28 Apr Southern Namibia Travel Tips + Photos
Southern Namibia encompasses the area from south of Windhoek to all the way to the Orange River, which borders South Africa. Top sights of Southern Namibia:
1. Namib Desert (includes Sossusvlei and Deadvlei) and Naukluft Mountains
2. Fish River Canyon
3. Oranje River Valley
Below is my itinerary and travel tips for Southern Namibia. Click here to see my Southern Namibia photos.
What I did in Southern Namibia:
I spent 3 days and 2 nights with a tour company travelling from Windhoek, the capital of Namibia, to the Namib-Naukluft National Park and back. The Namib-Naukluft National Park is a spectacular national park area in the southwest and includes world’s oldest desert, the Namib Desert, and the Naukluft mountain range. The entire national park is the largest conservation area in Africa, and fourth largest in the world.
How much time to spend in Southern Namibia:
I found 3 days and 2 nights were enough time to see the main highlights of the Namib-Naukluft National Park. If you want to see the Fish River Canyon and Oranje River Valley, then add another 3 – 5 days.
Day 1: Windhoek to Sesriem
We left in the morning at 9 am and drove southwest. Along the way, we passed over the Eros Mountains, Naukluft Mountains, Remhoogte Pass and the small town of Solitaire.
Travel Tip: Solitaire is a cute little town and the Solitaire Cafe is worth stopping at. People rave about its apple cake which is supposed to be one of the best in Namibia. I don’t know if that is true because I didn’t try it myself. But the cafe, which is designed to look like a western ghost town (picture on left), is a good place to get out and stretch your legs.
We arrived late in the afternoon and set up camp in the area of Namibia Desert known as Sesriem.
Watching the sun sent over the sand dunes in Sesriem. Afterwards, we went to see the sunset over the dunes, which was fantastic. Just look at the photo below! In addition to the height of the dunes, what makes the Namib desert spectacular are its red colour. The sand grains have a high iron content and the deep, rich red colour is a result of oxidation of these iron in the grains. As the sun sets, it gives a red glow to the entire area.
On top of the beautiful scenery during sunset, if you are lucky, you can see animals come out and forage at this time of the day as the temperatures are more manageable. I had a chance to see Namibia’s national animal, the oryx, came out and forage on the magnificent dunes.
The night sky is stunning in the Namibian desert: After enjoying sunset views, we went back, had dinner, and hung out. Camping in the Namib Desert overnight was an amazing experience! See the photo below. One thing I urge you not to miss is the night skies. One night, when I was camping out in the middle of the desert, I stepped outside of my tent in the desert at 4 am and saw the Milky Way! It is one of the most surreal experiences I have. I felt so humbled by the experience that I had tears in my eyes.
Day 2: Sesriem – Sossusvlei – Sesriem
We got up at 4 am and by 5 am we drove to Dune 45, which we then hiked up to see the sunrise. Dune 45, also known as the ‘Big Daddy’, is one of the largest sand dunes in the world.
Is it worth it to wake up so early and climb Dune 45 for sunrise?
I have been to deserts in other countries (India, Oman, Iran, etc) and I never woke up at 4 am to climb up the desert to see the sunrise. But I made an exception for Namibia Desert and it was worth it for a number of reasons. Namib Desert sand dunes are some of the largest in the world so the view from the top in itself is spectacular. Also, the colour of the desert is pretty amazing. In the morning light, the desert looks red.
After sunrise, the desert takes on this blazing orange colour. If you a photographer, do the sunrise!
The desert is quite cold in the early morning but heats up quickly after sunrise. Make sure to dress in layers.
Sossusvlei: Afterwards, we drove through Sesriem and deep into the heart of the dune fields in Sossusvlei, which means ‘dead-end marsh’. It is spectacular and a definite not-to-miss place.
Dead Vlei: The entire Soussvlei area is stunning but it is the Dead Veli, which is part of the larger Soussvlei area, that will blow you away. It is is Namibia’s most famous site. See my photo below.
Travel Tip: You cannot drive to Dead Veli. You will have to park your in the parking lot outside of the Sossusvlei area and walk. We walked for 5 kilometres through the dunes to reach Deadvlei. Wear sunscreen, take a hat and drinking water. For some, it can be challenging, but do it! The views are too stunning to give this a miss.
How the Dead Vlei came to be.
The Dead Vlei formed when a nearby river flooded, allowing camel thorn trees to grow in the valley. The climate then changed, the area succumbed to drought, and the massive sand dunes encroached on the pan, which then blocked the water river from flowing into the area. The area eventually dried up, causing the camel thorn trees to become petrified and looking like the what it does today.
Day 3: Drive back to Windhoek
After breakfast, we drove back a different route, passing through Gamsberg Pass in the Khomas Hochland Mountain Range, and back to Windhoek.