Namibia road trip, Week 1. From Fish River canyon to Swakopmund

Chamieites Food stop
Chamieites Food stop

Namibia trip was a part of our honeymoon that we started in Cape Town (check the first part of our trip along the West coast HERE). We did this trip in February which is not the best month for traveling Namibia; too hot in the South so we couldn’t do a Fish river canyon hike and too rainy in the North so we didn’t see many animals in Etosha National park. BUT we still enjoyed Namibia and planning to come back and explore it more in different season.We hope our Namibia road trip will help to plan your trip!

Namibia road trip map, Fishriver canyon - Swakopmund
Namibia road trip map, from Fish River canyon to Swakopmund. Total distance 1397km

Due to unlimited time of our trip (reasonable unlimited of course) we had a chance to explore without rushing around and sacrificing one place for another. And we saw quite a lot and were surprised quite a few times by seeing something we didn’t expect to see in Namibia.

Scenery of Southern Namibia
Scenery of Southern Namibia. Namibia road trip guide Week 1

What is the best season to visit Namibia?

A question that many travelers ask planning their trip, here is our answer:

To see many animals in Etosha dry season (April – October, October) especially its end (October) is the best time and the drier it is the better, due to lack of water many animals come to few left waterholes all you need to do is just sit in your car and wait, easy!

If you want to hike Fish River canyon winter (May to Mid September) is the best time, not that hot and dry.

To see Epupa falls (in the North) is better in rainy season (December – March), the reason is obvious more water in the river.

Walking into the desert, Namibia.
Walking into the desert, Namibia. Namibia road trip guide Week 1.

Need to know about Namibia

  • Left side driving (like in SA, Australia, England etc.).
  • Local currency Namibian dollar (NAD) linked to South African Rand (ZAR) both (NAD1=ZAR1) are equally used in Namibia. Exchange rate USD1=NAD13 in March 2017.
  • English is spoken everywhere, Afrikaans and German in certain areas.
  • Power outlets are 220V type M the same as in South Africa.
  • Drinking water in some areas you can drink tap water but it has a lot of chlorine, in some areas tap water isn’t potable. Water refills at some supermarkets (SPAR).
  • Tropical diseases. Malaria in the North East (Caprivi) region.
  • Visa. Citizens of most countries get visa free 90 days on arrival for Namibia.
    Namibian outlets and plugs, type M
    Namibian outlets and plugs, type M

Namibia road trip budget 7 days, 2 people

  • Petrol (NAD11-11,5 per 1l) – NAD2012/US$154;
  • Accommodation (4 nights camping, 2 nights in a hostel, 1 night in a car) – NAD1660/$127;
  • Food and drinks (we brought a lot of food from SA) – NAD749/$57;
  • Entrance fees – NAD300/$23;
  • Car fee (at border crossing point) – NAD259/$20.

Total: NAD4971/US$380 or NAD355/US$27 per person per day.

Budget for Namibia. 1 week, 2 people
Budget for Namibia. 1 week, 2 people

Namibia road trip guide Week 1. From Fish River canyon to Swakopmund

In the beginning of every day I’ll write some practical info concerning nearest petrol stations, shops and road conditions so you can plan your trip better.

Day 1

Noordoewer – Ai-Ais, 118km, 2h30min.

We crossed from South Africa to Namibia at Noordoewer, very easy border, took us about 20 min. to finish all formalities. To enter Namibia you pay NAD259/US$20 road fee. Keep the slip till you exit the country sometimes at road blocks police can ask for it. Noordoewer border is opened 24 hours so you can cross any time. There are two petrol stations one has shop and Wimpy (both accept cards) right after the border fill your tank there. The next one is in Ai Ais, 118km away (only cash). First 40km you drive on tarred road then you turn off to ok gravel road.

The first surprise in Namibia was waiting for us at a petrol station right at the entrance; petrol in Namibia is quite a bit cheaper than in South Africa. Don’t get too excited only petrol, the rest; food, accommodation is more expensive.

First night we stayed at Ai Ais hot springs resort which is located at the end of Fish River canyon. You can do a 10km hike along the river from here. The campsite has good facilities (grassy area, electricity, outlets, kitchen with gas stoves and sinks) but is too expensive, NAD190/US$14,5 pp. Visit of the hot pools is included in the camping price. Free drinking water near reception but it tastes like swimming pool rather bring water with you. Not our type of place more for elderly people. We’d rather suggest to drive 70km further and camp at Hobas campsite for NAD170/$13 (still quite expensive) unless you want to chill out a bit in the hot springs.

Ai Ais hot springs campsite facilities

  • Hot shower – Yes
  • Flushing toilets – Yes
  • Electricity – Yes
  • Outlets – Yes
  • Running water – Yes
  • Wi-Fi – No
  • Braai place – Yes
  • Potable water – Yes
  • Other – electric stoves, roof area for cooking and washing, hot springs.

