Get ready for three weeks of safaris and road trips throughout southern Africa. It begins in Namibia, where you'll hit the road on the famous Skeleton Coast, visit iconic red deserts, and enjoy game drives in Indigenous conservation areas. Next up is South Africa, where you'll tour Cape Town, walk with penguins on the beach, go on wine and food tours, and enjoy multiple safaris in the legendary Kruger National Park.


  • Hit the road along Namibia's gorgeous Skeleton Coast
  • Explore red deserts and track elephants in Damaraland
  • Visit wildlife sanctuaries in Etosha National Park
  • Tour the highlights of Cape Town, like Table Mountain
  • Enjoy Cape wine tastings and safaris in Kruger National Park

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Windhoek, Optional Activities  Windhoek
Day 2 Drive to Sossusvlei, Optional Activities Sossusvlei
Day 3 Free Day in Sossusvlei Sossusvlei
Day 4 Drive to Swakopmund, Picnic on the Skeleton Coast Swakopmund
Day 5 Drive to Damaraland, Optional Activities Damaraland
Day 6 Elephant Tracking & Sunset Game Drive Damaraland
Day 7 Drive to Etosha National Park, Optional Activities Etosha National Park
Day 8 Etosha Safari Activities Etosha National Park
Day 9 Drive to Windhoek Windhoek
Day 10 Fly to Cape Town, Traditional African Dinner Cape Town
Day 11 City Tour, Table Mountain & Dinner on the Waterfront Cape Town
Day 12 Cape Peninsula & Penguin Tour, Dinner in Champs Bay Cape Town
Day 13 Transfer to Hermanus, Food Tour Hermanus
Day 14 Hermanus Cliff Path, Marine Big Five Tour Hermanus
Day 15 Cape Winelands Tour & Tastings Franschhoek
Day 16 Curated Wine Tour Franschhoek
Day 17 Fly to Kruger National Park, Sunset Safari Kruger National Park
Day 18 Day Trip to Private Game Reserve Kruger National Park
Day 19 Morning & Afternoon Game Drives Kruger National Park
Day 20 Transfer to Johannesburg & Panorama Route Johannesburg
Day 21 Depart Johannesburg  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Windhoek, Optional Activities

Welcome to Windhoek

Welcome to Namibia! You'll arrive in Windhoek, a welcoming capital city filled with culture, museums, markets, great restaurants, rooftop bars, and much more. Its colonial legacy is evident in the architecture that hearkens back to Windhoek's days as a protectorate in the former colony of German South West Africa (now Namibia). Upon arrival, you'll pick up your rental car at the airport and drive to your hotel. After checking in, you can head out for a self-guided tour of the city.

For a fun outing, visit Windhoek's most famous architectural landmarks. Highlights include the Alte Feste ("Old Fort"), a former colonial military fortress that's now a museum; the Lutheran Christuskirche ("Christ Church"), which dates to 1896; and the Supreme Court, which was built in the mid-'90s and was designed in a grand and imposing North African architectural style. You can also head to trendy Am Weinberg, a hip bohemian area filled with cool cafés, restaurants, and spas. In the evening, perhaps enjoy a traditional African braai (barbecue) at a local restaurant.

Day 2: Drive to Sossusvlei, Optional Activities

The Deadvlei claypan, in Sossusvlei

Hop in the rental car for your first day road-tripping through Namibia. Your destination is Sossusvlei, a red-desert region located approximately five to six hours (242 miles/390km) southwest of Windhoek. Know that Namibia has a good roadway system, with a mix of both paved and gravel roads. Always be vigilant here while driving, as wildlife crossings are common, particularly at night.

You'll break up the long drive to Sossusvlei with various stops. The first is in the town of Solitaire, which has a gas station and a shop that sells soft drinks and snacks. Continue for about 43 miles (70 km), at which point you'll enter Namib-Naukluft National Park. Here, you'll see the iconic red dunes of Namibia, which are a photographer's dream. These distinctive dunes rise up to 1,300 feet (400 m), making them some of the highest in the world. They're particularly attractive around sunrise and sunset.

A fun activity involves climbing Big Daddy, one of Sossusvlei's tallest dunes. You can also hike around Deadvlei, a salt claypan dotted with ancient trees. For a more extravagant outing, opt for a scenic flight or hot air balloon ride. There's a variety of desert wildlife here too. Get lucky and you might spot an oryx, springbok, ostrich, or one of the many reptiles like chameleons and the leopard tortoise. After exploring the area and glimpsing the wildlife, you'll continue to a lodge in the area where you'll overnight. 

