Popularly referred to as the place of wide open spaces, this vast, but sparsely populated African country is becoming increasingly sought after as a holiday destination. Cradling the oldest desert on Planet Earth (Namib Desert), the largest underground lake (Dragon’s Breath Cave), the second largest canyon (Fish River Canyon), as well as the largest salt pans in Africa (Etosha Pans), Namibia’s magic certainly lies in the extremes and contrasts of her landscapes. Tourists are welcomed by her friendly people who are, like the diverse landscape, rich in cultural variety.
Whether you are lured by Namibia’s tranquillity and crisp fresh air or her wild and rugged beauty, whether you seek a romantic getaway, a relaxing family holiday or an adrenaline-filled adventure of a lifetime - you will be spoilt for choice by the variety in tourist accommodation that would satisfy any preference and budget. Of the 14 regions, the best places to stay would be found in the Khomas, Erongo, Kunene and Karas Regions. The Fish River Canyon, Etosha National Park, Skeleton Coast and the Namib-Naukluft Park each has its own charm and is worthwhile to explore. The best towns to flag would be Windhoek, Swakopmund, Keetmanshoop, Outjo and Lüderitz.
Windhoek - most central place to stay & most vibrant night life
Nestled amongst the Auas, Eros and Khomas Highland Mountains lies Windhoek, Namibia’s capital and most central city - also probably your point of entry into the country as it hosts the main international airport, Hosea Kutako. Architecture inherited from German and Victorian Colonial times charmingly blend with shiny modern high-rises to imprint a unique character on the cityscape of this relatively laid back city. You won’t be disappointed in staying here for a few days, unwinding and exploring the charming hilly surroundings, the cultural variety, energetic urban vibe and night life on offer.
Windhoek certainly has the highest concentration of places to stay, with the City Centre being your best choice for finding accommodation, as it hosts the larger hotels and many attractions are within walking distance. Public transport is not readily available in Namibia, but if you drive yourself or opt to hire a car, the outskirts and older neighbourhoods like Klein Windhoek, Eros, Luxury Hill and Ludwigsdorf offer numerous beautiful guest houses, bed & breakfasts and smaller hotels.
Being central, Windhoek would also be the point of departure for multiple exciting trips and tours to explore the rest of this vast and varied country. Namibia fames itself for the high value it sets on Eco-Tourism. A mere day trip away into the rural areas surrounding Windhoek, numerous guest farms and lodges welcome tourists who are interested in exploring the rich wildlife and peaceful nature.
Etosha National Park - best place for larger groups, families and wildlife lovers
(Etosha Zebras - Photo: Sulet Gous)
The Etosha National Park is named after the Etosha Pans, which means ‘Great White Place’ and indeed they are the largest salt pans in Africa - mostly arid and covered in fine white dust, but flooded with water during good rainy seasons. Game like elephant, lion, rhinoceros, giraffe, zebra, different species of antelope and numerous bird species may be seen in abundance at water holes in the drier seasons.
The best places to stay for feasting your eyes on Namibia’s abundant variety of wildlife are found in and around the game park - an awesome destination for larger tour groups, but also an excellent getaway for families with kids, solo travellers and couples alike. There are several rest camps within the game reserve itself – ranging from budget-friendly campsites in Okaukuejo and Olifantsrus to 5-star luxury chalets in Dolomite and Onkoshi.
Outjo - Gateway to Etosha and several game farms for wildlife tourism
Alternative to staying at one of the rest camps, you can book at one of the many game farms and lodges surrounding the park, all of which are ideally situated and equipped for guided game drives into Etosha or around the establishment itself. Popularly referred to as The Gateway to Etosha, the town of Outjo also gives best access to farms and lodges catering for wildlife tourists. Other spectacular sites, which can be accessed from Outjo, are Twyfelfontein with its rock engravings, the Epupa Waterfalls, the Rock Finger, the Petrified Forest and the Ugab Terraces.
Embraced by the Namib Desert stretching along the Atlantic Coast in the West and the Kalahari Desert in the East, it would be a sin for visitors to Namibia not to include the desert experience. The coastal towns of Swakopmund, Walvis Bay and Henties Bay in the Erongo Region all cater for travellers of most tastes and budgets with a choice to book their stay in luxurious hotels, charming guest houses, backpacker hostels or camping sites. In the desolate Skeleton Coast area north of Henties Bay, you will find no towns, but indeed some exquisite places to stay, like Cape Cross Lodge, Shipwreck Lodge and of course some camping sites for those who like to rough it.
What make these coastal desert towns unique are not only the rugged landscape with endless sand dunes, ancient river mouths, wetlands, rocky shores and sandy beaches, but also the unexpected cool climate with fog blowing in from the Atlantic Ocean, guaranteeing the survival of the Namib’s unique desert plants and creatures.