Alternative route

As an option (in own opinion a better option) you can stay just 15km from the border at Amanzi river campsite on Orange river bank. The place is amazing, very big grassy spacious spots, with good facilities in a very beautiful place and it’s even cheaper NAD140/US$10 pp. You can rent a kayak here for a day (NAD100/US$7 per day) or do a 4-5 day tour down the river.

From Amanzi it’s 179km to Fish River canyon view point so you can drive past it and instead of going to Luderitz drive to Keetmanshoop, 300km. We’ve been to both places and liked the area around Keetmanshoop more. There you can see Giant’s playgrounds, quiver tree forest, meerkats and unreal night sky. Quivertree forest campsite is an amazing spot for camping especially if you travel with children they will love all the animals at the campsite; dogs, pet warthog, meerkats and cheetahs.

From Keetmanshoop you can continue to Sossusvlei which is 480km away. For more details on Keetmanshoop and the area check our article HERE.

Crossing the border at Noordoewer. Namibia road trip guide Part 1
Crossing the border at Noordoewer. Namibia road trip guide Week 1.
Scenery on the way to Ai Ais
Scenery on the way to Ai Ais
Ai Ais Hot springs resort/camping.
Ai Ais Hot springs resort/camping.

Day 2

Ai Ais – Aus – Luderitz, 464km, 7h.

Gravel road all the way, the nearest petrol station is 83km from Ai Ais at Canyon Roadhouse after that in Aus 260km and then in Luderitz 130km.

Don’t miss on the way Fish River canyon view point you’ll see a sign to the canyon and Hobas campsite. To drive to the view point you pay NAD60/US$ 4,5 per person, plus NAD10/$0,7 per car. The famous Fish River canyon hike starts here.

A nice stop for taking photos with old cars or drink a cup of coffee is at Canyon Roadhouse 27km from the view point. There is a campsite here as well, NAD170/US$13 pp.

125 km from Ai Ais there is a food stop/guest house Chamieites (Chamaites) more nice old cars for photos. Accommodation NAD370/$28 per person in a “house”, NAD100/$7,5 per person for camping.

Canyon Roadhouse, a nice spot for taking photos.
Canyon Roadhouse, a nice spot for taking photos.
Chamieties, campsite on the way to Luderitz.
Chamieites, campsite on the way to Luderitz. Namibia road trip guide Week 1.
One more good photo spot at Chamieties.
One more good photo spot at Chamieites.

12 km before Luderitz you’ll see Kolmanskop, a ghost town in the desert. You can stop for some photos but you’ll probably be too late to visit it, it closes at 1pm.

Fish River canyon view from the road.
Fish River canyon view from the road.
Fish River canyon from the view point
Fish River canyon from the view point
Tea with rusks stop on the way to Luderitz
Tea with rusks stop on the way to Luderitz. Namibia road trip guide Week 1.
Kolmanskop, ghost town
Kolmanskop, ghost town.

Day 3

Luderitz

Luderitz is not the most beautiful town in Namibia but there are some things to see so it’s worth to stop here for a day or two. The main things to see: Diaz point (light house, seals), Grosse Bucht (flamingos, pelicans), Kolmanskop (ghost town), Shark Island (ex concentration camp). We stayed at Element Riders backpackers for NAD300/US$23 for a double. For more details on Luderitz and Kolpmanskop check our article “Luderitz and Kolmanskop complete guide“.

Don’t forget to stock your food and water supplies here.

Lighthouse at Diaz point, Luderitz
Lighthouse at Diaz point, Luderitz. Namibia road trip guide Week 1.
Flamingos at Grosse Bucht, Luderitz
Flamingos at Grosse Bucht, Luderitz
Kolmanskop, ghost town, Luderitz
Kolmanskop, ghost town, Luderitz

Day 4

Luderitz – Aus – Sesriem, 465km, 7h.

Gravel road all the way, sometimes quite bad. After Lideritz next petrol station is in Aus, 130km. After Aus next one is at Betta’s camping 205km away, you can camp here for NAD110/$23, there is a small grocery shop. After Betta’s camping your next chance to feel petrol is in Sesriem, 138km.

Driving from Luderitz to Aus you have a good chance to see wild horses, there will be a left turn to a view point near a water hole where you can see some hemsboks and wild horses. Don’t have big expectations the wild horses look a bit miserable more like street and very hungry horses. Locals say at night time horses come to Aus to eat some grass in people’s gardens. We were lucky to see them in Aus during the day near the petrol station. Aus is a small village with a petrol station, Bahnhoff hotel and a campsite.

Driving look around for huge social weavers’ nests, they build them on trees sometimes the nests cover a whole tree.

