If you are into 4x4 adventures, Namibia has some beautiful mountain passes just for you. We have selected four passes on routes that start in Windhoek and head down the face of the Great Escarpment and into the Namib Desert and beyond.
Namibia's mountainous regions are well-worth exploring.
A Short Note on 4x4’s in Namibia
Upon arriving in Namibia for the first time you would be forgiven for thinking that much of the driving you do around the countryside seems like a 4x4 adventure. With most of the roads in Namibia untarred and cutting through rugged landscape, this assumption is not crazy. However, the extensive gravel road network of Namibia is well maintained and is, for the most part, very easy to drive on. So fear not!
Clear skies, clear roads.
Most car rental agencies will have 4x4 vehicles for hire and you can find a list of some agencies in Namibia here. Be sure to double-check any insurance policy you take out for your hired vehicle. Some policies will not cover damages incurred while using the vehicle off-road, so make sure with your agency before you bound off into the rugged outdoors.
Check out everything we have on car hire here.
Scenic Ascents and Breath-taking Descents
The passes below are incredibly scenic and along the way you will find loads of great places to stop and take in the awesome scenery of the remote locations you will drive through. This means that these routes are not just rewarding for novices but also for more experienced drivers who can enjoy the amazing sights and landscapes that these mountain roads cut through.
One of the scenic picnic spots en-route.
(Image via Wikimedia Commons)
1. The Remhoogte Pass
If you are hoping to explore Sossusvlei, the Sesriem Canyon via the isolated town of Solitaire when you visit Namibia then this may be the perfect pass for you to take. There is also a lot of interesting geology along this trail with wind battered rock-faces rising out of the ground all along the route.
The start of the scenic pass.
(Image via Tracks4Africa by Nakkiran Sunassee)
The Remhoogte Pass will take you over the Great Escarpment and into the Namib Desert and it is much less steep (and therefore easier to navigate) than the nearby Spreetshoogte Pass. This route is good if you are a little apprehensive about heights, or your ability to traverse a serious mountain pass. However, you must note, while it is possible, it is not the best idea to tackle this route with a sedan or light two-wheel drive vehicle.
A sedan will probably not cut it on this route.
How to get there
The pass can be found on the D1261.
Take the B1 south out of Windhoek and head to Rehoboth. Just after you go through Rehoboth take the C24 going west for 37 km. Then turn onto the D1261 going south. Keep driving until you get to the C14- the C14 is the road you must take to get to Solitaire in the south.
Welcome to Solitaire!
(Photo via Panoramio)
2. The Spreetshoogte Pass
This route follows a similar path to the Remhoogte pass. It too will take you from Windhoek to Solitaire meaning that you will be close to Sossusvlei and Sesriem. The major different between the two routes is that Spreetshoogte is much, much steeper than Remhoogte. As such, it is a little trickier to drive.
Steep descents and sharp corner mean you will need a decent vehicle.
(Image via Panoramio)
The sharp bends and steep gradients are not bad news for intrepid explorers. These two aspects of the pass combine to provide travelers with unrivalled views of the dramatic landscape below the pass. It is best to drive in the afternoons as the landscape in the later afternoon sun is truly gorgeous and offers some awesome photographic opportunities.
Another spectacular sunset on the Spreetshoogte Pass.
(Image via Alex Pompe)
How to get there
The pass lies south of the Gamsberg on the D1275.
Take the B1 and head south out of Windhoek, heading to Rehoboth. Just after you go through Rehoboth take the C24 for 37 km going West. Then head southwest on the D1261 for about 55km. Look out for the D1275. Once on the D1275 simply follow it until you get to the C14. Get on the C14 and head south to get to Solitaire.
Both the Spreetshoogte and Remhoogte passes will put you en-route to the Sesriem Canyon.
3. The Gamsberg Pass
The mountain which this pass traverses got its name from the Nama word “gan” (flat on top). The Gamsberg Mountain is a flat top mountain and some even wryly referred to it as Namibia’s very own Table Mountain.
(Image via Tracks4Africa)
The route travels through the southern regions of the Namib Naukluft National Park, and should you choose, will lead you all the way to Walvis Bay on the iconic Namibian coast. This region of Namibia has a little bit of everything for everyone, with great rock climbing, challenging off-road 4x4 trails and awe-inspiring views of the foothills around the Kuiseb.
