Want to enjoy Namibia’s superb beauty at its most but don’t want to sit in the car for hours just driving? Then, which better way than hiking some amazing trails?
Scrambling up Big Daddy Dune in Sossuvlei, Namibia
The heat and the scorching sun might put you down initially, but following common sense and few tricks will help you to make the most of your hiking in Namibia.
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Ready? Then get your day pack and tick the following before setting out for your next adventure:
Bring a hat and sunglasses with you
Take plenty of water (better if you have a 2 liter camel back minimum) and a few snacks (or a picnic lunch for a full day hike)
Apply sunblock profusely before and during the hike
Wear comfortable, sturdy hiking shoes (certain trails are rough on your soles)
Bring a warm layer with you if starting your hike before sunrise, especially in desert areas (temperatures can drop down to 0 C in certain areas)
Finally, and probably the most important tip of all, start your hike as early as possible in the day (sunset walks are no help against the heat)
Now you are ready to tackle Namibia’s otherworldly beauty on foot. Check out our favourite day hikes in the country below.
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Taking in the beauty of Namib Naukluft Park on the Olive Trail, Namibia
WATERKLOFF TRAIL (NABIM NAUKLUFT PARK)
LENGTH: 17 km
ELEVATION GAIN/LOSS: 550 m
DURATION: 7-8 hrs
A 17 km loop in the Naukluft National Park, this hike is not to be taken lightly. Make sure you start early in the morning, that’s a must! Nobody would love to endure the hot temperatures and dry air of this hike’s canyons during the middle of Namibian afternoon.
A huge Social Weaver Nest along Waterkloff Trail, Namib Naukluft Park (Namibia)
Rangers will tell you to walk this trail anti-clockwise as the yellow footprints, which are painted on the rocks to mark the path, are only visible to hikers who walk this trail in an anti-clockwise fashion. However, there are natural rock pools with fresh inviting water to swim in just after an hour of hiking along the trail if walking anti-clockwise and you can not really enjoy them at the start of your hike, especially in the morning when they are still in the shade.
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These water pools would be perfect, though, if you finish your hike with a refreshing dip, therefore you might want to consider hiking the Waterkloff clockwise. In this case PLEASE use an off line map such as Maps.me to find your way (we even used it when we were walking the recommended way) so you won’t loose your orientation as the signs are almost impossible to spot in this case.
The only downside when you walk this track clockwise is that you will have to deal with a steep section during your first hours of hiking, however you will have the advantage of the fresh early morning air. Plus, the bird-eye view from the highest point of the trail you will reach will pay off for every single drop of sweat.
We walked the trail anti-clockwise, starting early in the morning, so we decided to go back to the pools the day after in the afternoon to enjoy them after the Olive Trail hike, another beautiful trek in the Namib Naukluft Park - Keep reading to discover this trail!
Keep your eyes peeled during this hike as you might see lots of wild animals, from small colourful birds and lizards to cheecky baboons, rock dassies and the occasional springbok.
TIP – As this hike is quite long and demanding in some points, make sure you bring enough water and food (maybe a packed lunch) and take lots of short breaks in the shade of the canyon or under a big tree (not under direct sunlight please)
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A refreshing dip in a natural water rock pool along Waterkloff Trail, Namib Naukluft Park (Namibia)
TYPE : Loop
LENGTH: 10 km
ELEVATION GAIN: 378 m
DURATION: 4-5 hrs
Another pearl of the Naukluft National Park, this trail is shorter (7 km) than the Waterkloff Track, but more challenging.
Be ready for rock hopping, clibing big boulders and chains. It’s all part of the fun and walking this trail clockwise (as recommended by the rangers) is a wise choice if you want to tackle the bouldering part of it on a descent rather than ascending them.
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Unfortunately, the natural rock pools are not very clear and are rather marshy, so no swimming along this hike. On the other side, the landscape ia simply amazing, passing through a red coloured canyon with patches of green trees impossibly growing out of towering vertical walls.
The first pat of the trail will make you sweat your while as it’s uphill for some forty minutes, however it’s worth just for the open view you get over the valley.
Tackling the chain part of the Olive Trail in Namib Naukluft Park, Namibia
BIG DADDY DUNE (SOSSUSVLEI)
LEVEL: Beginner / Intermediate
TYPE : Loop
ELEVATION GAIN/LOSS: 325 m
DURATION: 1 hr to the top / 1 hr descent (with picture stops)
This “hike” is very different from the classic concept of hiking. It’s more an endless scramble up a red sinuous dune, the highest dune in Sossusvlei, struggling every step forward as the sand slips under your feet and you almost feel you are going backwards instead. Don’t worry, this is all part of the adventure as you get closer to the summit of this high dune.
TIP - Do not start this hike from the most obvious starting point, which takes you up and down the ridge of the lower dune in front of Big Daddy - Walk through the whitish plain alongside this first dune on the left side (opposite the Deadvlei valley) and reach the feet of the Big Daddy. There's no marked path but you will eventually reach the Big Daddy and this will save you a very long and fatiguing up and down the other dune.
