Namibia’s most magnificent massif, the Brandberg, is visible from miles around, towering close on 2km above the surrounding desert plains and shimmering like a pink mirage through the heat haze. Not only a fabulous, and little-explored hiking destination, the Brandberg is also Namibia’s pre-eminent site for rock art, boasting around nine hundred sites and 43,000 paintings and engravings, many in pristine condition.
Reaching 2573m at one point, the granite massif contains the highest peak in Namibia – Königstein – though its mass is equally impressive; formed from the eroded granite remains of a collapsed magma chamber over 130 million years ago, this almost circular inselberg measures almost 140km round the base. Deep ravines slice through the rock in several places, where precious water collects and vegetation thrives.
The name Brandberg (“Fire Mountain” in German, and Dâures or “Burning Mountain” in Damara) alludes to the glowing effect of the sun on the rock at sunrise and sunset. In contrast, the Otjiherero name – Omukuruvaro – means “Mountain of the Gods”, and indeed it is believed to have been a site of spiritual importance for the early San, whose art adorns the numerous overhangs, rock faces and even boulders of the massif. Archeological remains also indicate that groups of migrating San often stayed in the Brandberg’s upper reaches, probably drawn by the availability of shelter and water.