Namibia is an amazing country for a road trip. Driving around the country for a week or two you can see massive red sand dunes, wild African animals, local tribes, bizarre shaped mountains, rock paintings and many other incredible attractions. We spent two months driving across Namibia and visiting every corner of this beautiful country. In this road trip itinerary we included the main highlights of Namibia.
Different ways to travel Namibia
For traveling around Namibia, you have two options to rent a car (drive with your car) or join a tour. Unfortunately using public transport is difficult to visit some of the attractions located outside towns and cities. You can move between main cities e.g. Windhoek, Swakopmund, etc. but from there you will have to join a tour.
Road tripping through Namibia is the most popular way of traveling the country. You have the flexibility to stay anywhere you want without being attached to a tour schedule. If you’re a couple of people or a family renting a car will work out cheaper per person than joining a tour. You can rent a car at Windhoek airport on arrival and drop it on departure.
If you’re a solo traveler renting a car is quite expensive for one person you can try to team up with somebody you meet at a hostel or join a tour. Driving along for hours through the desert gets very lonely. There are tours similar to our Namibia road trip itinerary.
Practical tips for the road trip
One of our main Namibia travel tips is always to make sure to fill your petrol tank and check for every day how far apart petrol stations are.
It’s better if you have two drivers in your team. The Namibia road trip itinerary involves long-distance driving which is quite tiring for one person.
Driving in Namibia is on the left side of the road like in the UK, Australia, or South Africa you might need some time to adjust. Luckily most of the time you drive on gravel roads with not much traffic or road signs.
If you come in the peak season it’s better to book accommodation in advance especially places inside National Parks and Nature Reserves e.g. Sossusvlei, Etosha.
Buy a local SIM card. It’s important to have a working phone in case you get lost or your car breaks in the middle of nowhere.
Keep drinking water and snacks in the car sometimes there might be no shops or restaurants for hundreds of kilometers.
In some areas you can drink tap water but it doesn’t taste nice, too much chlorine, in some areas tap water isn’t potable. You can refill water at supermarkets.
Citizens of many countries (US, UK, EU, Australia, Canada) get 90 days visa free on arrival.
English language is spoken everywhere, in certain areas Afrikaans and German.
Local currency, the Namibian Dollar (NAD) is equal to the South African Rand (ZAR). Check the current exchange rate with your currency here.
Power outlets in Namibia are 220V type M, same as in South Africa.
Camping is the cheapest accommodation option for the Namibia road trip. Campsites can be found everywhere from National Parks to cities and towns.
Travel insurance for Namibia road trip
It’s always recommended to have travel insurance when going abroad to make sure you’ll be covered in case something goes wrong especially if you’re planning an adventure holiday like a road trip in Namibia. Choosing a reliable company with experience in international travel is important. If you don’t have an insurance company yet we can recommend our partners World Nomads. They cover international travelers in many locations including Namibia. Their insurance policy is very flexible it can cover the entire trip or just a part of it. You can buy it online at any time before or during your trip it takes just a couple of minutes. Get your instant quote now!
Namibia road trip cost
You can travel through Namibia on different budgets depending on how much comfort you need if you’re ready to camp in your tent every night and cooking food or you rather would like to have a luxury holiday staying in lodges, eating out, and doing some costly activities like skydiving or scenic flights over the desert.
The cost of accommodation
Camping is the cheapest accommodation option in Namibia if you have your own tent. Campsites can be found everywhere from the Namib desert to Etosha National Park and Windhoek. The average price for camping is NAD 200/US$ 13 per person. Camping in Etosha National Park is more expensive from NAD 350/US$ 23 per person. In bigger places, you can find hostels that charge about NAD 300/US$ per bed. For 10 nights of camping, you’ll spend NAD 2000-2500/US$ 135-170 per person.
Hotels and lodges are quite pricey, especially outside cities and towns. Prepare to pay for a fancy room or a luxury tent at a lodge between NAD 1000-1300/US$ 70-90 per person. In bigger places, you can find plenty of guesthouses and hotels at affordable prices, from NAD 300/US$ 20 per person. To reduce the cost you can alter camping with staying indoors. For 10 nights you’ll pay between NAD 10 000-12 000/US$ 700-800 per person.
