This self-drive Namibia Itinerary is a guest post by Ella.
Namibia is quite frankly an adventurer’s dream. From the great salt pans of Etosha National Park to the eerie shipwrecks of the Skeleton Coast; from the rolling, golden sand dunes of Sossusvlei to the abandoned mining town of Kolmanskop. There is so much to see and do in this wonderful African country that planning the perfect Namibian itinerary can be daunting, to say the least.
It can also be a challenge and as I found myself, can be easy to get wrong.
But don’t worry! I’ve compiled, what I believe to be, the perfect 2-week Namibia itinerary that enables you to not only view Namibia’s highlights but embrace them and thoroughly make the most of them.
Before We Begin Our Namibia Itinerary…
When I came to research my 2-week Namibia self-drive road-trip, I didn’t really pay attention to the sheer size of the country. It’s MASSIVE!
Driving that much in a day is not sustainable, even for the most avid of travellers. I bet you’re glad that I learnt this lesson and saved you the pain of learning it for yourself because, wow, it was tiring!
For my perfect Namibia itinerary, I’ve really narrowed down the places to visit so that you don’t have to drive non-stop the entire time to the point where the trip becomes unenjoyable and exhausting.
There is so much to see in this wonderful country that the best way to soak it up is to really embrace every place you pass through.
There are surprises behind every corner of this rugged yet gorgeous country.
The Perfect Namibia Self-Drive Itinerary Overview
Day 1: Beginning Your 2- Week Self-Drive Namibia ROAD TRIP!
Travelling to Namibia can be taxing. As a lesser-known country, it will likely take you several flights to get there spanning for more than a day. As a result, it is likely that once you have arrived, you’ll want nothing more to do than relax. A self-drive road trip around a large country is an amazing experience but start it off exhausted, and it could really dampen the adventure.
For your first night after arriving in Namibia, I recommend staying close to the capital as you’ll have likely arrived after travelling for around 13 hours and feel knackered.
There are plenty of accommodation options just outside the capital, including campsites, which I opted for.
I was travelling my Namibia road trip in a roof-top tent which I thoroughly recommend.
The best places to visit in Namibia are enjoyed most when you have the freedom of your own vehicle.
It meant that I brought my accommodation with me from place to place and campsites are very reasonably priced. Campsites normally cost around £7 per person per night – not bad, eh? My campsite for the first night, Trans Kalahari Inn, was a convenient 15-minute drive outside of Windhoek.
An unexpected delay for us was picking up our rental car. It actually took around 2 hours! Therefore, we actually arrived at our first accommodation at 5 pm when our flight arrived at 12 pm. Things always take longer than you think so allow plenty of time for your car pick-up.
Day 2: Visit Naankuse Wildlife Sanctuary
After an exhausting day of travel the day before, a nearby morning activity is thoroughly recommended.
Naankuse Wildlife Sanctuary is only 40 minutes outside of Windhoek (and our campsite) so an incredibly convenient location.
The sanctuary was a great way to kick-start my Namibia road trip as I got to learn about many of the top predators such as lions, leopards, cheetahs, African wild dogs, and caracals. I opted to take part in the feeding tour where our guide threw meat into the animals’ enclosures. There were several other options available such as a cheetah walk, a baboon walk, and a caracal walk.
I have actually been to Naankuse before and had taken part in all the ‘walk’ activities before which is why I didn’t partake this time. They are all wonderful activities and I would recommend every single one of them.
As the sanctuary is a non-profit organisation, you can feel happy that your money is going to a worthy cause. Our guide went into great detail explaining the human-wildlife conflict in Namibia and how much of an issue it is for Namibia’s wildlife. It was interesting to learn about the struggles that the animals faced and encouraging to hear about the hard work being done to help them.
The sanctuary also has a restaurant where you can eat lunch after your morning activity. The food is delicious – I’d go as far as saying one of my favourite meals, certainly a Namibia highlight!
After visiting the sanctuary, I recommend spending the rest of your day travelling to your next campsite or lodge. When choosing your accommodation for this part of your journey, I recommend finding one no more than 2 hours drive north of Windhoek. I used Google Maps for my timing estimations and I was actually surprised by their accuracy.
