surrounding, while the Luderitz Museum will provide a history lesson on the town, including the diamond mining story. You can end your self-guided tour with views from the lighthouse and a drink at Barrels, which is a festive bar with daily specials.

Then, it will be time to make your way to Aus, the next stop on your itinerary. Once you arrive, you can get settled in your lodging, and relax for the evening.

Day 5: Tour Aus and travel to Sossusvlei

Horses in Aus
Feral horses in Aus

In the morning, you can enjoy some time in the desert town. One of the popular attractions in Aus is Namib’s feral horses, which are known as the world’s only wild horses that roam the deserts. Although there is a lot of debate surrounding how they arrived in Namibia, they are definitely worth a visit. These scruffy and boney horses are easy to find on most of the nearby safaris, and you can likely spot them grazing on the side of the road.

If you would like to continue experiencing more of Aus, you can visit:

  • Prisoner-of-War Camp, which erected from World War I.
  • First World War Graves, which is just west of the Prisoner-of-War Camp.
  • Dicker Wilhelm, a mountain named for Kaiser Wilhelm II.

Then, you will hit the road, heading deep into the ancient southern Namib, traveling on small gravel roads and passing some tiny rural communities along the way. You will eventually reach Sossusvlei and its famed red dunes. You will spend the night here, before a full day of adventuring into the dunes tomorrow.

Day 6: Tour Namib-Naukluft National Park 

Sossusvlei
Sossusvlei

Good Morning! Early on, you will take a trip into the Namib-Naukluft National Park to the Namib Sand Sea. This area has some of the highest known sand dunes in the world! Sossusvlei is situated at the end of the Tsauchab River, a dry riverbed that only flows in the years of exceptional rainfall.

The Namib-Naukluft National Park is a protected area located on the Atlantic Coast, where you can explore the surrounding desert and mountains. Eventually, you will reach the Namib Sand Sea, where you will find a parking area. If you have rented a sedan, you will not be able to continue beyond this point, because an all-terrain vehicle is needed to navigate the next 3 miles of the Sossusvlei Dune belt. This last stretch can easily be reached on foot and can be incorporated into visiting either the Nara Vlei or Hidden Vlei, both found in the area.

While you are on your visit, take in the history. Sossusvlei is a word from Nama descent, which, when directly translated means, “a place with many endings.” Many visitors to Namibia say that there no part of the desert more stunning than Sossusvlei, with its monumentally high dunes and shadows of twisting crests that continually change with the day. You will witness the magnificent mountains of sand. With warm tints ranging from pale-apricot to brick-orange to deep-red, the colors contrast vividly with the dazzling white surfaces of the clay pans at some of the dune bases.

Once you have had your fill of exploration, you will return to your car, or take a shuttle back to the parking lot. You will then make your way back through Namib-Naukluft National Park toward the exit. In the afternoon, you have the option to visit the Sesriem Canyon, approximately 2 miles away. The Sesriem Canyon is a small-yet-picturesque canyon carved over millions of years around the Tsauchab River.

The remainder of the afternoon will be yours to relax and enjoy the splendor of the desert scenery with its unique fauna and flora. This is not a game-rich area, due to the harsh environment; however, the game that you may spot is dramatized by the contrast between desert and the magnificent animals like springbok, oryx, and ostrich, who survive on–and exist among–these arid plains.                                                                                                                                                  

Day 7: Travel to Swakopmund 

Swakopmund
Swakopmund

You will depart from Sossusvlei in the morning and drive through the small settlement of Solitaire. Make sure to stop off in Solitaire for some of the iconic apple strudel! You can fill your gas tank, too, before arriving in Swakopmund in the afternoon. You will spend two nights in this famous coastal town.

Founded in 1892 as the main harbor for German Southwest Africa, Swakopmund is often described as being “more German than Germany.” Now a seaside resort, Swakopmund is the capital of the Skeleton Coast tourism area and offers plenty to do. The quirky mix of German and Namibian influences, colonial-era buildings and the cool sea breeze make it a very popular and fun destination.

