Namibia is such a captivating, beguiling country, that I feel changed by my time there – like I left a small part of my heart in that beautiful, brutal place and it has been calling me back ever since. I’ve never driven through scenery so spectacular and varied and I’ve never witnessed, in such a visceral way, the work of the elements. Namibia’s mountains, craters, canyons and vast sand seas have been forged by violent forces and the relentless energy of wind and water over billions of years – and I found it awe-inspiring.
Namibia’s vast, dramatic landscape is best explored by car, so check out my Namibia road trip itinerary to help you plan your own Namibia self-drive trip. It is based on two weeks, but I have also included ideas for those who have more time to explore this exciting country. I hope it will inspire you to consider Namibia for a road trip adventure!
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Before You Book a Namibia Road Trip…
Why Take A Namibia Road Trip?
Namibia is probably the most exhilarating country I have been to so far and I think you should consider travelling to Namibia if you are interested in any of the following:
- Dramatic landscapes, including mountains, canyons and mesas
- Deserts – the Namib Desert is the oldest desert in the world, and one of the few places on earth where the desert meets the sea. The sand dunes here are just breathtaking.
- Unique cultures – there are tribes in Namibia that maintain a traditional way of life including the Himba and San people.
- Wild animals, including the Big Five (lions, leopards, rhinoceroses, elephants, and buffalo), all of which can be found on safari in Namibia
And you should specifically consider a self-drive road trip in Namibia if:
- You love open roads through spectacular scenery
- AND if you have an adventurous spirit (some of Namibia’s roads are made of gravel, sand or salt, so it helps if you’re up for a challenge!)
How Long Do You Need For A Road Trip In Namibia?
Namibia is a big country with a lot of beauty to experience, so you could explore it for months and not get bored. However, I know a lot of people can’t spare that much time from their jobs and, like me, still want to explore the world anyway.
I spent two weeks in Namibia and I saw and experienced so many wonderful things during that time. While I wish I could have spent longer there, I came back richer in memories and inspired by this vast, beautiful land. Therefore, I think that if you have at least two weeks, you will have a great time in Namibia.
I’ve based this Namibia road trip on the itinerary I used for my own trip, with a few tweaks, based on what I would do differently if I could do it all again.
When Is Best To Go To Namibia?
You can visit Namibia year-round, but in the wet season from November/December to February/March, you may find flash floods can occur, which could affect the roads and your route.
I went to Namibia in September, which is in the dry season – and a good time of year to see wildlife, as they congregate in the main water holes, making them easier to see.
How Do You Get To Namibia?
Clearly, the answer depends on where you’re coming from, but most people either fly into Hosea Kutako International Airport, just outside the capital of Namibia, Windhoek, or they drive overland from South Africa.
This Namibia Road Trip itinerary assumes you’ll fly in because that does seem to be the most common starting point for those on a Namibia Road Trip.
Check Skyscanner for flight deals – you may find you need to change in South Africa, as there are limited direct flights to Windhoek.
Namibia Road Trip Itinerary: At A Glance
- Day 1: Windhoek (stay 1 night)
- Day 2: Drive to Namibrand Nature Reserve (stay 2 nights)
- Day 3: Explore the plains and dunes of the dreamy Namibrand.
- Day 4: Drive to Sossusvlei (stay 3 nights)
- Days 5-6: Explore Sossusvlei and Deadvlei – the most iconic location in Namibia
- Day 7: Drive to Swakopmund (stay 2 nights)
- Day 8: Sandwich Harbour – where the Namib desert meets the sea
- Day 9: Drive to Damaraland, via the Skeleton Coast (stay 2 nights)
- Day 10: Either Rhino tracking or a cultural tour
- Day 11: Drive to Etosha National Park (stay 3 nights)
- Days 12-13: Wildlife safari!
- Day 14: Drive to Okonjima (stay 1 night) to see leopards and cheetahs
- Day 15: Drive to Windhoek to fly home
Namibia Road Trip Itinerary: In Detail
Here’s my suggested Namibia road trip itinerary for two weeks. Please note the drive times are approximate and may vary according to the condition of the roads when you visit and the kind of car you have (for example, a 4WD will likely take less time over gravel roads) – and they don’t include stops.
