With one week in Namibia, travelers can safari through world-renowned Etosha National Park, visit coastal Swakopmund, and marvel at otherworldly Namib Naukluft Park—part of the oldest desert in the world. Hike some of Africa's highest sand dunes, check out the iconic petrified trees of Sossusvlei, and spot wildlife uniquely adapted to survival in Namibia's otherworldly ecosystems. 

Highlights

  • 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
  • Pay a visit to beautiful Sesriem Canyon

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Windhoek & Drive to Etosha National Park, Afternoon Game Drive Etosha
Day 2 Safari in Etosha National Park Etosha
Day 3 Drive to Swakopmund Swakopmund
Day 4 Free Day in Swakopmund Swakopmund
Day 5 Walvis Bay Lagoon & Scenic Drive to Sesriem Sesriem
Day 6 Explore the Namib Desert and Sesriem Canyon Excursion  Sesriem
Day 7 Drive to Windhoek & Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Windhoek & Drive to Etosha National Park, Afternoon Game Drive

Lionesses at a watering hole in Etosha National Park
Lionesses at a watering hole in Etosha National Park

Welcome to Windhoek, the capital city of Namibia! 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.

You'll pick up your rental car to travel north from Windhoek to Etosha National Park, passing through farmland and stopping in quaint towns along the way. Arrive at Anderson Gate by mid-afternoon and take a game drive to Okaukuejo, Etosha's main rest camp and resort, to set up camp. 

After your evening meal, there are still more chances to see Etosha's big game at a floodlit waterhole, situated on the boundary of camp and easily reachable within a minute or two on foot. This is one of the best game viewing opportunities in Southern Africa and the ideal venue to witness peculiar animal politics after dark. Black rhinos, Africa's tallest elephants, lions, and numerous species of antelope are regular visitors during the cool, dry season.

Day 2: Safari in Etosha National Park

Elephants in Etosha
Elephants in Etosha

Get up early for a full day of safari, starting off at sunrise toward Halali Camp in the middle of the park. Along the way, visit several waterholes and take in splendid views of the massive Etosha Pan. The game viewing is usually excellent, and you'll likely have the chance to tick off a few new species that are not normally seen on the Okaukeujo side of the park.

Return to Okaukeujo Campsite for the evening. After dinner, you have the option to see more of Etosha's big game at the floodlit watering hole.

Day 3: Drive to Swakopmund

German colonial architecture in Swakopmund
German colonial architecture in Swakopmund

A relatively long drive today will take you via the towns of Outjo, Otjiwarongo, Omaruru, and Usakos to coastal Swakopmund. Founded in 1892 during German colonial rule, it served as the territory's main harbor for many years. Today, this town straddles the desert and the Atlantic ocean, enhanced by lush green lawns, palm trees, and carefully tended public gardens. Architecture from a bygone era adds to the time-out-of-place atmosphere of Swakopmund.

Day 4: Free Day in Swakopmund

Swakopmund on the Atlantic coast
Swakopmund on the Atlantic coast

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 dunes, take a bird-watching tour, and more—adventure seekers can even go sky-diving. 

Day 5: Walvis Bay Lagoon & Scenic Drive to Sesriem

One of the many out-of-commission cars decorating the outpost of Solitaire
One of the many out-of-commission cars decorating the outpost of Solitaire

Head about 25 miles south to Walvis Bay, where you'll spend the morning touring a large marine lagoon that is home to a vast array of marine birdlife—and specifically, flamingos. Get back on the road across the endless Namib gravel plains, finally reaching the mountain desert. You'll traverse both the Kuiseb and Gaub passes—both require driving to riverbeds at the canyon bottoms before making the steep climb back up to spectacular panoramas. 

Again, the scenery changes as you make your way down to the dune fields. Cross open savannah and farmland before the terrain begins to give way to the immense red dunes of the Namib Desert. From here, it's only a short distance to our next stop: the tiny town of Solitaire, a quirky outpost decorated with colorful out-of-commission cars from a bygone era. Arrive at camp during the late afternoon, where you'll have dinner and watch the distant mountains glow in the changing light.

Day 6: Explore the Namib Desert & Sesriem Canyon Excursion

Deadvlei
Deadvlei

Rise early for an excursion into the Namib "Sand Sea," including the famous Sossusvlei dune belt. 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.

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.

Spend the morning visiting Dune 45 and the iconic Deadvlei trees. In the afternoon, return to Sesriem to escape the heat before a short excursion to the Sesriem Canyon, a small and picturesque canyon carved over millions of years into the Tsauchab River.

Day 7: Drive to Windhoek & Depart

WIldlife becomes uniquely acclimated to the arid Namib Desert
Wildlife becomes uniquely acclimated to the arid Namib Desert

After breakfast, begin your journey back to Windhoek following a different route, ascending the massive Gamsberg Pass in the Khomas Hochland Mountains on your way back to civilization. Then, head to the airport for your departing flight.

More Great Namibia Itineraries

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

Map

Map of Pride of Namibia: Etosha, Swakopmund & Namib Desert - 7 Days
Map of Pride of Namibia: Etosha, Swakopmund & Namib Desert - 7 Days
Christine
Written by Christine Thirion, updated Sep 12, 2022