Swakopmund - for admirers of historical architecture, ocean lovers, adrenaline activities, families and couples
By far the most popular tourist destination in Namibia, Swakopmund is characterised by its lovely old German Colonial style buildings, like the Old Prison, the Hohenzollern Building, the Swakopmund Lighthouse, the Altes Amtsgericht and many others. Activities like angling, surfing, sky-diving, scenic flights, hot air ballooning, sand boarding, wind surfing, paragliding, boat cruises, camel rides and quad biking draw both adrenaline junkies and families with toddlers and teens to entertain. Alternatively, the exquisite beauty of a sunset over the ocean, the possibility of leisurely strolls along the beach, breathing the cleanest air on Earth, lounging the day away in coffee shops or just lying next to the ocean, consumed by the sound of the waves and basking in the sun create perfect scenarios for a romantic escape.
Sossusvlei – best place for desert photography and romantic scenery
Of course, if you want to experience the desert in its ultimate and glorious splendour, be sure to pay a visit to Sossusvlei and Deadvlei in the Namib-Naukluft Park. Here you will find some of the most impressive and highest dunes, surrounding white salt and clay pans. Unequalled beauty in these landmarks and glorious scenery guarantee opportunities for photography enthusiasts to take spectacular photos.
Discover settlements like Sesriem and Solitaire in your desert journey. Accommodation in and near this area include camping sites, self-catering lodges and exquisite luxury lodges – Sossusvlei Lodge, Namib Desert Lodge, Solitaire Desert Farm, The Desert Grace, Elegant Desert Lodge, to mention just a few.
Fish River Canyon – best place for hikers, bikers, photographers and relaxing retreat
(Fish River Canyon Quiver Tree - Photo: Sulet Gous)
As you drive into the deep South of Namibia, entering the Karas Region, towns grow quainter, fewer and further between. By far the most visited feature, is the Fish River Canyon, largest canyon in Africa and second largest on Earth after the Grand Canyon in the USA. Originating in the Naukluft Mountains, the ancient Fish River has carved its way towards the Ai Ais Hot Springs for hundreds of millions of years. It is believed that a crack in the crust of the earth caused the bottom of the valley to collapse, forming this giant ravine. The views from the rim of the canyon are endless and spectacular, especially at sunrise and sunset. The Fish River Canyon is a paradise for photographers, an extreme and popular challenge for hikers and bikers or a heavenly retreat if you just need to relax and find your spirit again.
Perching on the edge of the rocky ravine, designed with views to take your breath away, luxury chalets welcome you at the Fish River Lodge. The friendly staff of Journeys Namibia are your hosts and an unforgettable stay is promised. Alternatively you may choose to indulge in the hospitality of the Gondwana Collection and stay over in one of their spectacular places – Canyon Lodge, Canyon Village or Canyon Roadhouse – to experience the vastness and the ancient grandeur of this miraculous geological wonder.
Keetmanshoop and surrounding Guest Farms – for nature lovers and families
The best towns to stay outside the canyon itself, would be Keetmanshoop, Aus or Grünau. From Keetmanshoop, you can drive to the Quiver Tree Forest and be charmed by an unusually large scattering of these very unique and ancient trees indigenous to Namibia, some of which are two to three centuries old.
In and around the ever quainter little towns in the Karas Region, your best choice for staying over would be to book at one of the many privately owned guest farms and guest lodges, whose owners will welcome you with typical Namibian heartfelt hospitality. Just a few to be mentioned are Bethanie Guest House, Alte Kalköfen Lodge, White House Guest Farm and Savanna Guest Farm.
Lüderitz and Kolmanskop – paradise for photographers, artists, seafood lovers and couples
The most charming town in the Karas Region, and probably in Namibia, is without a doubt the quirky little seaside town of Lüderitz. Originally named Angra Pequena by the Portuguese seafarer Bartholomeus Diaz and located in the more rocky southern part of the Namib, Lüderitz boasts just under a hundred historical buildings, all architectural works of art with National Heritage status.
Accommodation in Lüderitz is plenty and includes excellent hotels, bed & breakfasts, self-catering establishments and guest houses. Picturesque and enchanting, it might be the best resort for a romantic couple’s retreat. Of course, with its quaint little waterfront development and bustling fishing harbour, it is also a mecca for seafood lovers, renowned for its home-grown oysters, crayfish and abalone.
Just 10 km inland from Lüderitz, the ghost town Kolmanskop, still eerily beautiful, lies partly buried under desert sand. At the turn of the 19th century, at the time of World War I, Kolmanskop had been a wealthy diamond town. After the 1930s the rich diamond fields were depleted and the town abandoned by its inhabitants. Today it is one of the main and most well-known tourist attractions in Namibia – a photographers’ and artists’ paradise, just like its sister town Lüderitz.