Namibia flies pretty far under the travel radar. You probably haven’t been dreaming of visiting since you were little, you likely haven’t met many people who have been there, and maybe you didn’t even know it existed (the US president recently referred to it as “Nambia” in front of a dozen African leaders – twice). But Namibia is one of those jaw-dropping, mind-blowing places that gets under your skin and really takes hold of your heart. For a million different reasons, Namibia deserves to be at the very top of your bucket list, but here are just a few.
1) THERE ARE PRACTICALLY NO TOURISTS
Aside from there being ridiculously few people in Namibia to begin with (it’s actually the second least densely populated country on earth), there are hardly any tourists, even at the most popular spots. While countries like France, Spain, and the USA receive upwards of 80 million international visitors a year, Namibia only welcomes around 1 million tourists annually, and a large number of those are from neighbouring southern African nations.
Whether you’re sitting on the rim of the Fish River Canyon, climbing up Dune 45, or exploring the rocky Spitzkoppe, you won’t see more than a few other people, and you might see none at all! I absolutely hate having people in my photos or jostling to get a good view, so, in my opinion, this is one of the best reasons to travel through Namibia now (before everyone else realises how unbelievably amazing it is).
2) YOU CAN CAMP IN THE MOST BREATHTAKINGLY BEAUTIFUL SPOTS
Namibia and all of its natural beauty is best explored on the road, so it’s no surprise that it also boasts some of the most amazing campsites in the world. Stay up late watching black rhinos at the watering hole, wander around the desert after setting up camp, hear lions while you’re falling asleep, make new friends splashing around the camp pool, and see the sun come up over the top of your tent. It would honestly be a crime to explore the country any other way!
3) NAMIBIA IS ACTUALLY QUITE SAFE
Unlike neighbouring South Africa that is still plagued by gang violence and an unfortunate amount of political unrest (personally I didn’t feel overly unsafe in South Africa, but that’s a different conversation), Namibia is remarkably safe and stable. Apparently, most of the crime happens in the capital, Windhoek, but even going out to a local spot for live music in the wee hours of the morning, I never felt uncomfortable.
4) WITNESS SUNSETS LIKE THIS
You’ve never seen a sunset until you’ve seen one in Namibia. The dramatic desert landscape and the fiery colours are like nothing else in the world, and the night sky that follows is equally as mind-blowing. My absolute favourite was in Spitzkoppe, sleeping directly on top of one of the mountains in my little sleeping bag, and it’s an experience I will carry with me for a lifetime.
5) NAMIBIA IS HOME TO THE WORLD’S SECOND LARGEST CANYON
One of Namibia’s most striking natural wonders is Fish River Canyon in the west, and, like most of the country’s top sights, expect to enjoy it all to yourself. Visit in the evening and enjoy sundowners as you watch the sun descend over the canyon, lighting up the rock in beautiful golden light and illuminating the Fish River far below. It’s a truly indescribable place, and one that you’ll be reluctant to leave. With sufficient time, definitely tackle the multi-day hike that runs through the canyon, but be warned that the conditions are rather extreme and you’ll need medical clearance and a few hiking partners to even attempt the journey.
6) THE GOVERNMENT REALLY CARES ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENT
Namibia was the first African country to include environmental protections into its national constitution and even now has some of the most progressive policy around preserving its beautiful and unique nature. Amazingly, nearly half of the country falls inside national parks, private reserves, and community operated conservancies, so you can feel good about supporting the local economy while also enjoying socially responsible tourism.
7) THE NAMIB DESERT BOASTS THE WORLD’S TALLEST SAND DUNES
Forget the Sahara’s wave-like golden dunes—they just can’t compare to the tsunami of burnt orange sand that fills the Namib Desert. Climbing up these towering dunes and looking down on the ocean of rippling sand below is enough to have you in tears, and equally beautiful are the salt and clay pans that lay between the sand dunes. The amazing Namib Desert is reason alone to visit this amazing country, and it’s safe to say that you haven’t experienced Namibia until you’ve dug your toes into this sand.
8. THE NATIONAL PARKS ARE OVERFLOWING WITH AFRICAN WILDLIFE
Probably Africa’s biggest tourist draw is safari, with millions of visitors every year coming to lay eyes on beautiful African elephants and lion prides in their natural habitat. And while Namibia may not be the place that everyone thinks of for their safari, there is no shortage of wildlife in the innumerable national parks and private reserves across the country.
Likely the most popular of these parks is Etosha National Park in the north, at which you can hope to see the Big 5 (minus buffalo), hundreds of bird species, giraffes, dozens of antelope varieties, big cats, rhino (Namibia is actually home to the largest population of rare black rhinos in the world, the majority of whom live in Etosha), jackals, and the list goes on. Self-drive through the park on the look-out for animals and enjoy nearly all of the wildlife found in popular destinations like South Africa, Kenya, and Tanzania with just a fraction of the people and none of the commercialisation.
9) NAMIBIA IS HOME TO SOME OF THE WORLD’S MOST FASCINATING CULTURES
The staggeringly beautiful Himba people in northern Namibia, for example, have completely resisted westernisation, instead living in complete isolation and maintaining their traditions despite pressures from a changing world. After buying a number of handmade bracelets from a Himba woman on the side of the road near Etosha, she allowed me to take a photo of her elaborate hairstyle and the characteristic red ochre painted over the plaits and her body. The Himba are just one of Namibia’s dozen or so major ethnic groups that lend the country its unique blend of cultures, and all are fascinating to learn about.
10) EVERYONE SPEAKS ENGLISH
I find a language barrier to be part of the fun and excitement of travel, but of course it always adds an extra element of stress when trying to get somewhere quickly or ask for important information. Namibia’s official language is English and, although there are people speaking Afrikaans or other African languages in many parts of the country, nearly everyone speaks English and I had absolutely no issue trying to communicate. All of the signs are in English, as well, so it’s easy to navigate on the roads and find your way around town.
More than all of these reasons, go to Namibia for moments like this— moments that are indescribably beautiful, that stun you speechless, that make you overflow with happiness, and that leave you nearly dizzy in awe at the beauty of our planet. There is nowhere in the world quite like Namibia. Go see it for yourself!
We hope that this article has inspired you to visit Namibia. If you have any questions about the travel to Namibia or your own tips please leave these in the comments below.
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