Car rental prices in Namibia
Just like with accommodation it all depends on what car you rent, what gear is included, and what time of the year you rent it. To rent a Toyota Hilux 4×4 Single cab (1-2 people) with a rooftop tent and camping gear will cost you in the low season (December – March) – US$93/NAD 1385 per day; in the peak season (July, August) – US$170/NAD 2500 per day. For 10 days you’ll pay between US$ 900 and US$ 1600 for the car.
If you rent a car at the Windhoek Airport e.g. Toyota Hilux 4×4 Double cab (up to 5 people) without a rooftop tent and camping gear will cost you around US$ 750 for 10 days regardless of the season. You can always rent a smaller car at the airport which will cost you half of the 4×4, about US$ 350 for 10 days but it might be challenging to drive on gravel roads and in some places, you’ll have to take a shuttle or join a safari drive.
It’s up to you to decide to pay more for a rental car with a roof-top tent and save on accommodation or to rent a car without camping gear and pay more for accommodation.
Other expenses on the road trip
Petrol will be another big expense due to long driving distances. 1L of petrol in Namibia costs NAD 13/US$ 0,88 which is quite cheap compared to other countries including South Africa.
Entrance fees to national parks in Namibia are not very high. Prepare to pay NAD 150-200/US$ 10-13 per person.
Spending on food and water depends a lot on if you cook for yourself (having camping gear is quite handy again) or if you eat a couple of times a day at a restaurant or cafe. If you’re going to cook even if you buy meat every day it won’t be very expensive. We spent about NAD 150/US$ 10 on food per person per day. There are some budget options for eating out e.g. fast food places (Hungry Lion, Wimpy, KFC, etc.) they can be found at petrol stations and towns. Most lodges have restaurants but like everything else there it won’t be cheap.
Our detailed 10-day Namibia road trip itinerary
Driving route of our Namibia road trip: Windhoek – Ketmanshoop (Quiver Tree Forest) – Fish River Canyon – Sesriem (Sossusvlei) – Swakopmund – Cape Cross Seal Reserve – Spitzkoppe – Etosha National Park – Windhoek. The total distance of the suggested Namibia road trip is 2850 km.
A map of the Namibia road trip
Day 1. Arriving in Windhoek
On the first day, you’ll probably be tired after a long flight. Depending on the time you arrive in Windhoek just relaxing in your hotel and going out for dinner might be enough. If you land in Windhoek in the morning you might have some time to stroll around the city and visit a couple of places. If you’re planning to rent a car for your Namibia road trip, renting it at the airport is the easiest way. If you’re joining a tour your operator will probably meet you at the airport on arrival and from there on you don’t have to worry about anything.
The highlights of Windhoek
- Christuskirche (Christ Church)
- Parliament Gardens
- Alte Feste (the Old Fort)
- Heroes’ Acre, the monument is situated outside of the city on the B1 highway. You can visit it on the way to Ketmanshoop
- Gibeon meteorites at Post Street Mall
- Independence Memorial Museum
If you have time you can join a guided Windhoek tour that will take you to the main city attractions.
We spent a couple of days in Windhoek during our Namibia road trip and to be honest didn’t like it. If you don’t have extra time to spend a day or two in Windhoek during your trip it won’t be a big loss. There are more interesting places to visit in Namibia.
Places to stay in Windhoek
Day 2. Windhoek – Quiver Tree Forest, Ketmanshoop
- Distance – 510 km
- Driving time – 5 hours
- Petrol stations – several on the B1 highway
- Heroes’ Acre
- Tropic of Capricorn
- Quiver Tree Forest
- Giant’s Playground
- Stunning sunset at the campsite
- Wild animals; meerkats, ground squirrels, many birds
It’s the longest driving day in this Namibia road trip itinerary. Luckily the road from Windhoek to Ketmanshoop is tar, not gravel. There are many petrol stations along the route as well as small shops and restaurants where you can stop for snacks, rest a bit and buy some stuff. Don’t miss the Tropic of Capricorn, there is a big road sign “Tropic of Capricorn” about 110 km from Windhoek, past Rehoboth. Many tourists stop there to take a photo.
Quiver Trees are unique trees that grow in the south of Namibia, and some parts of South Africa. The Quiver Tree Forest is the only place you can see a lot of trees growing close to each other. The Quiver tree grows very slow, it reaches 2-2,5 m in a couple of hundred years. The forest looks the best at sunset. Some trees have massive nests of sociable weavers in their crowns. You can see these massive nests on trees, road signs, poles, they look quite impressive.
