Days 1 - 2
Namibia’s capital, Windhoek, is a cosmopolitan city with an abundance of restaurants, shops, entertainment venues and accommodation. Windhoek is clean, safe and well-organised. The city centre is an interesting architectural mix of historical and modern buildings. The colonial legacy is still alive in its many German eateries and shops and the fairly widespread use of the German language.
City centre sights within easy walking distance: the Alte Feste (Old Fortress) museum; Christuskirche (Christ Church), consecrated in 1910; Tintenpalast (built in 1912/1913 as the seat of the colonial government and nicknamed Ink Palace), which is part of the parliamentary complex; the massive Independence Memorial Museum and the imposing contemporary building of the Supreme Court.
The international airport is 40 km east of Windhoek.
Days 2 - 4
Located in Namib-Naukluft National Park, Sossusvlei is famous for its setting amidst the iconic red dunes of the Namib. The clear blue skies contrasting with the towering dunes make this one of the most scenic natural wonders of Africa and a photographer's dream. At up to 400 metres high, some of the ‘mountains of sand’ are among the highest in the world. In the morning and evening light the dunes come alive with amazing displays of colour that draw photography enthusiasts from around the globe. Sossusvlei is home to a variety of desert wildlife including gemsbok, springbok, ostrich and various reptiles. This awe-inspiring destination is the second-most visited attraction in Namibia.
Activities: Climb 'Big Daddy', one of Sossusvlei’s tallest dunes; explore neighbouring Deadvlei, a dazzling white clay pan dotted with ancient fossilised camel thorn trees; take a scenic flight across the Namib Sand Sea or a hot air balloon trip followed by a once-in-a-lifetime champagne breakfast amidst the majestic dunes.
Days 4 - 6
In 1892, eight years after South West Africa was declared a German Protectorate, Swakopmund was founded with the intention to build a harbour. By 1907 a little town pulsating with life had emerged from the desert! Swakopmund boasted the largest European population of all the German colonies in Africa. Decades on and much bigger now, the charming town is as alluring as ever. The mix of Namibian influences with picturesque buildings from the colonial era, palm-lined streets and seaside promenades, the laid-back holiday atmosphere plus the cool sea breeze make Swakopmund one of the most attractive places in the country.
Despite the turquoise waters of the Atlantic Ocean on its doorstep and the Namib Desert as its backyard, Swakopmund is not a tropical sunbathing paradise, however. The moderate climate along the coast is due to the cold Benguela Current. The current also causes the nightly fogs for which the town is famous and which sustain the wealth of desert flora and fauna near the coast. Early mornings and the evenings can be chilly throughout the year – a welcome respite from the inland heat.
Swakopmund has become the country’s adventure mecca. The desert, the dunes and the ocean lend themselves to a host of thrilling activities: sandboarding, sand skiing, quad biking, dune carting, beach angling and deep sea fishing, to name but a few, and not to forget parachuting.
There is no shortage of diverse shops, bistros and restaurants. Small specialist shops sell hand-made leather work, art & crafts, hand-woven carpets and wall hangings, hand-embroidered bed and table linen and other items proudly made in Namibia. Superb jewellery, designed and crafted with local gemstones by master goldsmiths, are another special feature of Swakopmund.
Activities other than fun in the sand and the sea: visit the art galleries and buy contemporary Namibian art and crafts; visit the museum to learn about Swakopmund’s history; join a tour of Karakulia Weavers and watch karakul wool being spun and woven into wall hangings and rugs; admire the world's largest quartz crystal cluster and other mineral treasures at the Kristall Galerie.
Okonjima Nature Reserve
Days 6 - 8
Halfway between Windhoek and Etosha National Park lies Okonjima Nature Reserve. Okonjima is home to AfriCat, a 22,000 ha sanctuary which gives captive big cats a second chance to be released back into the wild and become completely independent hunters in a protected area right in the middle of commercial cattle farmland. Excellent accommodation options are available, from luxury villas to secluded camping sites.
Activities: Guided big cat tracking safaris; leopard-spotting; off-road night drives; hiking the Bushman Trail to learn about San culture.