15 Unique Things To Do in Namibia

We can say with utmost certainty: Namibia is a country that truly has it all – whether you’re looking for beautiful scenery, thrill-seeking adventure, amazing animals, fabulous food or the friendliest people, you are sure to find it here. Here are 15 things you cannot miss on your Namibia trip

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Introduction to Namibia

I can say with utmost certainty: Namibia is a country that truly has it all. Whether you’re looking for beautiful scenery, thrill-seeking adventure, amazing animals, fabulous food or the friendliest people, there are so many things to do in Namibia.

Strangely enough, Namibia was a country that I initially knew absolutely nothing about, but was really excited to visit. Because we happened to visit as part of a tour, I did very little research into what there was to do, and ended up really pleasantly surprised! After two weeks there, we realised that we could easily have spent another two weeks just seeing the parts we hadn’t been to.

The scenery of Namibia is probably one of the most dramatic things about it. The rolling sand dunes of the Namib cascade beautifully at points into the rugged waves of the Atlantic Ocean. It’s quite a sight to behold! That’s not to mention the incredibly diverse wildlife of its National Parks, coastal regions and even, sometimes, its cities.

So what can you really not miss?

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If you’re planning a trip to Namibia, and would rather have a day by day guide, don’t miss out on our day by day guided Namibia itinerary! You can find this on our Thatch store!

Safety in Namibia

In general, Namibia is considered to be very safe for tourists. Here we are of course talking generally. As a white, heterosexual couple travelling together, we obviously can’t speak for other demographics (solo female travellers etc.), but purely based on our own experience and the advice of the UK government, there does not seem to be any cause for concern.

Crime rates, for example, are very low, and there are currently no other threats or concerns for tourists.

Insurance for travelling through Africa

As mentioned, there are no obvious concerns over safety in Namibia for tourists, and I think all of us like to hope our travels will always be plain sailing! The fact is, however, that things can sometimes go wrong and it’s good to have really great travel insurance just in case.

We use SafetyWing for our travel insurance and we really like using them. They are so easy to use and their policy wording is so clear, plus you can purchase a policy even while you are in destination. For Namibia in particular, they are a great choice, because they include safari cover as standard with their nomad policy.

You can check the cost for your trip below using their price calculator.

15 Things to do in Namibia

1. Canoe through the rapids on the Orange River

Orange River is the beautiful natural border between South Africa and Namibia – fringed with wineries and other-worldly scenery, it’s the perfect place to stop for a break in nature. We camped in Felix Unite Provenance Camp, which is nothing like any campsite we’ve seen before!

Home to a beautiful lodge with a stunning pool area looking out over the river, and a great base for some amazing hiking. From here, you can take a canoeing trip out onto the river, hosted by the lodge. The price is 495 NAD per person (about £25), which is pretty good value considering it’s a full 3 hour trip with guides! We also highly recommend tasting some local wine for the full experience.

It’s a tough slog, so you need to be pretty fit to be able to row all the way, and you will need some stamina, especially for the rapids. That being said, there are a couple of stops along the way for you to get off and stretch your arms and legs, and the views are spectacular. Aside from the tough rowing, it’s actually pretty relaxing! The rapids themselves are good fun, and not too tricky, as long as you stay calm you’ll be absolutely fine, though I imagine they would be a bit wilder in rainy season.

A view down a river with dramatic cliffs on either side. The river is reflecting the cliffs perfectly and there is a dead tree in the foreground
The beautiful Orange River
Emma is standing on the other side of the Orange river. She is playing with her hair and looking up at a dramatic cliff in front of her. You can see her reflection in the water
Hiking in the Orange River

2. Visit one of the biggest Canyons in the world

Fish river canyon is the biggest canyon in Namibia and the Namibians even claim it is the biggest in the world – we’re not sure about that but we have heard it’s the second biggest! Either way, it’s extremely impressive and well worth a visit.

You can hike around the canyon rim for a flat walk, or you can take longer walks with or without guides down into the canyon. It’ll set you back $11 per person for a 24 hour period, which we thought was a bit of a bargain, but make sure you make the most of your time there and take in something to eat and drink, as there’s nothing to buy there. Make sure you’re back in time to get a spot on the viewing deck for sunset – one of highlights was taking in the views as the sun came down with a picnic and a glass of wine. It was the best way to end the day. Be sure to make time to read the noticeboards at the entrance, which talk about the area’s complex and varied history.

A view of Fish River Canyon in Namibia
Emma, a white brunette, is standing on the edge of Fish River Canyon looking up at the sky. You can see the vast expansive landscape behind her
The enormous Fish River Canyon

3. Hike up one of the world’s biggest sand dunes in the world’s oldest desert at sunrise

Not only is the Namib desert the oldest in the world, but it is also home to some of the world’s largest sand dunes! One such dune is the infamous Dune 45, which stands around 170m tall and is exactly 45 minutes away from the nearest town of Sesriem. You can hike up it if you are fit enough – it’s a tough climb, but only takes between 45 minutes – 1 hour, and the view of sunrise at the top is worth this effort. This is a great trip to combine with Sossusvlei and Deadvlei – read about our experience of this trip in our free guide. You can also try this full 3 day tour if coming from Windhoek.

