Sandwiched between the cold Atlantic Ocean to the west and the rugged Great Escarpment to the east, southwest Namibia is a land of mountainous dunes, gravel plains and inselbergs. And the weather is just as varied as the landscapes; it’s hard to believe, in the scorching midsummer desert heat, that the town of Aus, on the eastern fringes of the Namib, receives occasional winter snowfall. Much of southwest Namibia is inaccessible, but those reachable sights are among the most iconic in the country. The ever-changing Sossusvlei dunes deservedly hog their fair share of the limelight, but the anachronistic mining town of Oranjemund and the ghost mining towns of the Sperrgebiet simmer with intrigue. Lüderitz is also well worth a visit for a colourful glimpse into Namibia’s German colonial past.
Much of the Namib, one of the world’s oldest deserts, is protected within the boundaries of the largely inaccessible Namib-Naukluft National Park, which includes the magical, richly coloured dunes round Sossusvlei – one of the country’s most visited attractions – and the impressive Naukluft Mountains, home to the rare Hartmann’s mountain zebra, and a popular hiking destination. Tucked away on the coast at the southwestern limit of the park sits the anachronistic German port town of Lüderitz, now an emerging tourist centre and the only point of access to the former diamond mining area that is now the Tsau|Khaeb (Sperrgebiet) National Park.
Down in the far southwest corner of Namibia, right on the South African border, the Orange River empties into an avian-rich estuary at the high-security diamond-mining town of Oranjemund, a little-visited, rather off-beat destination. Not far up the road from here, the booming mining settlement of Rosh Pinah sparkles with its pristine streets and shopping centre.