Day 1: Windhoek
After arriving at Hosea Kutako International Airport, pick up your hire car. Most hire companies are located at the airport, and you might find the pick-up counters to be very busy because self-drive road trips are a common way people explore Namibia.
Once you have your car, drive into Windhoek itself and stock up on supplies that you will want as back-up in the car during your road trip: plenty of bottled water, plus non-perishable food or snacks to sustain you, should you be stranded in some remote place for a while.
After this, drive to your hotel and get dinner an early night because you’ll be hitting the road bright and early the next day!
Driving: 45km; approximately 40 minutes.
I stayed at the Olive Grove Guesthouse in Windhoek, which had a large charming bedroom, and they offered yummy food and great hospitality.
Day 2: Drive to Namibrand Nature Reserve
This is the day you really start your road trip adventure, and you have a big drive ahead, so start early, around 7 am.
Head south from Windhoek. The tarmac B1 road will take you all the way to Mariental, which is a good place to stop for lunch or to pick up something to eat later on if you’re not hungry when you pass. This road is amazing: smooth and straight, with some great scenery along the way (and you might see wild animals, too).
At Mariental, you’ll turn right onto the C19 road, which is paved until Maltahohe, when it becomes gravel, which will slow you down. Turn off the C19 onto the D827 road. This route goes pretty much all the way down from the plateau of eastern Namibia into the lower-lying area in the west. Be warned: the downhill bit can be quite twisty and bumpy!
Once you hit the C27, head north for a bit, then take a left into the Namibrand Nature Reserve, after which you’ll follow a private road to the office – and look out for wildlife along the way! NB. I couldn’t find an exact marker in GoogleMaps for the Namibrand entrance – so in my map, I have placed a marker based on where I remember it being – but it would be best to check with them before setting off (and in any case, there’s a sign, so you’ll know it when you see it).
Ps. don’t worry if the directions are too detailed to follow: I’ve included a route map later on!
Driving: 520km, approx. 6-7 hours (more with stops).
The Namibrand Nature Reserve is a private conservancy within the Namib Desert, which offers sustainable safari opportunities amongst sand dunes, desert plains and rocky mountains. There’s an abundance of wildlife including zebras, ostriches, baboons, oryx, springbok and many other kinds of antelope.
You’ll park your car at the Wolwedans office and they will run you and your luggage to the camp, which is accessible only by driving over sand dunes – so you’ll be grateful an expert is driving you!
You can read more about the Namibrand in my post about exploring the Namib Desert.
Wolwedans Dunes Camp – 2 nights.
Wolwedans have a selection of gorgeous, fairly exclusive camps within the Namibrand Nature Reserve. I stayed at Boulder Safari Camp, which is the most remote – it is just five cabins nestled next to a huge pile of boulders in the middle of the plains.
However, since I stayed here, they have introduced a 3-night minimum, so I suggest you pick one of the others, instead (unless you have more time to spend). We passed a couple of them on some of our safari drives and the Dunes Camp looks amazing!
Ps. If you do really fancy Boulders, you’ll need to add at least an extra night to this itinerary, and also to drive to a different office, as they run a different route to Boulders.
Day 3: Explore Namibrand Nature Reserve
Wolwedans, unlike other camps, includes all excursions within its rate, so I encourage you to take advantage of this!
I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the Namibrand and can recommend the following:
- Safari drive in the dunes, on which an expert guide will tell you all about the fascinating wildlife that makes the desert their home
- Sundowner / night drive. Mine was amazing: we drove out to a remote place and after we watched the sunset over the mountains, we were lit only by moonlight – I was amazed to see the moonlight create shadows!
- Sunrise drive: you’ll be driven out to a spot on the dunes from which you can drink tea or coffee as you watch the sunrise. It was incredible!
Day 4: Drive to Sossusvlei
After you are reunited with your car at the Wolwedans reception, hit the C27 and head north towards Sossusvlei, a really special place in the heart of the Namib desert.
Driving: 85km; approximately 2-2.5 hours. I remember this stretch of road having some fairly chunky stones, one of which gave our car a slow puncture, so drive carefully.
Kulala Desert Lodge – 3 nights.