Day 3: Free Day in Sossusvlei

Hike up Dune 45, in Sossusvlei

Today is yours to explore one of the most stunning landscapes in Africa. If you like, rise early for a champagne breakfast and marvel at the morning light as it gilds the towering dunes. Then, continue exploring the claypan at Deadvlei, or visit the famous Dune 45. Known for its elegant shape and the sharp lines of its ridges, it holds the title of being the most photographed dune in the world. You can hike up to the top or, for something less strenuous, photograph this natural wonder from the roadside.

Another fun option is to explore Sesriem Canyon. This deep gorge has been carved by the Tsauchab River over millions of years, resulting in soaring canyon walls. A hike through the gorge is an incredible experience, as is taking a dip in the river. 

Day 4: Drive to Swakopmund, Picnic on the Skeleton Coast

The beaches of Swakopmund

Get another early start this morning as you hop in the car and head north along the ocean into northern Namibia—a region known as the Skeleton Coast. Your destination is the seaside town of Swakopmund, a journey that takes five to six hours and covers 248 miles (400 km). During the drive, you'll cross the Tropic of Capricorn and pass oases like the Ghaub Nature Reserve and landmarks like the Kuiseb Pass. The latter stretches 12 miles (20 km) through Kuiseb Canyon and features incredible mountain scenery.

Then cross the desolate gravel plains of the Namib Desert before reaching the port town of Walvis Bay. Stop here for a picnic lunch by the ocean amid the sight of flamingoes wading in the estuary. Afterward, continue north to Swakopmund, which is just a few minutes away. The town is known for its wide-open avenues, German-colonial architecture, and the otherworldly desert terrain that surrounds it. Upon arrival, you'll check in to your hotel and will have the remainder of the day free.

If there's time left and you don't mind more driving, you can continue north to the holiday town of Henties Bay. Nearby is Cape Cross, where a massive colony of thousands of seals congregate on the beach. Or, you can choose to relax in Swakopmund, enjoy its beaches, and visit attractions like the National Marine Aquarium and Swakopmund Museum, which features zoology and geology exhibits. End the day with a sunset stroll on the beach followed by dinner in town. 

Day 5: Drive to Damaraland, Optional Activities

Wide-open spaces in Damaraland

In the morning, continue north from Swakopmund to Damaraland, an unspoiled desert region inhabited by the Damara Indigenous people that's also a haven for endemic wildlife. The approximately five-hour, 267-mile (430 km) drive follows a gorgeous route along the Skeleton Coast with no shortage of beautiful scenery. Beyond the coastal vistas, you'll travel along expansive grasslands and over dry riverbeds.

The route passes the seal colony of Cape Cross, which is actually the world's largest breeding colony of Cape fur seals. Here you can stop at a local lodge for lunch, or enjoy a picnic on the beach. Other optional stops along the way include lichen fields and salt pans, which are ideal spots for birding.

Later in the afternoon, you'll arrive at your lodge in Damaraland. Upon entering the region, be on the lookout for famous wildlife like desert elephants, black rhinos, giraffes, Hartmann's mountain zebras, and other pastoral animals. Also, don't miss the stunning geological formations, which include the Vingerklip rock needle and Twfylefontein, site of ancient rock engravings dating back 6,000 years. The Petrified Forest is another highlight, as it's home to 260-million-year-old tree trunks. 

Day 6: Elephant Tracking & Sunset Game Drive

Track elephants in the desert

Get ready for one of the most popular activities in Damaraland: seeking out herds of elephants. After breakfast, you'll meet up with a guide and tracker who will lead you to a conservation area. Here, you'll all head out in search of the elusive desert elephants of the region. Along the way, you'll encounter local Damara people and can experience their traditions and culture firsthand. Enjoy lunch under the shade of a desert tree before returning to the lodge.

Later in the afternoon, you'll leave for another wildlife excursion. This time, you'll be embarking on a sunset game drive in a 4WD vehicle to the Etendeka Plateau. In this area, you'll have the best chance of spotting wildlife like zebras, antelope, jackals, and, occasionally, leopards and lions. Springbok, kudu, and oryx are permanent fixtures here, and there's a good chance you'll see klipspringers leaping around mountain ledges. After the sun sets, you'll return to the lodge. 

Day 7: Drive to Etosha National Park, Optional Activities

A few residents of Etosha National Park

Rise early for the drive northeast and farther inland to Etosha National Park. The trip covers 210 miles (340 km), meaning you should reach Etosha's southern entrance by early afternoon. This allows for stops along the way, like at the small town of Outjo, which is a great place for a coffee break. You'll also likely want to snap photos at Ugab Terrace, a dramatic plateau looking out over the Ugab River.

