Namibia Holiday Planning Guide
Since gaining independence from South Africa in 1990, Namibia has sought to rival its neighbor in terms of tourist appeal. While it hasn't yet gotten up to the numbers of South Africa, Namibia tourism sector has plenty to work with. The desert and mountainous areas represent a real source of appeal, with species of classic African game animals, such as desert lions, zebras, and elephants real highlights of safaris through the national parks. Namibians are rightly proud of their country, and the myriad traditional villages, colonial German towns, and lively urban centers all deserve your attention.
Places to Visit in Namibia
Regions of NamibiaKaras Region
: Namibia's rugged coast with wild horses and German colonial buildings, Karas Region attracts visitors with its Art Nouveau architecture, ghost mining towns, and nature trips.Khomas Region
: The appeal of Khomas remains its pristine nature, accessible through nature reserves, game farms, and safari trips.Erongo Region
: Nature lovers and eco-tourists take advantage of Erongo Region's untamed landscape to explore the jagged coast and sand dunes, practice extreme sports, and take safaris through the wilderness.Otjozondjupa Region
: Home to many endangered species, Otjozondjupa Region offers a chance to discover iconic African animals, traditional life, and ancient cave paintings.Kunene Region
: Enrich your Namibia vacation with a visit to an iconic nature conservation area to see animals gather around a waterhole--adapted to harsh conditions and unthreatened by humans, they make a visit to this dry landscape richly rewarding.
Destinations in NamibiaWindhoek
: Nestled on a plateau in the heart of Namibia, the laidback capital city serves as a great base for exploring the rest of the country.Walvis Bay
: Enjoy the atmosphere of a pleasant port city by taking advantage of kayaking, fishing, and kitesurfing opportunities available in the area. Swakopmund
: Squeezed between the wide and scenic Atlantic coast and a vast desert, this resort town attracts visitors from all over the world with its adventure sports, camel safaris, and nature walks.Luderitz
: Sandwiched between the shallow coast and sand dunes, this port town boasts colonial buildings and serves as a great base point for spotting penguins, dolphins, and flamingos. Namib-Naukluft Park
: Enhance your Namibia trip by visiting one of the largest nature reserves in the world, sheltering diverse animal life and featuring an otherworldly landscape of red sand dunes and petrified trees.
Popular Namibia Tourist AttractionsSossusvlei
: A huge salt pan surrounded by massive red sand dunes, Sossusvlei nestles in the vast Namib Desert and attracts visitors from all over the world with its surreal landscapes and diverse wildlife.Okaukuejo waterhole
: Observe various animals gather to quench their thirst at Okaukuejo waterhole, part of the iconic Etosha National Park.Twyfelfontein
: Examine World Heritage-listed rock carvings and paintings at a 6,000-year-old shelter once inhabited by hunters and gatherers who left rare visual traces of their beliefs and rich spiritual life.Kolmanskop Ghost Town
: Add this ghost town to your Namibia itinerary and explore the alleys of a once-thriving diamond mining community set up by Germans and abandoned after World War I.
Etosha National Park: Take a safari tour of Namibia's iconic Etosha National Park to spot many endangered species and see large game animals in their natural environment.Deadvlei
: Marvel at the scenery of some of world's tallest sand dunes at Deadvlei, where you can explore a barren clay landscape with tree skeletons and sparse plants.Swakopmund Jetty
: Take a leisurely stroll to enjoy a view of the sea from this German-engineered structure built before World War I.Sesriem Canyon
: The deep natural gorge of Sesriem Canyon attracts many explorers with its marvelous geological artwork of spectacular rock formations and sheltered pools.Desert Explorers
: Ride a quad bike across vast and shifting sand dunes or go sandboarding with Desert Explorers, offering a first-hand experience of the hypnotic Namib Desert.Christuskirche
: An example of Gothic Revival architecture, Christuskirche boasts a quartz sandstone spire and stained glass windows--parts of its roof and three bells came from Germany.
Planning a Namibia Vacation with Kids
Places to Visit in Namibia with Kids
With excellent roads, iconic landscapes, low crime rate, and safe classic safari and desert destinations, Namibia makes for an enjoyable family visit.Walvis Bay
offers a perfect combination of water-related activities, such as kayaking and canoeing, and trips to nearby sand dunes--it's a great addition for a family-oriented vacation in Namibia.
