Our self-drive Namibia road trip uncovered mighty dunes & ancient cave paintings, tracked rhino and cheetah, and explored the barren Skeleton Coast. Here’s advice for your own 2-week Namibia itinerary.
Namibia is wide open spaces end endless horizons. Rippling red rock canyons and bleak grey landscapes. Towering shifting dunes and crashing oceans. And there is no better way to see it all than on a Namibia road trip.
But there is more than dramatic scenery. Cheetah, wild rhino and elephants roam the mesas and valleys of this ancient land and nowhere more so than in Etosha National Park which simply provides one of the greatest (and best value) self-drive safari experiences in the world.
To top it all millennia-old paintings adorn cave walls, homemade gin and beer quenches your thirst and there is a warmth and friendliness to all you meet.
Namibia is best experienced bouncing along gravel roads in your own car. With good value hotels and some of the best scenery you will ever see from a car window, our 2-week self-drive Namibia itinerary packed it all in and was one of our favourite travel experiences so far.
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Start this 2-week Namibia road trip by arriving in Windhoek. If your flight arrives in the morning, make the 4-hour drive south towards Sossusvlei. It could 1 to 2 hours to get through immigration and another 45 minutes to pick up the car. So, make sure you have enough time to get to your hotel in Sossusvlei before it gets dark. If not stay a night in Windhoek and make your way the next day.
For some helpful tips to get you started, read our article on all things driving in Namibia.
DAY 1 / DRIVE TO SOSSUSVLEI
The fastest and most scenic way to Sossusvlei is over the Spreetshoogte pass. The pass has excellent views as you drop off the high central plains and into the Namib desert where you may be lucky enough to spot ostrich, springbok, baboons and oryx. It’s a beautiful desolate drive and an excellent introduction to the scenery you’ll come to expect on this trip.
Make a late stop at Solitaire to gather supplies for tomorrow. Fill up with petrol and get some food and water for a picnic tomorrow. If it’s a bit late to get photos of the vintage cars rusting out the front, don’t worry – you’ll be back.
Sossusvlei Stay – Agama River Camp, between Solitaire & Sasriem
Travel – 4-hour drive over Spreetshoogte Pass via C24, D1261 and D1275
DAY 2 / HIKING THE DUNES OF SOSSUSVLEI
The dunes of Sossusvlei are one of the iconic sights of Namibia. At over 300m high they shimmer in the early morning light as they shift with the wind. At their base lies the famous cracked and dried mud pans from which trees, long ago left for dead, create an eerie atmosphere.
Remarkably this desolate place deep in the desert is easily accessible. A riverbed – dry for many years – creates a break in the dunes through which a road has been cut. The deeper you head into the desert the higher the dunes climb. It’s a spectacular scene.
Walk up Big Daddy dune (the largest in the area), then explore the Deadvlei mud pan before hiking across the desert to the much less visited Hiddenvlei.
All the details for the day can be found on our Big Daddy Dune article.
Sossusvlei Stay – Agama River Camp, between Solitaire & Sasriem
Travel – 1 hour, 40 minutes drive each way from Agama River Camp to Deadvlei parking
DAY 3 / NAMIB NAUKLUFT NATIONAL PARK
On day 3 of your 2-week Namibia itinerary, make your way across the Namib Naukluft National Park to the cool air of the Atlantic Coast. Begin by driving back through Solitaire, stopping again if you didn’t have enough time to collect photos of the old burnt our cars. Collect some munchies from their fantastic bakery.
Heading north and west on the C14, hop out of the car for the obligatory photo in front of the Tropic of Capricorn sign. Passing through canyons and dry river beds, stop at Kuiseb Pass and take a short stroll up to the viewpoint over the national park.
Next, stop at a picnic spot (marked on the map) and tuck into the baked goods you bought from Solitaire. From here the road drops off the high canyon land and into the flat desert plains. It is now a barren drive through grey and brown rock to the belching factories and unattractive town of Walvis Bay.
At Walvis Bay Turn right and head up the coast to Swakopmund, a cute German colonial town, which is worth strolling around in the afternoon. Check out the pier, seafront and museum before grabbing a local beer or gin at Zonder Naam and ending the perfect Namibia road trip day.
