Namibia Itinerary and Self Drive Route
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A self drive road trip through Namibia is an incredible way to see the country. After months of planning our Namibia road trip itinerary we finally settled on a route which took us through some of Namibia’s highlights from the capital Windhoek, to the desert sands of Sossusvlei, to the wilderness of Fish River Canyon, to the rugged Skeleton Coast and the safari Big 5 in Etosha. From the desert to the bush and the coast, we were blown away by the variety of sights and scenery on our journey. For any of you planning a Namibia road trip we’ve shared our ultimate itinerary and self drive route below. Enjoy!
Namibia Self Drive Route
With our international flights arriving in to Windhoek we picked up our car rental from Windhoek’s Hosea Kutako International Airport. Our recommended Namibia self drive route is best suited to a three or four week itinerary but can easily be extended if you prefer to travel more slowly and spend longer in a destination.
Namibia itinerary travel tip: book a 4x4 for an easier ride! The roads in Namibia vary from excellent to dirt road standard and a 4x4 makes for an easier ride. It also allows some off road fun in places like Sossusvlei and the Skeleton Coast.
Namibia: arrive by air to Windhoek (1) – Fish River Canyon (2) – Kolmanskop/Lüderitz (3) – Sossusvlei (4) -Walvis Bay (5) – Cape Cross (6) – Damaraland (7) – Etosha National Park (8) – Windhoek (1)
Renting a Car in Namibia
Renting a car in Namibia is the best way to explore the country. Most of the main roads are good quality, however some are classed as gravel roads. For these (eg. Driving to Sossusvlei) we recommend getting a 4x4 as it will make driving much more comfortable. Having your own car gives you the flexibility to travel at your own pace and explore all the hidden sights Namibia as to offer.
We’re huge fans of road trips and have driven rental cars in over 40 countries so we have a lot of experience renting cars in foreign countries. Book your car now with RentalCars.com, where you will find the best rental car prices
Check out some of our favourite Namibia Guidebooks for more trip inspiration.
Day 1: Arrive in Windhoek
There are some good food and drinks options in Windhoek and Christuskirche, a German Lutheran church in a unique building, is worth checking out. We arrived in Windhoek after a full day of travel from Dublin, Ireland and opted to catch up on some much needed sleep before starting our journey through Namibia.
Where to stay in Windhoek
- Hilton Hotel Windhoek: clean and comfortable choice. We woke up refreshed for our drive the next day – check prices here!
- Hotel Thule: The Hotel Thule, high on a hill above Windhoek, is another good choice for a night in Windhoek – check prices here!
Day 2: Hardap Region
It’s a 7 hour drive from Windhoek to Fish River Canyon and Hardap is a great stopover 3 hours into the journey. Splitting the journey with an overnight in Hardap means you will have time to visit the Quiver Tree Forest in Keetmanshoop on the way to Fish River Canyon the next day. There are other opportunities to see the quiver trees further south but the forest, although requiring an entry fee, has many trees in close proximity and the impact is stunning. The Giant’s Playground, a vast pile of large dolerite rocks, is another interesting site close to the forest.
Drive time: 3 hours from Windhoek to Aub Guesthouse and the Kalahari Anib Lodge.
Namibia travel itinerary tip: Quiver trees look like upside down trees with the tops of the tree mimicking tree roots. The quiver trees are considered blessed and are believed to bring good luck to anyone who nurtures and worships them.
Where to Stay in the Hardap Region
- Aub Guesthouse – small guesthouse with spacious rooms on the cusp of the Kalahari – check prices here!
- Gondwana Kalahari Anib Lodge – modern rooms and good quality accommodation – check prices here!
Day 3 and 4: Fish River Canyon (5 days if hiking)
Fish River Canyon, in the Ai-Ais Richtersveld Transfrontier Park, is the largest canyon in Africa and the second largest in the world after the Grand Canyon. The huge ravine, measuring 160km long, 27km wide and 550m at its deepest is magnificently beautiful. Fish River Canyon is the second most visited tourist spot and draws hikers and photographers to its stunning landscape.
Visitors to Fish River Canyon can either take a 4 to 5 day hike or purchase a park pass and explore by car. Hiking permits cost 330NAD per person while park entrance fees are 60NAD for South Africans, 80NAD for foreigners and an additional 10NAD for vehicles. There are several viewpoints which are accessible by car and offer great views of the magnificent canyon.
Drive time: 4 hours to Fish River Canyon.
