A semi-arid country possessing a climate generally characterized by low rainfall and low humidity, Namibia is a year-round destination, though the searing summer temperatures (Oct–Feb), which can exceed 40 degrees celsius in some areas, deter many European visitors from holidaying at this time.
The peak tourist season in Namibia is in winter – June to September – which coincides with the dry season: there is virtually no rain and no cloud, so you’ll witness stunning night skies. It’s also easier to spot wildlife during these months as vegetation is sparse and animals are forced to congregate at established waterholes.
Days are sunny but average maximum daytime temperatures are more tolerable – 20–30 degrees, depending where you are – though they plummet at night: at the height of winter (June–Aug) they can drop to between 5 and 10 degrees, even dropping below zero in the desert and more mountainous areas. The downside of visiting in the Namibian summer is that lodge prices and visitor numbers are often higher, although, since the country is so vast, only Etosha, Swakopmund and Sossusvlei get really crowded.
Although climate change is making weather patterns less predictable, the rains usually start in earnest in late November or early December, transforming the landscape into a pale green carpet – where sufficient rain falls – and tailing off in March or April.
Rain is highly localized, and generally occurs in the late afternoon as intense thundery showers, so is unlikely to spoil your trip. The countryside is more scenic at this time; animals are breeding; and the birdlife is at its best, with many migrants present. On the other hand, wildlife-spotting is much more difficult as the vegetation is denser, and, with food more readily available, animal movements are less predictable since they are not restricted to waterholes. After heavy rain, gravel roads can become impassable.
Generally, Namibia is hotter and drier in the south, and wetter in the far north and across the Zambezi Region. Indeed, the far northeast and the Zambezi Region possess a subtropical climate, receiving on average close to 500mm of rain between December and February.
In the months of September and October, before the main rains arrive, the humidity and temperatures build and it can be very uncomfortable. In contrast, much of the country receives very little precipitation, even in the rainy season. The nearer the coast you get, the less rainfall there is – under 15mm annually in some places – though a thick morning fog hangs in the air for much of the year on the coast itself, which can make it feel unpleasantly cold.
Feb–Sept. Windhoek. Annual festival of the visual and performing arts in venues across the capital, which climaxes in September. Includes the national Triennial Visual Arts competition, in which prize-winning works are exhibited.
March. Central Windhoek. Also known as Mbapira, this festival sees a two-day extravaganza of music, dance and colourful costumes, attracting groups from all over Namibia.
Sunday closest to Aug 23. Okahandja. Colourful Herero costumes, poetry and military parades remember those who died in the resistance against the German army.
Aug. Swakopmund. Annual German street carnival involving parades, food stalls and plenty of partying for adults and kids.
Last week of Sept. Chinchimani Village, 6km from Katima Mulilo. The annual traditional cultural celebration of the Mafwe people that takes place in the village of the tribal chief, Chinchimani Village, and attracts Mafwe from outside Namibia too.
Sept & Nov. Soweto Market, Katutura. Organized by the Oruuano Namibian Artists’ Union, involving lots of dance and music.
First week of Oct. Windhoek. The country’s main agricultural and industrial trade fair, accompanied by funfair entertainment, live music and food stalls.
Last week of Oct. Windhoek. A German import, the Oktoberfest draws an international crowd, complete with beer-swilling, games, Lederhosen, Dimdl dresses and oompah bands.