- Quiver Tree Forest working hours – sunrise to sunset
- Entrance fee – NAD 100/US$7 per person
Day 3. Ketmanshoop – Fish River Canyon, Hobas
- Distance – 160 km mostly gravel road
- Driving time – 2 hours
- Petrol stations – at 16 km in Keetmanshoop; at 146 km at Canyon Road House
- Old cars at Canyon Roadhouse
- Fish River Canyon
- Occasional wild animals mostly African antelopes and birds
Today’s drive is very different from the previous day through a very sparsely populated part of Namibia with few towns. Driving here always make sure to have enough petrol and fill your tank at every stop.
Fish River Canyon is the second largest canyon in the world after the Grand Canyon in the US. It’s quite impressive especially if you have never seen a big canyon before. I’ve read some people saying it wasn’t as impressive as the Grand Canyon though but we’ve never seen it. For us, it was definitely worth visiting the canyon. I must admit we didn’t have to drive all the way from Windhoek. We stopped at Fish River Canyon on our Cape Town – Namibia road trip.
To get the best views of the canyon go to Hobas, a campsite, and the entrance to the main lookout point. The look-out is the starting point of a 4-day Fish River Canyon hike if you’re an eager hiker and have time you can tackle this route. The trail is open from May to mid-September and it requires advanced booking.
- Entrance fee to the view-point – NAD 160/US$ 11 per person, NAD 20/US$ 1,5 per car.
- Gate times – sunset to sunrise.
You can stay at Hobas at the campsite but we prefer Canyon Roadhouse, which is only 16 km before Hobas (you’ll drive past it the next day in any case). They have better facilities and it’s more of a fun place to spend the rest of the day taking photos with old rusted cars, chilling in the pool, sitting at the bar, etc. You can camp here in your own tent or stay in one of the rooms. You can book a room online. Even if you’re not going to stay here I’d highly recommend stopping here for photos. It’s the best old car photo spot on this Namibia road trip.
Day 4. Fish River Canyon – Sesriem
- Distance – 550 km, gravel road
- Driving time – 6h30min.
- Petrol stations – at 16 km at Canyon Roadhouse; at 200 km in Bethanien; at 285 km (Helmeringhaousen); at 550 km in Sesriem (Oasis Campsite)
Another long day of driving through nothing on gravel roads mostly smooth with some occasional bumps here and there. I remember this day as one of the most tiresome days on our Namibia road trip. Always make sure to fill your car with petrol so you don’t have to run out of fuel in the middle of nowhere.
If you have an extra day from Fish River Canyon you can drive first to Luderitz, a small coastal town. The main attraction of it is Kolmanskop, often called a ghost town. It’s an abandoned German settlement that was quite prosperous in the first half of the XX century when diamonds were discovered in the area. Nowadays the town is turned into an open-air museum. There are other things to do in Luderitz besides visiting the ghost town so if you have time you can spend a day here. It’ll be about 250 km extra (about 800 km from Fish River Canyon to Sossusvlei) if you decide to go to Luderitz first.
You’ll probably arrive at Sesriem too late to visit Sossusvlei. In any case early morning is a much better time for visiting the desert.
Places to stay in Sesriem
The two closest to the gate campsites are Sesriem campsite and Sossusvlei Oasis Campsite. The first one is situated inside the park and gives early access to the park for its guests which gives you more time to get to Dune 45 in time for sunset. Due to its popularity, this campsite is often fully booked in the peak season.
Sossusvlei Oasis Campsite is just 900 m away from the entrance gate but you will have to wait till it opens to start driving. We like Oasis Campsite more. It’s cheaper and has better facilities. You can book a camping spot online.
If you don’t want to camp and rather stay in a fancier lodge there are two amazing places very close to the entrance gate: Elegant Desert Camp (200 m from the entrance) and Sossusvlei Lodge (400 m from the gate).
Day 5. Sesriem – Swakopmund
- Distance – Sesriem – Sossusvlei (Dune 45, Deadvlei) – 130 km, return; Sesriem – Swakopmund – 340 km, gravel road
- Driving time – 3-4 hours to visit the park, plus a 4-hours drive to Swakopmund
- Petrol stations – at Sesriem; at 78 km at Solitaire; at 340 km in Swakopmund
- Sunrise from Dune 45
- The incredible scenery of Sossusvlei
- Old cars at Solitaire
- Tropic of Capricorn
- Sunset from Dune 7, the highest dune in the Namib Desert
Visiting Sossusvlei was one of the highlights of our Namibia road trip. We’ve visited some other deserts including the Thar Desert in India and the Atacama Desert in Chile but the Namib Desert impressed us the most. The best is to start your day as early as possible. If you’re staying inside the park you can start driving more than 1 hour before sunrise. If you’re staying outside the park come to the gate early to make sure you enter the park one of the first and still might have enough time to make it to the top of Dune 45 in time for sunrise. Check sunrise times here.
