Self-Drive Namibia: The Route

“What made you think of Namibia for a vacation?” Tim asked, halfway through our Namibia road trip. Truthfully, tt was the moment I was flipping through a National Geographic and saw this photo:Jim_Brandenburg_Oryx_smallSomething about it deeply appealed to me—the wild emptiness, the strange and beautiful animal. And in person, I found Namibia to be exactly the same as the photo: an abandoned, primitive, and breathtaking environment just waiting to be explored. 

Planning our road trip through Namibia

Namibia is huge, and to do it properly we needed more than the six days we earmarked for the trip. We dedicated these days to exploring the midland and southern areas of the country, though I would gladly return to visit the northern and eastern staples: Skeleton Coast, Etosha National Park, the cave drawings at Twyfelfontein. I would, in fact, do the whole trip again—driving and heat included.

Our route was meant to be a big loop to and from Swakopmund, flying into Walvis Bay airport. Unfortunately, the day we arrived for our flight in Cape Town, we found out that our flight route had been permanently canceled some months before. Before anyone could freak out, the wonderful woman at the Air Namibia desk had re-booked us with a different carrier, but with the caveat that our flight arrived in Windhoek, some four-hours drive away. We wound up taking a taxi from Windhoek to our hotel in Swakopmund (which was very expensive, but somehow cheaper than a rental car), and our loop began just a few hours later than our original target.

We plotted the route ourselves, with Google Maps guiding us with timing estimates.

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Our Namibia road trip itinerary

Day One: Arriving in Windhoek and driving to Swakopmund

Our original Namibia road trip itinerary had us exploring Swakopmund, going for a little pub crawl, and watching the sunset from the beach. In actuality, we did watch the sunset, but from the back of the taxi while eating takeout from Wimpy’s. Romantic.

Day Two: Swakopmund to Sesriem

An early morning start in Swakopmund, then a 3.5-hour drive to Sesriem, where we spent the afternoon relaxing at Moon Mountain Lodge, and the evening stargazing on our porch.

Day Three: Sossusvlei

We planned to wake up early for sunrise at the dunes, but the bed was too damn cozy. Instead, we did the hour drive to Sossusvlei at around 11:00—not the ideal time in terms of the heat of the day. We made a quick stop at Solitaire, an adorable little town, for some snacks, and then chilled at the Sossusvlei visitors center to let the noon heat pass before heading into the dunes.

Read my tips for driving in the sand at Sossusvlei (no easy feat!) here.

Day Four: Sossusvlei to Luderitz

We took the scenic drive through the Mountain Zebra park (no zebras were spotted) down to Luderitz to see the famous Kolmaskop ghost town. On the way, we got our first (and thankfully only) flat tire. We spent a quiet afternoon/evening in Ludertiz, visiting Agate Beach and enjoying dinner before our early start the next morning.

Read my tips for roadtripping in Namibia here.

Day Five: Kolmanskop (and then Luderitz to Walvis Bay)

We kicked off our heaviest day of driving with a lovely stop at the Kolmanskop ghost town, where we spent about 3 hours on a photo expedition. The drive from Luderitz to Swakopmund took us about 9 hours (faster than we expected), and we stopped twice—once to replace our busted spare tire, and once for some unexpected passengers.

Day Six: Walvis Bay

We explored around Walvis Bay, stopping to see the flamingos and pelicans that make the waters so famous, until our flight to Johannesburg left at 14:00.

So that’s our route! Ambitious, but manageable with the right car and some road-trip know-how. Check out our tips for driving in Namibia here!