Namibia is an amazing country for a road trip. Driving around the country for a week or two you can see massive red sand dunes, wild African animals, local tribes, bizarre-shaped mountains, rock paintings, and many other incredible attractions. We spent two months driving across Namibia and visiting every corner of this beautiful country. In this road trip itinerary, we included the main highlights of Namibia.
How long does it take to drive around Namibia?
The average Namibia road trip duration is 10 days. I’d say 7 days is a minimum for a road trip in Namibia even if you want to visit only the highlights of the country due to the large distances between the attractions. 14 days or 2 weeks is a perfect length to drive around Namibia. It gives you enough time to visit the main attractions without rushing. You can easily spend 1 month in the country there are plenty of places to explore. We spent 2 months driving around Nambia (1 week in Botswana) and I can say that we really get to visit every corner of this beautiful country.
What is the most scenic road in Namibia?
After road-tripping around Namibia for 2 months I’d highlight 3 scenic roads: the gravel road (C12 and C14) from Fish River Canyon to Swakopmund, the road from Swakopmund along the Skeleton Coast (C34), and the road in the north of Namibia through Caprivi Strip (B8). The C12 and C14 offer spectacular desert scenery, the C34 follows the isolated coast with shipwrecks and seals, and on the B8 we got to see elephants walking next to the road.
How to travel to Namibia?
For traveling around Namibia, you have two options to rent a car or join a tour. Unfortunately using public transport is difficult to visit some of the attractions located outside towns and cities. You can move between main cities e.g. Windhoek, Swakopmund, etc. but from there you will have to join a tour.
Road-tripping through Namibia is the most popular way of traveling the country. You have the flexibility to stay anywhere you want without being attached to a tour schedule. If you’re a couple of people or a family renting a car will work out cheaper per person than joining a tour. You can rent a car at Windhoek airport on arrival and drop it off on departure.
If you’re a solo traveler renting a car is quite expensive for one person you can try to team up with somebody you meet at a hostel or join a tour. Driving along for hours through the desert gets very lonely. There are tours similar to our Namibia road trip itinerary.
Traveling Namibia with a tour
You can do a similar to the suggested Namibia road trip with a tour.
- 9-Day Canyons, Dunes & Wildlife Camping, and Lodge Safari
- 7-Day Southern Namibia and Sossusvlei Camping Safari
- 12-Day Classic Namibia Camping Safari
Do I need a 4×4 for a road trip through Namibia?
No, you don’t need a 4×4 to travel around Namibia you can do a road trip with a normal biggish car unless you want to drive off-road. We needed 4×4 only once in Sesriem to drive the last 7 km to Deadvlei but it’s much easier to get there by a special shuttle.
You can find more useful Namibia travel tips for planning your Namibia road trip.
Is it easy to drive around Namibia?
It’s relatively easy to drive around Namibia, especially on gravel roads. Some gravel roads are quite bumpy but are wide and have little traffic. Driving in Namibia is on the left side of the road like in the UK, Australia, or South Africa you might need some time to adjust. On these gravel roads, there are usually no speed cameras or police.
On main roads and in cities, you have to watch the signs there are speed cameras and police roadblocks, especially in the north of Namibia near the border with Angola. They do stop cars and check your documents. Sometimes they “hide in the bush” with a speedometer.
It’s better if you have two drivers on your team. The Namibia road trip itinerary involves long-distance driving which is quite tiring for one person.
One of our main driving tips is always to make sure to fill your petrol tank and check every day how far apart petrol stations are you don’t want to run out of petrol in the middle of nowhere.
Keep drinking water and snacks in the car sometimes there might be no shops or restaurants for hundreds of kilometers.
When is the best time to visit Namibia?
Winter months (May to September) are the peak season and the best time to visit Namibia. It’s less hot even in the south of the country. Winter is the dry season in Northern Namibia which is always good for animal watching.
If you do the road trip through Namibia in the peak season it’s better to book accommodation in advance especially places inside National Parks and Nature Reserves e.g. Sossusvlei, Etosha.