I stayed in Kulala Desert Lodge and had a great time. It’s not as bougie and exclusive as Wolwedans – but few places in Namibia are! It is also cheaper. A big plus is that they are located really close to the entrance to the Namib-Naukluft National Park, which is great if you would like to get into Sossusvlei to see the sunrise because the drive will be shorter (and you won’t have to get up quite so early!).
Days 5 & 6: Explore Sossusvlei
You can drive yourself into Sossusvlei (you just need to pay the entrance fee, and take a shuttle bus over the sandy bit right at the end). However, Kulala (or any of the other camps, if you choose a different one) can arrange a number of different guided tours as well, which I suggest you consider (although they will not be included in your nightly rate).
Read my post about things to do in the Namib Desert for more details, but in short, there’s plenty to do in the Sossusvlei area, including:
- Climbing one of the massive sand dunes, such as Dune 45 or Big Daddy (the huge one next to Deadvlei)
- Wandering Deadvlei, an eerie area of white clay pans, twisted dead trees and towering red sand dunes
- A Hot air balloon ride over the desert
I’ve allowed two days to explore Sossusvlei because I only gave myself one on my own Namibia road trip and I regretted it. The area is pretty big and the weather can affect the light so much that I think it is worth having two days to give yourself to see more of the place and to see it in a different light and at different times of the day.
Day 7: Drive to Swakopmund
From Sossusvlei, you will head north and then west towards Swakopmund – the road does a kind of right angle because it has to circumnavigate the Namib sand sea.
This is another long day of driving, in part because the road is quite bumpy, so best to start early. Along the way, there are a few places to stop, including:
- Solitaire, a small town with an interesting café and some vintage cars slowly
- The Tropic of Capricorn sign
Driving: 380km; approx 6 hours. I remember this road being especially bumpy around the Kuiseb river crossing and around the stretch where it is joined by the D1982 road.
Cornerstone Guest House – 2 nights.
I stayed here when I was in Swakopmund and it was a great base. There were laundry facilities, which came in handy, and they had great food.
The town of Swakopmund has some good options for dinner in the evening, including The Tug near the seas and Jetty 1905 at the end of the pier (it’s quite an experience walking out there and back at night!).
Day 8: Sandwich Harbour
Swakopmund is a great place from which to explore some of the spectacular coastlines of Namibia, and one of the most famous spots is Sandwich Harbour: where the towering sand dunes of the Namib desert face into the fierce Atlantic Ocean.
To get to this exhilarating place, you must first drive along the beach between the dunes and the ocean, which is treacherous when the tide is in – so don’t attempt it yourself! You must go with someone who knows the area!
Day 9: Drive to Damaraland, via the Skeleton Coast
You’re heading north today and will drive up Namibia’s notorious Skeleton Coast. Much of this is a National Park, which is gated with a skull and crossbones if you weren’t already feeling trepidatious about this place! You’ll need to leave your details and the time you enter (then you’ll do the same when you leave).
Along the way, there’s plenty to see including:
- Eerie shipwrecks
- A huge seal colony at Cape Cross
- Wild, desolate landscape!
There are two routes you can take to Damaraland:
- Along the C34 up the Skeleton Coast until you reach a turning for the C35 towards Uis and then head east past the Brandberg Massive, which you could stop at to see ancient cave paintings
- Up the Skeleton Coast for longer, until you reach a turning for the C39 and then head east, via Bergsig.
On my trip, we did the latter, mainly because my husband was loving the smooth salt road on the C34 and because we both loved the desolate landscape. However, if you take this route, note there is very little civilisation on this route – no towns nor petrol stations for miles and miles (it was wonderful!)!
Either way, you leave the sand dunes behind on this leg of the trip, heading inland and into higher ground characterised by canyons and mesas.
Driving: 454km, approx. 7 hours.
Grootberg Lodge – 2 nights.
Grootberg Lodge is a place I saw on Instagram and began to dream about staying there: it is perched on the edge of a cliff overlooking a vast canyon – it just looked so stunning, I was determined to stay there. And the experience lived up to the expectation: it was beautiful, and we were so well looked after by the team there. It is also set up to benefit its community directly, as it is wholly owned by a conservancy. It was one of the best places we stayed in Namibia.
Day 10: Rhino tracking or a Cultural Tour
Grootberg offers a number of activities, which you can sign up for, including rhino tracking, elephant tracking and a cultural tour.
