The best of Namibia: the perfect 10-day Namibia road trip itinerary
A self-drive road trip through Namibia is one of the greatest adventures you can have.
Our detailed 10-day Namibia road trip itinerary is the perfect way to see the country and will take you to all the best places within Namibia.
Namibia is THE best road trip destination.
Windows down, our favourite tunes on, wind flowing through our hair and the epic Namib landscape rolling out before our eyes; this was the MOST excited we'd felt on our travels. We felt free, invigorated, slightly uneasy and stupidly happy.
Namibia's vast, otherworldly, desolate, and endless landscapes may seem the antithesis of an ideal road trip, yet we found it to be one of the most beautiful countries on the planet. The mountainous red/orange dunes of Sossusvlei, the stark and perilous Skeleton Coast, the moonscapes of Spitzkoppe, the incredible wildlife viewing in Etosha, the deep valleys of Fish River Canyon, the endless starry skies, the friendly locals, and seriously delicious food.
Then there are the sunsets. Every night, the African sky lights up to provide the most colourful end of the day, which coupled with a sundowner, will have you feeling as content as you'll ever be.
Required reading: Our complete Namibia Travel Guide - what to see, know and do
As Namibia has long been a road trip destination, the sealed roads are excellent and gravel roads well-managed. Namibia is also home to some of the greatest campsites you'll ever witness (looking at you Etosha).
Yep, Namibia is the perfect place for a road trip, and our 10-day Namibia self-drive itinerary is the best way to explore all this country has to offer.
NAMIBIA SELF-DRIVE ITINERARY OVERVIEW
After starting our own Namibia self-drive trip, we soon realised that we'd completely underestimated the length and distances between each destination - Namibia is MASSIVE. The driving conditions can be tough, unforgiving and lengthy, and if you don't plan your trip well, you could end up wasting a lot of time.
That's why we put together this Namibia road trip itinerary so that you can learn from our mistakes and enjoy a road trip through Namibia without missing out on all the incredible things to see and do.
We've chosen this anti-clockwise route as we believe it's the best and easiest to get the most out of your Namibian road trip. Starting and ending in Namibia's capital, Windhoek, the route takes you to the wildlife haven of Etosha National Park, before moving south towards the moonscapes of Spitzkoppe, one of the most unique rock formations in the world.
From Spitzkoppe, the route heads to the adrenalin capital of Africa, Swakopmund, via the smelly yet unique Cape Cross Seal Colony. After the highs of Swakopmund, head to even higher surrounds in Sossusvlei, home to the famous red sand dunes.
The final stop is the second largest canyon in the world, Fish River Canyon, before heading back to Windhoek.
All in all, our Namibia self-drive itinerary is 10 nights and is based on having your own 4x4 or hire car with camping gear.
**ALL COSTS QUOTED IN THIS GUIDE ARE NAMIBIAN DOLLARS**
NAMIBIA SELF DRIVE ITINERARY MAP
You can download our Namibia self drive itinerary map here. You can also save the map to your phone for use in offline mode.
** DRIVE TIMES ARE APPROXIMATE BASED ON OUR EXPERIENCE AND GOOGLE MAPS**
NAMIBIA SELF-DRIVE - the perfect 10-day road trip ITINERARY
WINDHOEK | 1 NIGHT
Your incredible Namibian road trip will most likely start in Windhoek (we actually recommend this, as bringing hire car's across borders can be very costly!). Depending on when you arrive, we recommend you should spend a night getting rest before you start your Namibian road trip.
When picking up your 4x4 camper, run through a full briefing with your hire company to make sure you're fully aware of your vehicle - the last thing you want is to be stuck in the middle of the desert without knowing how to fix that blown tyre.
We highly recommend picking up all of your supplies for the next ten days, including food and mandatory road trip snacks, extra water bottles, and a road map of Namibia in Windhoek, as supermarkets can be few and far between on the road. There are a number of large supermarkets in Windhoek, but we recommend shopping at Pick n Pay, Checkers or Shoprite.