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Namibia road trip cost
Overall a road trip through Namibia is quite expensive especially if you’re planning to stay in lodges. Car rental, petrol, accommodation, and entrance fees result in high expenses. You can travel through Namibia on different budgets depending on how much comfort you need. If you’re ready to camp in a tent every night and cook food your spending will be lower. If you want to have more comfort, stay in lodges, eat out, and do some costly activities like skydiving or scenic flights over the desert then your Namibia road trip will be quite expensive.
The cost of accommodation
Camping with our own tent is the cheapest accommodation option for a road trip through Namibia. Campsites can be found everywhere from the Namib desert to Etosha National Park and Windhoek. The average price for camping is NAD 200/US$13 per person. Camping in Etosha National Park is more expensive from NAD 400/US$26 per person. In bigger towns, you can find hostels for NAD 300/US$20 per bed.
Hotels and lodges are quite pricey, especially outside cities and towns. Prepare to pay for a room or a luxury tent at a lodge between NAD 1200 and 1500/US$80-100 per person sharing. In towns, you can find plenty of guesthouses and hotels at affordable prices, from NAD 500/US$34 per room. To reduce your expenses you can alter campsites and hotels.
Car rental prices in Namibia
It depends on what car you rent, what gear is included, and what time of the year you rent it. To rent an SUV with a rooftop tent and camping gear for 2 people will cost you in the low season (November to June) around US$88 per day; in the peak season (July and August) around US$140 per day. For a 10-day road trip, you’ll pay between US$ 900 and US$1400 for the car.
If you rent a car at the Windhoek Airport e.g. Ford EcoSport SUV (up to 5 people) without a rooftop tent and camping gear you’ll pay around US$700 for 10 days. You can always rent a smaller car at the airport (e.g. Volkswagen Polo) which will cost you half of the SUV, about US$350 for 10 days but it might be challenging to drive on gravel roads.
It’s up to you to decide to pay more for a rental car with a rooftop tent and save on accommodation or to rent a car without camping gear and pay more for accommodation. If you’re really on a tight budget you can bring some camping gear (tent, sleeping pads, sleeping bags) with you and rent a smallish car. Then you save on both car rental and accommodation.
Other expenses on the road trip
Petrol will be another big expense due to long driving distances. 1L of petrol in Namibia costs NAD 19/US$1,2 which is cheap compared to South Africa.
Entrance fees to national parks in Namibia are not very high. Prepare to pay NAD 150-200/US$10-13 per person.
How much you’ll spend on food and water depends on if you cook for yourself or if you eat a couple of times a day at a restaurant or cafe. If you’re going to cook even if you buy meat every day it won’t be very expensive. On our Namibia road trip, we spent about NAD 150/US$10 on food per person per day. There are some budget options for eating out e.g. fast food places (Hungry Lion, Wimpy, KFC, etc.) they can be found at petrol stations and in towns. Most lodges have restaurants but the food there is pricy.
Namibia road trip map
Driving route of our Namibia road trip: Windhoek – Ketmanshoop (Quiver Tree Forest) – Fish River Canyon – Sesriem (Sossusvlei) – Swakopmund – Cape Cross Seal Reserve – Spitzkoppe – Etosha National Park – Windhoek. The total distance of the suggested self-drive route is 2850 km/1770 mi.
Namibia road trip – our 10-day self-drive itinerary
Day 1. Arriving in Windhoek
On the first day, you’ll probably be tired after a long flight. Depending on the time you arrive in Windhoek just relaxing in your hotel and going out for dinner might be enough. If you land in Windhoek in the morning you might have some time to stroll around the city and visit a couple of places. If you’re planning to rent a car for your Namibia road trip, renting it at the airport is the easiest way. If you’re joining a tour your operator will probably meet you at the airport on arrival and from there on you don’t have to worry about anything.
The highlights of Windhoek
- Christuskirche (Christ Church)
- Parliament Gardens
- Alte Feste (the Old Fort)
- Heroes’ Acre, the monument is situated outside of the city on the B1 highway. You can visit it on the way to Ketmanshoop
- Gibeon meteorites at Post Street Mall
- Independence Memorial Museum
If you have time you can join a guided Windhoek tour that will take you to the main city attractions.
