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.
Etosha National Park
Days 2 - 3
Etosha National Park in the central north is world-famous for its abundance of wildlife and premiere game viewing opportunities. The park is home to 114 species of mammals, including elephants, black rhinos, lions and other big cats and predators, giraffes, various antelopes and zebras, as well as hundreds of species of birds and reptiles. The vegetation ranges from dense bush to open plains with semi-arid savannah grasslands. During the dry season and in times of drought, the animals flock to the perennial springs and artificial waterholes which are maintained all over the park.
Etosha Pan in the heart of the nature reserve is a vast shallow depression of 5000 kilometres2 that can even be seen from space. The huge salt pan is dry for most of the year and lies shimmering in the heat, but after good rains it fills up with water and attracts scores of birds, especially flamingos from as far away as the Walvis Bay Lagoon on the Atlantic coast.
The western reaches of Etosha are quite different from its south-eastern and eastern parts. Even the characteristic white dust of the pan gives way to reddish-brown soil. The hills of western Etosha are the realm of Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra.
Days 3 - 4
Located just south of the boundary of Etosha National Park in northwestern Namibia, Etosha South makes up the southern region of this wild paradise. The area is comprised of a collection of world class private game reserves. The national park can be accessed via the southern entrance at Andersson’s Gate. Visitors can catch a glimpse of a variety of wildlife including: lion, giraffe, elephant, white and black rhino, and a multitude of plains game. Popular activities include: enjoying an open 4x4 safari with an expert guide, half day or full day drives with the option of a picnic lunch with wine on the full day game drive.
Days 4 - 5
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.
Days 5 - 7
As there is no accommodation at Sossusvlei, visitors to this desert wilderness are likely to end up staying at Sesriem, 65 kilometres away, where camps and lodges serve as a base from which to explore the dunes. Sesriem Canyon, a deep chasm carved through the rocks by water, is a striking natural feature of the area that is best explored on foot. Stony walls rise up sharply on both sides of the canyon, while birds roost in its crags and lizards dart along the ledges. The canyon’s name was coined when early settlers used it as a water source, using six lengths of leather (‘ses riem – six thongs) tied together to lower buckets into the water at the base of canyon.)