Despite being a fun little city, there's not a huge amount to see and do in Windhoek. If you've got time, check out Christuskirche, the ginger-bread style church in the centre of town, or visiting the local craft markets.
A great place to stay is Urban Camp. Centrally located with comfortable camping grounds, its got big shady trees, wi-fi internet, nice bathrooms and a sparkling pool.
Where to stay in Windhoek | Urban Camp, Windhoek
Accommodation costs | Campsite N$170 per person
WINDHOEK - ETOSHA | 2 NIGHTS
The wildlife eden of Etosha National Park is one of the great safari destinations in Africa.
Unlike many African safari locations, Etosha is semi-arid, with many waterholes scattered through the park promise some epic game viewing of the endangered black rhino, lions, elephants, giraffes, antelope, springbok, zebra, wildebeest.
Etosha National Park is around a 4-5 hour drive from Windhoek and fairly easy to navigate (in comparison to the rest of Namibia). We recommend staying in one of the Park's main campsites - Okaukuejo and Halali are two great options, with Halali having an impressive wildlife viewing platform over the Moringa waterhole. You should book in advance as the campsites fill quickly, especially during the school holidays.
If you've hired your own 4x4, you have the option of a self-drive safari in Etosha. There are many pros and cons to this; the freedom afforded to drive where you like (on the tracks, of course), and not having to deal with others jostling for photos being two pros; but you may get lost, and you certainly won't have the know-all of a local guide.
Spotting animals can be hard and mostly down to luck, but use your intuition and follow any group of safari jeeps or vehicles heading in a certain direction, as they could have the inside word on a group of animals!
You should spend your evenings and mornings out on safari - it's when wildlife viewing is at it's best and you'll be able to spot that elusive big five! During the day, when the midday sun is at it's most ferocious, sit back and relax in the shade or by the pool.
If you're after a more information on Etosha National Park, here's a great in-depth guide.
Distance | 415kms from Windhoek to Etosha National Park
Drive time | 4 - 5 hours
How to get there | Use this map to get from Windhoek to Etosha National Park
Where to stay in Etosha National Park | Okaukuejo camp, Halali camp
Accommodation costs | N$200, plus a per person fee of N$110
Park fees | N$80 per adult, per day, + N$10 per vehicle per day
ETOSHA - SPITZKOPPE | 1 NIGHT
Right in the heart of Namibia lies Damaraland, home to the towering granite mountains of Spitzkoppe. It'll take around 6hrs to get from Etosha to Spitzkoppe, along some very long and often dusty roads, but trust us, it's absolutely worth it.
Nicknamed the ‘Matterhorn of Africa’ due to its dramatic shape, Spitzkoppe is all that remains of a 700 million-year-old ancient volcano. It's slightly off the tourist track and one of our favourite places to visit in Namibia.
There's a heap to do within Spitzkoppe, such as hiking and exploring the unique landscape, including imposing boulders, ancient caves, and desert plains, or do what we did - hang out at the Rock Archway and snap some epic photos.
Watch the sunset light up the granite boulders with streaks of red and orange, before retiring to your campsite to cook up a campfire feast under the endlessly starry Namibian sky. It's basically all your desert dreams rolled into one.
There are plenty of campsites within the park, but we recommend staying near the natural arch as the campsites are beautiful and well protected. For those after a warm shower and flush toilets, the campsite near reception is your best bet.
Distance| 420kms from Etosha National Park to Spitzkoppe
Drive time| 6 hours
How to get to Spitzkoppe | Use this map to get from Etosha National Park to Spitzkoppe
Where to stay in Spitzkoppe | Spitzkoppe Camping on one of the many campsites within the national park. Each campsite has basic facilities, including toilet and braai/barbeque.
Park fees | Camping and park fees are N$165pp per night
A JOURNEY THROUGH BARREN LANDS - VIEW OUR NAMIBIA PHOTO JOURNEY
SPITZKOPPE TO SWAKOPMUND via CAPE CROSS SEAL COLONY | 2 NIGHTS
The famed Skeleton Coast is the next stop on your Namibia road trip itinerary.
