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Driving on the Moon – A 2-week Namibia Road Trip Itinerary (without an SUV!)

Updated: Jun 6

Driving in Namibia felt like driving on the moon.


I would never have imagined a place on Earth could look like this, and despite what everyone told us, we were sure we could tackle a road trip in Namibia in a small car. The rental companies wouldn't offer them if it weren't possible right?

Our 2 week Namibia road trip itinerary came to be by first hitch-hiking from Botswana – as part of a wider RTW trip that we keep on extending. We picked up our car and some supplies in Windhoek, Namibia's cute-if-a-little-dull capital, and hit the gravel road.



CONTENTS




Zebras and Gravel Roads - both a common site in Namibia!
Zebras and Gravel Roads - both a common site in Namibia!


 

Not sure what to pack for your trip to Namibia? Check out my article:



 


About Namibia

Namibia is a vast country in the southwest corner of the African continent. It was occupied by Germany in the 1880s, and then South Africa, before finally achieving independence in 1990. There is a lot of German-ness leftover in Namibia, including buildings, and bakeries, and most of the tourists we met were German, too.


English is the official language of Namibia, despite only 3% of Namibians using it as a first language. The currency is the Namibian Dollar, which is tied to the South African Rand. At the time of writing £1 is 25 NAD.

Their biggest exports are currently diamonds and uranium - but with new offshore oil discoveries, things are changing. There seems to be a lot of money in Windhoek, but the wealth disparity between white and black people is obvious.

Namibia is the second least-densely populated country in the world (after Mongolia) and you will see this immediately upon leaving Windhoek, you will pass very few cars and the ones you do are almost always tourists. I will really miss just pulling over a having a wee on the highway. With the lack of passing traffic, this is something I did many times during our 2-week road trip around Namibia.

There is basically no public transport for Namibians – they walk or hitchhike, live on the farm they work at, or are confined to their villages.

We picked up a hitchhiker called August who worked at a lodge in Sossusvlei. He said he had 6 days off per month and it took him 3 days to walk to his home village. Sometimes he got lucky with getting a lift (like when he met us) but otherwise, he carries his duvet and a bottle of water and makes the trip on foot.


Life is incredibly harsh for many people in Namibia.



Endless open roads and the occasional Oryx in Namibia
Endless open roads and the occasional Oryx

 


This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may get a commission if you make a purchase through this website, at no cost to you. I only link to products I use and love.


The Seasons of Namibia


Summer


October – March (with hopefully some rain coming from mid-December, but January onwards gets excruciatingly hot.)



Autumn


April + May



Winter


June - September (August sees insanely strong winds which bring sandstorms, the sand particles “hit you like bullets”.)



Peak Season in Namibia is July to October - which means during these months you will need to book accommodation and rental vehicles in advance.


Never one to enjoy the prices and crowds of peak season, I would MUCH rather travel in a shoulder month and risk some uneven weather. For that reason, in my opinion, the best months to visit Namibia are MAY and NOVEMBER.



 


Booking Campsites in Namibia

As we were travelling in low season - we booked all of our campsites one day in advance via WhatsApp – and never got turned away.


The tent we use is the Robens Boulder 3 - and we love it. It is super-easy to assemble, it is reliable in strong winds and heavy rains, and it only weighs 3kg!



Our ground tent and little car got us so far in Namibia!
Our ground tent and little car got us so far in Namibia!

 

Hitch-hikers & Drought

After hitch-hiking across Zambia and Botswana – we decided to repay the favour and picked up the majority of hitch-hikers we saw (not in Windhoek). We felt too guilty driving past people, knowing we may be the only car for hours.

In the areas around Spitzkoppe, Uis, Brandberg, and Twyfelfontein, many local people do not have access to fresh water. They would often run to our car with empty plastic bottles looking very desperate for something to drink.


We made a habit of filling our empty 5L bottles at each campsite and pulling over to hand them out as and when (along with loaves of bread) – it was very appreciated, so don't be shy to do the same.



 


Renting a Vehicle in Namibia


Everyone will tell you that you need a 4x4 or SUV (I know nothing about cars so I don't even know what the difference is) – but this is simply not true. We rented a small car because it was one-quarter of the price of a 4x4. It was uncomfortable on the gravel roads, but still possible.


We rented a Suzuki Swift from Hertz using Kayak – and we paid £350 for 2 weeks - including full insurance. I urge you to get the best coverage possible, as your car will come back looking like it has been in the wars, and getting a flat tyre or cracking the windscreen with a piece of flying gravel is very common.


If you're not flying directly into Windhoek it's a good idea to rent from downtown, as the airport is surprisingly far.


For our 2 week Namibia road trip itinerary we used 3 tanks of fuel at 1000NAD (£40) per fill-up, another perk of using a smaller car.