Day 3: Continuing Our Namibia Road Trip To Etosha National Park
Whilst in Namibia, or anywhere in Africa for that matter, it’s recommended that you wake up just before dawn as that is when most animals are active. However, being realistic, this isn’t always possible. In fact, with me, it was never possible.
But I wouldn’t despair about it as just because you didn’t wake up at dawn doesn’t mean you won’t see any animals. I woke up at 7 am each day which felt like a nice balance between getting up early and still getting enough sleep to not be tired all the time.
The earlier you wake up, the better as it’s also a great time to drive because it’s not too hot. Plus it’s nice to get all the driving out the way early so you can explore for the rest of the day or have frequent stop-offs. You will drive past things that will catch your eye and you will want to stop to take a photo or try some food.
Day 3 on my Namibia itinerary was not the most fun day. On this day, you probably will be driving for around 4 hours or so but it’s better to fit a longer drive here as there isn’t that much to see or do compared to other parts of Namibia that we will be seeing on our route.
There are more wildlife sanctuaries on the way to Etosha but seeing as you’ve already spent day 2 at a sanctuary, I wouldn’t recommend visiting another. This trip is all about variety as Namibia highlights are full of incredible different wonders!
Now, as I briefly touched upon earlier, Etosha is a big national park. There are several gates that enter the park. I drove to the Namutoni gate on the east of Etosha. I made this choice purely because I knew the accommodation here was meant to be amazing and at a reasonable price.
However, there were other benefits to choosing to stay at the Namutoni gate first because when leaving Etosha, you can drive through the park to the Anderson gate (south gate) which puts you on the perfect route to getting to Damaraland (our next stop on our Namibia itinerary).
Where to stay around Etosha
The accommodation I chose to stay at was called ‘Onguma‘. Onguma is, in fact, its own reserve which borders Etosha National Park. Because you are staying outside of Etosha, it’s a lot cheaper and you don’t have to pay a permit for the night. Onguma offers a selection of lodges and campsites. The campsites are wonderful as you get your own private toilet and shower which felt luxurious.
If you arrive at your accommodation early and have energy to burn, a self-drive safari in Etosha would be ideal – I’d recommend self-drive safaris over guided but I’ll go into that later. I don’t personally think you can spend too much time in Etosha as there is so much to see!
Day 4: A Self-Drive Namibia Safari In Etosha
Etosha really is one of Namibia’s highlights. Therefore, I recommend allowing a few days around Etosha so you can go on several excursions around the park to soak up as much wildlife as you can. There are so many animals to see there—I promise you, you will not get bored!
Predator sightings are best at dawn and sundown but the game is in abundance throughout the entire day.
I did it all wrong (or so I thought) and entered the park just before midday. However, I saw loads of animals including a lion later on in the day.
Should You Do A Nambia Self-Drive Safari Or Guided Tour?
Guided tours cost around £70 per person which is a lot of money. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather spend that on things that are necessary like food or maybe activities that you can’t do otherwise. I was tempted by the guided option because I was so worried I wouldn’t see any animals on my own.
In the end, I went on a self-drive safari and saw so many animals, I thought I was crazy to consider a guided one.
Spotting animals in the wild is more down to luck than anything else, and a bit of cleverness. Whenever I saw several safari vehicles heading in a particular direction, I’d follow, just in case, they were being radioed to an incredible sighting. That’s how I saw the lion! My self-drive experience through Etosha was nothing short incredible.
Another benefit of a self-drive safari is that you can choose exactly where you go and how long to stay at each spot for. Nothing can rival the freedom you feel of driving through the wild searching for animals.
Day 5: Driving Through Beautiful Etosha
To get to our next stop, Damaraland, the best route is through Etosha National Park. I found the drive up to Namutoni gate rather uninspiring compared to other parts of Namibia, therefore the last thing I’d recommend doing is going back that way. Plus another opportunity to explore Etosha is something you can’t really miss out on.
Book accommodation just outside of Anderson gate (Etosha national park’s southern gate) so you can spend the entire day cruising through the national park enjoying its breathtaking scenery, including the giant salt pan, and of course, the animals.
Day 6: Damaraland Here We Come!
From Etosha’s Anderson Gate, we will drive south and then head south-west into the depths of Damaraland. Damaraland is unlike anything you will have ever seen before. Not only is it otherworldly, it’s like stepping back in time.
