With the discovery of 13-million-year-old hominoid bones and its first inhabitants settling around 25,000 BCE, Namibia has a deep connection to early human history. As a former German colony, Namibia has been through a multitude of stages in its life leading up to its independence in March 1990. With European influence came rebellion, struggle, and the long road to independence. Since then, Namibia has worked to reclaim itself, but its respect for the land and wildlife has stayed strong through the generations.
On the border with Angola is the foamy Epupa Falls, which is home to aquatic species that are endemic to Namibia. Most of the land is like an unspoiled jungle, with a variety of plant life that includes deciduous baobabs and fig trees. Visitors get to enjoy some bird watching and tour local villages around the Falls. Epupa is home to an increasing number of tribes, including the nomadic Ovahimba, the Ovazemba, and Herero.
Because of the vast landscapes and habitats, the animals of Namibia are able to roam freely without too much human interference. For centuries before the Europeans came, many hunter-gatherer tribes lived in harmony with the wildlife. One of the major attractions of Etosha National Park is the 1,800-square-mile mineral pan that’s thought to be more than 100 million years old and was probably from an old route of Angola’s Kunene River.
The Namib-Naukluft National Park is considered the largest conservation area on the continent, and Sossusvlei is its breathtaking main attraction. The name literally means “dead-end marsh,” considering that it's a desert filled with sand dunes. Explore Sesriem Canyon, which was shaped by the Tsauchab River over millions of years and manages to have water year-round despite the environment; and don't miss Deadvlei, a clay pan filled with 900-year-old dead camel thorn trees.
During the Stone Age, the hunter-gatherers used Twyfelfontein for shamanistic rituals and worship. There are at least 2,500 petroglyphs on over 200 sandstone slabs that depict approximately 5,000 scenes with humans, animals, and handprints. The name Twyfelfontein is Afrikaans for “uncertain spring,” referring to the underground aquifer that feeds the spring in this desert area. Apart from the engravings, visitors can enjoy the larger area with attractions, such as the Petrified Forest and the Organ Pipes, which is a group of grouped basalt stone columns.
Encompassing both Namibia and southern Angola, the Skeleton Coast is littered with the wrecks of many ships, earning its marine reputation as “The Gates of Hell.” The coast is prone to dense fogs with heavy surf that led pre-engine-powered vessels to end in the wreckage. Much of this area is part of the Skeleton Coast National Park that’s home to birds, insects, and animals such as giraffes, baboons, and black rhinos.
Known formally as the Cape Cross Seal Reserve, this piece of the Skeleton Coast is home to Cape fur seals. Here, they are protected from being culled for their hides and by fishers who claim to be protecting the industry. Back in the late 15th century, Portuguese explorer Diogo Cão claimed the area, and its name came from the padrão, a stone cross he erected as a designation. Visitors can watch the animals as they interact with each other.
Called the Matterhorn of Namibia, Spitzkoppe is a more than 120-million-year-old group of granite peaks. They cut a dramatic site across the flat plains, with the highest point close to 2,200 feet. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, part of the area was built as a trading post by the German Colonial Society and would eventually become a municipal campsite. Over the decades, Spitzkoppe provided a good climbing challenge for those who are up for it.
Quiver Tree Forest, or Kokerboom Woud to the locals, has over 250 specimens of Aloidendron dichotomum, an indigenous succulent. Its branches are used by bushmen to make arrow quivers, and for many, the quiver tree is a blessed sign of good luck. Not far from the forest is Giant’s Playground, a geological wonder with dolerites, which are subvolcanic rocks that can be used in construction.
Felsenkirche’s cornerstone was laid in 1911 and completed a year later. Over that time, it rose to become one of the most prominent churches in Lüderitz. Its Victorian design is a stunning view against the backdrop of the Atlantic, and with donations from Kaiser Wilhelm II, it’s an unforgettable place to visit.
One of the most tranquil places to visit in Namibia's capital, Windhoek, is the National Botanic Garden of Namibia. Enjoy a few hours of wandering around and learning about many of the indigenous plants and brightly colored birds. This is one of those off-the-beaten-path places to visit, especially if you are looking for some quiet time.
German for “Ink Palace,” Tintenpalast is the parliamentary building in Windhoek. It was built in 1913 by Herero and Namaqua slaves, and its name is a tongue-in-cheek reference to the amount of ink used by government officials. Surrounding the building are the Parliamentary Gardens, which are often enjoyed by visitors and locals.
There are at least 100 different bird species found in the NamibRand Nature Preserve, along with onyx, ostriches, and other mammals. You can see them during your excursion through the Tok Tokkie hiking trail, which is a couple of hours from Sossusvlei. The total hike is 13 miles, split over three days and two nights, taking you over plains, hills, and dunes.
Just 3.2 miles from the Windhoek city center is Namibia’s official war memorial, Heroes’ Acre. The marble obelisk next to the symmetrical building is a stunning staple in the city’s skyline. In front of the obelisk is a bronze statue of the Unknown Soldier with hand raised, hoping to inspire patriotism in the Namibian people. During its inauguration, the country’s designated national heroes had tombstones erected with their names and likenesses for visitors to pay their respects.