 


A Packing List for a 2-Week Namibia Road Trip



Our visit to Namibia was part of a 3-month journey through Eastern and Southern Africa, and we had been travelling with only hand luggage, trying to keep everything to the bare minimum. These are some essentials we found very useful in Namibia.


  • Tent 

We use the Robens Boulder 3 which as I said is fantastic, and it came in very handy in Namibia. If you rent a 4x4 they sometimes have roof tents as another option.


  • Sleeping Pads 

The sand in the desert really heats up during the day, and it's freezing by morning, so having sleeping pads is really going to help with the temperature inside the tent. Ours are self-inflating and roll up.


  • Blankets

We used our Shukas from our time with the Maasai – but having a sleeping bag liner will do.


  • Inflatable Pillows 

Not the most comfy, but they can be packed up very small.


  • Head Torch

We used this head torch ALL THE TIME.


  • Kitchen Equipment 

The bare essentials: Frying pan, spatula, coffee mugs, sharp knife, plastic plates, and forks and spoons.


For a more comprehensive packing list check out my article: A packing list for backpacking the African continent. These are just a few extra essentials for a 2-week road trip around Namibia!



 


Oue 2-Week Namibia Road Trip Itinerary


Day 1 - Windhoek

Days 2 & 3 - Sossusvlei

Days 4 & 5 - Swakopmund

Day 6 - Spitzkoppe

Days 7 & 8 - Brandberg

Days 9 & 10 - Twyfelfontein

Days 11 - 13 - Etosha

Day 14 - Windhoek


This 2 week Namibia road trip itinerary mainly focuses on the centre-north, except for Sossusvlei, which CANNOT BE SKIPPED. If we had one more week I would have travelled even further North, to Palmwag and then Epupa on the Angola Border.



The dunes at Sesriem
The dunes at Sesriem

 

FOR TRAVEL INSURANCE for Namibia, do what I do! Have a browse on Travel Supermarket - and choose a cheap policy with a high Defaqto rating.


 


Day 1 - Windhoek

After a mixture of hitch-hiking and shared taxis from the Botswana border, we reached Windhoek. We stayed in Chameleon Backpackers - and pitched our own tent (in what was essentially their car park) for 220NAD per person.

Chameleon Backpackers was actually an ideal location to start our 2-week road trip around Namibia. They sell sim cards at reception to get you set up for your travels and breakfast is included in the price.

We didn't do it, but they also offer bicycle tours around the township – which looked super interesting. What we did do, however, was eat at Joe's Beerhouse. This is a fantastic restaurant with a great atmosphere that serves exotic dishes like Oryx steak (which Joe tried) and Zebra 'Carpet-Bag' This is apparently a Zebra steak stuffed with mussels, which if you ask me sounds gross.

To get around Windhoek you can download an app called LEFA – which is the same as Uber.



Packing light is essential when hitch-hiking into Namibia
Packing light is essential when hitch-hiking into Namibia

 


Days 2 & 3 - Sossusvlei

So after some time resting and getting prepared in Windhoek, you can hit the road for the second stop on this 2 week Namibia road trip itinerary! This is one of the longer drives, with the road being okay for the first hour, and then turning to gravel.

For more details on which roads to take, there is a fantastic Facebook Group called Namibia from the Roadside – which I highly recommend joining before your trip.


The journey from Windhoek to Sesriem to 6 hours, and we chose to stay at Sesriem Camp by NWR - one of only two camps inside the park. This was much more expensive than other campsites, and like all NWR camps, not very high standard. However you have the benefit of being able to drive to the dunes one hour before sunrise – that's one hour before everyone else, and it's SO WORTH IT.

Visiting Sossusvlei, Deadvlei, and the dunes was the best thing we did in Namibia – it was out of this world. We climbed the biggest dune – Big Daddy – at sunrise, it was incredibly beautiful.


The climb took 2 hours and requires you to be in good shape, which I suppose is why it wasn't very busy (most people stay at the bottom).

Running down the dune afterwards was one of the most fun things I have ever done!



Joe about half way up Big Daddy, Sesriem's biggest sand dune
Joe about half way up Big Daddy

The sand starts to heat up at around 10am so you really need to be in and out before then. Dune 45 is another great one to climb and of course, Deadvlei (the dead forest) is really cool too.

Once you get to the dunes only 4x4's can continue the last 10-minute leg to Big Daddy and Deadvlei. There is a shuttle for 160NAD organised by NWR which can take you the rest of the way if you don't have a 4x4.


Honestly, unless you're used to driving in sand, I wouldn't even chance it even if you do have a 4x4, we saw many abandoned vehicles stuck in the sand on our way over, it's tricky business.



The scorched trees and parched earth of Deadvlei
The scorched trees and parched earth of Deadvlei

 

Days 4 & 5 - Swakopmund

The road from Sesriem to Swakopmund was the worst we encountered on our entire 2 week Namibia road trip. The journey took 5 hours and when I titled this post 'Driving on the Moon' this is the part I was talking about.