Damaraland is one of the best places to visit in Namibia in my opinion. Donkey-pulled carts and locals on horseback are common sightings as you travel on gravel roads through Damaraland.
Be sure to keep a lookout for desert elephants as they often travel through Damaraland. I got so excited every time I saw a road-sign that had an elephant on it.
Situated between several rock formations, there are several hiking trails here including one up to the top of one of the rock formations. I recommend arriving early so you can go on a little hike as the scenery is incredible. If you get too hot, there’s a little pool to cool off in afterward.
Where to stay in Damaraland
I struck lucky with my campsite in Damaraland. The Madisa Desert Campsite was located off a very quaint gravel-road in what can only be described as the middle of nowhere. It was my favourite campsite of the entire trip!
Day 7: Shipwrecks & The Skeleton Coast
The drive from Damaraland to the Skeleton Coast was by far one of my favourite drives on my Namibia itinerary. I felt like I saw so much Namibian culture in that one drive. We passed several settlements which consisted of straw huts. We also passed several locals dressed in tribal gear, some at stalls at the side of the road selling handmade crafts.
My biggest regret from my Namibia road trip was not stopping off at one of these stalls to purchase something. They are definitely worth a visit.
If that’s not exciting enough for you, the drive gets crazier. Count how many burnt-out cars that you see dotted along the road. One can only imagine how they came to be in their sandy graves.
There are many towns lined along the Skeleton Coast.
Swakopmund is by far the biggest Skeleton Coast and most popular. However, bigger doesn’t always mean better. I made a brief stop-off at the town of Hentiesbaai and was pleasantly surprised by it. The town looked like it was in a Southern State in America. I can just imagine the tumbleweed floating by.
The buildings were vibrant and palm trees were dotted throughout the town. But the main thing was the locals were very pleasant.
A big issue I was having self-driving through Namibia was being hassled endlessly in towns I stopped at.
Fortunately, not a single person pestered me here which was a welcome relief. As a result, I was able to have a full shopping spree in the local Spar without fearing for my car’s contents.
The Skeleton Coast’s Shipwrecks: Visit Them, If You Can Handle It…
The Skeleton Coast is known for its numerous shipwrecks. That’s how this stretch of coastline got its eerie name. Sadly, most of the shipwrecks are not accessible by road or have completely disappeared altogether. One shipwreck is still easily accessible and it is located just south of Hentiesbaai.
Unfortunately, being a hot-spot for tourists, locals have taken to lingering near the shipwreck trying to force goods on you. As I passed the road that went down to the wreck (the wreck is clearly signposted so easy to find), locals blocked the road, trying to wave me down. While this is one of the best places to visit in Namibia, I, personally, couldn’t handle this and chose to leave the wreck.
It was disappointing and I truly I hadn’t expected it to be so bad. My prior research had said similar things, that people had their experiences ruined by constant hounding to the point where they had to leave.
If you don’t mind being pestered, then I recommend taking a look at even from a distance, the wreck looked very impressive.
In terms of accommodation in the Skeleton Coast, there are plenty of options in and around Swakopmund.
If you have time, there are many exciting activities to do in Swakopmund. It’s an adventure sport town where you can do a number of activities including quad-biking.
Day 8: Exploring Gorges In The Namib Desert
The Skeleton Coast is a cool place to visit. However, I don’t recommend spending more than one night here. Instead, our Namibia itinerary will take us southeast into the Namib-Naukluft National Park. I booked accommodation 3 hours out of Swakopmund, deep in the Namib desert.
The drive itself offers wonderful views. It will take you through two impressive gorges called Kuiseb Pass and Gaub pass.
I recommend stopping off at various points in these gorges to admire the views and take photos. I wouldn’t walk too far from your car though as there are no hiking paths and the roads are pretty dangerous.
Of course, your self-drive Namibia itinerary would not be complete without stopping off at the Tropic of Capricorn Sign! The sign is on the main road just after passing through the gorges. You can’t miss it!
Day 9: Spotting Desert Animals In The Namib & Filling Up In Solitaire
The Namib desert is so vast and has so much to offer that it would be a shame to race through it without embracing its aspects. The wildlife here is spectacular.