Eventually, you'll arrive in Etosha, where you'll check in to your lodge. One of the highlights of Namibia, this national park is centered around the Etosha Pan, once an inland sea that over the past millenniums has dried up. What's left is one of the largest salt pans in Africa. Today, this unique landscape is a haven for a wide variety of exotic animals including lions, elephants, leopards, giraffes, cheetahs, hyenas, two kinds of zebra, elands, and many more.

After having a bite to eat, you can spend the rest of the day at leisure or head out and explore the park. To see the most animals, it's best to visit during the dry season (May-Oct) when the wildlife congregates around the few water holes in the pan's center. That said, when the rains come and the pools increase, they attract hundreds of thousands of flamingoes, so there's always something to see here. When the sun goes down, you can also head out for a night game drive before returning to the lodge.

Day 8: Etosha Safari Activities

In Etosha, animals congregate at watering holes

Today you'll have your pick of adventures in Etosha National Park. One option is a half-day guided game drive in a safari vehicle (refreshments and park entrance fees included). Even better is the full-day guided safari, which lasts about nine hours and affords a better chance to spot the wildlife.

You can also choose a guided safari walk. An expert guide will lead you on a 1-2 mile (2-3 km) trail, which lasts about two hours. Beyond searching for the animals, your guide will impart wisdom about native plants, point out exotic birds, and reveal the fundamentals of animal tracking. 

Day 9: Drive to Windhoek

Shop for locally made crafts in Okahandja
Leave Etosha early for the drive south back to Windhoek. It's a six-hour ride, but you can break it up with a couple of stops on the way. One option is the town of Okahandja, which boasts a famous open-air craft market. A stop here is a great opportunity to purchase handmade curios and African souvenirs to take home. Upon arrival in Windhoek, you'll check in to your hotel and will have the rest of the day free.

Day 10: Fly to Cape Town, Traditional African Dinner

Dinner is served
Dinner is served

It's time to bid Namibia farewell as you drive to the airport in Windhoek and drop off your rental car. Then, board a plane for the two-hour flight to Cape Town. One of the three capitals of South Africa, this city is a hotbed of diversity. The majority of residents here are Bantu people of different ethnicities. The remainder come from primarily European, Asian, and mixed-race ancestry. This diversity is seen and felt on the streets and in the neighborhoods of Cape Town.

Upon arrival at the airport, a driver will meet you and take you to your hotel in the city. Later, you'll sit down for a traditional African dining experience in which you'll enjoy a 14-dish tasting menu that spans the continent. But the food is only part of the experience. Each night on the restaurant's stage, African musicians and dancers perform for the guests. Afterward, you'll return to the hotel.

Plan your trip to South Africa
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Day 11: City Tour, Table Mountain & Dinner on the Waterfront

Get the full Cape Town experience
Get the full Cape Town experience

At 8 am, a car will pick you up for a full-day tour around Cape Town. First, take a 40-minute ferry ride to Robben Island, the infamous prison (now a museum) where Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 imprisoned years. After returning to the mainland, drive through the colorful Bo-Kaap neighborhood, once home to enslaved people from Malaysia and Indonesia. Other stops include Company's Garden, the Houses of Parliament, and the 17th-century Castle of Good Hope. You'll also visit Green Market Square, which once served as a slave market but today is a popular flea market.

After taking plenty of photos of Cape Town landmarks, you'll drive into the hills and hop on one of the city's famous cable cars. This aerial cableway will take you 991 feet (302 m) above sea level to Cape Town's grandest natural wonder: Table Mountain. From its plateau at 3,501 feet (1,067 m), you'll enjoy panoramic views over the city all the way out to Robben Island. Time permitting, you may even witness the sunset over the Atlantic Seaboard. Later, you'll transfer back to your hotel.

In the evening, head over to the V&A Waterfront. This scenic harbor is a gastronomic and commercial wonderland filled with world-class restaurants, food markets, bars, boutiques, shopping malls, and even day spas. Enjoy dinner here with options ranging from traditional South African cuisine and Asian fusion to sushi and fine dining. 

Day 12: Cape Peninsula & Penguin Tour, Dinner in Champs Bay

Hike around Cape Point

This morning, you're off on a guided adventure to explore the southern end of the Cape Peninsula and witness some exotic wildlife. Your driver will pick you up for the drive south, during which you'll pass charming coastal villages and stunning scenery like Chapman's Peak and fynbos-covered hills. Eventually, you'll arrive at Cape Point, a headland affording incredible views over both the Indian and Atlantic Oceans. There's also an iconic lighthouse here you can visit as well as some optional hikes.

