Namibia between sea and desert: 11 things to see

September 20, 2019

Deserts, sea, canyons, wildlife and cities with European atmospheres. Namibia is a land of safaris, nature reserves and fascinating cultures.

Spitzkoppe in Namibia

Deserts, sea, canyons, wildlife and cities with European atmosphere. Namibia is a land of contrasts, which only became a nation in 1990, after obtaining independence from South Africa and now discovered by tourism, for travelers hunting for safaris and unforgettable excursions in the dunes of the Namib desert.

There are those who choose it for a honeymoon out of the ordinary (the costs of services are quite high) and those who choose to escape from everything rediscovering contact with nature. Red is the color that dominates the natural landscape: that of the dunes burning with sun rays and canyons, dug over thousands of years by rivers.

Naturally Namibia is also a land of safari, with a very high population of cheetahs, but limiting oneself to the search for its fauna would be decidedly reductive.

Are you planning a trip? Here are 11 things not to miss during your adventure in Namibia.

Oryx group in Namibia
An oryx group in Namiabia.

A tailormade trip to Namibia: how to create an itinerary

Do you want to create a tailor-made itinerary and do not know where to start? Here is a mini guide to the sites of interest not to be missed, from cities to unspoiled nature, for a trip to Namibia that leaves indelible memories.

The capital city: Windhoek

Windhoek is the capital of Namibia, once the residence of the Nama chief. The area was colonized by the Germans in the late nineteenth century and the city became the seat of the colonial government, occupied by the South Africans during the First World War. The capital has a semi-desert climate, very hot in summer and with temperatures around 15 degrees in winter, which corresponds to the months from June to August.

What to see in Windhoek? Of course, there are many colonial buildings, including the Lutheran Church of Christuskirche, a mixture of neogothic and art nouveau. Not to be missed are the Catholic Cathedral of Saint Mary and the Alte Feste, an ancient German fort. In the district of Post Street Mall you can instead admire the Gibeon meteorites, found at the beginning of the twentieth century in northern Namibia.

Sunset in Windhoek in Namibia


Swakopmund is a town in the west of Namibia, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and crossed by the Swakop river, from which it takes its name. Enclosed between the ocean on one side and the Namib desert on the other, it presents interesting examples of colonial architecture, including the Altes Gefängnise prison and the Wörmannhaus. Nearby are important sites of natural interest, particularly the sand dunes.

Street of Swakopmund in Namibia

Etosha National Park

Are you looking for a safari? Here is the right place: the Etosha national park, in the north of Namibia. Its name in the Oshivambo language means "great white place", probably in reference to the salt desert sand that occupies part of the territory.

The centerpiece of the park is Etosha Pan, a salt depression that was probably a lake millions of years ago. During the floods of the rainy seasons, Etosha Pan still fills with water today and is an excellent vantage point for wild animals that come here to drink. In fact, the Etosha Park is home to over one hundred species of mammals, including elephants, zebras, giraffes, oryxes, wildebeests, lions, hyenas, leopards, cheetahs and the endemic impalas with black snouts.

In this region the San or Bushmen and the Ovambo have always lived, the second being the prevailing ethnic group, arrived here later.

A hippo at Etosha National Park, Namibia
Hippo at the Etosha National Park.

Sossusvlei and Deadvlei

Sossusvlei literally refers to a pool in the southern Namib desert, which over time has come to indicate the entire surrounding area. It is one of the most popular areas of the Namib-Naukluft National Park, characterized by bright red sand, caused by the ferrous composition of the sand and oxidation. The mor the dunes are red and the more they are ancient. The Sossusvlei dunes are the highest in the world (over 200 meters), the most interesting are the Big Daddy dune and the dune 45, so called because it is located 45 km from the road that leads from Sesriem to Sossusvlei.

Two kilometers from Sossusvlei is Deadvlei, a white sand depression. Once upon a time there stood an oasis of acacia, then disappeared due to the change in the course of the river that fed it. Today the Deadvlei is an arid and deserted region (its name means "dead pool"), with dead black acacias that contrast the red dunes. A surreal place that promises to be unforgettable.

Deadvlei, Namibia
Deadvlei dry landscape.

Fish River Canyon

The Fish River Canyon is a magical place in southern Namibia, second in size to the American Grand Canyon. It extends for 160 km and is even over 500 meters deep. It was created mainly by the erosional processes caused by the Fish River, now almost always dry. In the canyon there are the characteristic quiver trees and a poisonous plant, the melkbos. Being one of the main attractions of Namibia, it is absolutely not to be missed.

Fish River Canyon panorama, Namibia
Fish River Canyon panorama.


Twyfelfontein is a valley of the Damaraland, famous for preserving several rock paintings and stone-age graffiti on its sandstone rocks. For this reason it is a national monument since 1952. It is believed that the authors of the cave paintings are the ancestors of the San. The paintings mostly depict hunting scenes. The environment is semi-desert.

Twyfelfontein landscape, Namibia

Walvis Bay

Walvis Bay is a town 30 km from Swakopmund, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Its name in Dutch means "bay of whales": its bay is actually rich in plankton and is home to many sea creatures. In Walvis Bay, besides the flamingoes in the bay, you can see the Rhenish Mission Church and the Walvis Bay Museum, with documents and objects on local history.

Flamingoes at Walvis Bay in Namibia
Flamingoes at Walvis Bay.


Sesriem is a locality in the Namib desert, famous for the namesake canyon. The human settlement consists exclusively of a gas station, a grocery store and little else: the real attraction remains the natural phenomenon, created over time by the Tschaub River in the sedimentary rock. The canyon is one kilometer long and reaches a depth of 30 meters.

Sesriem Canyon in Namibia
Sesriem Canyon.


Lüderitz is a small town in the southwest of Namibia, nicknamed "Munich of the desert" because of its Bavarian style architecture. The city took its name from the tobacco trader Adolf Lüderitz who bought land in the area for the search for precious metals, which he could not find. The city managed to prosper thanks to fishing.

Luderitz houses in Namibia
Colorful houses in Lüderitz.


Kolmanskop is a "ghost town" in the Namib desert in southern Namibia, a short distance from Lüderitz. The city was founded by some German diamond researchers at the beginning of the twentieth century: it too presented buildings in the typical German style of the time. However, the city was progressively abandoned during the First World War, due to the decline in mining activity. Today only the ruins of the structures remain: the hospital, the ballroom, the school, the casino, with rooms invaded by desert sand. A disquieting and surreal place, often hit by sandstorms, which will delight photographers. To visit it today you need an authorization because it is located in the Sperrgebiet, the old forbidden zone in the Namib desert destined for the extraction of diamonds.

Kolmanskop abandoned house in Namibia
Abandoned house in Kolmanskop.


Spitzkoppe is a rock formation with various granite peaks near Swakopmund in the Namib desert. It is thought to be over 700 million years old and can be climbed. Nearby there is also a smaller formation called Little Spitzkoppe.

Spitzkoppe in Namibia

Feel like leaving now? Have a look at our tailormade tours in Namibia!

Recommended for you