If you wake up before dawn, apparently it is not uncommon to find cheetahs prowling through the orange terrain.
Unlike the north of Namibia, there are no fences in the Namib so animals can roam freely and naturally. It truly is the wild here!
It is very likely that you will bump into Namibia’s native oryx which are very rare in other parts of the world (I couldn’t get away from them!). You will recognise them by their impressive long, straight horns. Hartmann’s mountain zebra are also rarely found in other countries but they are in abundance here.
If you are really lucky, you may even spot a leopard or a bat-eared fox.
This Namibia itinerary will take you past the town of Solitaire. The town consists of a petrol station, a cafe and that’s it! The town has lots of rusted cars outside it which make for perfect photos. You can even crawl inside them although you’ll have to be careful as there are broken shards of glass in some of them.
You will want to book accommodation around an hour or 2 away from your previous accommodation for the night so you have the time to truly embrace what the desert and Solitaire has to offer.
Day 10: Exploring The Dunes Of Sossusvlei
Sossusvlei is definitely one of the best highlights of Namibia. Therefore you will want to spend enough time there.
The drive through the sand dunes of Sossusvlei was exhilarating! I absolutely love off-roading!
It increased excitement and worry when we got stuck twice in thick sand. However, the rental cars come equipped and had we got into very deep sand, we had a shovel and winch at hand.
By the time you reach the bottom of ‘Big Daddy’, the tallest dune in Sossusvlei (or what I thought was Big Daddy), you’ll find that around 2 hours will have already passed.
There are plenty of picnic spots or you can start walking around – you’ll need time as the famous Deadvlei and Big Daddy are very difficult to find and you have to see these two spots. They are some of the best places to visit in Namibia. Nothing is signposted and you’ll notice all dunes look the same. Deadvlei is not visible from the track and is in fact located a fair few kilometres away.
If you want to visit the best places in Sossusvlei, I suggest viewing Deadvlei and climbing Big Daddy.
The theme of this Namibia itinerary is not to cram too much into one day so I recommend viewing Deadvlei and taking in how surreal it is and then coming back tomorrow morning to climb Big Daddy, or if you don’t plan on climbing the highest dune, Dune 45 is also popular.
Like with many things in Namibia, it’s best to visit Sossusvlei in the mornings and evenings because those are the coolest times of the day. I decided to head off from Sesriem to Sossusvlei at midday (like you do) but it turned out to be a very good idea. The drive from the park entrance or the Sesriem campsite is a lot longer than I had anticipated. It took at least an hour to actually get to the dunes and once you reach them, you have to go off-roading.
Note, you can only drive right up to the dunes if you are in a 4×4 vehicle. 2×4 cars are forbidden and you will have to park your 2×4 at the designated carpark beside the dunes and pay for a shuttle to take you the rest of the way.
If you have a 4×4 you will need to release some air from your tyres before you go any further. You will want to decrease them from 2.2psi to between 1.2 and 1.6psi.
It was pretty fun deflating the tyres. Not so fun attempting to put them back up again as our tyre pump failed and we were stuck at the lower pressure. Fortunately, I’d only dropped it to 1.6psi so my tyres didn’t pop when back on the gravel and tarred roads.
Where To Stay In Sossusvlei
Today, I suggest waking up fairly early to drive to your next campsite or lodge. I do recommend staying at the Sesriem campsite as this is located within Sossusvlei’s park boundaries so it’s a short drive from your campsite to the dunes and you get to visit the dunes earlier and later than if you weren’t staying there.
Day 11: Climbing ‘Big Daddy’ & The Mountain Zebra Park
Today, I recommend waking up early and making the most of being located in Sesriem, or on the border to Sossusvlei. If you didn’t get to climb the sand dune and still want to, now is your chance, whilst the sand is still cool from the night.
After taking on Big Daddy or the smaller Dune 45, it’s time to move on. I became a bit nostalgic at this point in my Namibia itinerary when I realised that from this point on, I’d be travelling back towards Windhoek. However, let’s not despair. There’s still so much to see.
The Naukluft Mountain Zebra National Park is like a hidden oasis in a massive, golden desert.
I stumbled upon this park by accident when looking for accommodation but it was beautiful. Giant cliffs with caves engraved into their sides stood proudly, surrounding the only river I had seen in Namibia. Greenery was all around me – a colour I hadn’t seen for a while.