Swakopmund Stay – Desert Breeze Lodge, Swakopmund
Travel – 4-hour, 30-minute drive with extra time for stopping
DAY 4 / WALVIS BAY & SWAKOPMUND
Today was simply one of our favourite holiday days we can remember. Head to Walvis Bay Harbour and join the Pelican Point Kayak and Sandwich Harbour 4×4 combo tour.
The first part of the tour is kayaking with seals at Pelican Point. As soon as you arrive in their 4×4 you’ll notice the large colony of cape fur seals mulling around the lighthouse. Shortly after leaving the shore in your kayak you’ll be met by friendly seals playing all around you, eating your oar and trying to get into the boat. It’s a wet, wild, and fun experience.
The afternoon is dedicated to the Sandwich Harbour 4×4 tour. An experienced 4×4 driver takes you over undulating golden dunes nestled beside the Atlantic Ocean. Passing springbok, seals and jackals, the tour guide explains how life survives in this most barren of places. The scenery is phenomenal, the experience exhilarating, and the driving nothing short of expert. The day is topped off with champagne and local oysters from the boot of your 4×4.
A truly excellent experience that’s worth every penny. All the details are in our guide to visiting Sandwich Harbour from Walvis Bay.
Swakopmund Stay – Desert Breeze Lodge, Swakopmund
Travel – 45-minute drive each way to Walvis Bay
DAY 5 / SOUTHERN DAMARALAND
On day 5 of your self-drive Namibia road trip, head to Spitzkoppe, a group of bald granite peaks rising out of the flat Namib desert. They are a magnificent orange and red hue in the morning light and perfect for photos. Stop at some of the stalls locals have set up, have a chat and check out their houses made of aluminium cans.
Continue onto Brandberg Massif, a mighty mountain with cave paintings that have survived through the aeons. The White Lady of Brandberg painting is thought to be 1,000 to 2,000 years old but some etchings are over 5,000.
The paintings are accessed via a compulsory guided walk which takes 2 hours and costs N$100 per person. Last tours leave at 4 pm.
Next search for the unique desert-dwelling elephant. If you are lucky they can be found along the river banks near the Brandberg White Lady Lodge. A 4WD will help you explore more of the area. Ask the guides on the walk where they were seen last.
Uis Stay – Brandberg Rest Camp, Uis
Travel – 3-hour 45-minute drive from Swakopmund to Brandberg Paintings
DAY 6 / THE SKELETON COAST
Today, head off the beaten track and take a long drive through the desolate landscape of the Skeleton Coast. There are plenty of pit stops to spy shipwrecked boats, rusting oil rigs and the largest cape fur seal colony on the planet.
But the real joy is exploring life on the margins – walking up and down dry riverbeds trying to find springbok, oryx, flamingos, ostriches and jackals lurking in the reeds.
The whole day showcases the difficulty of survival in this dry and barren land. Read all about our exploration including the best places to stop on the Skeleton Coast to help plan your day.
End your day at Terrace Bay Resort, as far up the coast as the independent traveller can go. Spend the night chatting to the local fisherman over a beer and enjoying the remoteness of this far-flung location.
Skeleton Coast Stay – Terrace Bay Resort, Terrace Bay
Travel – 6-hour drive from Brandberg to Terrace Bay
DAY 7 / NORTHERN DAMARALAND
On day 7 of your 2-week Namibia itinerary, leave the desolation of the Skeleton coast behind and head inland to Grootberg Lodge in Damaraland. Slowly the land becomes a bit greener and the flat grey plains give way to towering red rock mesas and deep-cut valleys. The struggle for life becomes a bit easier and springbok, oryx, giraffe and impala can be spotted amongst the golden grasses as birds fly overhead.
Have a picnic lunch staring at a giraffe or at the wide-open views of this remarkable landscape, before arriving at the lodge.
Grootberg Lodge, perched on top of a red rock basalt plateau, is run and owned by the local population. So, it’s not only a great place to stay, with truly magnificent views, it also helps sustain poor rural Namibian communities.