We spent a couple of days in Windhoek during our Namibia road trip and to be honest, it wasn’t our favorite place. If you are limited in time rather spend it somewhere else there are plenty of places to visit in Namibia.
Places to stay in Windhoek
- Budget | Chameleon Backpackers & Guesthouse | APS Guesthouse |
- Middle price | Guesthouse Terra Africa | Hartmann Suites Serviced Apartments |
- High-end | Avani Windhoek Hotel & Casino | Am Weinberg Boutique Hotel |
Day 2. Windhoek – Quiver Tree Forest, Ketmanshoop, 510 km/316 mi
- Distance – 510 km/316 mi
- Driving time – 5 hours
- Petrol stations – several on the B1 highway
- Heroes’ Acre
- Tropic of Capricorn
- Quiver Tree Forest
- Giant’s Playground
- Stunning sunset at the campsite
- Wild animals; meerkats, ground squirrels, and many birds
It’s the longest driving day in this Namibia road trip itinerary. Luckily the road from Windhoek to Ketmanshoop is tar, not gravel. There are many petrol stations along the route as well as small shops and restaurants where you can stop for snacks, rest a bit and buy some stuff. Don’t miss the Tropic of Capricorn, there is a big road sign “Tropic of Capricorn” about 110 km from Windhoek, past Rehoboth. Many tourists stop there to take a photo.
Quiver Trees are unique trees that grow in the south of Namibia, and some parts of South Africa. The Quiver Tree Forest is the only place you can see a lot of trees growing close to each other. The Quiver tree grows very slowly, it reaches 2-2,5 m in a couple of hundred years. The forest looks the best at sunset. Some trees have massive nests of sociable weavers in their crowns. You can see these massive nests on trees, road signs, and poles, they look quite impressive.
- Quiver Tree Forest working hours – sunrise to sunset
- Entrance fee – NAD 150/US$9 per person
Day 3. Ketmanshoop – Fish River Canyon, Hobas, 160 km/99 mi
- Distance – 160 km/99 mi mostly gravel road
- Driving time – 2 hours
- Petrol stations – at 16 km in Keetmanshoop; at 146 km at Canyon Road House
- Old cars at Canyon Roadhouse
- Fish River Canyon
- Occasional wild animals mostly African antelopes and birds
Today’s drive is very different from the previous day through a very sparsely populated part of Namibia with few towns. Driving here always make sure to have enough petrol and fill your tank at every stop.
Fish River Canyon is the second largest canyon in the world after the Grand Canyon in the US. It’s quite impressive especially if you have never seen a big canyon before. I’ve read some people saying it wasn’t as impressive as the Grand Canyon though but we’ve never seen it. For us, it was definitely worth visiting the canyon. I must admit we didn’t have to drive all the way from Windhoek. We stopped at Fish River Canyon on our Cape Town – Namibia road trip.
To get the best views of the canyon go to Hobas, the entrance to the main lookout point. The lookout is the starting point of a 4-day Fish River Canyon hike if you’re an eager hiker and have time you can tackle this route. The trail is open from May to mid-September and it requires advanced booking.
- Entrance fee to the viewpoint – NAD 160/US$10 per person, NAD 20/US$ 1,5 per car.
- Gate times – sunset to sunrise.
You can stay at Hobas at the campsite but we prefer Canyon Roadhouse, which is only 16 km before Hobas (you’ll drive past it the next day in any case). They have better facilities and it’s more of a fun place to spend the rest of the day taking photos with old rusted cars, chilling in the pool, sitting at the bar, etc. You can camp here in your own tent or stay in one of the rooms. You can book a room online. Even if you’re not going to stay here I’d highly recommend stopping here for photos. It’s the best old car photo spot on this Namibia road trip.
Day 4. Fish River Canyon – Sesriem, 550 km/341 mi
- Distance – 550 km/341 mi, gravel road
- Driving time – 6h30min.
