A long road trip along Namibia’s coast
Swakopmund, Namibiaâs most popular holiday destination, feels like a German Baltic beach resort -- apart from the palm trees. (Uros Ravbar/LPI)
From desert elephants to German colonial towns, Namibia has a richness of life in even the sparsest setting -- and its remote wonders are more accessible than you think. If you are hungry to explore this intriguing part of Africa but are not sure where to start, this driving itinerary will introduce you to the best of the country, with convenient lodging options for each stop. Just be prepared to drive.
Begin your trip in the small, German-influenced capital of Windhoek, with its scattering of historic buildings. Set among low hills, the country’s geographical heart and commercial nerve centre is surprisingly low-key. For overnight lodging, choose between the Rivendell Guest House, which is quiet, affordable and has a swimming pool, or the upmarket Hotel Heinitzburg, a former castle built in 1914.
When driving between Windhoek and the Skeleton Coast, stop in the town of Swakopmund, Namibia’s most popular holiday destination. About 360km from Windhoek, Swakopmund feels like a German Baltic beach resort -- apart from the palm trees and desert sand. Alte Brücke’s 23 chalets sleep one to six people, or the Hansa Hotel is a posh hotel in a building that dates from 1905.
Once you get to the Skeleton Coast, the eerie, desolate seascape stretches more than 600km from Swakopmund to the Angolan border. From Möwe Bay northwards is the Skeleton Coast Wilderness, with public access only by charter flight. Stay at the remote Skeleton Coast Camp for exclusive access to the wilderness zone – and an exclusive price tag to match. Outside this zone but still on the Skeleton Coast, Namibia Wildlife Resorts runs the more affordable Terrace Bay Camp, about 48km north of Torra Bay on the C34 coastal road.
The shifting dunes and flat pans around Sossusvlei, more than 700 km south of the Skeleton Coast, lie in the Namib-Naukluft Park, beyond the park entrance at Sesriem. A road runs from the park entrance to Sossusvlei, but the last three miles are 4WD only. If you do not have a suitable car, take the shuttle from the main car park. Or, if you carry plenty of water, you can tackle the hour and a half walk.
Reaching Sossusvlei in time for sunrise can be tricky with park opening times. The Kuala Desert Lodge makes this easier with its own park entrance. The lodge comprises of thatched or canvas en suite tents with verandas, and the full rate also covers nature drives and guided visits.
Nearly 500km south is the diamond mining town of Kolmanskop, which was abandoned in 1956 and is slowly being reclaimed by the sands. It is a short drive to the surreal colonial town of Lüderitz, but before you visit you will need to get a permit from Namibia Wildlife Resorts or through a local tour operator such as Lüderitzbucht Tours (Bismarck Street; 00-264-63-202719). In Lüderitz, check out the town’s museum, and stay at the modern Sea-View Hotel Zum Sperrgebiet, which has a glassed-in indoor pool, sweeping terraces and harbour views.
Just 115km away is Klein-Aus Vista, a 10,000-hectare ranch with a guest lodge and several trekking routes, each taking in fabulous landscapes. The lodge is also well positioned for day trips to the towns of Kolmanskop and Lüderitz, and staff can arrange trips to see the wild horses in the Namib Desert.