Namibia itinerary travel tip: Due to high temperatures during the rest of the year the Fish River Canyon hiking season runs from June 1 to September 15. If you plan to hike be sure to book permits in advance. If you opt to drive, a 4x4 is recommended to reach all the viewpoints
Where to stay at Fish River Canyon
- Fish River Lodge: spectacular lodge less than 10 metres from the edge of the canyon. The views are spectacular, book it if you can! – check prices here!
- Godwana Canyon Village: a short driver from the Ai-Ais Richtersveld Transfrontier Park, accommadation is rustic stone huts against a magnificent mountain backdrop – check prices here!
Day 5: Kolmanskop/Lüderitz
Kolmanskop is Namibia’s famous ghost town which was once one of the richest towns in Africa due to a diamond boom in 1910 before being abandoned in the desert. When the town was rediscovered some of the buildings were dug out of the sand to create the fascinating ghost town that stands today. Luderitz is the nearby coastal town with accommodation options for visitors to Komanskop.
On the way to Kolmanskop and Luderitz keep an eye out for wild horses in Garub. They tend to be close to the watering holes and their adaptation to survive in the harshest conditions is fascinating.
Drive time: 4 hours 30 minutes from Fish River Canyon to Kolmanskop and Luderitz.
Where to stay in Lüderitz
- The Cormorant House: self catering with balcony views over the bay – check prices here!
- Luderitz Nest Hotel: a private beach and sea views from every room – check prices here!
Day 6: Drive to Sossusvlei (overnight stopover)
Sossusvlei is the heart of the Namibian desert and home to burnt orange sand dunes and endless desert sands. It’s a long and mostly bumpy drive to the entrance to Sossusvlei, the Sesriem Gate of the Namib-Naukluft National Park, so consider breaking up the journey with an overnight stopover somewhere along the journey.
Drive time: stopover at accommodation approximately 4 hours from Luderitz and 3 from Sossusvlei
Where to stay between Luderitz and Sossusvlei
- Betta Camp: chalet style self catering 4 hours from Luderitz and 3 from Sossusvlei – check prices here!
- Duwisib Guest Farm: close to the medieval fortress Duwisib Castle, great farm stay, 4 hours from Luderitz and 3 from Sossusvlei – check prices here!
Day 7 and 8: Sossusvlei
The Namib desert is believed to be the oldest in the world and the dunes of Sossusvlei among the most magnificent. If you want to see sunrise or sunset at the Sossusvlei dunes it’s mandatory to stay within the park as the park gates are otherwise closed for outside visitors until later in the morning. The iconic Deadvlei, the open plain where the isolated and long dead camel thorn trees stand, is another Sossusvlei must see.
Driving in Sossusvlei: the road to the park is gravel but we were comfortable travelling at 80k in our 4x4. Upon entering the park there is a tar road for about 45 minutes, at which point there is a car park for vehicles who can’t/prefer not to make the short 4x4 trip to Deadvlei and Sossosvlei. We did see drivers getting stuck in the deep sands so take care to follow the tracks carefully and avoid any parts which look too deep. If you’re not comfortable driving a 4x4 off road it may be wise not to attempt the deeper sand and use the shuttle instead.
Where to stay in Sossusvlei
- Sossusvlei Lodge and Seriem Camping: The luxury Sossusvlei Dune Lodge has sunrise and sunset access as does the more basic and budget friendly Sesriem Camping.
- Sossusvlei Lodge: If you can’t get into the park the Sossusvlei Lodge, adjacent to the park gates, is a decent option although the sunrise and sunset restriction still applies – check prices here!
- Godwana Desert Lodge: about 1 hour from the park entrance. Food and drinks were fantastic, the swimming pools a welcome break from the searing desert heat and the rooms comfortable – check prices here!
Day 9: Solitaire
It’s time to leave the desert and make the journey back towards Walvis Bay and city life! The drive from Sossusvlei to Walvis Bay is a unique route which meanders through the Namib desert. Solitaire is a fun stop 1 hour from Sossusvlei and a great overnight option to split the journey especially if you’ve done a sunrise jaunt that morning in the desert. Visit the old school convenience store, grab a slice of the famous Apple Pie in Moose McGregor’s Desert Bakery and pose by the colourful car graveyard in the sand.
Drive time: 1 hour from Sossusvlei to Solitaire
Namibia itinerary travel tip: Solitaire is home to the only gas station between Sossusvlei and Walvis Bay so fill up if you need to!