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It’s a pity all your efforts will be whisked away by a very fast steep but extremely fun descent towards the Deadvlei, you will only wish it was longer! The sound effect of your feet burying under the fine sand on your way down will give you the impression the desert is talking to you like the waves of the sea.
The real deal, though, is the panorama on top of the Big Daddy – the Deadvlei is just at your feet in all its splendor (you will reach it afterwards) and tall red dunes are stretching as far as your eye can see.
Hardstanding in Deadvlei valley, Namibia
NORMAL ROUTE (SPITZKOPPE)
LEVEL: Advanced (basic rock climbing required in same point)
TYPE : Out-And-back
DISTANCE: depends on the route taken
ELEVATION GAIN/LOSS: 300/400 m c.a.(depending on where you stop - there is no finish line)
DURATION: 4-5 hrs (depending on route chosen)
The unnatural beauty of this place remains yet unrivaled in our mind by any other places we visited in Namibia. The best way to make the most of Spitzkoppe is hiking up on top of at least one of the golden rocky mountains to truly appreciate the unbelievable views over this gem in the middle of the desert.
More popular with bouldering afecionados, the Normal Route is a hike everyone with good hiking experience and very physically fit can attempt as it does not require any technical gear or preparation, just lots of energy and flexibility!
PLEASE do not attempt this route if you do not feel prepared enough. Accidents like falling from rocks, slipping on uneven, smooth surfaces and so on, can happen every turn and the first hospital or even first rescue team is at least 2 hours away - so don't feel upset if you turn around and go back, there are still plenty of treks and boulders to be discovered in this area!
Rock hopping along the Normal Route on Spitzkoppe, Namibia
You have to ask the rangers to open for you the gate for the Spitzkoppe Lodge (which leads to a reserved area and some rock paintings called Golden Snake - the gate is just after the Bushman Paradise rock paintings) and ask them to point out the start of the trail to you, though there is no real track. You can follow the rock stacks some other hikers have kindly piled to mark the best route to the top of the hike (or you can attempt to open your own route with the risk of getting stuck facing some huge boulders).
NOTE - My brother tried to do the same hike just after few weeks we were at Spitzkoppe and rangers did not know about the Normal Route at Spitzkoppe. If this happens to you, you can always hike the trek on the other side of Spitzkoppe. Its starting point is actually inside the camping area ( so you do not need anyone to open any gate for you) - the start of the "trek" is somewhere opposite camping place no. 8 and you can follow the stacked piles of rocks until almost the top of this "trail". Be aware that the very few last metres are on a smooth surface (we could not ascend it or descend it as we did not have the right shoes and preparation, still the views were fantastic!).
This hike will get you pretty close to the summit of the Grosse Spitzkoppe, hence the views will get more and more incredible the closer you get to the top. We are not completely sure we reached the very end of the track we were following – for sure, we could not get any further than that as we got stuck in a small cave which has a window opening out to a gorgeous view – perfect picnic spot in the shade!
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Be ready to jump on big boulders, climbing high rocks, passing through impossibly narrow rock passages and get scratched by native plants which can be quite aggressive with their thorns.
NOTE - Access is not restricted, but you have to pay a fee to enter the conservancy around the mountain massif. At the reception, you can pay this small fee for entrance or you can decide to camp here for few nights - totally worth it!
A gorgeous view on the other side of the Grosse Spitzkoppe (starting opposite the campsite no. 8), Namibia
TYPE : Out-And-back
DISTANCE: 5-6 km return c.a.
ELEVATION GAIN/LOSS: 700/800 m c.a.
DURATION: 4-5 hrs return
Definitely not a popular spot and for this reason even more appealing, this hike could be a very pleasant surprise for those who are looking for off-the-beaten-track spots.
TIP - You can shorten the trail by driving along the 4x4 road up until the last abandoned campsites, however the road is very rough so make sure your car can handle it.
Wonderful sunset at Brukarros Mountain Campsite, Namibia
The abandoned community campsite on the mountain is already worth the drive to this forgotten place. The 5 to 6 km return hike on top of the mountain has been a great morning exercise for us – an easy to follow and not too steep path will take you to the wide crater of this now inactive volcano, sparsely dotted by Quiver trees and inhabited by the funny rock dassies. At the entrance of the crater, you can either head to the kokerbooms (quiver trees) and crystal fields on the crater floor, or follow the route which turns sharply left and climbs to an abandoned research station on the rim.
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After the crater we followed the flank of the mountain on the left until the path split in two. We took the left trail which took us to the ruins of an old German observatory. From here keep walking up the mountain until you look at the other side and your eyes meet the fabulous view of the surrounding desert landscape which stretch for kilometers.
Fantastic view of the Brukkaros Crater coming from the old German observatory, Namibia
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