Join the evening game drive (5 pm) and as you search the high plateau you may be as lucky as we were and see lions on the hunt for the resident springbok, mountain zebra and oryx.
Dinner in the lodge includes a dance by the kids from the local primary school. The kids were great, but the supportive enthusiasm of the staff even better.
Damaraland Stay – Grootberg Lodge, Northern Damaraland
Travel – 3-hour, 30-minute drive from Terrace Bay to Grootberg Lodge
DAY 8 / GROOTBERG LODGE
Grootberg Lodge offers a range of activities including elephant and black rhino tracking and a visit to a local community. We chose to get up just before dawn and join the black rhino tracking.
You are not guaranteed a sighting and it can be a long bumpy uncomfortable journey up the Klipriver Valley to search for the rhino. If I am honest, the reward of seeing a black rhino in the wild from 300 metres was a little underwhelming.
The real reward from the day was getting a genuine understanding of wildlife conservation in Namibia. The conflict between the needs of wild animals and rural Namibians, the challenges of poaching, and the opportunity and costs of trophy hunting are issues with real impact on the lives of the community.
It’s an educational and informative trip which we highly recommend. Read our opinion on the challenges of trophy hunting and rhino poaching.
Grootberg Lodge Activities / Rhino tracking (3/4 day) and elephant tracking (1/2 day) depart before sunrise; evening game drive departs 15:30 and lasts 3 hours | Prices: N$1,925 rhino; N$1,370 elephant, N$570 evening game drive | Bookings: can be made at the lodge.
Damaraland Stay – Grootberg Lodge, Northern Damaraland
Travel – Being driven by your guide for as long as it takes to find the rhino
DAY 9 – 11 / ETOSHA NATIONAL PARK
Etosha National Park is quite simply one of the greatest safari parks in the world. In the wet season, huge numbers of game stroll the plains. But as the rains end, they congregate around waterholes in this otherwise dry landscape, creating some of the densest game viewing opportunities imaginable.
Giraffe, elephants and rhino make the daily stroll to and from the waterhole and as the oryx, springbok and zebra congregate to drink so do the big cats that hunt them. It is a magical scene and an essential destination on any 2-week Namibia itinerary.
Etosha is designed for the independent traveller self-driving in Namibia. Roads that are easily navigable criss-cross the park and government camps offer accommodation, food and petrol stations. You can find all you need for these three days in our guide to Etosha.
We recommend 3 nights, each at different camps so you can experience all of the park. We were in the car by sunrise every day and were lucky enough to see lions, cheetah, rhinos, giraffe, elephants, and a leopard. But, if you’re not in the mood to search for wildlife, the density of game around the waterholes was unbelievable.
Travel – 3 hours, 15 minutes Grootberg to Dolomite | 4 hours from Dolomite to Okakuejo | 2 hours from Okakuejo to Halali
DAY 12 / THE WATERBERG PLATEAU
Take your last morning drive in Etosha then have lunch at Kameldorn Garten in Otjiwarongo on your way to the Waterberg Wilderness Lodge.
The lodge sits at the base of a red sandstone plateau that is rich in birdlife and rare species of small antelope. It is also the site of the local Herero tribe’s last stand in their conflict against the German colonial forces before they were forced into the desert. A conflict in which 2/3 of the local Herero population were annihilated.
In the afternoon take a stroll around the valley floor, soak up the relaxing atmosphere and let the pace drop. An excellent dinner is included and the staff are friendly and helpful.
Waterberg Stay – Waterberg Wilderness Lodge, Waterberg Plateau
Travel – 4-hour, 45-minute drive from Halali Lodge to Waterberg Plateau Lodge
DAY 13 / OKONJIMA
Join the early morning guided walk on the Waterberg plateau. It can be tough to spot animals but the guides are knowledgeable about the flora and fauna in the area. During the 2 hour, 30-minute stroll you ascend the plateau, learn about droppings, play a few games and are rewarded with sweeping views over the Kalahari.
Next drive to Okonjima Lodge. This lodge used to be a private farm but converted itself into a conservation area and is now home to the AfriCat foundation. The foundation is committed to the long-term survival of Namibia’s larges carnivores and its 200 square km privately fenced nature reserve is home to abundant wildlife.