Then head back up the coast to Simon's Town and the famous Boulders Beach. This stretch of sand is one of the only places in the world where you can walk with African penguins. The rocky beach on a sheltered bay is home to a colony of thousands of these flightless birds, and today you'll take a stroll alongside them. It's a real treat, as African penguins are only found on the coast of South Africa and Namibia and are currently on the verge of extinction.

Afterward, continue to Camps Bay, a seaside hamlet just south of Cape Town. It's a great place to enjoy a meal overlooking the water, and there are plenty of solid restaurant options. You can spend time on the waterfront promenade at a mellow café or cocktail bar, dine on seafood and sushi amid ocean views, enjoy wood-fired pizzas, cut into a steak at an upscale grill, and more. 

Day 13: Transfer to Hermanus, Food Tour

The Old Harbour, in Hermanus

Transfer a couple of hours southeast to the oceanfront town of Hermanus. On the way, you'll stop in the Elgin Valley for a food and wine tour. Located just over Sir Lowry's Pass, this stunning region is known for producing cool-climate wines like chardonnay and pinot noir. The foodie experience begins with an olive oil tasting followed by a stop at a farm to sample fresh products including honey, chocolate, preserves, cheeses, and apples. 

Then you'll stop at one of the region's many boutique wineries. Here you'll taste some great varietals, from elegant reds to crisp whites and renowned MCC (sparkling wine). You may even get to join locals for a glass of freshly made apple cider. After a break for lunch, you'll continue to Hermanus, where you'll check in to your hotel. 

Day 14: Hermanus Cliff Path, Marine Big Five Tour

See great whites off the coast of South Africa 

Hermanus' famous coastal cliff pathways stretch more than 7 miles (12 km) along the rugged shoreline from the New Harbour to Grotto Beach. Today, you'll enjoy a leisurely hike on these fynbos-lined paths, during which you can stop to enjoy the beaches and waves crashing on the shore. Wildlife is abundant here, as these trails are protected within the Fernkloof Nature Reserve. Keep an eye out for a lazy dassie (rock hyrax) sunning itself, or a shy mongoose scurrying about. You can choose to walk just a section of the paths, or get a workout by doing the whole 7-mile (12 k) route.

This region is also famous for another kind of animal: whales. In season (June-Nov), the coast here affords some of the best whale watching in the world, as this is where pods of southern right whales come near shore to breed. While it's great to spot them from land, in the afternoon you'll get the chance to see them up close as you board a boat for a three-hour tour to spot the Big Five marine animals: whales, dolphins, penguins, seals, and great white sharks.

It's a great opportunity to see these magnificent specimens in their natural habitat. Once onboard, you'll enjoy a welcome beverage and receive your all-weather jacket, then you'll sail off to Dyer Island. The waters in this area are a gathering spot for the five animals mentioned above, which means you'll have a great chance of spotting most if not all of them. At the end of the tour, you'll return to your hotel. 

Day 15: Cape Winelands Tour & Tastings

The stunning Cape Winelands region of South Africa
The stunning Cape Winelands region of South Africa

In the morning, your driver will pick you up for the one-hour ride north from Hermanus to the gorgeous Cape Winelands region of South Africa, which is some of the most fertile land in the world. For this reason, Cape Winelands is the food and wine capital of South Africa, boasting Michelin-starred restaurants and dozens of wine estates. On this full-day tasting tour, you'll visit a handful of the best estates in the region. But wine isn't the only treat you'll enjoy—you'll also pair the different vintages with artisanal cheeses and chocolates. 

The first stop is Fairview Wine & Cheese. At this combined vineyard/goat farm, you'll enjoy a tasting of eight different wines paired with cheese and olives. Continue into Franschhoek, a historic town with French roots home to an abundance of world-class restaurants and wineries. After a leisurely stroll around town, your guide will recommend a great restaurant where you can enjoy the perfect lunch amid beautiful surroundings.

Afterward, you'll hit the road again and travel along the beautiful Helshoogte Pass to the historic university town of Stellenbosch. With its canal-lined avenues, giant oak trees, and well-preserved historic buildings, this is quite the storybook locale. In the vineyards just outside of town is Waterford Estate, where you'll enjoy a decadent finale to the day's wine tour. At the end of the day, you'll return to Franschhoek and the hotel where you'll overnight. 