The Kuiseb Valley.
(Image via Outdoorphotos by Andre Moller)
The pass is one of Namibia’s most popular passes and it is in fact the highest and the longest pass in the country. Its elevation and the fact that you overlook the Kuiseb River in the valley below it make it one of the most scenic 4x4 routes you can travel on in Namibia.
The region has an average of 300 clear days a year.
Making it an ideal place for camping and stargazing.
(Image via Lynn Greenlee)
How to get there
The pass is on the C26.
All you need to do is head south on the B1 out of Windhoek and turn right onto the C26. The C26 is about 190km in length, at which point you will encounter the C14. Head northwest on the C14 to get to the nearby Walvis Bay, or head south to get to Solitaire.
A rare shot of an unusually cloud-covered Gamsberg Pass.
(Photo via Alex Pompe)
4. The Bosua Pass
The Bosua Pass is along a road that will take you from Windhoek to the famous coastal town of Swakopmund. The road is a far more scenic alternative to the traditional route along the tarred B1 and B2. However, like the Spreetshoogte Pass there are some very steep sections as you drive over the mountain and as such you should not try to do it with a car that does not have decent tires and brakes.
The sun setting over the C28 just after the pass.
(Image via MEI)
The pass takes adventurers passed several abandoned mines and houses. Two notable sites along the route are the old Liebig House and the ruins of the Von Francois Fort. The former was once the residence of the copper mine’s top brass, while the latter was most recently used as a “Tronckenposten”- a drying out post for alcoholic German soldiers in the early 1900’s. Keep an eye out for these two landmarks!
The abandoned Liebig House.
(Image via TREKEARTH)
How to get there
You can find this pass on the C28.
This pass is very easy to find. All you need to do is head out of Windhoek, on the C28 and head due east. The C28 snakes through the countryside for 319km and a trip from Windhoek to Swakopmund along this road should take you about five and-a-half hours.
And once you get to the beaches near Swakopmund the fun and games can begin!
There are several picnic spots on these four passes. Some are at the beginning of the pass while others are at specific lookout points, so keep your eyes open for places to stop.
Please also note that you are not allowed to drive wherever you like in Namibia. You must stick to the roads on the map unless you have permission from the owners of the land on which you are driving.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly: Please ensure you close all gates that you drive through. Leaving these farms gates open endangers wildlife, drivers, locals and tourists.
Remember to keep those gates closed.
(Image via Zanzig Photography)
Namibia: A Solo Overland Trip
by Carlo van Wyk
Every now and then, we all need a break. A few weeks ago I decided to take a much needed escape from the daily grind, and set out on a 3000 mile road trip through the south of Namibia. I didn’t have a set itinerary, just a road map, my four-wheel drive vehicle, cameras, and enough supplies to be self-sufficient for more or less two weeks.
The famous Dead Vlei.
Taking a break and traveling solo
I’ve always wanted to do a trip to Namibia. The country’s natural beauty and its vast and desolate expanses have always appealed to me. I wanted to take some landscape pictures, and to take a bit of a break from my working life. I decided to focus most of my travels around the south and south-west of Namibia so as not to feel rushed while I explored the country.
The NamibRand Nature Reserve...
There are no fences on the side of the road and the wildlife roams freely through the reserve.
I was afforded a certain freedom by travelling solo. I travelled on my own time and terms, and it’s amazing how different one’s experience of traveling is when one travels alone. I met people I would never have met if I were traveling with someone or in a large group of tourists.
Being on your own allows you to take more time to linger at interesting places.
Camera equipment for Namibia
I was using a Canon EOS 5D Mark III and I ended up taking the majority of pictures with three of my lenses: A Canon EF 24-70mm f2.8L MK II, a Canon EF 16-35mm f2.8L MK II and an EF 100mm Macro lens. I also used an EF 24mm tilt shift lens for a few shifted panoramas. I did miss not having a 70-200mm zoom lens, as there were plenty of opportunities where such a lens would have been ideal.
Ai-Ais Richtersveld Transfrontier Park- Panorama taken with Canon EF 24mm Tilt Shift lens.
If I could take only three lenses to Namibia I would pack a 16-35mm, a 24-70mm and a 70-200mm. These three lenses are my ideal choices for photographing landscapes and people. However, if I intended on photographing wildlife as well, I would simply add a 500mm lens with a tele converter to the above selection of lenses.
