Road trip in Namibia, visiting Swakopmund to Sossusvlei to Windhoek
My journey through Namibia traveling through Swakopmund, to Sossusvlei to Windhoek, Follow the ups and downs as I embark across Namibia.
Ever since I started traveling I was focused on improving my English. I avoided talking German as much as possible and even when I met Germans I would pretend not to be German to avoid speaking my mother tongue! It’s not that I am not proud of being German- I am. The reason I avoided speaking German is that I realised early on that I would never be able to improve my English if I played it safe. In any case, traveling Namibia had been on my bucket list for a while. Funny because not speaking German while you’re in Namibia was quite impossible. Why? Let me explain it to you:
A bit of Namibia’s history – Germany in Namibia
Introducing “German South-West Africa”, this used to be the name of Namibia. From 1884 to 1915, Namibia which is located in the south-west of Africa right above South Africa had been a German colony. This is one of the reasons why Namibia attracted many German settlers. Another reason why many Germans moved to Namibia is the fact that diamonds were found in 1908, making the country rich in opportunity. Nowadays you may find many German speakers, German architecture and German cultural influences in Namibia. Right after the 1st World War until 1988 Namibia had been called South West Africa and had been under the South African rule. Only in 1990, Namibia became an independent state.
My 7-day travel itinerary | Swakopmund – Sossusvlei Sand Dunes – Windhoek
Unfortunately, I only had 7 days to spend. For this trip I choose to visit:
- Sossusvlei Sand Dunes
I didn’t have time to see the following attractions, which I would have loved to visit as well:
- Etosha National Park, which is a famous Game Reserve in the North of Namibia. Although I have visited Kruger National Park in South Africa, Masai Mara National Park in Kenya, Liwonde National Park in Malawi and Chobe National Park in Botswana many people told me it´s worth it to go to Etosha too.
- Fishriver Canyon, which is in the south of Namibia and the 2nd biggest Canyon after Grand Canyon.
- A Ghost-town, which is a town that was abandoned by the town’s entire inhabitants during the diamond rush. The inhabitants moved to other towns to find more diamonds in other areas. Nowadays, you can walk through houses that are knee-deep filled with sand. I have seen pictures and trust me- it´s stunning.
Read next: My 2nd time in Namibia – traveling from Windhoek to Vistoria Falls
Let the journey begin – the longest bus ride ever
Instead of taking a plane from Cape Town I decided on going up to Namibia by bus because I wanted to see the landscape. I choose to travel by Intercape. This was going to be the longest bus ride I have ever been on. We started at 10 a.m. from Cape Town and arrived at the Namibian border around 8.30 p.m. Getting stamps, checking passports, checking the bus, and all the bags for drugs – the whole procedure at the border took forever. Finally, after almost 3 hours, we continued our trip and eventually, we arrived at 8.30 a.m. the following day in Windhoek, Namibia. My advice for you: book the Sleepliner instead of the Mainliner as the seats in the Sleepliner are insanely comfortable and spacious.
For everyone that is planning on flying to Namibia, check out Skyscanner. I always book my flights with this search engine as you will find the best flight deals:
Welcome to little Germany – Swakopmund
Already on a bus for more than 20 hours I decided that I hadn’t had enough of that. 🙂 About ninety minutes after my arrival in Windhoek, I started my second bus tour of the trip. This time I took the Intercape Mainliner to Swakopmund. Swakopmund is a tiny, beautiful city on the coastline- about 4 hours by bus from Windhoek. Have you ever been to the Baltic Sea in Germany? That’s sort of what it looks like in Swakopmund.
My hostel “Skeleton Beach Backpackers“ is located 250m away from the beautiful beachfront. This hostel offers dorms, private and family rooms. Continental breakfast and WiFi are included and they have a beautiful garden area that is perfect for having a Braai in the evening. Braai? Find out what that means here.
What to do in Swakopmund Namibia:
- Enjoy the beach
- Go on a trip to the desert
- Go on a Quad biking tour
- Do sandboarding
- Start off your Sossusvlei trip
- Explore the shops, bars, and restaurants in town or at the beachfront
- Try a traditional German dish and pastry (like bee stick or pig ears)
Where to dine and drink in Swakopmund:
- Bojo’s Cafe
- Desert Tavern
- Western Saloon
- Slowtown Coffee Roastery
- Swakopmund Brauhaus
- Village Cafe
- Kückis Pub
Although Swakopmund is located at the coastline and it´s in Africa, don´t expect to find Caribbean temperatures over there – not at all. Windhoek can easily reach 50 degrees in summertime (which is from September to April). In Swakopmund it can get chilly and windy especially in the evening. After spending 2 night in Swakopmund I took a local Shuttle company to get from Swakopmund back to Windhoek (N$ 230 – including 1 free coffee/tea). Another way of getting back to Windhoek is Intercape but the Mainliner isn’t running every day.
Sossusvlei Camping Safari – Day 1
Back in Windhoek, I joined a 3-day Safari to Sossusvlei. Wooooowwww my first Safari ever. I was so excited. Sossusvlei is Afrikaans, one of the languages spoken in South Africa and Namibia and means “the place where the water gathers”. Basically Sossusvlei is a salt and clay pan made up of large red dunes, which are the tallest in the world and which surround the pan. I know it´s Namibia’s most visited attraction and I don´t really like the famous tourist spots. However, this time I really wanted to see it with my own eyes because in pictures it looked stunningly beautiful.