A sunrise over the sweeping dunes of the Namib. The sky has all different colours of blue and the dunes look very impressive.
Sunrise in the Namib

4. See an ancient graveyard of trees

If you’d told me before trip that seeing a grave yard of trees would be one of the best things to do in Namibia, I’m not sure I would have believed you, but Deadvlei is literally a miracle! The trees in the valley (once a flowing river) have been dead for hundreds of years, but are still standing undamaged because they are entirely protected from the elements.

The place has an ethereal, other-worldly feel to it (like much of Namibia) and is guaranteed to give you some amazing photographs, unlike anywhere else.

Note: It’s not advised to touch the trees – my hand is not actually on the trunk here. It can damage them if you do, so stay hands off! This three day tour with Viator also incorporates Deadvlei if coming from Windhoek.

Emma and Murray, a white couple in their 30s are standing in the middle of Deadvlei either side of a fossilised tree. The sand under their feet is white and behind them it is a deeper red colour.
Deadvlei – Mars-like landscapes

5. Go sandboarding in the Namib with views of the Atlantic Ocean

From Swakopmund town (see below), you can easily book a sandboarding tour, which should set you back around 50 USD per person for a couple of hours if you book in person. There is also this amazing sandboarding and desert quad combo tour, which we highly recommend. There are lots of tour booking offices in town, but it’s best to book in advance to avoid disappointment. It was one of the more expensive things we did on this backpacking trip but in our opinion, totally worth it.

There are two kind of sand-boarding (stand-up and lie-down) and which you choose will depend on 1) your experience (i.e. snowboarders will find it easier) and 2) how fast you want to go (lie-down is much faster and you can go up to 70mph!). You could try stand-up boarding even if you’ve never gone snowboarding before but we imagine you’d fall down a lot. We tried both (Murray stand-up and me lie-down) and loved it – a real highlight is the view you get of the Atlantic Ocean on the way down, which really makes you feel like you’re on the world’s largest beach!

If you’re a more visual person, check our guide to Sandboarding in the Namib here on Instagram.

The Namib desert in Namibia Emma is coming down a sand dune on a sand board. One of many things to do in Namibia.

6. Experience lunar landscapes

Namibia, in general, looks a bit like the moon. The landscape is ethereal and vast, and you could be forgiven for thinking you’ve left Earth! We weren’t too surprised therefore to learn that it actually has a National Park called Moon Landscape National Park in the Erongo region.

It’s worth spending a day out here and exploring the various crevices and rock formations – again, don’t forget to take a picnic (and some shade) and sit and soak up the atmosphere.

Emma and Murray are standing in the middle of landscape that looks like the moon

7. Spend some time in Namibia’s Little Germany

On the West Coast of Namibia, you’re bound to make a stop in the town of Swakopmund, which is heavily influenced by its Germany colonial history. From the cafes serving Namibian coffee (a must-try by the way – coffee with Amarula and whipped cream) and Nüsskuchen, to the adorable Bavarian-style old town, every part of this town makes you feel like you’re in the middle of a European city.

You can while away the days visiting the coffee shops and checking out the art galleries, or you can head out of town to do any kind of tour you fancy (sandboarding, dune bashing, boat trips, township visits – you can do it all here), it’s a great place to stop for a few days and catch your breath. If you’re lucky enough, you might even spot flamingos on the beach!

A Germanic style building in the middle of a Namibian Town. You can see the palm trees in the background.
Namibia’s little Germany

8. See shipwrecks on the Skeleton Coast

The spookily-titled Skeleton Coast was actually named for the whale and dolphin bones that used to litter its shores, but though whaling has long-since been banned in Namibia, the title is still an apt one today, thanks to the numerous abandoned shipwrecks along Namibia’s west coast. It’s an interesting place to go and you can certainly get some great photographs of the empty wrecks, which make for an impressive sight on the shore edge. Take your time driving along and see how many you can spot!

A rugged coast with a shipwreck in the sea

9. And while you’re there, try to compete for space with thousands of seals

Namibia’s west coast is home to the world’s largest colony of fur seals – Cape Cross Seal Reserve. They have a plentiful supply of fish here on this coastline and they have gathered for years in numbers of up to 100,000 to breed and feed. This is a chance to interact with raw nature and can be an assault on the senses! For one thing, the seals definitely have a distinct aroma – I don’t think we need to describe it, but think a lot of fishy breath and a lot of fishy droppings! – and secondly, they are not tampered with by humans at all.

This is a good thing, but does mean, as a result of the rough nature of the breeding season that a lot of the young seal pups don’t make it to adulthood and you may be unlucky to see a couple of the dead pups amongst the others. Of course this is very sad (and does add to the horrible smell!), but it is a result of nature, and if you can get past it, then it is great fun to watch the colony playing and sparring with each other. Don’t forget to take a scarf to cover your nose and mouth though!

