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Arid and sparsely populated, the desert beauty of Namibia sounds a unique siren call. This popular South African destination is known for amazing landscapes and fascinating close encounters with wildlife. To those in the know, this is actually one of the most exciting and dynamic African destinations—its existence just off the radar of beaten-path tourism is a large part of the allure. Whether you adore birdwatching or prefer spotting big game in their natural environment, the wildlife of Namibia doesn’t disappoint.

The Germans colonized Namibia, and today the colonial influence remains strong. One sees the Continental flavor in the architecture, food, landmarks, and culture, along with the fact that the language coexists with several others spoken. There is still a daily German newspaper. At the same time, Namibia has a vibe wholly unto itself, a certain effortless cool born of desert endurance, coastal breezes, and a fantastically diverse population. Of the several tribal peoples who make Namibia their home, some speak the quintessential “clicking” dialects that so mystify Western speakers!

There’s much to see and do here, but those who love the pulse-pounding, heart-racing excitement of extreme sports will be in their heaven. Go duneboarding or quad biking over spectacular colored sands, skydive in Swakopmund, or push yourself to the limit with desert runs or triathlons! There’s a number of game reserves and national parks just perfect for safari adventures, along with a delightful diversity of fauna.

Namibia Top Attractions

Sossusvlei

The red sand dunes of Sossusvlei look almost too perfect to be real. Photographed beneath blue skies, the contrast in colors will take your breath away. The exact hue of the clay pan shifts over the day as the sun plays over the sand, ensuring that this place will habitually surprise you. Sunrises and sunsets are headliner events here, daily showstoppers that will leave you feeling a whole new appreciation for the movements of the heavens. You can hike out into the Namib for glimpses of springbok, oryx, and ostriches, or scale down Sesriem Canyon for a walk along the dried-up riverbed. Luxury resorts dot the landscape, ensuring you’ll dine and bed down in comfort after a dreamy day wandering the desert.

Swakopmund

Coastal, lovely Swakopmund is Namibia’s premier holiday destination, and likely to be high on your to-do list. The Namib Desert encircles the city’s perimeter, but Swakopmund’s interior is dense with lovely German Colonial architecture. The stark contrast in landscapes is a tremendous boon for visitors, who reap the benefits of both coastal and desert areas within the same city! One can sun themselves on the beach and go swimming and then sandboard, go quad biking, or ride horseback over the dunes—all in the same day! A skydiving club makes daily trips up from the airstrip, and everyone from first-timers to experienced skydivers are welcome to come out. For those who appreciate stunning aerial views without necessarily feeling the need to jump out into the great blue yonder, helicopter tours are available and popular. If you can manage a day trip outside town, Cape Cross—and its tens of thousands of seals!—is a reasonable drive away.

Etosha

Nestled in the vast Etosha salt pan, Etosha National Park is a wild wonderland teeming with life. Dry and arid for most of the year, the sudden influx of drenching summer rains brings the park to life nearly overnight with flocks of chattering flamingos! Zebra, antelope, and wildebeest gather around watering holes, and lions stalk majestically through the tall grass. The thrill of the safari thrives in Etosha, whether you drive about yourself or hire a guide. With three rest camps, ample opportunity to go out on game drives, and amazing biodiversity, your expedition to Etosha promises to be one you’ll remember for a lifetime.

Skeleton Coast

The northern Atlantic coast of Namibia gained its grim name from the many ships that have crashed and broken on the shore there. Harsh waters and dense fog proved the undoing of countless vessels over the years, and today the misty coast is known as the world’s largest ship graveyard. The chilling history of the Skeleton Coast makes for one of Namibia’s more fascinating attractions! Designated a national park, Skeleton Coast is the site of outstanding bird watching and fishing. Lichen grows everywhere, thanks to the wet, foggy climate, and tens of thousands of seals frolic and play! The area is mostly uninhabited and, when the mist rolls in, can feel like a ghostly other world. Grab a windbreaker and let the Skeleton Coast tell you its story—you’ve never seen anything quite like this!

Windhoek

The Namibian capital is located right in the heart of the country, and is, accordingly, the epicenter of national culture. This is the home of the Daan Viljoen Game Reserve, where you can take day safaris or attend game drives! The craft market in the center of town is well worth a visit: pick up some handicrafts for yourself or as souvenirs to bring home! Stroll along the Avis Dam for great views. The German influence is strongly felt here (as elsewhere in Namibia), and a number of great beer-houses keep the culinary traditions of the colonialists alive. European cafe culture has rubbed off here, and there’s nothing quite like strolling the city center with its outstanding assortment of small coffeehouses and eateries. The nightlife is thriving and exciting as well!

Kolmanskop

Have you ever visited a real-life ghost town? The past will whisper to you on the breath of the desert winds in Kolmanskop, the abandoned German mining village just inland from Luderitz. A mining blitz erupted here at the turn of the last century when diamonds were found beneath the shifting sands of the Namib; unfortunately the mines dried up after about fifty years. Half a century of abandonment and the ravages of the elements have wreaked havoc on Kolmanskop, and today visitors touring the old hospital, ballroom, homes, or casino must occasionally slog through over a foot of sand inside these buildings! The Goerke House, or Diamond Palace, is one of the best-preserved buildings. The landscape surrounding Kolmanskop is known for its population of wild horses, which have evolved to thrive in the harsh desert climate.

Quick Facts

Capital: Windhoek
Primary Airports: Hosea Kutako International Airport (WDH), Walvis Bay Airport (WVB)
Government: Republic
Currency: Namibian dollar (NAD)
Population: 2,259,000 (2012 est.)
Language: English, Afrikaans
Electricity: 220V/60Hz (South African plug)
Time Zone: UTC +1
Namibia
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