Namibian Winter Panorama-
This panorama was taken with the Canon 24mm t/s F3.5ii L lens,
and really shows where this lens excels.
There’s a lot of dust and sand in Namibia. I managed to shoot with my camera for well over a year without the need for cleaning the sensor, but towards the end of my trip through Namibia, a number of dust spots started to show up at smaller apertures. So be sure to have a good camera bag to minimize dust build up.
Remote locations like Kolmanskop (pictured above) are striking, but are hard on your gear.
Spectacular landscapes in Namibia
The light in Namibia has a magical quality to it. The skies have a very rich blue, and the light is unusually warm lending your photographs a rich tone. This country is breathtakingly beautiful with spectacular landscapes everywhere. It is a photogenic country- a photographer’s dream.
The Fish River Canyon.
Remote, desolate beauty
Namibia is vast, desolate and beautiful. I really enjoyed the isolation of Namibia. Even in peak tourist season, you can pull over your car on the side of the road and not see a vehicle for a few hours. You can camp wild under African skies and some roads are so isolated that you can literally be alone for a day or two.
The NamibRand Nature Reserve.
I deliberately tried to stick to mostly gravel roads. The condition of the gravel roads in Namibia are excellent. Towns along these roads are mostly small, often consisting of a fuel station, a shop, with a few campsites or lodges scattered around it. A lot of the roads don’t have any fences and as a result I saw plenty of wildlife crossing the road. You quickly learn to look out for animals. It’s well advised to only travel during daylight hours, as nighttime brings the risk of hitting animals.
The gravel roads in Namibia are great.
Wildlife crossing the roads poses a risk, so speed should be kept to about 80km/h.
For the most part, there’s limited or no cell phone coverage. Only the bigger towns and some smaller towns have coverage. The vast, desolate expanses of Namibia, coupled with a lack of communication to the outside world in many areas really allowed me to switch off, relax, and enjoy vistas of this beautiful country.
Relax, take some time and find something special.
Why you should visit Namibia
Clearly, Namibia is a photographer’s paradise, and it’s easy to see why many of the world’s top photographers return to Namibia year after year. It’s easily the most beautiful country I’ve ever visited.
Tree Stump at Sossusvlei.
For first time visitors to Africa, it’s a very safe and peaceful country. Namibia has a low crime rate, there’s no wars, and religious or racial tension in the country. It’s commonly known to be the safest country in Africa. The people are warm and friendly too, always ready to greet you with a smile. Accommodation was also reasonable and top notch, with plenty of lodging and camping options to choose from, making finding somewhere to stay quite simple.
If you’re someone that enjoys nature, spectacular landscapes, world-class game, or if you want to have an adventure in Africa, Namibia should be at the top of your list of countries to visit. I returned home from my epic adventure, refreshed and with my batteries recharged. I met some great people and returned with more good pictures than I thought I would have taken.
Namibia is rich in photo opportunities.
I returned home with an urgency to go back and explore more of this amazing country. There’s so much more to see: Etosha National Park, Damaraland, the Skeleton coast and more… Next time around, I will travel with my family. Watch this space.
On top of a dune, near Sossusvlei.
Carlo has been a passionate photographer since high school, when his father introduced him to photography. Photography has been a life long learning experience for him. His goal is to share his passion with others.
Follow Carlo on Twitter
All words and pictures in this post are by Carlo van Wyk.
The original version of his article can be found on Photograhydo here.
Winter in Namibia is a great time of year to explore our vast and diverse country. The weather is more moderate than in other months of the year and our country is a great option if you want to avoid the huge crowds of the northern hemisphere's summer months. Read on for a few more reasons why we think you should visit Namibia in the winter months.
Winter is a great time to explore Namibia- find out why below.
The Manageable Weather
As you probably know already, Namibia is a place associated with hot, dry and sunny weather. The cloudless skies and blazing sun can, at times, become overwhelming in the warmer months (particularly over December, January and February). Winter is a slightly different story in the Land of the Brave. Daytime temperatures for the season stay manageable and rarely climb above the 25 degrees Celsius.
Another cloudless and temperate winter's day in Namibia.