Cheetahs, at risk from farmers outside the park, have been brought here, looked after and reintroduced into the park. Here they join the antelope and leopards that called the place home when the park was fenced in.
The lodge runs both a leopard tracking drive and a cheetah walking tour in the mornings and afternoons. Leopards are only spotted from the safety of the jeep, but since the cheetahs have been habituated, it’s possible to follow them on foot under the strict instructions of your guide.
Okonjima Activities // Morning drive begins at 6:30; afternoon drive begins at 15:30. Both the cheetah walking and leopard tracking tours last about 3 hours | Price: N$ 700 per person per drive | Bookings: can be made at the lodge.
Okonjima Stay – Okonjima Plains Camp, Otjiwarongo
Travel – 2-hour drive from Waterberg Lodge to Okonjima Plains Camp
DAY 14 / OKONJIMA MORNING & DEPARTURE
Take your morning drive, then spend a bit of time relaxing back at Okonjima Plains Camp.
They have beautiful chalet rooms and a large, communal area decorated with native flair. Enjoy their delicious BBQ breakfast, then spend a bit of time catching up with things on their very good WIFI, perusing a book from their collection, taking a dip in the pool, or just admiring the views from their comfy lounges.
To finish your 2-week self-drive Namibia itinerary, head straight to the Windhoek airport from Okonjima.
Travel – 3-hour drive from Okonjima Plains Camp to Hosea Kutako Airport
FINISH / WINDHOEK
Windhoek, is not the best final destination for you Namibia itinerary. It has little to offer and can easily be skipped. But, if you need to stay for flight times, break up the drive from Okonjima by stopping at the craft market at Okhandja. Backerei Dekker, just near the market, serves decent snacks and coffee.
In Windhoek, we’d recommend staying at MonteBello Guesthouse, Windhoek
WHERE TO STAY IN NAMIBIA
We booked 7 months in advance and the camps inside Etosha were fully booked. We had to check booking websites every day and wait for cancellations – which fortunately did happen.
So, ideally book accommodation in Etosha, Okonjima, Sossusvlei and Damaraland at least 9 months to a year in advance. Check current prices or see all our accommodation choices for this itinerary throughout the days above.
Alternatively, if you’re thinking about camping, here are 10 of the most stunning campsites in Namibia.
GETTING TO NAMIBIA
Most international flights arrive at Hosea Kutako International Airport, a 40-minute drive from Windhoek. Some African destinations also fly into Walvis Bay. You may find it easier to connect from South Africa.
GETTING AROUND NAMIBIA
There is not much public transport in Namibia. Self-driving (or a tour) is the most sensible option. Only a few of the roads in Namibia are paved with speed limits of up to 120 km/h. The rest are different levels of gravel road. Some you can fly along at 90km/h, others you are slowly bouncing over ruts.
HIRING A CAR IN NAMIBIA
Driving in Namibia is much easier than most people think but if you are unsure read our driving in Namibia post. It offers driving tips as well as money-saving advice for getting insurance and renting a car. It also explains why we recommend renting a 4×4.
Renting a car can be confusing with so many different providers offering so many different options. Our preferred partner is RentalCars.com. They have access to cars from many major companies which are compared on a grid format that clearly displays the prices for different car sizes across each provider.
Use the below links based on your home location to start planning that Namibia road trip today.
Car Rental // Check hire car prices
For this itinerary, assuming you arrive on an international flight, we suggest you hire a car from Windhoek International Airport.
BEST TIME TO GO TO NAMIBIA
Namibia is fiercely hot in the summer months of November to February and walking in the Namib desert or Damaraland is much more comfortable in winter (June to September).
Etosha has two seasons. The wet season runs from November to May and the dry season from June to October. In the wet season the roads are muddy and animals spread out over the wide plains. The dry season forces animals to congregate around the waterholes creating the perfect environment for great game viewing.
The later in the dry season the better.
This makes September to October the optimal time to self-drive Namibia, but peak season means you must book well in advance. Namibia is a large desolate country so despite being there over peak season, at no point did it feel crowded.
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