Central-northern Namibia, encompassing large chunks of Otjozondjupa, Erongo and Kunene regions, contains some of the country’s most compelling natural landscapes, where a range of comfortable lodges and campgrounds makes the most of the dramatic scenery. To the west, gravel roads wend their way through an impressive array of striking geological formations, containing some of the finest examples of ancient rock art, towards remote wilderness areas, where desert-adapted elephant and rhino roam. In contrast, Namibia’s main artery, the B1, speeds due north from Windhoek, through more vegetated, flatter terrain. After 250km, on the eastern limit of the Central Highlands, you reach Namibia’s very own table mountain, the majestic sandstone Waterberg Plateau, presiding above the savannah plains, which are prime cheetah country.
Heading north from Namibia’s capital city, the B1 passes through the historically important town of Okahandja, before streaking through endless savannah plains. Several large private reserves in this region contain healthy populations of large mammals, though arguably the biggest attraction, some three hours’ drive north of Windhoek, is the Waterberg Plateau; an impressive sandstone escarpment, and scenic national park, it is a nurturing ground for rare animal species, such as black rhino and sable antelope. The surrounding bush is also cheetah country, with the nearby Cheetah Conservation Fund centre a compulsory detour if you’re interested in these majestic felines. At Otjiwarongo, the regional capital of Otjozondjupa, the road divides: heading northwest along the C38 takes you to the small farming town of Outjo, an increasingly popular staging post for forays into Etosha National Park, whereas the B1 veers northeast towards the former mining centres of Tsumeb, Grootfontein and Otavi, otherwise known as the Triangle, which possess a handful of low-key attractions, including the world’s largest extra-terrestrial rock, the Hoba Meteorite, set against the attractive backdrop of the Otavi Mountains.
Northwest of Windhoek, the landscape becomes decidedly drier and harsher as you head into flat semi-desert savannah, out of which rise dramatic granite inselbergs produced through volcanic activity millions of years ago: the domed Erongo Mountains, the distinctive Spitzkoppe, and the vast, brooding Brandberg, which shelters thousands of stunning rock paintings and boasts impressive biodiversity and endemism. All three areas contain fascinating rock formations and superb hiking terrain. Moving further north into southern Kunene, you reach the globally significant collection of San rock engravings at Twyfelfontein, located in a hauntingly beautiful landscape. The scenery continues to impress as the road carves its way through the flat-topped basalt plateaus of northern Damaraland, though visitors are often drawn more by the prospect of encounters with free-roaming elephant and black rhino in the area’s dry river beds.