Namibia All Over

  • 3 Weeks

This enormous itinerary meanders more than 2500km, from dusty bushveld to dramatic canyons. It combines a good dose of culture with death-defying activities, and all of it is accessible with a 2WD vehicle. There are also decent, if slow, public-transport links.

Before striking off into the desert, spend a couple of days getting your bearings in the lovely capital of Windhoek, which still bears architectural traces of its German colonial history. Ideally with a rental car loaded with plenty of supplies and a few friends, make a beeline north for Etosha National Park, one of the finest safari parks on the continent. It is possible to actually drive out onto the pan with its white saline floor stretching as far as you can see to the horizon.

Although you’re going to have to backtrack, you can quickly bypass Windhoek en route to seaside Swakopmund, where you can take your holiday up a notch in a flurry of exciting activities, including dune boarding and quad biking. Back on the main road south, keep the heart beating during a scramble up the massive barchan dune fields of Sossusvlei and/or a trek through Sesriem Canyon. The ever-shifting dunes of the Namib Desert are particularly worth gazing upon at sunrise, when their colourful hues dance over the landscape.

Continuing the canyon theme, head south for Fish River Canyon, a geological wonder of monumental proportions that is one of Africa’s hidden highlights. If you’ve packed sturdy hiking boots you could embark on a multiday hike along the canyon floor. From Fish River Canyon, detour west to marvel at the German anachronism that is Lüderitz. Sausages washed down with German beer are a prerequisite before embarking on your explorations. Nearby, you can stop off at the diamond-mining ghost town of Kolmanskop and explore the overwhelming emptiness of the Sperrgebiet.

Finish things off in Noordoewer, which sits astride the Orange River and is the jumping-off point for white-water rafting through some wild canyon country. Alternatively, head across the South African border to cosmopolitan Cape Town, which you can enjoy for a week or a weekend before setting off on the next adventure.

Caprivi to Kaokoveld

  • 2 Weeks

This is not an itinerary for the faint-hearted. Many places in Namibia give you a vague sense that you’ve reached the end of the earth, but some of the destinations in this itinerary really are other-worldly. Getting to them, too, presents a major challenge that definitely requires determination as well as a fair bit of cash.

To do this trip as a continuous journey, you’re best off starting from Kasane in Botswana. From here, you can charter a plane or boat to Mpalila Island, a luxuriously remote retreat stranded in the middle of the Zambezi River. It’s where Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and Zambia intersect. From here, head into Namibia’s Caprivi Strip and visit the mini-Okavango of the Nkasa Rupara National Park, where the rains bring a delta-like feel to the forested islands that contain some of Namibia’s best birdwatching. Bwabwata National Park is another park on the rebound with lions, wild dogs and sable antelope. Drive from here to the untamed wilderness that is Khaudum National Park, a serious adventure destination. Here, wandering sandy tracks lure visitors through bushland and across valleys where lions and African wild dogs can be seen.

From Khaudum the road will take you south through Grootfontein, from where it’s worth making a short detour to the Waterberg Plateau Park. The park is famous as a haven for endangered species such as sable and roan antelopes and white and black rhinos, some of which you may be lucky enough to spot along one of the well-marked hiking trails. It’s an unusual place in that it feels a little like a lost world on top of the plateau with its pristine bushy landscapes – take advantage of the hides at the waterholes for your best chance to spot wildlife.

North of Grootfontein the road takes you into Namibia’s cultural heartland, the Owambo region, from where you can access the remote and mysterious Kaokoveld, homeland to the Himba – a culturally rich tribal group that has retained its striking appearance and dress – and one of the most inaccessible areas of the country.

Essential Namibia

  • 2 Weeks

Two weeks in Namibia is never enough, but this itinerary takes in the best the country has to offer, while keeping distances realistic. Having your own vehicle, preferably a 4WD, is a prerequisite for covering these places in two weeks.

Begin in Windhoek, one of Southern Africa's more agreeable capitals. From here, head north to Erongo with a night or two at the lovely Erongo Wilderness Lodge. Follow it up with two nights in the Okonjima Nature Reserve, with its excellent program run by AfriCats. Then it's on to Etosha National Park, one of Africa's truly great parks, with fabulous wildlife-watching opportunities – three nights here is a bare minimum. Tracking southwest, head down into Damaraland, home to some of the most dramatic scenery anywhere in the country – Twyfelfontein, Brandberg and Spitzkoppe are all highlights; plan on at least three days. Take in the seals at Cape Cross (one day), sandboard down a dune near Swakopmund then head via Sesriem Canyon for the glorious sand dunes of Sossusvlei (two nights) on your way back to Windhoek.