First stop after leaving Sptizkoppe is Cape Cross, a site famous for two reasons: seals, and Portuguese exploration. This is the world’s largest breeding colony of Cape fur seals, who flock here to mate and take advantage of the rich supply of fish in the currents. With 100,000 wriggling shapes over the sand, it's an incredible site to see, but the smell is perhaps the worst we've ever encountered.
It was also at this headland that celebrated Portuguese explorer Diogo Câo landed on the Namibian shoreline in 1486 and established his country’s claim to the territory by erecting a stone pillar topped with a cross called a padrâo. It's worth a look, and that's about all.
One your way to Swakopmund you'll pass a visible shipwreck, the Zeila, 14kms south of Henties Bay. It's worth a stop - just mind the many touts in the area and keep a close eye on your vehicle.
Swakopmund is a former German colonial town on the coast of Namibia, and upon arrival, it feels like you're stepping straight into Germany; the architecture, language, and food all reflect its colonial history. But Swakopmund is now famous for something different. Adventure. And if it’s adventure you seek, Swakopmund is your ultimate paradise.
Depending on your fancy, you can skydive over the Namib desert, sandboard down the dunes, enjoy 4-wheel sand adventures by quad bike and 4x4, or float on the breeze by paragliding down Swakop’s giant sand dunes. If you're looking for slightly less heart-racing experiences, there are also fishing expeditions, scenic flights, dolphin and seal catamaran cruises, and living desert tours to enjoy.
Swakopmund also has a beautiful foreshore area to walk, as well as the Swakopmund Jetty, which is a great place to watch the African sun set into the Atlantic Ocean.
We recommend eating at one of the traditional German pubs in the town - our favourite was Kücki's Pub, which serves traditional German food with a Namibian twist. It also serves great beer on tap including Windhoek Lager and Hansa.
There are plenty of accommodation options in Swakopmund, but we stayed at Skeleton Beach Backpackers, which has camping facilities as well as dorm and double rooms if you're after a comfortable nights sleep.
Distance | 165kms from Spitzkoppe to Cape Cross seal colony - 130kms from Cape Cross Seal Colony to Swakopmund
Drive time | 4.15 hours in total
How to get to Swakopmund | Use this map to get from Spitzkoppe to Swakopmund via Cape Cross
Where to stay in Swakopmund | Book Skeleton Beach Backpackers
Accommodation costs | Camping: N$120 per person to camp. Dorm: N$170 per person, per night
Recommended tours | There are a heap of tours based in Swakopmund - one of the best is the Swakopmund self drive Namib desert adventure tour (click the link to book).
WANT TO TRAVEL THROUGH THE REST OF AFRICA? VIEW THE BEST TOUR RADAR DEALS BELOW
SWAKOPMUND TO SOSSUSVLEI | 2 NIGHTS
The highlight of any Namibia road trip is surely the red desert dunes of Sossusvlei. Indeed, there aren’t many places on earth that boast a landscape quite as special as this one inside the Namib-Naukluft National Park.
Few words can describe how it feels as you stand before a towering orange sand dune stretching some 300m towards the bright blue sky, walk amongst 900-year-old fossilised Acacia trees in the vast white clay pan of Deadvlei, or touch the shifting sands of the world’s oldest desert, the Namib.
We can’t stress enough how incredible this place is. We were gobsmacked as we stepped over the lip of a dune and laid eyes on Deadvlei for the first time. It’s completely surreal to see and we really recommend taking the time to soak it all in.
The drive from Swakopmund to Sossusvlei is incredible in itself, passing through the Kuiseb Pass, one of the highest roads in Namibia. It's up here that you can truly appreciate the scale and landscape of Namibia.
Read our comprehensive guide to Sossusvlei here, which tells you the best things to see and do.