- Petrol stations – at 16 km at Canyon Roadhouse; at 200 km in Bethanien; at 285 km (Helmeringhaousen); at 550 km in Sesriem (Oasis Campsite)
Another long day of driving through nothing on gravel roads mostly smooth with some occasional bumps here and there. I remember this day as one of the most tiresome days on our Namibia road trip. Always make sure to fill your car with petrol so you don’t have to run out of fuel in the middle of nowhere.
If you have an extra day from Fish River Canyon you can drive first to Luderitz, a small coastal town. The main attraction of it is Kolmanskop, often called a ghost town. It’s an abandoned German settlement that was quite prosperous in the first half of the XX century when diamonds were discovered in the area. Nowadays the town is turned into an open-air museum. There are other things to do in Luderitz besides visiting the ghost town so if you have time you can spend a day here. It’ll be about 250 km/155 mi extra (about 800 km from Fish River Canyon to Sossusvlei) if you decide to go to Luderitz first.
You’ll probably arrive at Sesriem too late to visit Sossusvlei. In any case, early morning is a much better time for visiting the desert.
Places to stay in Sesriem
The two closest to the gate campsites are Sesriem Campsite and Sossusvlei Oasis Campsite. The first one is situated inside the park and gives early access to the park for its guests which gives you more time to get to Dune 45 in time for sunset. Due to its popularity, this campsite is often fully booked in the peak season.
Sossusvlei Oasis Campsite is just 900 m away from the entrance gate but you will have to wait till it opens to start driving. We like Oasis Campsite more. It’s cheaper and has better facilities. You can book a camping spot online.
If you don’t want to camp and rather stay in a lodge there are two amazing places very close to the entrance gate: Elegant Desert Camp (200 m from the entrance) and Sossusvlei Lodge (400 m from the gate).
Day 5. Sesriem – Swakopmund, 340 km/211 mi
- Distance – Sesriem – Sossusvlei (Dune 45, Deadvlei) – 130 km/80 mi, return; Sesriem – Swakopmund – 340 km/211 mi, gravel road
- Driving time – 3-4 hours to visit the park, plus a 4-hours drive to Swakopmund
- Petrol stations – at Sesriem; at 78 km at Solitaire; at 340 km in Swakopmund
- Sunrise from Dune 45
- The incredible scenery of Sossusvlei
- Old cars at Solitaire
- Tropic of Capricorn
- Sunset from Dune 7, the highest dune in the Namib Desert
Visiting Sossusvlei was the highlight of our Namibia road trip. We’ve visited some other deserts including the Thar Desert in India and the Atacama Desert in Chile but the Namib Desert impressed us the most. The best is to start your day as early as possible. If you’re staying inside the park you can start driving more than 1 hour before sunrise. If you’re staying outside the park come to the gate early to make sure you enter the park one of the first and still might have enough time to make it to the top of Dune 45 in time for sunrise. Check sunrise times here.
- Entrance fee to Sossusvlei – NAD 100/US$7.
- Gate hours – 6.30 am to sunset.
After enjoying the sunrise at Dune 45 head towards Deadvlei making stops along the way to take photos of massive red dunes. The last 7 km to Deadvlei are on a sandy road; you’ll need a 4×4 car to make it there and back. If your vehicle is not 4×4 and you’re worried you might get stuck in the sand rather take a shuttle. The return shuttle costs NAD 180/US$12 per person. You don’t have to book the shuttle beforehand; the jeeps are parked here as they fill up.
At Deadvlei I’d highly recommend going to the top of one of the dunes to get amazing panoramic views of the desert and the dried salt pan. If you’re planning to do some dune walking, wear shoes, not flip-flops, by 10-11 am the sand gets very hot and it’ll burn your bare feet. Wearing a long sleeve shirt and pants as well as a hat and using sunscreen are highly recommended. You might get terrible sunburns during your desert tour.
Before you start driving from Sesriem to Swakopmund fill your petrol tank and check the tires (there is a tire repair shop at Oasis). Solitaire is a nice stop for lunch or a snack on the way. There are a couple of rusted old cars for taking photos. About 50 km past Solitaire you’ll again cross the Tropic of Capricorn. If you didn’t take photos with the sign you have another chance.
