There's countries you know you need to visit before you die, because, well, half the world has been there and you've seen the iconic photographs and TV shows (do people still watch TV?!). Italy, France, USA, and Japan come to mind.
Then there's countries that not too many have discovered, and really raved about. Sure tourism is high almost everywhere, but some countries don't get enough limelight. Well, Nambia is, in our opinion, one of those sensational gems that really could use some more attention (especially because we've had "Walk through the Namib desert" on our Wanderlist since the beginning).
It is a land like no other; some say its one of the closest environments to that of Mars that you can find on Earth. It's really no wonder that NASA frequently studies the landscape.
Having visited Namibia a few months back, we are still in shock and in awe of this incredible place. We figured the only way we could really do it any justice, is by trying to inspire more people to visit...
So below is the fail-proof Namibian roadtrip plan that everyone can follow (and trust us, everyone should) and you don't need a Mars Rover to do it.
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Flying to Windhoek (Namibia's capital) is fairly simple from any major African city. We can recommend the swift 2hr flight direct from Cape Town. Although a little skeptical about the little plane at first (I'm normally terrified of take-off) it was surprisingly smooth, and with so few people, getting on and off the plane is done in under 10 minutes. Bonus.
This is the one item (if everything else fails) that will turn your trip into the best experience in the world. There are lots of car rental companies to choose from, and the beast we used for the trip had, quite literally, everything we needed.
It was an automatic 4×4, perfect for the Namibian dirt roads that start the minute you leave Windhoek, and the USB and AUX connection meant that when the radio signal was out of reach, we just played our own beats.
There was a tent on the roof, with a mattress and bug sheets to make the nights as memorable as the days. The two of us slept comfortably, but you could easily squeeze two kids in there too, making it perfect for a family trip. Pillows, sleeping bags, a fridge, gas cooker, and all essential crockery, cutlery and camping gear all come standard with the car...even a tablecloth to make the dinners somewhat romantic.
Music for the road
We discovered 99.0 FM which was in reach for the first 100km out of Windhoek. An eclectic mix of dance, indie, pop and traditional African tunes will make for the perfect companion as you head off out the capital. When that stops working, make sure to have your own playlist ready for the AUX. We created a pretty cool playlist for our Berlin train trip last year, so if you're looking for some travel-worthy tunes, check it out here.
Arriving for our Namibian adventure as a newly-turned vegan, I was nervous. I knew we'd be camping and barbecuing, and, well, neither of those activities are proudly (and traditionally) vegan. On the contrary (as I quickly learned) you can very easily eat in whichever way you like, as long as you plan ahead.
We made a stop at Maerua Mall, Windhoek's major shopping mall, and gathered supplies from the Spar and Food Lover's Market. Mushrooms, sweetcorn and tinned tomatoes quickly became my new friends, and with enough bread rolls in our supplies, we were sorted no matter what time of day it was.
Some items that should be on every shopping list: snacks, firelighters, insect repellent and water (buy enough for drinking, brushing teeth and rinsing crockery and cutlery before eating - trust us, any contact with the water, and you'll be out sick for 2-3 days #truestory).
The roads are long and windy (cue the Beatles please), and are mostly dirt roads, so choosing a 4×4 is wise. Your average speed is 65-70km/h, so let's just say you'll be living proof that it's not about the destination, but rather about the journey. As most African countries, you'll drive along the left hand side, and as you cruise you'll pretty much be alone, with no other cars in sight.
All that being considered, you'll be driving and will find yourself wondering what planet you're on. It's honestly some of the most incredible scenery, and so vast, with views, flora and wildlife changing every hundred kilometers. You'll most likely spot the wild horses that roam Namibia, zebra, cows, the largest flying bird in the world a.k.a. kori bustard, and the symbol of Namibia's beauty - the majestic oryx.
Also - if you happen to cruise past the little town of Solitaire, around 400m from the petrol station is a quaint collection of abandoned vintage cars - a must see.
If you choose to go the camping route like we did, you'll easily find various camping spots throughout your journey. As mentioned before, bring along extra water for brushing teeth and rinsing crockery, but everything else is pretty much supplied for you. Barbecues, thatched bathroom facilities and even swimming pools are a norm at most spots.
If you'd prefer to sleep in a bed, the lodges are fairly well priced and offer breakfasts and dinners. We highly recommend the Solitaire Guest Farm for only N$850 (around US$60) per person per night both meals included. The pools at the facility are also just what you need after a long day trekking through the desert.
If traveling through to Soussusvlei, make a note that the Namib-Naukluft National Park opens at 06:45 and closes at 19:30, so if you're planning some super early morning shoots, or astrophotography (that you may have been inspired to do at Photographing Space), make sure you stay at one of the camp sites inside the park.
Oh, how you'll love the scenery
We were not joking when we said that you'll feel like you're on another planet. The area close to Windhoek is fairly green, but as you get further away, the landscape becomes drier, hotter and even more beautiful.
Some stops you may want to make for photos (if traveling south-west) include:
- one of the Tropic of Capricorn signs, because hey, they're cool
- the totally unique Deadvlei (which we experienced in a deadly 45 degrees C / 113 degrees F) in the Namib-Naukluft National Park
- the most famous dune in the world - Dune 45, also found in the Namib-Naukluft National Park
- Gamsberg pass, and the windy patterns the roads make
- Remhoogte pass, where you may experience the most memorable sunset of your life
Staying for longer than 4 days?
If you're lucky enough to hang around for a while, going south-west to Solitaire and Soussusvlei is only the beginning. Swakopmund, Walvis Bay and the entireSkeleton Coast looks sensational (we are yet to experience them) and the major watering holes in Etosha National Park are a wildlife kingdom, so definitely on the list as well (for next time for us for sure).
We loved everything about you Namibia, and will, without a doubt, be back.