Halfway to Sossusvlei is the Tropic of Capricorn, which makes for a great photo stop (have a look out for our The Common Wanderer sticker on the sign!). You should also stop at Solitaire, a small settlement with a quirky edge and the best apple pie in all of Namibia!
Upon arrival into Sossusvlei, we recommend setting up camp and heading straight into the national park and Deadvlei for late afternoon and sunset. From the park gates, it's about a 60km drive along a tarred road to reach a 2 wheel-drive parking area. From here, you can pick up the National Parks 4x4 which will take you to Deadvlei and the more popular dunes.
The best time to see the glorious dunes is during sunrise when the light coming from the east paints them in vivid black and orange contrasts. Get your exercise in by climbing the most accessible, Dune 45 for sunrise - be warned though, it's absolutely taxing so take some water.
Distance | 350kms
Drive time | 5 - 6 hours
How to get to Sossusvlei | Use this map to get from Sossusvlei to Sesriem
Where to stay in Sossusvlei | If you’re camping, Sesriem Camp, located inside the park grounds, is a great option. Not only is it a cheap alternative to the lodges external to the park, you’ll also be inside the park and able to travel inside the park at your will; perfect for photographers aiming to capture the late sunset, or star-scapes, or those trying to avoid the crowds.
Alternatively, you can stay at Sossus Oasis campsite outside the grounds.
Accommodation costs | N$220 - 240 per campsite
Park fees | N$80 per person, per day for non-SADC visitors, obtained at the park office just inside the gates.
Accessing Sossusvlei | Sossusvlei is located within the Namib-Naukluft National Park and as such, you require a permit to enter.
Please be aware that if you are not staying within the designated park boundaries, you can only enter the park between sunrise and sunset. If you're heading in for sunrise, make sure get your permit the day before.
SOSSUSVLEI TO FISH RIVER CANYON | 1 NIGHT
Probably the hardest, most gruelling part of this Namibia road trip itinerary is getting from Sossusvlei to Hobas, the main entry point for Fish River Canyon - the roads are long, dusty, and in parts treacherous. It's the perfect opportunity to turn up the music, get the snacks ready, and settle in for an old-fashioned road trip. But once you're standing at the lip of Fish River Canyon, you'll know it's all been worth it.
Fish River Canyon is 500 million years old, 160km long, 27km wide and up to 550 metres deep in parts. The jagged canyon is the second largest in the world, after the Grand Canyon, and is guaranteed to make you feel tiny in the best possible way.
With views over Hell’s Corner (a sharp bend in the Fish River below) the Fish River Canyon viewpoint is probably the best place to snap your best shots, though it’s definitely worth exploring the rocky outcrops to either side of it to get a feel for the sheer scale. Given the time and distance to visit Fish RIver Canyon, try and spend as much time around the Canyon edge as possible, including the sunset which is incredible.
If you’re there towards the end of summer, you might also be lucky enough to catch sight of the Fish River as heavy wet season rainfall transforms from a series of narrow interconnecting pools on the canyon floor into a raging flash flood.
We recommend staying at the main campsite, called Hobas. There's even a pool to cool off in after a long days drive.
Distance | 532kms
Drive time | 8 hours
How to get to Fish River Canyon | Use this map to get from Sesriem to Hobas, Fish River Canyon
Where to stay in Fish River Canyon | Hobas Camp
Accommodation costs | N$190 - 210 per night, depending on season
Park fees| N$80 per person, N$10 per vehicle
VISITING NAMIBIA? HERE ARE OUR TOP NAMIBIA TRAVEL TIPS TO MAKE YOUR JOURNEY SAFE
FISH RIVER CANYON TO WINDHOEK | 1 NIGHT
Before the long drive back to Windhoek and the end of your incredible Namibia road trip, head to Kooigoedhoogte Pass within the national park for another incredible view of Fish River Canyon.
The, grab yourself an ice-cream and settle in for the long drive back to Windhoek. Once you hit the B1 road near Grunau, it's one straight, tarred road back to the capital, Windhoek.