- Entrance fee to Sossusvlei – NAD 100/US$ 7.
- Gate hours – 6.30 am to sunset.
After enjoying the sunrise at Dune 45 head towards Deadvlei making stops along the way to take photos of massive red dunes. The last 7 km to Deadvlei are on a sandy road; you’ll need a 4×4 car to make it there and back. If your vehicle is not 4×4 and you’re worried you might get stuck in the sand rather take a shuttle. The return shuttle costs NAD 180/US$ 12 per person. You don’t have to book the shuttle beforehand; the jeeps are parked here as they fill up.
At Deadvlei I’d highly recommend going to the top of one of the dunes to get amazing panoramic views of the desert and the dried salt pan. If you’re planning to do some dune walking, wear shoes, not flip-flops, by 10-11 am the sand gets very hot and it’ll burn your bare feet. Wearing a long sleeve shirt and pants as well as a hat and using sunscreen are highly recommended. You might get terrible sunburns during your desert tour.
Before you start driving from Sesriem to Swakopmund fill your petrol tank and check the tires (there is a tire repair shop at Oasis). Solitaire is a nice stop for lunch or a snack on the way. There are a couple of rusted old cars for taking photos. About 50 km past Solitaire you’ll again cross the Tropic of Capricorn. If you didn’t take photos with the sign you have another chance.
About 37 km before Swakopmund (just after the right turn towards the town) make a stop at Dune 7. This dune is considered to be the highest dune in Namibia. You can climb to the top of it. It’s a great spot for watching the sunset but if you’re there earlier you’ll still get great views of the desert. There is no entrance fee or gate to access the dune.
If you have time before going to Swakopmund you can visit the flamingo colony at the pelican point in Walvis Bay. This short detour will hardly add any distance plus the drive from Walvis Bay to Swakopmund is on a tar road which is much quicker for driving. The flamingo colony is worth visiting if you stop there on the way the next day you don’t have to drive back to Walvis Bay to see it. There are thousands of birds at the bay. We’ve never seen so many flamingos in one area though we’ve visited places where you can see many of them like Uyuni Salt Flats in Bolivia. Flamingos are in Walvis Bay between November and April.
Places to stay in Swakopmund
Day 6. Swakopmund
Swakopmund is our favorite town in Namibia. We stayed here for a couple of days relaxing, enjoying the beach, eating nice food, and drinking beer. It is a great place to have a short break from long-distance driving. It’s not a big place but there are many amazing things to do in Swakopmund. As I already said you can just chill here and do nothing or you can go on an adventure tour and even do something extreme like skydiving in the desert.
Recommended tours and activities and Swakopmund
- Swakopmund Museum
- The jetty and the beach
- Swakopmund Aquarium
- Kristal Galerie
Day 7. Swakopmund – Cape Cross – Spitzkoppe
- Distance – 310 km, tar and gravel road
- Driving time – 4 hours
- Petrol stops – several in Swakopmund; at 75 km and at 190 km in Hentiesbaai (you’ll have to drive back to Henties Bay from Cape Cross to the turn-off to Spitzkoppe).
The highlights of Swakopmund
- Zeila shipwreck on the Skeleton Coast, about 57 km from Swakopmund
- Thousands of seals at the Cape Cross Seal Reserve
- Bizarre rock formations and mountain ranges at Spitzkoppe
- Stunning sunset and incredible night sky at Spitzkoppe
The drive along the Skeleton Coast from Swakopmund to Cape Cross is a unique experience. The straight gravel road along the coast with the desert on one side and the ocean on the other and pretty much nothing around except the occasional shipwrecks.
Cape Cross Seal Reserve is worth visiting especially if you do your Namibia road trip between December and February when you can see thousands of cute seal cubs crawling around. Cape Cross is one of the largest Cape Fur seal colonies in the world. In the peak breeding season, there are over 200 000 seals in the reserve. Prepare for the smell. If you’re sensitive, bring a mask with you. This place is quite stinky.