The landscape is so unlike anything I have ever seen, and as usual, my photos will never do it justice.

Once you get to Walvis Bay on the coast the moonscape turns to dune-scape. Some people choose to stay here but we thought it was very industrial looking, and were really happy we chose Swakopmund.

We stayed at Seaview Backpackers but I would not recommend it, the Salty Jackal Backpackers looked much nicer. You can arrange a trip to Sandwich Harbour with your hostel which takes you on a pretty epic adventure over the dunes.


We also had a fantastic seafood dinner at The Tug Restaurant – make sure you book a window table at sunset!



Seafood and sunset at The Tug restaurant Swakopmund
Seafood and sunset at The Tug
 


Day 6 - Spitzkoppe

The drive from Swakopmund to Spitzkoppe took 2 hours, with a mixture of gravel and tarred roads. We stayed at Spitzkoppe Tented Camp which was really nice, each pitch had its own shower and toilet, electric hook-up and solar lights.

They offer walking tours to see the cave paintings, but if you don't fancy that it's still a really unique landscape to be in. We stayed up late that night as it was the new moon, and we were rewarded with an incredibly starry night sky.



 


Days 7 & 8 - Brandberg

This journey took 2.5 hours, and we stayed at the Brandberg White Lady Lodge. This was our favourite camp of all on our 2-week road trip itinerary through Namibia, and even though we were camping we were still allowed to hang at the lodge and use the pool.

They have a 'sunset viewing area' perched up on the rocks which is the ideal spot for a sundowner. They also have two very friendly free-roaming rescue Meerkats who will come over for a nose-around when the afternoon starts to cool down!


Never in my life did I think I would be petting a Meerkat!



The rescue Meerkats at White Lady Lodge
The rescue Meerkats at White Lady Lodge

Brandberg White Lady Lodge is home to the rare Desert Elephant and they offer game drives to go and find them.


We opted to do a guided walk to the cave paintings instead, and just so happened to stumble across the herd while we were on foot! We quickly climbed some rocks and watched them pass by, a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

Again, being in the middle of nowhere, the stars are fantastic here!



The Desert Elephants of Namibia
The Desert Elephants of Namibia
 


Days 9 & 10 - Twyfelfontein

The drive here is 2.5 hours, and it's recommended to take the slightly longer way round through Khorixas, to keep you on tarred roads for longer. We stayed at Aba-Huab Twyfelfontein Campsite which is a community campsite (owned by locals).

There are lots of things to do in this area, such as visiting the Petrified Forest or the Damaraland Living Museum.



 


* Visiting the Himba Tribe *

The Himba people are very 'popular' with tourists because of their striking appearance, and you will see a lot of people in this area of Namibia beckoning you to take pictures of Himba women in their villages.

However, it's important to know that the Himba tribe are not actually from this area, so it's likely these villages are not authentic - and the people may be being exploited.


If you want an authentic experience with the Himba – you'll need to travel further north to Opuwa - and visit the Ovahimba Living Museum or take a tour with the Kaoko Information Centre.



 


Days 11 -13 - Etosha

Our last stop on this 2 week Namibia road trip itinerary is the glorious Etosha NP. From here on out you will more or less be blessed with tarred roads too!

This drive is about 4 hours long, and perhaps the least interesting of our road trip so far. Knowing that NWR campsites don't have a great standard, we chose to stay outside the park, at the Etosha Trading Post.

These guys are only a 5-minute drive from Anderson Gate, and the pitches are great! They also have a really well-stocked supply store and we were in great hands.


We actually had our best wildlife encounter before we made it to Okaukuejo Gate (baby elephants), so staying outside the park really worked for us.

Entry to Etosha is really reasonable (80NAD), and we had no issue self-driving in a small car. I think 2 x half-day safaris are ideal for Etosha (I can't last a full day in the car, I don't know about you).


We visited in November and it did not feel busy at all, we were able to enjoy our animal encounters without loads of other vehicles surrounding the animals (cough cough, The Mara).



Sunset in Etosha
Sunset in Etosha


 


Day 14 - Windhoek

For our last day in Windhoek, we stayed at Urban Camp – which I would say is one of the best campsites in Namibia. It had a great atmosphere and we felt no need to leave and explore, but rather hang out by the pool drinking very cheap (but good) wine, before our Intercape bus to Cape Town the following day.



 


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Happy Travels

xx



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Disclosure:
I Dream of Mangoes is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. That being said, I only link to products I use and love.

2 Comments


Candida Bristow
Candida Bristow
Dec 23, 2023

Namibia sounds amazing. I really look forward to your posts now. I find myself googling all the links you put in and reading up on all the places you visit. Armchair travelling 😃!! Happy Christmas to you and Joe, have a good one. Candida xxx

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Replying to

Thanks so much, Candida - Namibia is a very special place! Happy New Year to you and yours x

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