Drive time | 6 - 7 hours
How to get to Windhoek | Use this map to get from Hobas campsite to Windhoek
Where to stay in Windhoek | Urban Camp, Windhoek
Accommodation costs | Campsite N$170 per person
EXTENDING YOUR NAMIBIA ROAD TRIP ITINERARY
Our detailed Namibia self drive itinerary misses a few key sites within the country. If you do have more time, we recommend visiting the following:
Kolmanskop is an eerie ghost town long abandoned by time and slowly sinking back into the sand of the Namib desert.
Leave the sand dunes and desert air behind and head up north to the narrow strip of land known as the Caprivi, where the landscape changes drastically to become fertile floodplains and lush countryside.
NAMIBIA ROAD TRIP TIPS
We're putting together a Namibia road trip tips post which will have all the information you need before heading off on your self-drive adventure. But here are a few main points.
Regardless of whether you're self-driving or on a tour, it's imperative you get travel insurance for any travel in Namibia. The distances are vast, the risk of breaking down, accident or injury is great, and let's not forget that we're talking about travelling through a freaking desert here! We recommend organising comprehensive travel insurance through World Nomads before you go.
If you’re planning on driving Namibia, we would suggest using a 4x4 or AWD. While the network of roads is extensive and excellent, there will be times you need to drive off-road, or at the very least along dirt roads. Take it from us, this can be a hair-raising experience and one made better with a more appropriate car.
There are many 4x4/car hire agencies, however, we really do not recommend using BidVest, as we had many issues with our car rental.
Important note: We hired a car in Cape Town and drove it to Windhoek. We were hit with a ridiculously large ‘cross-border’ charge which we were not made aware of before hiring. If you’re planning on hiring a car, we recommend not crossing borders - it’ll cost you!
LICENCE REQUIREMENTS TO HIRE A CAR IN NAMIBIA
The driving licence requirements in Namibia state that you must have a full driving licence that is valid in your country of residence. An international driver's licence is also required if your driving licence is not in English
The driver must be 23 years of age and have held their licence for at least 1 year depending on supplier. Some suppliers might require you to be over 25 and will charge those between 21-25 an additional insurance fee.
ALWAYS FILL UP
It’s important you consider the sheer size of the country; it’s huge. Due to it’s size, the distance between towns can be considerable; our rule of thumb was to fill up with fuel every time we saw a petrol station. Petrol can be expensive, especially in rural areas.
If you’re planning on going off road, you need to take precautions; include extra water, food and fuel in your boot.
MONEY AND COSTS IN NAMIBIA
Namibia is an affordable self-drive destination. The Namibian dollar is pegged to the South African Rand, which in the past few years has suffered a sharp decline.
If you're self-driving, the only costs you really need to account for are fuel, campsites fees, national park fees, food and snacks. We believe this is the most affordable way to travel within Namibia.
4x4 HIRE | Starting from N$800 per day ($65 USD)
PETROL | Around N$12 per litre ($1 USD)
CAMPSITES | From N$150 - $250 per night ($10 - $20 USD)
The cost of food does depend on each town, so we suggest you grab all the essential supplies in Windhoek.
ATMs/Banks can be found in just about every town, although it pays to have hard currency, especially if travelling into the far reaches of the country. Be careful when using your credit card as fraud in this part of the world is common.
The current exchange rate is 1 USD = 12.7 Namibian Dollars (as at 19 May 2018).
INTERNET/PHONE RECEPTION IN NAMIBIA
Phone reception is widespread and quite good throughout the entire country. There were only a few times where we were without reception, and this tended to be when we were travelling in super remote areas. 4G reception is available in main cities, while 3G is most common.
Internet is available in just about every town in Namibia, as is wi-fi. Almost all accommodation we visited provided wi-fi; just don’t expect super-fast speeds!
We used our Lonely Planet Southern Africa guide religiously on this trip and recommend you purchase and read one before travelling. Buy your guide here.
We also recommend purchasing a Namibia roadmap such as this one.
Are we missing something from our Namibia road trip itinerary? Ask a question in the comments below!