1 week in Namibia itinerary - 7 days of stunning scenery
Updated: Aug 2, 2020
Ok, let me start off by saying straight away: 1 week is not nearly enough time spent in Namibia!
This remarkable country is filled with once-in-a-lifetime experiences. From typically African exotic wildlife safaris, to the world's second largest canyon. Or visiting the wealth of authentic Eco-lodges and Nature Conservancies, and the wild off-the-beaten-track Skeleton Coast. Eerily photogenic ghost towns or the many shipwrecks dotting the coast - slowly being reclaimed by the ocean. The vivid visuals of stunning Sossusvlei, or pink salt pans, pinker flamingos and the highest sand dunes in the world.
Namibia offers all this and more, interspersed with captivating views of the stark desert landscape that extends across most of the country.
Namibia is also a vast place, and preparing for a Namibian road trip is key. The distances to be covered are extensive, and made more so by the fact that they are rarely on paved roads. The quality of the gravel roads criss-crossing the country can vary significantly, and as a result you will spend many hours travelling between locations, sometimes at low speeds, often with not another soul for miles.
And so ideally you will be able to dedicate at least a couple of weeks to Namibia, to make the most of all that the country has to offer.
In our case though, 1 week was unfortunately all we had. In fact, in truth we only had 6 nights! As a result, we were only able to sample a small portion of what a Namibian tourist's ideal to-do list would include.
We immediately excluded any safari options, since it would consume too much of our limited time, and we have in any case had ample safari opportunities in neighbouring South Africa.
Conversely, our one absolute must-do experience in Namibia was a trip to Sossusvlei, and the amazing one-of-a-kind Deadvlei.
And so here is the itinerary we put together for our trip, with the very limited time we had.
On our first day, we flew into Windhoek airport from Johannesburg in South Africa, arriving around lunch time. We picked up our rental car, getting the agency to give us a thorough once-over of the car's features - including where to find the various emergency equipment and how to change the tyre for this specific vehicle.
It is a drive of around 45 minutes into the capital Windhoek, best done during daylight hours, and by the time we arrived we had just enough time to hit the supermarket before closing time, to stock up on sufficient quantities of water and snacks for our drive the next day. We checked into the Windhoek Country Club hotel for our first night's accommodation, which is conveniently located in the southern part of the city, perfect for starting our journey early the following day.
The next morning after the included breakfast at the Country Club, we set off on what would be the longest day's driving of our trip, the journey from Windhoek to Sesriem.
There are a few different route options to get to Sesriem, and we opted for the C26 / D1265 / D1261 via the Spreetshoogte pass, as recommended by our accommodation for that night - the Sossusvlei Lodge.
Pretty soon we had left civilisation and most motorists behind, as we hit the gravel road a few kilometers outside the city.
And equally soon we were captivated by the landscape, as it changed from the dry bushveld around the capital to the even dryer desert that we would find at Sesriem. The Spreetshoogte pass was a highlight for us, with views across the valleys and the surrounding mountains.
Not long after, as we approached the small outpost at Solitaire, the condition of the road started to worsen as we joined the many other tourists to the region.
We made the obligatory fun pit stop at the Solitaire gas station, filling up our car with petrol (it is the only place for fuel for many miles!), taking a few photos with the rusty old abandoned cars, and having a piece of the renowned apple pie at the Solitaire bakery.
Refueled and refreshed, we tackled the last part of our drive down to Sesriem, and to our hotel - the perfectly located Sossusvlei Lodge.
Once checked-in, and having taken a bit of time to relax after the long drive, we decided to make the most of what remained of our first day, and once the temperature had started to drop a bit we made our way to the Sesriem Canyon.
This canyon is well worth a visit. It is only about a 5 minute drive from the gate of the Namib-Naukluft National Park (itself right next to the Sossusvlei Lodge), and large parts of the canyon are in the cool shade, making it a great way to spend some time out of the usual Namibian heat.
The local settlement of Sesriem gets its name from this canyon, which was named by the original settlers who needed Six ("Ses") leather cords ("rieme") tied together to reach the water in the canyon far below.
Our wander around the canyon took under an hour, and was a great way to finish our first full day in Namibia.
The next morning was an early start, as we set off to the main event - our visit to Sossusvlei and the peerless Deadvlei.
On the way we made a brief stop at the Dune 45, but opted not to climb it, saving our time in the cooler early morning temperatures and the softer light available for our visit to Deadvlei.