After a brief stop for petrol at Betta campsite we kept driving towards Sesriem.

We arrived quite late at Sesriem and didn’t feel like paying NAD180-200/$13-15 per person for camping our only option was to sleep in the car. We parked at a picknick spot 5km outside the village and spent a night there, nobody bothered us.

Turn to wild horses on the way to Aus.
Turn to wild horses on the way to Aus. Namibia road trip guide Week 1.
Hemsboks at waterhole, Garub
Hemsboks at waterhole, Garub
A wild horse walking through the desert.
A wild horse walking through the desert.
A huge nest of social weavers, on the way to Sesriem.
A huge nest of social weavers, on the way to Sesriem.

Day 5

Sesriem – the Elegant Desert lodge, 50km, 50min., plus driving in Sossusvlei, about 5 hours

Inside the park you drive mostly on a paved road except last 7km and to drive that little bit you need a 4×4. If you don’t have one you can take a shuttle for NAD150/$11,5 per person. The entrance fee NAD60/$4,5 for South Africans, NAD80/$6 for tourists from other countries.

If you want to see sunrise from the top of Dune 45 you have to stay at Sesriem National park campsite for NAD200/$15 per person. In this case you can enter the park an hour before its official opening time so you have enough time to get to the dune before sunrise which is around 6.45-7.00 in summer. The park opens for visitors at 6.30 the dune is 45km away from the entrance plus you need 10-15min. to climb up the dune there is no way you can make it before sunrise. Check our complete guide to Sosussvlei national park HERE.

At Sesriem there are two petrol station one has a tire repair place don’t forget to fill your tank and check the tires. We finished with the park around 1pm and decided to camp in a first affordable place on the way and we found it just 50km away from Sesriem.

The Elegant Desert lodge, a very nice place in the middle of nowhere with good facilities, spacious camping area and very friendly staff. We paid NAD107/US$8 per person for camping. 

The Elegant Deser lodge campsite facilities

  • Hot shower – Yes
  • Flushing toilets – Yes
  • Electricity – Yes
  • Outlets – Yes
  • Running water – Yes
  • Wi-Fi – Yes, at the restaurant
  • Braai place – Yes
  • Potable water – No
  • Other – restaurant, swimming pool.
Meeting sunrise on the way to Dune 45, Sossusvlei
Meeting sunrise on the way to Dune 45, Sossusvlei. Namibia road trip guide Week 1.
Finally got here! On the top of Dune 45, Sossusvlei
Finally got here! On the top of Dune 45, Sossusvlei.
Exploring the dunes around Dead Valley, Sossusvlei
Exploring the dunes around Dead Valley, Sossusvlei.
Dead Valley, Sossusvlei
Dead Valley, Sossusvlei.
Desert Lodge
The Elegant Desert Lodge.

Day 6

Sesriem – Solitair – Swakopmund, 300km, 4h.

Gravel road almost all the way except last 30 km (tarred). Closest petrol station and tire place is 90km away at Solitaire lodge/cafe/campsite and the next one is in Swakopmund, 210km. There were quite a few campsites and lodges in between but no petrol stations.

The drive itself is quite picturesque with the landscape changing from small canyon-like rock formations to dry flats and sand dunes. This day somewhere half way to Swakopmund you’ll cross Tropic of Capricorn don’t miss the sign!

On the way you can stop at Dune 7, the highest dune in Namibia and take some photos, it looks spectacular at sunset.

At Swakopmund we camped at Skeleton beach Backpackers for NAD120/US$9 pp a good place, next to the beach, with good facilities and friendly people.

Skeleton Beach backpackers campsite facilities

  • Hot shower – Yes
  • Flushing toilets – Yes
  • Electricity – Yes
  • Outlets – Yes
  • Running water – Yes
  • Wi-Fi – Yes
  • Braai place – Yes
  • Potable water – No
  • Other – good kitchen, breakfast included, nice garden.
Different landscape on the way to Swakopmund
Different landscape on the way to Swakopmund
Crossing Tropic of Capricorn on the way to Swakopmund
Crossing Tropic of Capricorn on the way to Swakopmund
Sunset on Dune 7
Sunset on Dune 7

Day 7

Swakopmund

A beautiful town has enough to keep you busy for a couple of day. A nice hub for chilling, meeting new people, walking on the beach or even swimming if cold water is not an issue.

There are many things to see and to do around the town including some extreme sport activities, for more details check our article Swakopmund travel guide.

Before leaving Swakopmund don’t forget to stop at Fruit & Veg supermarket to stock up your food and water supplies; drinking water NAD1 per 1l.

Swakopmund view from the pier
Swakopmund view from the pier
Flamingos colony in Walvis Bay
Flamingos colony in Walvis Bay

To be continued! Our articles on Namibia road trip Week 2 and Week 3.

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