Day 16: Curated Wine Tour 

Curated Wine Experience
All aboard the wine trolley 

Today you'll embark on a full-day wine experience around Franschhoek that's curated to your specific tastes. It starts with a tram ride to a local estate where a knowledgeable wine guide will be waiting. Upon arrival, he or she will reveal fascinating insight into Franschhoek's history of viticulture, local grape varieties, and the science of winemaking. Of course, throughout this hands-on experience, you'll sample different varietals while discovering the subtle flavors of Cape Wineland's terroir. 

Following the tasting is a visit to the wine cellar followed by a specially curated three-course lunch at the estate restaurant. Afterward, you'll visit two additional Franschhoek wine estates and sample premium vintages at each. At the end of the experience, you'll return to your hotel in Franschhoek.

Day 17: Fly to Kruger National Park, Sunset Safari

See exotic animals on a sunset safari

At the appropriate time, you'll leave Franschhoek and transfer about an hour to Cape Town's airport. Here, you'll board a plane for the 2.5-hour flight east to Kruger National Park. Upon arrival, a driver will pick you up and transfer you to one of the premier safari lodges in the area. After check-in, feel free to relax and perhaps take a refreshing dip in the pool.

At dusk, you'll board an open-topped 4WD vehicle and embark on a sunset safari to spot some of the park's plentiful wildlife, including rare black rhinos. After enjoying an African sunset over the savanna, your guide will lead you on a nocturnal wildlife tour. With powerful spotlights, you might spy animals like hyenas and lions out for their nightly hunt. Afterward, you'll return to the lodge for dinner. 

Day 18: Day Trip to Private Game Reserve

See Big Five animals like lions in a private reserve

Today you'll visit a private game reserve in greater Kruger National Park. It's a great opportunity to enjoy a more intimate safari experience, during which you can observe hundreds of bird species and dozens of species of mammals without the mass crowds. Animals you might spot today include the Big Five: lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants, and buffalo.

In this park, you'll embark on two game drives. The first leaves at dawn and has you back at the lodge in time for breakfast; the other is a sunset safari that departs in the afternoon and returns after dark. At that point, you'll return to the lodge where you can enjoy dinner and drinks followed by some quality time around the campfire. 

Day 19: Morning & Afternoon Game Drives

See if you can find cheetahs in Kruger

Head out for a full day of safari fun on both morning and evening game drives. Leave the lodge before sunrise in a 4WD vehicle in search of Big Five animals like lions and leopards, which are most active in the early morning. After a short breakfast and coffee break, you'll continue on the safari before returning to the lodge at around 11 am. Enjoy lunch at the lodge followed by some relaxed downtime in the African sun.

At 3:45 pm you'll head into the park again, this time for a three-hour sunset/night safari. Depending on the season (the sun sets earlier in the winter months), you'll return to the lodge around 8 pm, just in time for dinner. You can even pair your food with some delightful South African wines. 

Day 20: Transfer to Johannesburg & Panorama Route

The Three Rondavels, at Blyde River Canyon
The Three Rondavels at Blyde River Canyon

Consider waking up early for a sunrise walk before breakfast, as these will be your last moments amid the majesty of Kruger. After eating, your driver will pick you up for the ride to Johannesburg. The drive takes a few hours, but you'll take a detour along the Panorama Route, which features some of the most incredible scenery in eastern South Africa. First, you'll stop at Blyde River Canyon. At 66,585 acres (26,946 ha), this is the third-largest canyon in the world. Its soaring cliffs rise as high as 2,625 feet (800 m), and much of it is blanketed in lush, subtropical foliage. 

You'll also visit Berlin Falls. These gargantuan falls plunge 260 feet (80 m) from a green valley over ocher cliffs down into a dark lagoon. Then, continue to nearby Lisbon Falls. This waterfall towers over 308 feet (94 m), making it the second-tallest in South Africa. A real highlight of this road trip is the Three Rondavels—huge rock formations that have an uncanny resemblance to ancient stone beehive huts. Here, you'll enjoy spectacular views over Blyde River Canyon. 

After stopping at plenty of viewpoints to snap photos, you'll continue on to Johannesburg, arriving at around 5 pm. When you do, your driver will drop you off at your hotel and you can spend the remainder of the evening relaxing. Perhaps enjoy dinner at one of the prestige restaurants in the heart of the city.

Day 21: Depart Johannesburg

Johannesburg at sunset
Alas, your three-week adventure in Africa has come to an end. No doubt you'll have made memories to last a lifetime. In the morning, your driver will pick you up from the hotel and transfer you to the airport where you'll catch your flight home. See you soon!

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Map of Namibia & South Africa Adventure: Deserts, Coastlines & National Parks - 21 Days
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