The capital city Windhoek
offers plenty of kid-appropriate entertainment, with paintball, laser tag, and archery ranges as well as go karting venues.
The resort town of Swakopmund
is a good alternative to the capital, with a blend of recreational activities and scenic beaches on the Atlantic coast, as well as opportunities to enjoy safari rides in the nearby desert interior.
Things to Do in Namibia with Kids
Namibia has excellent roads and unique landscapes, so even a simple day trip in a comfortable vehicle can make your Namibia vacation more memorable.
Explore the coast with fabulous views of the ocean, or venture into the desert along Welwitschia Plains, A Scenic Drive
--you'll discover an area that's dry at first sight but rich in all kinds of vegetation adapted to arid conditions.
Sandboarding and quad biking along some of the largest dunes in the world remain popular activities for adventurous children at Dune 7
, where your family will feel a world away from modern distractions.
Animal lovers will enjoy close-up views of wildlife at Cheetah Conservation Fund
, home to the world's largest cheetah population. Equally rewarding, a walk through a glass tunnel to see sharks and rays, as well as African penguins, seals, and turtles at National Marine Aquarium of Namibia
will make for a good half-day family visit.
Even in areas around Windhoek, nature is abundant with wildlife but without large predators, so you can safely explore the Namibian highlights and hike with your family at places like Daan Viljoen Nature Reserve
Tips for a Family Vacation in Namibia
Namibia is a huge country--twice the size of Germany--so you should break up the long drives. Also, bring some distractions for kids, such as electronic games, and always take extra snacks and refreshments.
Nature and animals always appeal to kids, and Namibia has plenty of both. If you are venturing on safaris, you can always pick a lodge with a swimming pool and other modern amenities. Do remember to ask in advance if you or your kids have any special requests.
Plan in advance and pace your Namibia holiday to allow your kids to take in the new surroundings and really enjoy all of the activities. You may want to get them excited about small things first, such as discoveries of new animals and interesting landscape formations before you rush through the top attractions.
Beware of extreme temperatures and night/day temperature differences, and keep everyone well hydrated, especially if you spend a great deal of your vacation exploring the great outdoors.
Dining and Shopping on Holiday in Namibia
Cuisine of Namibia
Tasting regional's favorites can enrich your Namibia sightseeing experience, especially if you go for the more exotic fare--think "biltong," an air-dried game meat, and ostrich egg omelettes.
Blessed with a rich coastline abundant with marine life, Namibia offers plenty of seafood options foodies will delight in. In Luderitz
, try one of the restaurants on the jetty if you like fresh oysters. In Swakopmund
, oysters are often served with asparagus and herring salad.
Your culinary exploration of Namibia won't be complete if you don't attend a "braai," a social occasion during which delicious meat is prepared on an open fire. As you socialize with the locals at a braai, you'll also have a chance to try "potjie kos," a type of hearty stew cooked in a cast iron pot.
Various types of mushrooms find their way into a range of local dishes. Fresh Kalahari truffles are usually available in May and June, while large "omajowa" mushrooms appear on menus in the northern section of the country.
With a long German-influenced brewing tradition, Namibia has a variety of excellent bears and, recently, a growing wine industry.
Shopping in Namibia
Travelers to Namibia are usually surprised with the country's diverse shopping scene, which includes everything from street stalls to ultra-modern malls.
Windhoek and Swakopmund lead the way with modern shopping centers, markets, and fashion boutiques. The capital city is the best place for shoppers looking to pick up international brands and locally made souvenirs.Namibia Craft Centre
, for example, offers a range of handmade gifts, including wood carvings, colorful dolls representing Herero women, and Karosse rugs.
Namibia is home to a range of top jewelers, such as Sunstar Diamonds
, where you can get diamonds and semi-precious stones at competitive prices.
Pillow cases with traditional designs and necklaces and bracelets made of mussel and ostrich shells are popular among tourists on holiday in Namibia. If you need a few more gift ideas, consider quality leather products made of ostrich, buffalo, and kudu hides.
Know Before You Go on a Trip to Namibia
Interesting Facts About Namibia
Namibia gets its name from the Namib Desert, one of the oldest deserts in the world
After Mongolia, Namibia has the lowest population density in the world
Namibia has the largest number of cheetahs and black rhinos in the world
Namibia is home to some of the world's largest sand dune and the largest single-piece meteorite on Earth
Despite the country's ethnic diversity, Namibia has one official language--English
Things You Should NOT Do in Namibia
Despite the country's low crime rate, you should exercise elementary caution during your Namibia holiday to avoid petty theft. Also, refrain from exploring the townships at night unless accompanied by a local guide or friend.
