A panoramic view of the Damarland landscape from the top of an escarpment where three people are hiking.

Best Time For... Hiking in Namibia

August 31, 2023

Immerse yourself in nature. Walking or hiking in Namibia allows you to experience the landscape from a different angle and discover the hidden beauties up-close.

You can hike for a half day, full day or more than a week depending on your health, stamina and desire. You can tackle mountains, huge rocks or trek across the desert. You can go on guided, unguided, day hikes or overnight hikes. And there are opportunities for all levels of expertise and time constraints. This list of Namibia Hiking options will give you ideas of when to go, what to bring and where to start. We’ll kick off with a handful of day hiking options to give you a flavour and then look at some longer treks in classic spots.

When To Go

So when is the best time to hike it? In a nutshell, May to September will be the coolest time. After that the mercury rises significantly. Also, some guided treks only happen at certain times of year, normally in the winter months. But remember if you are hiking in Namibia’s winter, temperatures drop a great deal at night and it can get very cold. Oh, and best leave early in the morning. Before the sun rises, if you can.

Day Hiking

There are hundreds of options for full or half day hikes. A huge number of lodges offer their own guided walks and have local information if you want to wander off alone.

When it comes to examples, perhaps one of the most spectacular places to start with is Spitzkoppe in the Namib desert. Nicknamed the Matterhorn of Namibia, this collection of rocks, bang in the middle of nowhere, is ideal for a day of hiking. This group of great, bald granite peaks or ‘bornhardts’ is believed to have formed more than 700 million years ago. It all kicked off after the ancient continent Gondwana split into the southern continents we know today - this led to the Brandberg Mountains too.

Several peaks jut up awkwardly and the highest point is more than 1700 metres above sea level. Hikers and rock climbers alike should be chuffed with the delights on offer. There’s a hike known as the Normal Route which is popular with those who like to go bouldering. And whilst you don’t need any technical gear, be careful - the nearest hospital is at least two hours away. If you take a guided tour you can learn more about the history and rock art sites too.

There are also good day hiking opportunities in the Erongo mountains. The huge granite boulders of Bulls Party and Elephants Head are popular spots.

Another option is the Olive Trail in the Naukluft Mountains. You’ll pass olive trees along the route and after you go down a gorge it’s an easy walk along a dry river bed. The most challenging section is a chain bridge and rocky ledge. You may find having to trust this slim piece of metal rather hair-raising but that’s the way it is. It’s about 10km and you may encounter kudu and baboon along the way. The Waterkloof Trail is longer and harder. It’s 17km and takes about 6-7 hours. If the rains have been, you should see waterfalls and pools.

Or do you want sand? Then head out to the dunes. Hiking to the top of Big Daddy in Sossusvlei takes about an hour. To be honest, it’s less of a hike and more of a scramble up a massive pile of sand really, but this is the highest dune here so it’s worth the effort. And if you’re worried about the heat, go early in the morning.

Or, if you want to see wild animals as you wander through the wilderness, a desert horse hiking trail might appeal. Klein-Aus Vista is home to the majority of wild horses of the Namib. Here, in the Aus Mountains, in Gondwana Sperrgebiet Rand Park, you’ll find three trails - Sunset Walk, Schutztruppe Trail and Mountain Trail. They’re relatively straight-forward and should take between 1 to 3 hours. Geister and Eagle trails are longer and are far more challenging, they take 4-5 hours.

And finally, to round off the day hiking options, there’s Brukkaros Mountain, a more obscure option. It’s a stunning place, off the beaten track and frequently missed by tourists. The mountain is thought to be the result of an enormous explosion that occurred around 80 million years ago. You can see the massif more than 80kms away as you drive towards it too. In the 1920s the National Geographic Society worked with the Smithsonian Institute and ran a solar observatory here. The buildings are still here and you’ll see them if you hike to the centre or ‘crater’. There are quiver trees and lots of birds about. Don’t do this hike on your own though, there’s no mobile phone coverage and lots of rock scrambling.

Multi-day Hiking

Fish River Canyon - 85km in 5 days

If hiking’s your passion and you want to walk for longer, or perhaps try some harder routes, then here are some more beefy options. Let’s start with Fish River Canyon, Namibia’s big guy. It’s got a reputation for being tough and there are guide books out there claiming it’s the toughest hike in Africa. It’s certainly the largest canyon in Africa, and it’s not your average ramble either, this place is a hiker’s mecca. The trail is about 85km so that’s a big whack to start with. It starts from the main Canyon viewpoint near Hobas, and ends at Ai-Ais Hot Springs Spa. The trek will take about five days and you‘ll encounter sand, rocks and a river crossing. So when is the best time to hike it? May to September will certainly be the coolest time.

Fish River Canyon - 33km over 4 days

Alternatively, join the 4-day guided, portered Fish River Rim to River hike including a night at the luxurious Fish River Lodge. Again, May to September will be the most comfortable time to do this hike.

Waterberg Plateau Park - 45km over 4 days

This is a hike to do from April to November. You can go up the plateau but once you reach the top you’ll need a permit to continue. The Waterberg Plateau is in North Central Namibia. There are two hiking trails, one guided, the other self-guided. The latter is 45km long and should take about 4 days. The guided hike is 5 km longer but takes 3 days. This is a proper, mountainous, lush place and there’s a huge array of flora and fauna to see. There are red stone cliffs and hundreds of bird species. But you’re in the wilds here so you may well come across animals including buffalo and rhino. This may sound great but remember, you’re not in the car you’re walking so please take advice and guidance.