About 37 km before Swakopmund (just after the right turn towards the town) make a stop at Dune 7. This dune is considered to be the highest dune in Namibia. You can climb to the top of it. It’s a great spot for watching the sunset but if you’re there earlier you’ll still get great views of the desert. There is no entrance fee or gate to access the dune.
If you have time before going to Swakopmund you can visit the flamingo colony at the pelican point in Walvis Bay. This short detour will hardly add any distance plus the drive from Walvis Bay to Swakopmund is on a tar road which is much quicker for driving. The flamingo colony is worth visiting if you stop there on the way the next day you don’t have to drive back to Walvis Bay to see it. There are thousands of birds at the bay. We’ve never seen so many flamingos in one area though we’ve visited places where you can see many of them like Uyuni Salt Flats in Bolivia. Flamingos are in Walvis Bay between November and April.
Places to stay in Swakopmund
- Budget | Skeleton Beach Backpackers | Salty Jackal Backpackers & Surf Camp |
- Middle price | The Mole Guesthouse | Be-Still Accommodation |
- High-end | Desert Sands Boutique B&B | Swakopmund Plaza Hotel |
Day 6. Swakopmund
Swakopmund was our favorite town we spent there a week during our Namibia road trip relaxing, enjoying the beach, eating nice food, and drinking beer. It is a great place to have a short break from long-distance driving. It’s not a big place but there are many amazing things to do in Swakopmund. As I already said you can just chill here and do nothing or you can go on an adventure tour and even do something extreme like skydiving in the desert.
Recommended tours and activities in Swakopmund
- Scenic Desert Bike Tour
- Living Dunes Experience
- Desert Quad Biking
- Tandem Skydiving
- Kayaking and Sandwich Harbour Combo Tour
- Swakopmund Museum
- The jetty and the beach
- Swakopmund Aquarium
- Kristal Galerie
Day 7. Swakopmund – Cape Cross – Spitzkoppe, 310 km/192 mi
- Distance – 310 km/192 mi, tar, and gravel road
- Driving time – 4 hours
- Petrol stops – several in Swakopmund; at 75 km and at 190 km in Hentiesbaai (you’ll have to drive back to Henties Bay from Cape Cross to the turn-off to Spitzkoppe).
The highlights of Swakopmund
- Zeila shipwreck on the Skeleton Coast, about 57 km from Swakopmund
- Thousands of seals at the Cape Cross Seal Reserve
- Bizarre rock formations and mountain ranges at Spitzkoppe
- Stunning sunset and incredible night sky at Spitzkoppe
The drive along the Skeleton Coast from Swakopmund to Cape Cross is a unique experience. The straight gravel road along the coast with the desert on one side and the ocean on the other and pretty much nothing around except the occasional shipwrecks.
Cape Cross Seal Reserve is worth visiting especially if you do your Namibia road trip between December and February when you can see thousands of cute seal cubs crawling around. Cape Cross is one of the largest Cape Fur seal colonies in the world. In the peak breeding season, there are over 200 000 seals in the reserve. Prepare for the smell.
Spitzkoppe is another unique place in Namibia. It’s sometimes called the Matterhorn of Namibia. The smooth orange color granite mountain range stands out from the surrounding desert. Camping at Spitzkoppe is an amazing experience; the campsites are situated far apart which gives you the feeling of being alone in the vast desert. The facilities of the campsite are very basic; it’s more like wild camping. If you prefer having more comfort you can stay at Spitzkoppe Mountain Camp just outside the reserve in one of the bush tents that have en-suite bathrooms.
- Cape Cross Seal Reserve entrance fee – NAD 150/US$10 per person, NAD 50/US$3 per car
- Gate hours – 10 am to 5 pm
- Spitzkoppe entrance fee – NAD 120/US$8 per person, the entrance fee is included in the camping price.
- Gate hours – 9 am to 4 pm.
Day 8. Spitzkoppe – Etosha National Park (Okaukuejo Campsite), 436 km/270 mi
- Distance – 436 km/270 mi, tar/gravel road
- Driving time – 4h40min.