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In a group of 16 people from all over the world and all ages (14 customers and our guide George and cook Matthew), we started off at 10 a.m.We stopped for lunch in the middle of the desert and at the ‘Tropic of Capricorn’ – which is one of the five major circles of the latitude of a map of the Earth. It marks the most southerly latitude at which the sun can appear directly overhead.
Our last stop before we arrived at the campsite was Solitaire, which is a really small settlement in the middle of the desert, that only counts 92 inhabitants. Solitaire is famous for its bakery more specifically their Apfelstrudel (in English: apple strudel). Apfelstrudel is a famous delicately German pastry. Finally, at 5 p.m. we arrived at the campsite and put up our tents. The Sesriem Camp is surrounding by mountains, dunes, and camelthorn trees. It was really spectacular – animals like Oryx, Springboks, and Bushbabies are part of camp life and frequently joined me on my way to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
Read next: 20 Things you need to know before traveling Namibia
Sossusvlei Camping Safari – Day 2 | A bit of 4 x 4 Namibia
In order to watch the sunrise from Dune 45, which is part of Sossusvlei and the most photographed dune in the world, we had to wake up at 5.00 am on the second day. Believe me, it was worth it. George, our tour guide was driving like a bit of a maniac to ensure that we were the first group arriving at Dune 45 as it gets really busy at that time. Climbing this 170 meters dune can be really challenging, especially for people who aren´t used to any sports at all. So please, don’t underestimate the climb. However, we had a stunningly beautiful sunrise.
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After breakfast among the Dunes, we went on a 3 km walk to the main attraction Sossusvlei. It took us 2 1/2 hours to finally arrive at the famous pan with the dead trees. You have to see it yourself – it is breathtaking. The red of the dunes, the white of the clay, the blue of the sky and the brown of the trees. The combination of the different colors is insanely beautiful – you can barely catch it with your camera. Explaining to someone is impossible. Seeing it with your own eyes makes it unforgettable.
Alright, let’s finish off with a few misconceptions about Sossusvlei:
- Did you know that the red sand actually comes from the Kalahari Desert and only covers the white Namibian Dunes? The red sand from Kalahari in Botswana is blown into the Orange River in South Africa and from there blown by a strong wind coming from Cape Town on the white Namibian Dunes.
- Also, most people would assume that the trees in the pan died 600 to 800 years ago due to the draught. If you think that as well, then you are completely wrong. The trees died due to too much water that used to be in the pan.
A few more tips for your Sossusvlei trip :
- If you are planning to go by your own car and to see the sunrise from Dune 45 then you have to stay at the camp, we stayed at. Why? Because this camp is sort of the entrance to Sossusvlei and they will not let you in on time unless you stay there.
- In addition, if you are planning to not to walk to see the pan and the dead trees, you need a 4×4 for the last 3 km or you just hop on one of the shuttle’s ($N 80 each way).
After Sossusvlei, we chilled at the camp´s pool and finished off our day by watching the sunset at the Sesriem Canyon.
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Sossusvlei Camping Safari – Day 3 – back in Windhoek
The following day we went back to Windhoek early in the morning. Back there I spent two nights in Chameleon Backpackers in Windhoek. Centrally located, this backpackers has everything you need: dorms, private rooms, free WiFi, breakfast included, a pool, a vibrant bar, a Braai and a chilling area.
What to do in Windhoek:
- Visit the Craft Market
- Enjoy a delicious game platter and a local beer, like Windhoek or Tafel in Joe´s Beerhouse Windhoek
- Go on a sightseeing tour
- Go on a Katutura township tour
Useful information about Namibia:
You can drink tap water.
You can pay with Namibian Dollar and South African Rand (you can even mix between both currencies).
You might need Malaria pills, depending on where you are going and when you are going. In Windhoek, there is no Malaria, whereas if you go somewhere else better contact your doctor.
Please keep in mind not to take your valuable things with you when exploring Windhoek on your own. Rather put it in the safe in your accommodation. I am not saying it is dangerous it’s just like everywhere in the world – be aware and do not flaunt expensive possessions. Also rather book a shuttle in your hostel than using one of the local cab´s. Better to be safe than sorry.
For Germans, there is no need for a visa. Find out if you need a visa here.
Airport shuttles/ cabs
What really shocked me was the rate of N$350 I had to pay to get from Windhoek to the airport which is a distance of 40km only and takes you about 40 minutes to get there. That’s insane especially if you compare it with the rate I paid for a 4-hour bus ride from Swakopmund to Windhoek. Unfortunately, it is quite impossible to find companies that do it for less. Using local cabs as a tourist isn´t always safe especially in Windhoek, hence I wouldn´t recommend doing that at all. Let your hotel/hostel arrange a shuttle.
Read next: 15 Things to know before traveling to Mozambique
Have you been to Namibia? What did you like most? Let me know in the comments!
Would you like to read and see more about my Africa trips? Here we go!
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LeahPosted at 04:52h, 12 July
Ummm, this looks like such an epic trip!! I have never really considered Namibia as a travel destination but you've got me considering it now. Thanks for sharing your experience!
Claudia BartschPosted at 17:14h, 12 July
Pleasure – Namibia is an amazing country like Africa in generally.
IvanaPosted at 16:08h, 15 July
Sounds like you had the most amazing time! I learned so much about Namibia from your post. Another travel blogger I follow went recently, too, so my wanderlust for this country is certainly growing!
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