Looking for a travel guide to Namibia? You’re in the right place! I brought in a local to share her very best Namibia travel tips!
Hi! I’m Ellie. My dad is an anthropologist whose life work has been studying and living among the Himba in Namibia. My family has lived in Namibia on and off since I was a young child and I recently returned from a two month trip there this summer.
Namibia is a former German colony that only gained its independence from South Africa during apartheid in 1990. My sister was actually the first American born in Namibia after it became its own country!
Namibia is the second least densely populated country in the world after Mongolia. It offers a really varied landscape with everything from grassy savannahs to desert mountain ranges to gorgeous beaches. Although urban life has expanded a lot in Namibia during the past twenty years, a small part of the population is still indigenously living.
This national park is a game reserve for Namibian wildlife and houses a wide variety of African of animals that roam freely within the almost 2,000 square miles of the park. Visitors are allowed to drive wherever they wish and take pictures. You are not, however, allowed to get out of your car except at designated settlements. Giraffes, zebra, elephants, springbok, and kudu are among the commonly spotted wildlife.
If you have luck on your side during your visit, you might see lions and rhinos, or even an extremely rare leopard or cheetah!
The third largest city in Namibia, and the most charming in my opinion, is the beachside town of Swakopmund. It is filled with gorgeous old buildings and houses and has some of the most beautifully curated curio shops Namibia has to offer.
Nearby is a camel riding farm owned by a lovely German lady. In the next town over (Walvis Bay) you can book a kayaking trip in a secluded lagoon that is home to thousands of seals and flamingos.
An antique shop owner in South Africa told me she had visited Swakopmund in the 1950s and the streets of the town used to be lined with rose quartz.
This stunning waterfall is located on the northern border between Namibia and Angola. There is a resort hotel here, but anyone who wants to is welcome to go swimming in the pools at the top of the falls. Swim with caution because even if you survive a trip down the waterfalls, there are plenty of crocodiles lying in wait at the bottom.
The drive up to Epupa Falls is through Kaokoland where the Himba, Hawkavona, and some Herero live so you’ll get a chance to see a few of their villages and homesteads.
It’s been in various states of disrepair in the times I’ve visited, but this is a giant, castle-like house that is literally in the middle of nowhere but definitely worth a visit. It was originally built by a German soldier for the wealthy American heiress he married, but he was tragically killed during WWI and his wife never had the desire to return to Namibia without him.
The castle was abandoned for many years and the horses from their stable were set free and now make up the wild horse population of Namibia.
Climb the sand dunes at Sossusvlei
These are some of the tallest sand dunes in the world and definitely worth the exhausting climb to the top. You can see for miles in every direction and even do some sand boarding if you’re feeling adventurous.
Visit the mining ghost town of Kolmanskop
There was a huge diamond mining boom in Namibia during the early 20th century and the remaining buildings in this ghost town are partially filled with sand that makes them both haunting and fascinating.
Wood carvers market in Okahandja
This is a huge open air market filled with African/Namibian curios of every kind. The wood carvers there are famous for their beautiful work and it’s definitely a fun experience to barter with the vendors as they hawk their wares.
This shop is located in Swakopmund and is as good as any natural history museum in Namibia. It is filled with fascinating treasures that include voodoo dolls (they have a witch doctor come in regularly to perform a protection spell for the shop against any bad voodoo in their collection), a wide variety of masks, ancient weapons and tools, and hundreds of other items of interest.
Namibians love meat so their cuisine includes a lot of the animals that are native to the country. If you are a fellow meat lover, you can have the opportunity to try ostrich, kudu, springbok, gemsbok, zebra, and maybe crocodile tail (if you’re really brave!). If you are a vegetarian (like me) there are plenty of options at almost every restaurant.
Cultural Tips for travel in Namibia
Most Namibians speak English and are very friendly and helpful, but learning a few greetings in Afrikaans and/or some of the native dialects will endear you to locals.
Many of the vendors at street markets will charge a lot more for goods than they would cost at a curio shop, so be careful when bartering and keep your options open. Namibia is a safe country on the whole, but do take extra care with your personal belongings and don’t leave luggage in a car unattended.
Renting a vehicle is a necessity for travel in Namibia because distances between cities and settlements is great. You can rent a bakkie (small truck with a covered truck bed) or a kombi (small van) and take advantage of the camping that is available at many Namibian accommodations.
There are places to purchase inexpensive blankets and pillows and most of the street vendors are happy to trade their goods for bedding, so it’s easy to get rid of at the end of your trip. If you don’t mind sleeping in your car, this can be an easy and less expensive way to see Namibia.
Airbnb is pretty much always cheaper than a hotel and nicer than a hostel. Here’s a historic beach house for $67 a night and here’s a three-bedroom beach apartment for $78. If you’ve never used Airbnb before, here’s a $40 credit towards your first booking!