There’s a touch of the Wild West about OPUWO, a frontier feel that exists nowhere else in Namibia. During the day, there’s a purposeful bustle of tourists, NGO workers and the occasional film crew passing through on their way to somewhere else – usually Epupa Falls, lesser-explored parts of the Kaokoveld, or a Himba village – pausing only to stock up with supplies. Indeed, the reason most tourists are drawn to Opuwo – though relatively few ever reach this remote region – is in order to interact with and learn about the Himba.

Only officially declared a town in 2000, Opuwo is now the regional capital of Kunene. For many years after independence it was a neglected backwater, in no small part due to the fact that many Himba and Herero – who are related to the Himba and also fairly well represented in the town – were on the wrong side in the independence struggle. Even now, Opuwo’s town centre still consists of little more than a couple of paved roads that converge at a T-junction, a collection of government buildings and ever-expanding, informal Himba settlements. Indeed, when many Himba lost cattle and other livestock in Namibia’s worst drought for thirty years, in 2013, they saw little alternative than to migrate to Opuwo in the hope of some relief. These days, pavements are crammed with Himba camping out, the women surrounded by crawling babies, swigging out of large bottles of Fanta, while the older men sit in deckchairs or on makeshift stools, surveying the scene. Himba from remote villages also periodically come into town, to visit the hospital, stock up at the wholesalers, or to sell crafts to tourists.

There are no tourist sights as such, but pick your way through the rubble and rubbish dumped by the roadside and the thriving shebeens to take a wander round the Himba market behind the main shopping complex, or seek out the newly opened Kunene Conservancy processing plant, Scents of Africa, southwest of the T-junction, which manufactures Himba cosmetics made from traditional ingredients, and can offer guided tours with advance notice.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

Namibia features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Namibia from above: the world's most extreme landscape

Namibia from above: the world's most extreme landscape

The Namib desert is one of the world’s most extreme environments. Covering 81,000 square kilometres, its vastness can only truly be appreciated from above. He…

17 Jul 2017 • Lottie Gross local_activity Special feature
In pictures: the otherworldly landscapes of Namibia

In pictures: the otherworldly landscapes of Namibia

From the spectacular dunes of the Namib Desert to the serpentine chasm of the Fish River Canyon, the rugged mountains of the Great Escarpment to the acacia-stud…

05 Jul 2017 • Sara Humphreys camera_alt Gallery
27 awe-inspiring pictures of Namibia

27 awe-inspiring pictures of Namibia

Namibia has some of the world's most astonishing landscapes. It's home to the world's oldest desert, a long and undeveloped coastline and national parks that te…

31 May 2016 • Lottie Gross insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month