The majesty of Sossusvlei
From the towering dunes of Sossusvlei to the German coastal town of Swakopmund and the whales of Walvis Bay, the laidback capital of Windhoek to the shifting sands of the Namib-Naukluft National Park, central Namibia is home to some of the country’s most popular attraction and best adventure activities, making it one of the top areas for travellers.
Etosha aside, central Namibia is the most popular region for travellers to explore. Windhoek, Namibia’s capital city, is where many people will start and end their trip, picking up supplies before they head off north to Etosha, west to Swakopmund or south to Sossusvlei. The coastal town of Swakopmund is Namibia’s adventure centre, with a huge range of activities on offer to suit the most avid of adrenaline seekers, while its colonial architecture and restaurants make staying here for a few days a pleasure. Just south of Swakopmund, Walvis Bay is a port town with abundant birdlife in its lagoon and amazing marine life off its shores.
The capital city, Windhoek, is where you’ll start and end your trip if you’re flying in to Namibia. Most travellers only spend a day or two here to hire a car and stock up on provisions before driving either north or south, but with its laidback atmosphere, colonial architecture, museums and good restaurants, Windhoek makes for a great first stop on your itinerary.
The dry salt pans of Deadvlei
Sossusvlei is the most visited place in Namibia and it’s easy to see why. As one of the most accessible areas in the vast Namib-Naukluft National Park, a visit to Sossusvlei gives you a taste of some of the breath-taking scenery that makes the park and the Namib so special: the soaring orange sand dunes against a deep blue sky, the never-ending horizons and the cracked puzzle pieces of dry clay pans.
A short walk from Sossusvlei is one of the most photogenic places in all Namibia – Deadvlei. This desiccated pan dotted with the charcoal-black skeletons of long-dead trees surrounded by an amphitheatre of towering dunes looks so surreal that it feels like the set from a movie.
Sunrise over Siesriem
Just outside the gates to Sossusvlei, the 30-metre-deep, one-kilometre-long Sesriem Canyon may not be nearly as dramatic as the Fish River Canyon, but it is an interesting natural attraction to visit, especially with its two short easy walks which offer you the chance to explore the gorge at a gentle slow pace.
Sun-bleached sand dunes outside Swakopmund
On the coast, the attractive Germanic town of Swakopmund, with its photogenic colonial architecture, is a great place to spend a few days: there are excellent restaurants serving up hearty German fare, charming bakeries and coffee shops to load up on Black Forest cake and apple strudel, and beer houses where you can drink German brews with locals. The town is best known as Namibia’s adventure capital, with its smorgasbord of activities on offer that take place on the coast or in the surrounding desert: kayaking trips to a seal colony, sky diving, quad biking, sand boarding down desert dunes and guided tours of the desert to explore its fascinating animal and plant life.
Close to Swakopmund, Walvis Bay is a port town that serves as a launch point for boat tours along the coast to do seal, dolphin and whale watching, as well as kayaking trips, kite surfing and wind surfing. South of Walvis Bay, Sandwich Harbour is a haven for birdwatchers who come to see more than 50 species of wetland birds – in particular, flamingos and waders – in the natural lagoon.
As central Namibia is a popular region, it’s best to book far in advance for lodging, especially if you’re travelling during the busiest months of June to September or in December and January. If you’re flying into Windhoek to start your trip, plan to add in a day or two before you head off into Namibia to stock up on supplies that will be hard to find elsewhere, such as medicine and camping equipment.