- Petrol stops – at 60 km in Usakos; at 95 km in Karibib; at 158 km in Omaruru; at 320 km in Outjo; at 436 km at Okaukuejo campsite, Etosha
- Omaruru, the art capital of the region
- Giant termite nests along the road
- Massive sociable weavers’ nests on trees, road signs, and poles
Today’s drive is easier with many towns to stop along the way no need to worry about petrol or food. For a nice place to stop for breakfast or a snack. I can recommend Omaruru, a small town with a couple of coffee shops and wine cellars where you can taste local wines.
If you’re planning to stay inside Etosha National Park I’d recommend stocking some food supplies and water because inside the park everything will be more expensive.
As an option, you can drive to Etosha through Uis and stop at the White Lady Lodge to see rock painting, the distance is about the same. The rock paintings are located near Brandberg Mountain (2573m) the highest mountain in Namibia. The White Lady is one of the thousands of bushmen rock paintings in the area. To get to the paintings you walk for about an hour from the park entrance with a guide. The painting is considered to be 2000 years old. The name “White Lady” comes from a white figure in the center that is actually not a lady at all but a man, a medicine man. The entrance is NAD 100/US$7, the return walk takes about 2 hours.
Whichever route you drive, make a stop in Outjo, it’s the last town with shops and ATMs before Etosha. There are sex campsites/lodges inside Etosha National Park. The nearest to Anderson Gate (the southern entrance to the park) is Okaukuejo Camp. This campsite has great facilities and a good location for doing game drives. There is a waterhole next to the campsite where you can usually see many animals.
- Etosha entrance fee – NAD 150/US$10 per person.
- Gate hours – sunrise to sunset. The times change depending on the sunrise/sunset.
Day 9. Etosha National Park
For many tourists visiting Etosha becomes the highlight of their Namibia road trip. To get the best experience it’s important to come here in the right season. The dry season, May to October, is the best time to see wildlife. During the dry season, there is not much water in the park animals come to waterholes to drink. You can sit next to one of them in your car and see many animals without even driving around too much.
If you’re a bird lover then the wet season, November to April, is the best time for you to visit Etosha. During that time you can see over 300 different bird species in the park many of which are migratory. To name some of them: eagles, flamingos, storks, owls, vultures, hornbills, different parrots, etc.
The biodiversity of Etosha is truly impressive. Here you can see 4 out of the famous African Big 5 animals: elephants, rhinos, lions, and leopards. The only one that is missing here is the buffalo. Besides these impressive animals, you can see more than a hundred other mammal species such as giraffes, zebras, different antelopes, wildebeests, hyenas, cheetahs, warthogs, jackals, foxes, and many others.
Some animals e.g. leopards are difficult to see during the day as they’re more active after sunset. To see them you can join a night safari drive from your campsite. Local guides know where and when to look for animals.
Day 10. Etosha – Windhoek, 414 km/257 mi
- Distance – 414 km/257 mi, tar road
- Driving time – 4 hours
- Petrol stops – Okaukuejo campsite; 120 km in Outjo; 187 km in Otjiwarongo; 363 km in Okahandja; 414 km in Windhoek.
- Crocodile Farm in Otjiwarongo
If you have more time you can extend your trip and from Etosha head north towards the border with Angola. There you can visit the Himba people, one of the indigenous tribes, and see Epupa Falls, a group of impressive waterfalls surrounded by baobab trees. You can continue your road trip and drive from Namibia to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. On the way, you can visit the Caprivi Strip.
If you’re going back to Windhoek you can stop in Otjiwarongo on the way and visit the Crocodile Farm, to add to your Namibia road trip another African animal. Entrance fee – NAD 110/US$7 per person.
The pretty half of Stingy Nomads, responsible for all our land adventures (hiking, climbing, walking the Camino) and following them write-ups. Alya loves walking since she was a child, she prefers to walk 1000 km with a backpack rather than to do a 10 000 km road trip (actually any road trip). Alya is a big fan of Latin America, the Spanish language, and dancing. Every time we go away she desperately misses our dog Chile.