When interacting with the locals, tactfully ask which region or town they come from or what native language they speak--asking flatly "What tribe are you from?" may be seen as offensive behavior.
Namibia's tap water is very safe and drinkable virtually everywhere, so you won't need to keep buying bottles to keep hydrated. You should be careful with water found in the desert--while exploring those arid areas dependent on rain water, use bottled even when brushing your teeth to avoid the risk of a stomach bug.
If you decide to drive during your vacation in Namibia, avoid venturing outside of urban areas at night. Poor lighting and roaming wildlife cause problems on some roads, especially for inexperienced drivers unfamiliar with the area.
Holidays & Festivals in NamibiaWindhoek
hosts one of the largest festivals in the country--WIKA, short for Windhoek Karnival, is a two-week celebration starting around May 1 and including music performances and dances, masked balls, and street parades.
Independence Day, marking the split from South Africa in 1990, is celebrated throughout the country with a range of public ceremonies on March 21.
In late August, the Herero people gather in traditional dress in Otjozondjupa Region
and stage street parades commemorating their deceased chieftains. The festival lasts for three days.
Since the country boasts a rich German heritage, it doesn't surprise that Oktoberfest remains one of Namibia's top events. A great addition to anyone's Namibia itinerary, this festival is celebrated with good local beer, excellent sausages, and many oompah bands giving an African country a little unmistakable German flavor.
Useful Namibia Travel Tips
Common Greetings in Namibia
Although English is their only official language, many Namibians also speak German and/or Afrikaans.
You'll find the locals pretty easy-going when dealing with foreign tourists. Despite their accepting attitude and tolerance, certain rules should be observed during your Namibia holiday to avoid unpleasant situations.
Behave respectfully when in the presence of older people, taking care to avoid offending local religious and social expectations and customs.
Greetings are you entry into new friendships, so take the time to introduce yourself properly before staring serious conversations and asking complicated questions.
Avoid excessive PDAs, even if you're traveling with a spouse or close friend. Modesty should be your guiding principle in most situations.
That said, your personal space may be smaller in Namibia than in your home country. The locals are used to standing close to each other in lines and in public transportation.
After a handshake, some Namibians may continue to hold your hand while talking or touch your arm or your hair to show their affection. A light touch on the hand and shoulders between people of the same sex is also common during conversation.
Climate of Namibia
The high tourist season lasts between June and October. Accommodations are at a premium during this time, so book well in advance.
During this part of the year, you can expect colder nights early in the season, and soaring temperatures by September.
Shoulder season covers May and November. These are good months for less expensive accommodations, but heavy rains in the fall may spoil your holiday. Take a trip to Namibia in May for mild weather, ideal for traveling and sightseeing.
Low season lasts between December and April. Some roads may be inaccessible during this time due to heavy rain. Humidity and high temps can also make your visit unpleasant.
Despite the more challenging weather, many budget travelers tour Namibia during the low season to take advantage of lower prices and fewer crowds.
Transportation in Namibia
When planning a holiday in Namibia, remember that you're about to visit a sparsely populated country with vast distances between urban areas.
That said, you can expect outstanding road infrastructure of sealed roads in and around main destinations, and well-maintained gravel roads in the more remote regions.
Public transport options remain limited, largely thanks to the country's low population density. Public buses serve most major towns, but they rarely offer access to the surrounding tourist attractions.
To access what you wish to see when you wish to see it, rent a car--it's the best way to explore on your own terms.
Tipping in Namibia
While not compulsory, tipping in Namibia is recommended and even expected, especially in upscale tourist establishments.
Namibians in the service sector generally earn very little and will be more than a little appreciative if you leave a good tip. Leaving 10 percent of the total bill in restaurants and cafes is customary, while hotel staff will be happy with 1 USD per day.
Taxi and shuttle drivers and guides also expect a tip.
While tipping staff in national parks and reserves is officially prohibited, you may want to reward your guides if you are happy with their service. Use your discretion to decide if and how much to leave behind. You should be aware that foreign currency is not accepted at state-owned camps, where there are no money-changing facilities.