Namibia’s natural beauty is without question. The nation is home to the striking Namib desert — from which it’s named — home to dramatic, windswept dunes and haunting dead-tree valleys. Still, there’s so much more to gape at: looming mountains, rivers and verdant wetlands, to name a few. And animal lovers will find no shortage of creatures to gawk at in the country’s nature preserves.
Below are six must-see things to do in Namibia.
The Skeleton Coast
The Mars-like landscape of Namibia’s Skeleton Coast is nearly impossible to access by land—much of the landscape is restricted to vehicles—but by air, the sky is the limit. No bucket-list trip to Namibia would be complete without witnessing this otherworldly terrain where sand meets sea.
Scenic flights from Swakopmund Airport follow the Swakop and Khan rivers bound for the coast, where fly-overs frequently spot Cape fur seal colonies, ancient shipwrecks, and a section of endless dunes known as the “Long Wall.”
If you’ve ever seen a picture of Namibia in all its rusty-red duned, blue-skied glory, you’ve probably looked at Sossusvlei, or “dead end marsh.” This vast salt and clay pan in the southern reaches of the Namib Desert is one of the country’s most iconic landscapes, so named because this is where the Tsauchab River fizzes out into dust.
Among the expanse’s highlights are the Sesriem Canyon, which holds water year-round despite the arid conditions; Dune 45, where a relatively easy (and well-worth it) climb to the top affords sweeping views of Dune Valley; and Deadvlei, another stark-white salt pan whose century-old petrified camel thorn trees make for a fantastic photo-op.
Only the most dedicated explorers venture into Kaokoland, Namibia’s most remote and isolated corner. Its rocky, undeveloped roads mean traveling by 4×4 is nonnegotiable—and forget about any luxury suites or plunge pools (unless you’re at Hoanib Valley Camp, of course).
Camping here is rugged and self-sufficient, but those that do will be rewarded with one of the most authentic off-the-grid experiences left on Earth. This is the home of the Himba, one of the last remaining semi-nomadic desert tribes in Africa, who take shelter in dome-like structures and whose women still color their hair and skin in the traditional fashion—with red orchre and perfumed tree resin.
Top photo ops here include Epupa Falls, whose gorge is sprinkled with Baobab trees, and the infamous Van Zyl’s Pass.
Etosha National Park
Don’t be deterred by its yellowed grasslands and unforgiving salt pans—Namibia’s Etosha National Park is arguably one of the best parks to safari in southern Africa. Yes, you’re unlikely to see lush floodplains (like in Botswana) or verdant savannah (as in Kenya), but the area’s desolate, dusty ecosystem works to your sightseeing advantage.
Water holes are the source of life here in the desert; find one, and chances are good you’ll run into a host of species—lions, elephants, zebras, Africa’s last free-ranging black rhinos—who come to drink and bathe. Hoping to avoid all that dryness? During the rainy season, the desert transforms into a shallow lagoon of shimmering lakes that fill up with flamingoes and pelicans.
NamibRand Nature Reserve
At 420,000 acres, Namibia’s NamibRand Nature Reserve is one of the largest private wildernesses in southern Africa—and enforces such strict development rules that you’ll rarely come across another soul for miles and miles beyond your own camp.
You won’t want to tire yourself out too much, however: NamibRand is one of only 12 designated International Dark-Sky Reserves in the world, and you’ll find nowhere better (or clearer) to see the stars and Milky Way with your naked eye.
Its position crammed between the Atlantic’s Skeleton Coast and the Namib Desert means travelers often treat coastal Swakopmund like a layover for reaching either final destination, without carving out time to see the city itself.
But there’s more here than your guide books let on—including an authentically African way of life with a German twist left over from colonial times (just look to its half-timbered houses, German restaurants, and very European promenade along the coastline). Don’t miss a visit to the historic Swakopmund Lighthouse or nearby Walvis Bay, whose lagoon plays host to more than 100,000 pink flamingoes.
This article was published through a partnership with Jetsetter magazine. Read the original story: 7 Epic Things to Do in Namibia (If We Were Harry and Meghan) by Lindsey Olander, a regular contributor to Jetsetter.
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