Spitzkoppe is another unique place in Namibia. It’s sometimes called the Matterhorn of Namibia. The smooth orange color granite mountain range stands out of the surrounding desert. Camping at Spitzkoppe is an amazing experience; the campsites are situated far apart which gives you the feeling of being alone in the vast desert. The facilities of the campsite are very basic; it’s more of wild camping. If you prefer having more comfort you can stay at Spitzkoppe Bush Camp just outside the reserve in one of the bush tents that have en-suite bathrooms.
- Spitzkoppe entrance fee – NAD 80/US$ 5 per person, it’s included in the camping price.
- Gate hours – 9 am to 4 pm.
Day 8. Spitzkoppe – Etosha National Park (Okaukuejo Campsite)
- Distance – 436 km, tar/gravel road
- Driving time – 4h40min.
- Petrol stops – at 60 km in Usakos; at 95 km in Karibib; at 158 km in Omaruru; at 320 km in Outjo; at 436 km at Okaukuejo campsite, Etosha
- Omaruru, the art capital of the region
- Giant termite nests along the road
- Massive sociable weavers’ nest on trees, road signs, and poles
Today’s drive is easier with many towns to stop along the way no need to worry about petrol or food. For a nice place to stop for breakfast or snack, I can recommend Omaruru, a small town with a couple of coffee shops and wine cellars where you can taste local wines.
If you’re planning to stay inside Etosha National Park I’d recommend stocking some food supplies and water inside the park everything will be quite pricey.
As an option, you can drive to Etosha through Uis and stop at the White Lady Lodge to see rock painting, the distance is about the same. The rock paintings are located near Brandberg mountain (2573m) the highest mountain in Namibia. The White Lady is one of the thousands of bushmen rock paintings in the area. To get to the paintings you walk for about an hour from the park entrance with a guide. The painting is considered to be 2000 years old. The name White Lady comes from a white figure in the center that is actually not a lady at all but a man, a medicine man. The entrance is NAD 100/US$ 7, the return walk takes about 2 hours.
Whichever way you drive, make a stop in Outjo, it’s the last town with shops and ATMs before Etosha. There are sex campsites/lodges inside Etosha National Park. The nearest to Anderson Gate is Okaukuejo Camp. This campsite has great facilities and a good location for doing game drives. There is a waterhole next to the campsite where you can usually see many animals.
- Etosha entrance fee – NAD 100/US$ 7 per person.
- Gate hours – 6.30 am till sunset.
Day 9. Etosha National Park
For many tourists visiting Etosha becomes the highlight of their Namibia road trip. To get the best experience it’s important to come here in the right season. The dry season, May to October, is the best time to see wildlife. During the dry season there is not much water in the park animals come to waterholes to drink. You can sit next to one of them in your car and see many animals without even driving around too much.
If you’re a bird lover then the wet season, November to April, is the best time for you to visit Etosha. During that time you can see over 300 different bird species in the park many of which are migratory. To name some of them: eagles, flamingos, storks, owls, vultures, hornbills, different parrots, etc.
The biodiversity of Etosha is truly impressive. Here you can see 4 out of the famous African Big 5 animals: elephants, rhinos, lions and leopards. The only one that is missing here is the buffalo. Besides these impressive animals you can see more than a hundred other mammal species such as giraffes, zebras, different antelopes, wildebeests, hyenas, cheetahs, warthogs, jackals, foxes, and many others.
Some animals e.g. leopards are difficult to see during the day as they’re more active after the sunset. To see them you can join a night safari drive from your campsite. Local guides know where and when to look for animals.
Day 10. Etosha – Windhoek
- Distance – 414 km, tar road
- Driving time – 4 hours
- Petrol stops – Okaukuejo campsite; 120 km in Outjo; 187 km in Otjiwarongo; 363 km in Okahandja; 414 km in Windhoek.
- Crocodile Farm in Otjiwarongo
If you have more time you can extend your trip and from Etosha head north towards the border with Angola. There you can visit the Himba people, one of the indigenous tribes and see Epupa Falls, a group of impressive waterfalls surrounded by baobab trees. You can continue your road trip and drive from Namibia to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. On the way you can visit the Caprivi Strip.
If you’re going back to Windhoek you can stop in Otjiwarongo on the way and visit the Crocodile Farm, to add to your road trip another African animal. Entrance fee – NAD 100/US 7 per person.