On your first day, you can take an ATV ride through the desert, rent a Land Rover and drive across the Welwitschia Plains, or visit the Swakopmund Jetty and watch the sunset on the pier.

Day 8: Swakopmund - Self-Guided Tour

Flamingos in Swakopmund
Flamingos bathing in the sea in Swakopmund

Good Morning! You will have another day in Swakopmund to explore the town. Some activities to consider include:

  • National Marine Aquarium of Namibia: Peruse the native marine life, and enjoy the walk-through tunnel featuring a live scene from the Atlantic Ocean.
  • Woermannhaus: This old colonial home is a museum that holds a collection of artifacts, as well as beautiful views of the coastal town from the tower overlook.
  • Living Museums: Go on a day trip curated by the Living Culture Organization, where you can take an organized tour of the everyday life of African tribesmen.
  • Swakopmund Museum: This is a quaint location where you can learn about local biology, ecology, the colonial period, and the nearby tribal history.

Additionally, make sure to take advantage of the coastal surroundings. You can book private tours to go whale and dolphin watching or watch the locals fish for sharks!

Day 9: Tour Henties Bay and travel to Damaraland 

Cape Cross
Cape Fur Seals sunbathing on Cape Cross

Today, you will depart along the coast to Henties Bay. Take some time to enjoy the great outdoors by the sea! You can go on a fishing expedition, go horseback riding, hike, take an ATV tour, or play a round of golf.

Before hitting the road again, grab a local lunch. As expected, there is plenty of fish to devour! You can dine at GoFishy, Fishy Corner, and Misty Bay Café, just to name a few. Then, take the 30-mile drive over to Cape Cross, where you can enter the Cape Cross Seal Colony. A breeding space for the Cape Fur Seals, 80,000-10,000 seals reside here, and it is quite a sight to witness all of them together.

Next, you will continue the drive to Damaraland, where you will spend the evening before your safari adventure in the morning.

Day 10: Tour Damaraland and travel to Grootberg Lodge

Twyfelfontein Rock Engravings
Twyfelfontein Rock Engravings

Good Morning! Start the day with a good, hearty breakfast. Main Street Café is a great choice for fresh ingredients and friendly service. Indulge in some strong coffee, a quiche, and even a piece of hazelnut cheesecake, if you want something sweet.

Next, make your way to the Twyfelfontein Rock Engravings at the head of Aba Huab Valley, where you can find plenty of gorgeous formations. You will discover the ancient engravings of the animals that are no longer found onsite, like elephants, giraffes, lions, and rhinos. Up to 2,500 engravings have been found here, at this UNESCO World Heritage Site–the first with such distinction in Namibia. You can continue visiting with the rock art of the region at Rsisab Ravine, while Phillips Cave allows you to explore the humpbacked white elephant painting inside. Then, take a trip to Spitzkoppe, which is nicknamed the “Matterhorn of Africa,” to view the formation. However, only expert hikers and climbers need apply, as this is considered dangerous territory!

After your exploration of Damaraland, it will be time to depart for Grootberg Lodge, where you will spend the night. Once you arrive, enjoy the lodge amenities. You can take a dip in the pool, enjoy the sunset from the deck, and possibly spot some rhinos and elephants in the area.

Day 11: Tour Grootberg Lodge and travel to Etosha National Park

Etosha National Park
Animals congregating by the waterhole at Etosha National Park

Today, you can explore more of Grootberg Lodge, before you depart for Etosha National Park. You are welcome to join a Moringa Guided Walk, where you will travel to the top of the plateau. Your guide will be able to spot the local flora and fauna. The 3-hour walk also provides views of more rock formations and the Etendeka Mountains.

You can also go desert elephant tracking, which is one of the lodge’s most popular activities. A guide will take you into the surrounding farms in search of the desert elephant. Although sightings are not always guaranteed, this is a great experience to introduce you to your safari journey that will unfold during the next leg of your trip.