I did a short sundowner drive around the canyon rim and then spent a day chilling by the freshwater pool. After so much activity over the previous week and a half, I felt like a laid-back day – and what a beautiful place it was in which to relax!
Day 11: Drive to Etosha National Park
From Grootberg, it’s a relatively short drive to your next stop: Etosha National Park, the prime destination for wildlife safari in Namibia! Head east on the C40, then take the D2694 and the D2710 until you reach the C38 when you’ll head north to Etosha National Park.
Driving: 292km, approx. 4.5 hours.
Okaukuejo Camp has several options for accommodation, ranging from camping to some deluxe chalets.
This is the main camp within Etosha National Park and is a good one because it has a large watering hole, which draws the animals to the edge of the camp, where you can see them really clearly. There are even benches from which you can observe the animals, safely (and silently).
For more information on Etosha’s accommodation, I cover that in this post about Safari in Namibia.
Days 12 & 13: Safari in Etosha
Etosha National Park is home to four of the Big Five (elephants, rhinos, lions and leopards) plus many other wonderful animals including giraffe, zebra, cheetahs, wildebeest, and a huge number of antelope.
There are two options for exploring the park:
- With a guide – which is the best option for seeing the big, exciting animals, in my experience
- Self-driving – provided you follow the park’s guidance which is there for your safety.
For more info, I do give more details about seeing wildlife in Etosha in my Namibia Safari post.
Day 14: Drive to Okonjima
If you haven’t had your fill of wild animals yet, I recommend you stop at Okonjima for at least one night. There are more details in my safari post, but in short, Ononjima is the home of the Africat Foundation and specialises in big cat conservation. It is a great place to see cheetahs and also leopards – which are especially hard to spot in the wild.
I suggest you get there early so that you can get a safari drive in on the first night and one the next morning also, if you have time.
Okonjima is located just off the lovely smooth B1 road, south of Etosha, via Outjo.
Driving: 250km, approx. 3 hours.
Okonjima Plains Camp – 1 night.
I stayed in a very, very nice cabin within the Okonjima Plains Camp. It had panoramic views across the plains and I saw warthogs waddling by – it was wonderful! They do also have other accommodation options at Okonjima, including camping spots.
Day 15: Drive to Windhoek to fly home
On your final day in Namibia, you will be heading south to Windhoek to catch your flight home.
Based on my experience, I imagine you will be doing that with a heart warmed by African hospitality and your memory full of breath-taking experiences and beauty.
Driving: 265km, approx. 3-3.5 hours.
If You Have More Than Two Weeks For Your Namibia Road Trip…
If you can spare more time in Namibia, that is not a problem – there is plenty to see and do in Namibia. Here’s what I suggest for the extra days:
- A scenic flight over Namibia – to see that glorious landscape from above and to see some of southern Namibia, including the ghost town of Kolmanskop and the living town of Luderitz as a bonus – check out my post all about flying over Namibia for info and inspiration.
- Stay a night or two on the Skeleton Coast, rather than driving through it. There’s a remote lodge called the Shipwreck Lodge quite far north.
- An extra day or two exploring the canyons of Damaraland
- An extra day or two on safari in Etosha National Park or at Okonjima
- A couple of days in the wet area of the Caprivi Strip in eastern Namibia, where you can see hippos and water buffalo.
And if you have plenty of extra time, consider driving further south, for example, to see the south overland, including the Fish River Canyon, Kolmanskop and Luderitz.
Map: Namibia Road Trip Itinerary
Here’s a route map of this Namibia Road Trip route, with key attractions marked:
How To Plan A Road Trip In Namibia
I planned my trip with the help of Expert Africa, who were brilliant! You can definitely plan a trip independently, the same way you would anywhere else in the world – and I hope my itinerary will help you with that.
However, if you want a guiding hand, and access to some local expertise, consider getting these guys to put a package together for you. I’m not an affiliate of theirs, but they really did help me out, so I’m happy to recommend them.
Hope you enjoy your time in Namibia!
If you have any questions about travelling in Namibia let me know – I don’t get bored of talking about this wondrous place!
If you want more inspiration about Namibia, do look at these photographs of the Namib desert from the air – as beautiful as Namibia is from the road, it is even more spectacular from the sky!