The grand tour

The distances are too vast to cover all the country’s highlights in one tour, but starting in the capital and finishing in Victoria Falls you could manage most of the well-known sights by road in three weeks – longer if you want to linger.

1 Windhoek

Namibia’s quaint capital, tucked away in the Central Highlands, is a good place to get your bearings, browse for crafts and sample the local cuisine.

2 Fish River Canyon

Peer over the canyon rim, hike along the valley floor or relax in the hot springs of this jaw-dropping geological wonder.

3 Lüderitz

Admire the town’s well-preserved German colonial architecture, and visit nearby Kolmanskop, where the abandoned diamond-mining buildings are gradually being swallowed by sand.

4 Sossusvlei

A photographer’s paradise; be sure to catch sunrise or sunset across the dunes and hike over the sand to the ghostly vleis, spotted with skeletal trees.

5 Swakopmund

Namibia’s main seaside resort offers fascinating desert tours, adrenaline sports on the dunes, and the chance to wine, dine and relax.

6 Twyfelfontein

The country’s first World Heritage Site contains a vast collection of San rock engravings, with curious geological formations nearby.

7 Etosha

Set aside several days to explore Etosha National Park, where a day- or night-time stakeout of a waterhole will get you up close to a host of wildlife.

8 Zambezi Region

The lush riverine vegetation makes the perfect backdrop to a sunset river cruise, and a chance to see some stunning birdlife and large animals not present in the rest of the country.

9 Victoria Falls

Marvel at these iconic falls, which also play host to a vast range of activities: from bungee-jumping to high tea, white-water rafting to fine dining, canoeing with crocs to breakfast birdwatching.

The activity circuit

You’d need close to three action-packed weeks to fit in all these activities, longer if you want to do the whole five-day canoe trip down the Orange River.

1 Orange River

Float for a day or paddle for five down the scenic Orange River, camping out on sandbanks under the stars and cooking on campfires.

2 Fish River Canyon

Hike this brutal five-day trail in the bowels of the canyon, scrambling over boulders and cooling off in rock pools, before collapsing in the hot springs of |Ai-|Ais.

3 Aus Mountains

Rent a bike and hit the trails in the scenic, underexplored Aus Mountains; the truly energetic might consider the annual two-day Klein-Aus Challenge.

4 Naukluft Mountains

For an exhilarating bird’s-eye view of the desert, balloon over the Namib at dawn, soaring above the rippling dune sea, with the brooding Naukluft Mountains in the distance.

5 Swakopmund

Get your blood pumping in Namibia’s adventure capital: sand-boarding and quad biking in the dunes, skydiving into the desert or surfing the Atlantic waves.

6 The Brandberg

A strenuous climb up this imposing massif is rewarded with stunning ancient rock art, peerless desert vistas and the chance to sleep under the sparkling stars.

7 Victoria Falls

The adrenaline vortex of Africa offers any number of ways to set your pulse racing: white water rafting down the Zambezi; ziplining across the Batoka Gorge, or peering over the Falls themselves.

Wildlife and conservation

Bank on three weeks to get round all these sites; if you’re short of time, you could omit the Zambezi reserves – and save yourself an extra 1000km driving – though you’d miss out on the country’s best birdwatching.

1 Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

No cross-border vehicle fees prevent you from driving into this vast South African-Botswana park for a couple of days, to catch large herds of migrating wildebeest, hartebeest and eland.

2 Namib-Naukluft

The dunes of the Namib are home to some extraordinary desert creatures, while the spring-fed kloofs of the Naukluft Mountains nourish some surprisingly lush vegetation, and plenty of birdlife.

3 Walvis Bay and Sandwich Harbour

Spend a glorious morning kayaking on the lagoon, surrounded by dolphins, seals and pelicans, before an exhilarating drive over the dunes to the avian-rich wetlands of Sandwich Harbour.

4 Rhino tracking and desert-adapted elephants

Some Damaraland lodges offer unique opportunities to get close to desert-adapted elephants and black rhino.

5 Etosha

Namibia’s premier national park, and the place to spot large mammals in abundance, though it boasts a dazzling array of birds and reptiles too.

6 Zambezi reserves

The small reserves of Bwabwata, Mudumu and Nkasa Rupara boast prolific birdlife and large mammals that you won’t see elsewhere in Namibia.

7 Waterberg

This striking sandstone table mountain protects rare roan antelope as well as rhino, and is within reach of the educational Cheetah Conservation Fund sanctuary.

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