Following your adventures at Grootberg Lodge, it will be time to begin your excursion to Etosha National Park. Depending on your time of arrival, you may be able to embark on the first of many game drives. As you begin your exploration of the southern portion of the park, you will enter around Anderson’s Gate. The nearest camp to Anderson’s Gate is Okaukuejo Rest Camp. Most visitors pass through this camp, because of its floodlit waterhole and easy-to-spot stone tower. You will find essentials here like gas and a general shop, a restaurant and bar, and a swimming pool to unwind in after a hot day.

By the waterhole, you can expect busy wildlife activity beginning early in the day. At night, the illuminated space hosts plenty of bigger game, including the endangered black rhino, along with lions, elephants, and leopards.

In terms of onsite accommodations, you can choose between waterhole chalets, bush chalets, and double rooms. Once you are settled, take some time to explore the grounds.

Day 12: Travel to Etosha northeastern region

Etosha at Sunset
Giraffes gathering at sunset at Etosha National Park

Good morning! Prepare your vehicle for a full day of exploration in the park! Make sure you review the rules of the park before you begin your touring. You must:

  • Remain in your vehicle at all times when on game drives.
  • Obey any and all traffic signs posted within the park.
  • Be able to show a valid driver’s license in order to drive within the park.
  • Leave all wildlife and plants as is; none can be removed from the park.
  • Confirm waterholes are open for viewing and remain silent when present.
  • Not feed any wild animals.
  • Not bring firearms or projectile/shooting weapons into the park.

In addition, make sure you do not have any pets in the park. Littering and motorcycles are also not permitted.

The waterholes that are located near camp include Ombika, Gemsbokvlakte, Olifantsbad, and Aus.

You can then work your way to the Etosha Pan. The salt pan is so large, it can even be seen from outer space! Here, you are likely to cross paths with wildlife, thanks to the many waterholes. During the rainy season, you can expect to see the active flamingo population, along with many of the 340 bird species native to the area. The Etosha Pan is actually known as a large flamingo breeding ground!

Continue your drive north to the Halali Camp. Here, you can take a break for lunch, as well as stock up on any necessities at the shop. You will also be able to gas up your vehicle here. You can keep exploring as you travel north until you reach Nautoni Camp, where you will settle for the night.  

Day 13: Travel to Okonjima 

Okonjima
A leopard on the Okonjima Nature Reserve

In the morning, you can enjoy your last views of Etosha. Some of the nearby waterholes around your camp include Chudob, Klein Namutoni, Koinacahas, and Twee Palms. Prepare to say farewell to the park, and you can exit at the Von Lindequist Gate. Then, you will be off to the Otjiwarongo area, which is the capital city of the Otjozondjupa Province of Namibia.

Although the city is located near some of the game reserves, it is the biggest business center of the province and has a population of 70,000 residents. Once you arrive in town, there are many attractions to see, including Waterberg Plateau Park, Omatjenne Dam, and the Crocodile Ranch.

You will also experience the Okonjima Nature Reserve, which is home to the AfriCat Foundation. This is a family-run lodge famous for its leopard and cheetah sightings that happen at the onsite safaris. The mission of AfriCat Foundation is conservation, while also ensuring the survival of Namibia’s animals in their natural habitat.

You will be staying the night at this incredible locale, where you will have access to night drives, along with opportunities to hike, bike, and birdwatch.

Day 14: Travel to Windhoek 

Goodbye Namibia!
African masks at a market in Okahandja

After breakfast, you will depart from Okonjima and make your way back to Windhoek on a 4-hour drive.

Along the way, you will pass through the small town of Okahandja. Okahandja is one of Namibia’s oldest established settlements and is the administrative center of the Herero-speaking people. Many of the former Herero leaders are buried here, and an annual procession through the town to the Herero graves commemorate those who died during the wars against the Nama and Germans. Optional excursions on your route include a visit to the open-air Woodcarvers Craft Market and the Herero Graves.

After your town visit, continue on your way to Windhoek, where you can either travel directly to the airport for your afternoon flight or stay an extra evening in Windhoek at a guesthouse.