The striking images of the desiccated camel thorn trees framed by the majestic sand dunes are memories that will stay with us forever, and we cannot recommend a visit to the region highly enough!
We also took the time to visit the Hidden Vlei - which is an easy 15-20 minute walk beginning at the 2WD parking area at Sossusvlei. Hidden Vlei is its own kind of impressive imagery, however having to follow on from our just-completed visit to the unsurpassed Deadvlei, it was maybe just that little bit less inspiring by comparison.
Suitably awestruck, we hit the road again, making our way to our next accommodation - about an hour's drive north of Sesriem to what would be our favourite hotel of the entire trip - the brilliant Desert Grace Lodge.
Here we spent what remained of our afternoon, contented and relaxed, on the patio of our chalet and its private splash pool - views over the stunning surrounding landscape.
Day 4 of our journey around Namibia would see us driving further north, up to the seaside towns of Walvis Bay and Swakopmund. On the way along the C14 we passed through the Tropic of Capricorn, stopping for a quick photo op, then on through the Gaub pass and some gorgeous desert hills scenery.
Some time before arriving into Walvis Bay, we hit the salt roads common in the area, and it was a relief after the bumpy gravel roads we'd been navigating thus far on our trip. The salt surfaces are incredibly smooth and a pleasure to drive. Though do bear in mind that they can get slippery when wet, after it rains in the area or mist rolls in from the ocean, so do take care in those situations.
Not long after, we took a quick turn-off to ogle at Dune 7, purportedly the world's highest sand dune.
Then we headed briefly south along the coast, flanking the lagoon and towards the Walvis Bay Salt Refiners and the nature reserve it forms part of. Here we saw hundreds of the flamingos that the town is famous for, as well as a fair few pelicans, together with towering mounds of white salt and a couple of the pink salt water lakes.
And we finished the day a bit further north up the coast in the city of Swakopmund where we would bed down for the evening.
Swakopmund is one of Namibia's few larger settlements, and is a great place to spend some time relaxing with all the required mod cons. There are many great restaurants, delis and coffee shops, loads of great accommodation options, and a real holiday feel about the place, and it is a big contrast to the experience driving around the rest of the country.
With the rain clouds moving in on a strong sea breeze and a chilly evening fog, this was the only time we found ourselves reaching for our jumpers on this holiday.
After a delicious breakfast at the authentically local Village Cafe, and some traditional Southern African rusks with our coffee, we were on the road again.
Continuing up the coastal salt roads north of Swakopmund, we took a drive through the unusual holiday settlement of Wlotzkasbaken. These colourfully painted houses are all off the grid, no fences separating the homes, the plots generally simply marked by a few rows of rocks. The houses are each designed and built by their individual owners, and they certainly make for an eclectic collection.
Further along the coastal road we stopped off to see the Zeila Shipwreck, the most easily accessible of the ships marooned along this aptly named Skeleton Coast, which has famously claimed so many naval vessels.
At Hentiesbaai we bid farewell to the ocean, and turned back inland on the D1918. The quality of this D road was astonishingly good, and we made great time. We were also back to the amazing views so unique to this parched land, as the captivating Namibian vistas stretched scorchingly out before us, the mountains of the Erongo region growing ever larger ahead, Spitzkoppe mountain hazy in the distance.
Our destination for that evening was the inimitable Erongo Wilderness lodge near Omaruru. This special ecological lodge, nestled into the surroundings and playing such a big part in the conservation efforts of the region, was a highlight of our trip and is well worth dedicating a night or 2 to, for sundowners with a view, delicious meals under the stars, and guided nature walks led by passionate locals.
After an informative sunrise hike the following morning, and an amazing local breakfast, we bade a reluctant goodbye to the Erongo Lodge as we set off on our final drive, making our way to our last night's accommodation.
We had chosen the Naankuse Lodge, partly for its proximity to the airport, and partly for its reputation.
Unfortunately, we were slightly disappointed with our Naankuse lodge experience, which did not quite live up to the other amazing stays we had had thus far during our holiday.
Nevertheless, Naankuse is well located for the airport, and so on our final morning, and day 7 of our 1 week Namibian adventure, we took the short drive remaining to us, back to Windhoek airport for our quick flight to Johannesburg.
Namibia had exceeded all our expectations, had given us memories we would cherish for a lifetime, and had left us wanting more! We cannot wait to return to this incredible, implacable, incomparable country to spend some more time discovering the amazing experiences it has to offer.