A seal sitting on the beach
A seal asleep on the beach

10. Test out your bouldering skills in Spitzkoppe

Spitzkoppe (meaning ‘pointed dome’ in German) Mountain is one of the most iconic sights in Namibia – home to some out of this world scenery, and amazing hiking routes, Spitzkoppe is a must-visit for anyone going to Namibia. You can take short hikes up the boulders, or else take a guide for the longer hikes (most of which require ropes), but make sure you are back before sunset, 1) because there’s no natural light at the campsites and 2) because you will want a place to pitch up and enjoy the view! The views are mind-blowing, but make sure you hire a guide as most of the routes are too tricky to be done alone.

Emma and Murray are standing in the middle of Spitzkoppe, a rocky landscape in Namibia

11. Sleep under the stars with a sunrise wake up call

Spitzkoppe is unique in that it’s one of the only places in Namibia where you can camp without a tent (there’s hardly ever rain, no mosquitoes and it doesn’t really get cold) out under the stars.. It’s worth being brave for this truly unique experience! This was a real highlight for us – all you need is a mat, a tent and perhaps some Dutch courage, and it will be a night you won’t forget. You can always pitch up a tent, just in case you need it, but if you can last the night, your reward will be a memorable sunrise to wake you up, which we found truly spectacular. We recommend wrapping up a little warmer than usual – it might not be as cold as most deserts but it’s still a nippy morning while the sun is coming up.

A bright sunrise coming over the top of some rocky cliffs. Emma and Murray's sleeping bags are in the foreground as they have just woken up outside to watch the sunrise.
Sunrise in Spitzkoppe

12. Try your luck at spotting the Big 5 in Etosha National Park

A safari is of course one of the most iconic things to do in Namibia.

Etosha is one of the best National Parks in Southern Africa without question – they have a unique waterhole set up, in that a lot of their watering holes are man-made (necessary because of the lack of natural resources in the park) to ensure the survival of the animals. This means some guaranteed viewing spots (though what you will see changes every day/hour/minute even!), making for a safari that is a safer bet than most! Be sure to stay at Okaukuejo Campsite, which is home to a floodlit watering hole where you can see lions and rhinos almost every night – truly one of a kind.

If you’re looking for safari inspiration, don’t forget to check out our safari park guide in Southern Africa so you can decide which park is best for you.

Two rhinos standing drinking at a watering hole in Etosha National Park. They are lit from behind by a floodlight but look very unbothered. One is a baby and is smaller than its mother.
Rhinos in Etosha

13. Take some silly photos in the largest salt pan in Africa!

The name ‘Etosha’ actually means ‘large white place’ and it is so named for the salt pan, which takes up the majority of the park and is its central feature. Though it occasionally floods in rainy season (November – April), for the bulk of the year it is dried up and is pristinely flat and beautifully white. It’s an unsuitable habitat for almost all of the animals, so it’s completely safe to wander around and take some fun perspective photos. Make sure yours are better than ours though – they were taken by our guide, who promised us he was the best person for these type of photos – he may have been a little overconfident in his abilities!

Emma and Murray are paying with perspective in the salt lake in Namibia
Emma and Murray are paying with perspective in the salt lake in Namibia

14. Have a blast at Popa Falls!

Just as we were leaving Namibia, we stopped at a small town near the border with Botswana and Zimbabwe, called Bagani. It’s a gateway town really, though it has some beautiful resorts on the Cubango river, as well as some budget options and campsites. We were lucky enough to make friends with a local guy, who showed us Popa Falls, which is a waterfall cascade near the resorts, safe to swim (unlike the rest of the river), as the rocks make it inaccessible to hippos and crocodiles.

You can ask the resorts to take you over on a boat: make sure you take a picnic and some drinks as you’ll want to spend a while out there (don’t forget to take all rubbish to keep the river safe for the animals!) and on the way back, definitely schedule in some time for the beautiful river sunset.

A silhouette of a group of people at sunset

15. Hang out with the beautiful San People Tribe

In many ways we saved the best till last here! Indigenous, nomadic tribes, including the San and Himba people, now make up a shockingly low percentage of the country’s total population. Their fascinating, traditional way of life is controversial and put them at odds with local farmers, so they have gradually been pushed into a smaller and smaller space. Nevertheless, they remain a kind, compassionate and open people, who are mostly keen to share their traditions and culture with the world.

As part of our trip, we were lucky enough to visit the San People living museum – this is German-Namibian owned but run entirely by Bushmen, who live a partially traditional hunter-gatherer/partially modern life. We were initially worried it would feel a bit like a spectator show, but the tribe were so welcoming and we found that the best way to engage was simply to get stuck in; chat with them, listen to their stories and their language, play with the kids and find out more about their lives. This is a great experience for anyone visiting the country and gives a true insight into the daily lives of these wonderful people.

A group of San people dancing around a tree.

Planning a trip to Namibia?

Try our handy day by day itinerary or, if you’re still confused, book a consultation with us to help you plan!

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    Written by Emma

    Emma

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