Without a doubt, one of the top highlights of the country is Sossusvlei. The landscape is a salt and clay pan surrounded by red dunes in the southern part of the Namib Desert. Even the drive to this region from Windhoek is a spectacular one! The main spots to check out are Deadvlei, the most photographed location in the nation. To reach Deadvlei, you'll drive through the Namib-Naukluft Park where you'll be stopping the car every 5 minutes to admire the landscape. Also within the park is Dune 45, which is a giant sand dune that can be hiked in 30 minutes in return for stunning views. When you're exiting the park gate for onward travel, take a quick pit-stop at Sesriem Canyon.
The small town of Solitaire is often used as a refreshment stop. Whether you're staying overnight at Solitaire Lodge or passing through, number one priority is to try the famous apple pie from the lodge coffee shop. Depending on the time you have, the lodge offers a number of activities ranging from quad biking, cycling, and a visit to the cheetah sanctuary (outdoor space, not caged). Close to the main gates of Solitaire are some quirky abandoned cars surrounding a small church that are "Insta compatible". If you're heading to Solitaire from Sossusvlei, then make sure you stop off at the Tropic of Capricorn sign.
The coastal town of Swakopmund is a popular spot due to the number of activities on offer here. Whether you're looking for desert activities, skydiving, or a scenic flight along the Skeleton Coast, these can all be done using Swakopmund as a base. The town also has it's own attractions in the form of the Swakopmund jetty, which is a beautiful waterfront spot for a walk, the city landmark of the lighthouse, and the attractive architecture which includes the historic Neo-Baroque property of Hohenzollernhaus. There's a heavy German influence in this town dating back to the colonial era, including some signposts still being written in German.
Note: When leaving Swakopmund in the direction of Cape Cross, there's a cool shipwreck on the shoreline.
Cape Cross Seal Reserve
A 1 hour 30 min drive along the coastal road North of Swakopmund and you'll reach Cape Cross Seal Reserve. You'll pay a small entrance fee to enter the Reserve, which will give you the opportunity to admire thousands of Cape fur seals along the coastline. Peak breeding season is November and December where you'll have over 200,000 seals on show, but you're guaranteed to see seals all year round. I was there in July and there were hundreds of seals in every possible direction. You can get very close to the seals, but please respect their surroundings. There are picnic facilities within the park for those wanting to stay longer.
Within easy reach of Swakopmund is Spitzkoppe, which is a landscape photographers paradise. The group of bald granite peaks, believed to be over 120 million years old are set across very flat surroundings, making them look even more spectacular. The highest point is 1,728 meters above sea level. There's a small entrance fee to pay at the gate and then you have full freedom to roam the surroundings, including climbing the rocks. There's natural rock arches and some stunning viewpoints on offer! The one area that is guided is Bushman Paradise, where you'll have a steep climb up, and then back down, where there will be some ancient rock paintings by native bushmen.
Etosha National Park
Namibia also has wildlife, with Etosha National Park in the north of the country being the ultimate wildlife haven. For transparency, I've done over a dozen game drives across Africa, but this one was still just as impressive. There's a wide variety of animals including black rhino, lion, elephant, zebra, black-backed jackal, foxes, giraffes, oryx, antelope, and many more.
The big advantage of Etosha in the dry winter months (July was perfect), is that there's a number of waterholes throughout the park, which sees a large congregation of many different species in the one place. Okaukuejo Camp is perfect if you're looking for accommodation inside the park itself. I'd recommend both early morning and afternoon game drives, as each offer different species.
The capital Windhoek will likely be both your start and finish point in the country, so it's worth allocating half a day of your itinerary to explore the city sights. Spots worth checking out are The National Museum of Namibia, Christuskirche, and Heroes' Acre, which is an official war memorial of the Republic of Namibia (located 10km outside the city). My final recommendation is to head to Sky Lounge early evening, which is a rooftop bar in the Hilton Hotel offering panoramic views of the city.
It's unlikely you'll stay in the one hotel during your stay in Namibia, and there's a huge range of options in every city, but the one I'd specifically recommend is Swakopmund Beach Hotel. This is the city where I struggled to find decent accommodation at an attractive price. However, Swakopmund Beach Hotel was nestled in a great location where all attractions were in close proximity, the WiFi was strong, spacious rooms, clean, and at a low price when compared to other options.
My top restaurant pick was Farmhouse Deli, which is located inside Strand Hotel in Swakopmund. There's a nice outdoor seating area with sea views too. Whether you're looking for a coffee and a cake, lunch, or evening meal, this hit the spot. An extensive menu, which includes a high standard of sushi, as well as local favourites such as fish & chips. There's also a decent selection of vegetarian options available.
There's two routes you'll take to tour Namibia, either car rental and self-drive, or you'll hire a guide. I spent a number of weeks conversing with different guides and decided to settle on Elias Kahuadi at Meerkat Safaris, who I would definitely recommend. Elias is English speaking, has good standard of communication pre-trip, over 20 years guiding experience, and above all, he's very passionate about his country and what it offers.
You can contact Elias via Whatsapp on +264 812 985252 or find him on Facebook.