DISCOVERING SOUTHERN NAMIBIA
Discover Southern Namibia: A 10-Day Road Trip ITINERARY
Most people tend to focus on the northern part of Namibia. At most, they might squeeze in Sossusvlei from Windhoek before heading up north. And while I don’t blame them, I personally believe that some of the best hidden gems Namibia has to offer are down south. Namibia is huge, and yet it remains one of the least densely populated countries in the world. For this specific trip, we were mostly doing wild camping, but there is plenty of accommodation along the way catering to all budgets. All you have to do is go online and pick one once you’re done driving for the day. This itinerary can also be done backwards. However, we personally suggest getting the most touristy spots out of the way first before embarking on your journey. Skip the crowds, get a sturdy vehicle, and discover Southern Namibia through this 10-day road trip itinerary.
Day 1: Windhoek to Sesriem (Sossusvlei)
Start with a drive from Windhoek to Sesriem. Depending on what time you leave the capital city, you might make it in time to enter the national park. If you decide to camp within the park or stay at the lodge, make sure to enter before 9 pm to guarantee your spot. If not, take this day at a leisurely pace. Enjoy the surrounding areas, and camp/stay near the park entrance to be up and ready early the following day.
Day 2: Sossusvlei Exploration
Get up early before the sun rises and make your way to the park entrance. If you were already staying in the park, you’ll get a head start before the park officially opens. If not, you can register, and pay your fee right away or when you are departing the park.
Depending on what you’re looking for, most people head out to the sand dunes from the start. If you want to climb the largest sand dune, drive all the way out to Big Daddy before the heat rises. But for the best sunrise views, everyone knows that Dune 45 is the best place for sweeping panoramas of the Namib Desert. It’s a challenging climb, and if you’re fast enough and make it to the top, you’ll be practically alone.
If you haven’t had a meal already, you can have a leisurely meal in one of the designated areas in the park. We had both of our breakfast and lunch within the park. Since the heat is so intense, we planned strategically to go on with our activities before the sun was at its highest point. After a quick breakfast, we walked to Hidden Vlei. This is only 2 km away from the main camping spot for tours. It is the least-visited spot in the whole of Sossusvlei and it was breathtaking to have the place to ourselves.
Another reason why you might want to wait to go to Deadvlei? The crowds are intense. Most tour buses make it there before leaving for lunch time. By 2 or 3 pm most people will be gone. In the meantime, visit the other salt pans. Sesriem Canyon and Solitaire are also good choices. The park closes at 6 pm, and if you’re not staying the night there, you have to leave before the end of the day.
Day 3: Sesriem to Aus
Depart Sesriem and journey to the historic town of Aus. Delve into the history of Duwisib Castle, a German-style fortress in the desert. You can also explore the Aus Ghost Town. I have to say it is nowhere near as impressive as the ones that are listed later in this article. We visited a local cactus/prickly pear farm and it was a great way to get an insight into how locals live in harmony with their land. You can check out the whole experience and how to visit it too here. We also hung out in the local Gondwana lodges whenever we got a chance for a break from cooking. They are all over the country, and you can have meals or drinks at their premises without having an actual reservation. In the evening, we made our way to Lüderitz.
Day 4: Explore Lüderitz
Lüderitz is a coastal town with a fascinating maritime past. I have a full article here on how to make the most of your day in this town. I included food recommendations included, especially if you’re short on time. The catamaran ride was one of the best I’ve ever done in terms of wildlife. And of course, a visit to Kolsmanskop has to be on the itinerary. You can also marvel at the wild horses of the Namib near Garub and make sure not to miss out on the amazing seafood available here.
Day 5: Lüderitz to the Sperrgebiet (optional)
The Sperrgebiet, also known as the restricted region, is one of the most remote and fascinating areas in the world and less than 1% of it has been mined. You cannot enter without permits. Through one of the guys that we were traveling with, we were able to secure camping permits which are incredibly difficult to manage without the right local contacts. Going as part of a tour is pricey but if it can be part of your budget I suggest booking it here.
Your tour will end in Lüderitz and you can make your way to Oranjemund from there. We personally camped 2 nights in the Sperrgebiet before making our way down south. If you don’t have the permits, you can drive south from Lüderitz via Aus.
Day 6: Explore Oranjemund
Oranjemund’s diamond mining history is definitely worth learning about, and this can be done at the local museum. It was highly recommended to us. The most incredible thing about Oranjemund: how wildlife has no boundaries here. It just roams around everywhere. No, it’s not elephants but I’m not giving away the surprise to you of what you can expect here. This town was once off-bounds for tourists, so I highly suggest you visit it. We spent the night at the Norotshama River Resort, a beautiful lodge with camping available but also really affordable lodges if you’re interested in them.
Day 7: Oranjemund/Norotshama to Ai-Ais
Continue your adventure with a drive north to Ai-Ais. You can spend the whole day here, whether it’s taking advantage of the short hiking trails or just soaking in the natural hot springs available. There are restaurants and a number of activities here too. You can either camp here and use their facilities. You can also rent one of their lodges, or just do wild camping outside of the grounds.
Day 8: Ai-Ais to Fish River Canyon
Explore the beautiful Fish River Canyon, one of Africa’s great geological wonders. It also happens to be the largest canyon in the world after the Grand Canyon, and we rarely hear about it! Hike along the rim or take a scenic drive to various viewpoints. There is an option where you can hike along the whole of the canyon for 5 days! This can only be done during the winter season because of the unbearable heat during summer. I will definitely be going back one day to do this!
Day 9: Fish River Canyon to Keetmanshoop
This is the final leg of the road trip. If you want to explore Keetmanshoop, which is on the way to Windhoek, you can go on a hike to Giant’s playground or visit the local museum. There is also the Mesosaurus Fossil site if you want to learn about dinosaurs in the region. Do not forget to stop by the Quiver Trees. You don’t have to pay the entrance since you can see them from the road, but these are some of the most unique trees you will ever find in the world. If you have some time, and leave first thing in the morning, you can opt to go to the Augrabies Falls National Park for the day.
Day 10: Return to Windhoek
Chances are you’ll have to return your car rental by noon, so you can make your way back to Windhoek on this day. If you have any damages during your road trip, please report them as soon as they happen. This will decrease the chances of you paying more for your car. Drive safely, especially because you don’t know if you’ll encounter wildlife on the road. We had to pay some damages at the end because we hit some massive rocks that were on our road.
All in all, this was an amazing trip. I actually only ventured as far north as Swakopmund after this road trip, and I don’t regret not going north in the slightest. Southern Namibia gave me the opportunity to see the raw side of the country that most people ignore. I would highly recommend it.
I hope this article was a useful guide for you to build your itinerary and get an idea of what this stunning country has to offer. By far one of the best countries in the world, in my opinion, for road trips. Discover Southern Namibia on this 10-day road trip, and let me know how it goes.
Hey there, and welcome to Go Global with Sibu! I’m a global citizen that has been living and traveling around the world since 2005 – all through budget travel, scholarships, study/work and living abroad opportunities. I share everything I’ve learned over the years here – to prove to you that you don’t need money or privilege to enjoy everything that this world has to offer.