There are plenty of hikes to take through this park. Smaller trails can take you to natural pools where you can take a refreshing dip. Alternatively, for the more adventurous, there are some very long hikes. However, after summiting a dune this morning, I recommend leaving that until the next day.
- Sandwich Harbor Guided Tour
- Spitzkoppe Guided Day Tour
- Self-Drive Namib Desert Adventure to Sandwich Bay
Day 12: Hiking In The Mountain Zebra Park
There are several exciting hikes to take in the Naukluft Mountain Zebra Park. When you arrive at reception, the friendly staff will give you a map and go through the various routes you can take.
Some of the hikes are not for the faint-hearted, however. One hike called the ‘Olive Trail’ (sounds innocent enough) takes you to a giant chasm where you have to grip onto the wall with no path beneath you. I spoke to a very panicked French woman who had just been on this hike.
“I couldn’t do it!” She screamed, looking flustered. “I thought of my children back home and how they needed a mother. I thought it wasn’t worth it.”
Wow, sounds scary. The woman described how your legs are practically dangling over the abyss and there is nothing to hold on to. She also told me how a little girl crossed it with ease.
Perhaps the ‘Olive Trail’ isn’t for everyone but it’s easy to hike up to the chasm and see what it’s like without having to cross it.
Compared to other national parks, the Naukluft Mountain Zebra Park is fairly small so I don’t recommend spending more than one night here.
Our self-drive Namibia itinerary will then take us to the accommodation between the Mountain Zebra Park and Windhoek. I stayed at a campsite beside a dam, however, I wouldn’t leap to endorse it as I got food poisoning and it felt a bit commercialised. The town it was beside called Rehoboth was also the roughest town I have visited during my two weeks in Namibia.
Day 13: Exploring The Capital City Of Windhoek
On our last full day in our Namibia itinerary, it’s time to take a look at Namibia’s capital. I’m not the biggest fan of exploring cities but it’s good to see more cultural sides to a country and it’s also a great opportunity to buy some last-minute gifts for your friends, family or yourself.
As with all African cities, you have to be careful. Namibia is said to be one of the safest countries in Africa but petty thefts still occur.
Neighbouring South Africa is a hot-spot for crime and sadly some of that crime is spilling over into Namibia. This is something we nearly learnt the hard way. Whilst stuck at some traffic lights a local edged eerily close to our car until he was brushing alongside it. Thinking fast, we made sure our doors were locked, just in time before he tested if the back door would open. It just shows you can never be too careful.
The main mall in Windhoek, Maerua Mall, was recommended to us by a woman at one of the campsites we were staying at. It had secure parking with a guard watching the cars. The car park was also in a nice location and I felt completely safe leaving my car there. They even had special 4×4 parking spots so it was easy to fit in.
A MUST Eat:
If you eat meat and you’ve never tried biltong before, I thoroughly recommend trying it. I’m not exaggerating when I say it’s my favourite food in the world.
Biltong is a dried South African meat snack and boy, is it good!
Where To Stay Outside Windhoek:
For my final night in Namibia, I spent it at the same campsite which I stayed at on my first night, just outside of Windhoek, the Trans Kalahari Inn. I recommend this option as it means you can relax on the morning before your flight. It also allows for any unexpected delays such as traffic problems which I actually encountered myself. The main road to Windhoek was blocked off and I had to wait between 15 and 30 minutes for it to re-open again.
Day 14: Ending Your Namibia Self-Drive Trip And Saying Goodbye
After a wonderful 2-week road-trip around Namibia, it’s time to drop the rental car back and head to the airport. I suggest leaving your last day empty so you can relax and reflect on the wonderful adventure you have had. You’d likely be exhausted from so much excitement anyway!
I highly recommend a restaurant in Windhoek called ‘Joe’s Beerhouse’. The food is incredible.
Once you’ve visited Namibia once, I can guarantee your heart will soon be tugging you back.
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I hope you enjoyed my 2-week Namibia itinerary! Would you be up for a self-drive Namibia road trip?
Hi, I’m Ella! You can find me at Ella in Wanderlust where I write about all my exciting adventures such as this one. I’m a big lover of animals, food and of course, travel.
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