(Image via Deal's Holidays)
Namibia gets its rain in the summer months so the winter daytime skies are also incredibly clear and cloudless. It is not uncommon to go for days without seeing a cloud in the perfect blue sky and this allows photographers ample opportunity to take some incredible high contrast pictures against a deep blue background.
The blue of the sky contrasts excellently with the whites and browns of Namibia's landscapes.
And while we are talking about awesome photo opportunities, you should know that toward the end of winter you will be treated to some incredible sunsets. Toward the end of winter the winter months the desert winds begin to start blowing. These winds pick up dust into the air, which then spectacularly refracts the light of the setting sun.
A giraffe at sunset in Etosha National Park.
At night the temperatures can get quite nippy, but it never gets quite as cold as the frigid winters of northern Europe or northern America. The temperatures in Namibia are cool enough to justify lighting a warming fire and nothing makes winter more enjoyable than sitting around a roaring fire and sharing some stories with your friends and family.
A large camp fire keeps the night, and the cold, at bay.
(Image via Wofford)
Note: In the southern and central regions of Namibia it can occasionally get to freezing. These temperatures are exceptional though and you can expect it to not get much colder than 5 degrees Celsius.
Winter is the perfect time to be physically active in Namibia. The lack of humidity and the relatively moderate daytime temperatures make doing physical activity far easier in the winter than in the summer months. Rock climbing, cycling, trail running and several other adventure sports are all best done in the winter. The sun is at a less steep angle and the cooling winter breeze make any physical exercise much easier to deal with.
Winter walking in the dunes near Swakopmund.
Hiking is another great activity to take part in when visiting Namibia in the winter. Some hikes, like the Fish River Canyon Hike are not offered to guests in the summer months as the temperatures are too high and the heat makes the hike too strenuous. Check out our blog on this particular hike here.
Getting ready to set out from the floor of the Fish River Canyon.
While not exactly physically demanding, going on safari is also very worthwhile during winter. The animals become easier to spot because the vegetation dries out in the rainless months giving the wildlife less cover. This is coupled with the fact that the animals are drawn out to the remaining waterholes in search of water and means that your chances of catching a glimpse of some of Namibia’s awesome wildlife are greatly increased during winter.
The wildlife, no matter how big or small, is easier to spot in winter.
Note: Even though the sun is less harsh in the winter in Namibia you still need to make sure you are protected from it. Always use sunscreen and wear a hat and sunglasses.
Hit the beach
The Namibian coast is spectacular during winter.
The winter months are arguably the best time of the year to head to the beach in Namibia. All along the famously rugged coastline temperatures remain warm and the fog stays away. These favourable weather conditions are as a result of the foehn winds (berg winds) that travel down the great escarpment and into the ocean.
Swakopmund is Namibia's most popular seaside town.
(Image via FotoD)
The warm winds ensure that the coast stays dry and the frequent evening fog that descends over towns like Swakopmund, Luderitz, Walvis Bay and Henties Bay is kept at bay by the dry warm winds. The fine weather, coupled with the winds, make this time of year ideal for anyone who wants to take part in water sports like kiteboarding, windsurfing, surfing, stand-up paddle boarding and body boarding.
Get your heart racing on the Atlantic Ocean!
(Image courtesy of Geesche Neuberg)
It should be clear now that the winds are a key feature of this season on the coast and at times they can get quite strong. When they pick up enough, usually as the sun is setting, sand from the Namib Desert can become suspended in the air in a dramatic fashion. With the right amount of skill, timing, and photographer’s luck you can capture these surreal moments and leave the coast with some unforgettable photographs.
The winds sweeping over Dune 45 near Sossusvlei.
(Image by Adomas Svirskas via Photography Blogger)
A sandstorm blows across a national road.
(Image by Asco via Photography Blogger)
Note: A great place for water sports like those mentioned above is Luderitz and within the small town there are a few operators who can take you out on to the ocean. Find out more by reading about the town here.
There is loads to do in Namibia throughout all of its seasons, but if you are looking for moderate temperatures and adventure filled activities then winter could be the ideal time for you to visit the Land of the Brave. Also, during the Namibian winter the northern hemissphere's tourist hotspots are traditionally over-crowded with holiday makers soaking up the sunshine. So why not give the summer crowds a skip and come and spend some time around a warm fire in Namibia?
Here are two more of our blogs to help you plan your trip to Namibia: