This year I finally had the chance to organize a very adventurous road trip around Namibia, which turned out to be the most incredible one of my life so far! For several years I have been dreaming of it while seeing stunning pictures online of this fabulous African country. And all my expectations have been totally satisfied by the overwhelming beauty of nature (and the colors!!!).
The focus of this article is on Namib Desert. You can find here all info about how to plan a road trip there, where to stay, what to expect and some special tips for taking the best pictures in the desert!
You need also to be aware of the fact that a road trip to the Namib Desert can be very tiring as well: many hours driving off-road and so many things to see every day! Distances in Namibia are massive, just be ready! I personally love driving and road trips in general, so my own experience has been overall beyond amazing!
USEFUL INFORMATION ABOUT NAMIBIA:
- Language: English. Other official languages are: Afrikaans, German and several local dialects
- Visa: on arrival, valid for 90 days
- Capital: Windhoek
- Currency: Namibian Dollar and South African RAND (Namibia independence from South Africa: in 1990!)
- Time Zone: UTC+2
- Country Code: +264
- Emergency number: police +264 (61) 1-0111 , ambulance +264 (61) 21-1111
- Population: 2.5 million people (despite it is a HUGE country!)
USEFUL TIPS FOR YOUR TRIP!
- IMPORTANT: before your road trip, download on your phone an “off-line map”.
- The GPS doesn’t always work, neither a local sim card.
- However, you should buy a Namibian sim card
- 4X4 CAR: Mandatory. I recommend to rent it from Namibia2Go
- Recommended place to stay: Gondwana Lodges
- Is driving around Namibia safe? YES, TOTALLY. We were 2 girls and we have never been in danger. You just need to be comfortable driving off-road.
- Low tires issue: yes, it is true that it can happen very often!!! Be ready to change a tire before this trip! You can do it! There are so many tutorials on YouTube, this is my favorite: click here to watch it
- Windhoek airport is 40 minutes away from the city center
HOW TO REACH TO THE NAMIB DESERT FROM WINDHOEK
This year I spent 3 epic months in South Africa, so I flew from Cape Town to Windhoek. Wherever you fly from, I’d suggest to get to the Namibian Capital where you will be able to pick up your 4×4 car (either at the airport or organizing yourself with Namibia2Go, as previously mentioned).
Depending on where you will stay in the desert, the road trip from Windhoek to the desert will last average 3h30min – 4h30min.
On the way, we stopped to take pics under the iconic “Tropic of Capricorn” sign.
For the first hour or so, we drove on the highway C26. It was smooth and easy, all straight!
After a few hours, we had to turn right on D1275 following the directions to Solitaire. At that point, we started driving off-road, seeing constantly breathtaking landscapes!
At some point, we crossed the mountain through Kupferberg Pass and to the turn off to Spreetshoogte Pass: I suggest to drive VERY slowly there! Between them, we passed by Nauchas, where there are several farms and a police station.
Then we finally reached Solitaire, a small settlement where you can find petrol, food, drinks, and everything you might need. A place to keep in mind when you are driving around that area! I have so many stories about this place, I might write another article though! 🙂 Even if you might not need, just stop here and get some petrol and water. You will not find anything till Sesriem, which is at least 3 hours away!
After Solitaire, we drove for 30-40min more before reaching Gondwana Lodges.
STAYING @ GONDWANA LODGES
As I personally do not like camping, I didn’t choose to stay in a tent (if you like it, you can find many places for camping in Namibia but I do not know which one I can recommend).
For this reason, I was looking for a “luxurious desert experience” and I had the big pleasure to stay at the beautiful Gondwana Lodges (“The Namib Desert Lodge” as well as “The Namib Dune Star Camp“).
NAMIB DUNE STAR CAMP (GONDWANA COLLECTION)
The Namib Dune Star Camp is not only an outstanding and unique accommodation but it is also a Namibian experience itself! Every room is a bungalow where you have your own terrace… and the bed can be moved outdoor to enjoy the views! How incredible!
It is a very exclusive accommodation, part of the Gondwana Collection. There are only 10 bungalows, where you can feel peace, privacy and intimacy. My favorite!
You can’t drive to this lodge: the Gondwana staff drives every guest there with a big jeep, departing from the Namib Desert Lodge (10 min away).
The view from the main area is breathtaking. Here you can find the dining room and the bar, with a big terrace overlooking the desert and the mountains.
We had a very special dinner at night, all the guests together, with a private chef! The table looked just perfect!
I went to several deserts in my life and I have always been very cold at night. Surprisingly, in the Namib Desert I haven’t felt cold at all and I slept indeed outdoor under the stars! One of the best experiences of my entire life!
NAMIB DESERT LODGE (GONDWANA COLLECTION)
The Namib Desert Lodge is perfectly located in the Namib Desert, and it really looks like a dreamy oasis! Here, you can get every comfort during your trip to the desert. Each room has its own bathroom with proper shower, towels and soaps. It is a quiet big lodge, where you can find a fabulous swimming pool where to chill in the afternoon! In the desert you will wake up indeed VERY EARLY to enjoy the colors of the desert, after lunch you’ll have time to chill!
The restaurant and bar provide to their guests a very wide range of food and drinks: you will not even realize you are in the desert! And the food is so delicious, especially the meat!
HOW TO GET TO SOSSUSVLEI AND DEADVLEI
In order to get to Sossusvlei and Deadvlei, you need to get to Sesriem (no matter where you come from, it is the only way). From Gondwana Lodges you need to drive around 1h30min – 2 hours.
When you reach Sesriem, you are in the Namib-Naukluft National Park, so you need to park the car, pay the fee, and pass through the guards control.
IMPORTANT: ALWAYS CHECK THE OPENING HOURS OF THE GATES IN SESRIEM! (aka Sossusvlei Gate)
Check all details HERE
Following the road, you will find (in order):
- Dune 42
- Dune 45
- End of the road!!! You need to pay the jeep-service to reach the next places
SUGGESTION: you must go for the sunrise and for the sunset, you will get the best colors and you wont suffer the heat. I drove there twice indeed, one day for the sunset in Deadvlei+Sossusvlei and the other day for the sunrise on the big dunes (42 and 45).
1. SUNRISE @ DUNE 42
Be there before 8am, you will get the best colors! Also: bring a jacket, its cold in the morning!
2. DUNE 45
You cannot imagine how big these dunes are, only when you are there you can understand! They are in fact the biggest in the world!
3. END OF THE ROAD! JEEP-SERVICE NEEDED!
To reach Sossusvlei and Deadvlei you have to park your car and pay for the big-jeep service, unless you have a very big jeep too. However, I have seen many people who tried to go with their 4×4 and getting stuck in the sand! The jeep-service is highly recommended! You pay directly to the driver once there, they will bring you to each place and pick you up again when you want (of course respecting the opening times of the park)
This is honestly the most incredible natural spot I have seen in my life. No doubt.
The jeep left us on the way to Sossusvlei. We walked through the desert for 20-25 minutes before reaching the famous dead trees in Deadvlei.
SUGGESTION: wear booths, not sneakers. You will walk on the dunes, the sand can go into your shoes and be very annoying. Also, during the day it gets very hot, so it would not be pleasant to walk on it! I learnt it from my previous experiences in the Sahara desert! 🙂
In the following picture, you can see the exact dune that separates Deadvlei and the rest of the desert!
When I saw Deadvlei from the top of this dune, I screamed so loud! And I almost cried! I could not believe how absurd this landscape was, I simply could not believe my eyes! It looks small from the pictures but when you get there you realize everything is SO HUGE! (The trees included!)
The following picture is one of my favorite ones ever of my trips!
Those trees apparently died over 700 hundreds years ago and these dunes are over 350meters high! It is surreal!
When I saw them from afar, I thought they were so small. Then, I realized how big they actually were only when I got close to them! I think that the dimension of the dunes confuses the perception of… everything!
The dune in the following pictures is called “Big Daddy” and it is actually the biggest in the world!
The last stop is Sossusvlei. I loved the jeep-service ride on the sand, looking at the beautiful dunes during the sunset!
I hope this article can help you to organize your own trip!
Namibia will be forever in my heart!
There are several more destinations there, like the Etosha Park the coastal route that I will love to explore one day!
I will share with you soon also how to spend a weekend (or a few days) in Windhoek!
And you… Are you lusting for the sublime?