Namib Naukluft National Park - 120km over 8 days (shorter options available)

If you want to trek through one of the oldest deserts in the world this is the place to be. The Namib Naukluft National Park is huge. And one of the largest conservation areas in Africa. Consequently there are lots of hiking options here, including overnight trails. We’ve talked about day hikes, like the Olive Trail, and there are many more. If you want to walk for longer there’s the 120km Naukluft Hiking Trail. This has 2, 4 and 8 day options. Basically the 8 day option is the whole thing and it’s considered to be a tough ole hike but the first section is easier so if you have limited time, or are worried about your fitness, you can still enjoy this place. You should see plenty of birds, trees and stunning views of the Naukluft stretching to the horizon. Temperatures are extremely high in the summer so March to the time to go.

NamibRand Nature Reserve - 22km over 3 days

You could also try the 3 day Tok Tokkie Trail which starts in the NamibRand Nature Reserve. You can learn about the desert on this trip and you get your main luggage portered by a back-up vehicle. It’s ideal for small groups of 2-8 and you’ll have dinner provided.

Skeleton Coast - 20km and 70km options

There are some splendid options on the coast too. The Jakkalsputz Walking Trail starts at the southern end of Henties Bay from the Gallows and ends at Jakkalsputz. It’s an unmarked 18km hike route which follows the beach to Solitude Bay in the direction of the Jakkalsputz camping site. There are a couple of longer, tougher options too, namely the Omaruru River Walking Trails. There’s both a 20km hike and a 70km hike.

Kalahari - 24km over 3 days

The Trans-Kalahari Walk is a one-and-a-half day guided walking safari through the red sand dune streets of the Kalahari. Learn all about this fascinating ecosystem and its inhabitants big and small; experience life in the Kalahari through the eyes of your San guide.

Kaokoland - 40km over 4 days

An area of vast beauty and wide open rugged landscapes, Kaokoland offers the ideal hiking terrain. It's not only incredibly scenic but there's the chance to spot desert-adapted wildlife as you go along. Although most of the lodges and camps in the area will offer walking trails or areas to explore on foot (either self-guided or with a guide), the most spectacular would be the guided Etendeka Overnight Walking Trail. A 3 night / 4 day adventure that explores some of the most remote areas of Namibia's pristine wilderness including endless views, sunsets and sunrises that contend for "best in the country" and a brilliant night sky to leave you bewildered.

Ugab - 50 km over 3 days

This is a stunning remote place to explore. The seasonal Ugab River starts about halfway between Otavi and Outjo, it skirts the Brandberg and eventually reaches the Atlantic coast about two hundred kilometres north of Swakopmund, where it forms the southern boundary of the Skeleton Coast Park. You can go on a 50km two-night, three-day hiking trail, guided by one of the Nature Conservation rangers. These trips happen during the cooler months from April to October.

The Brandberg

At 1800m, this is Namibia’s highest peak. Sitting in Damaraland the Brandberg is crowned by Namibia’s highest point, the Königstein or ‘king’s stone’. It’s got a variety of names including fire mountain, burning mountain and even mountain of the gods. It’s a wild, uninhabited place, covered in thousands of prehistoric rock paintings. It’s a comic book of life, a catalogue of human existence and a 5000 year old version of Facebook. By the way, there’s a lot of granite here and, as granite isn’t porous, when it rains it collects in small pools. This might give you the option to refill your water bottles but always take guidance and don’t rely on it definitely being available.

Etosha

Well, near Etosha, you could go on a 1, 2, 3 or 4 day hike at Mundulea Nature Reserve. It’s two hours south of the Namutoni Gate of Etosha National Park, in the Otavi Mountains. This is a place of hills, gorges, caves and underground lakes. These hikes are guided. Ancient trees and wild figs. Eland, kudu, oryx, hartebeest, all live here as do predators including leopard, cheetah, brown hyena, spotted hyena, jackal, serval and lynx. 340 bird species call this place home too.

Windhoek

And finally, Windhoek. Despite being a city there are hiking opportunities nearby. The Daan Viljoen Game Park is home to the Sweet Thorn Trail. On this you will walk through the Khomas Hochland mountains. There’s a 32km trail which is available year round. It takes 2 days and you can sleep in a hut at the halfway point. The landscapes vary a lot, you walk on some farm roads and you may have the chance to buy meat, bread and drinks from the farmers along the way.

What To Bring

It all depends on what you are doing and where you are going but here are some thoughts to muse over.

  • Food, if you need to provide for yourself.
  • Hiking boots are great but you may find they get too hot or full of sand. Trail running shoes are good for walking on sand and jumping over rocks. Long sleeve shirts and long trousers offer better protection. Take a hat too and a warm fleece or jacket for cold nights.
  • Take a towel in case you can swim in pools, rivers or even hot sulphur springs.
  • Sunglasses. For sun protection and super style of course.
  • A tent adds weight to your luggage. It’s warmer to sleep in but you may be fine with a good sleeping bag. The night sky in Namibia makes a pretty spectacular ceiling.
  • A self-inflatable small mattresses or foam rolled up one is sensible.
  • Hiking poles if you like them, they’re good for steep, downhill walking and river crossings.
  • Camel pack/water bottle.
  • Headlamp/torch.
  • Water purification tablets or filters - not all the water you may come across is drinkable.
  • Map.
  • If you need to cook - a small portable gas stove is good enough to boil water, cook pasta etc. Gas depends on a lot - how many you are, how long you are going for, how much cooking you want to do etc.
  • Lighter.
  • A couple of pots, cups, cutlery etc.
  • Swiss Army knife.

Final Thoughts

Check if you need permits. Consider your fitness, some trails entail 7 to 8 hours walking a day and you’ll be carrying your gear. You may have to make reservations in advance. Demand is high for certain treks so check with us. On longer treks you’ll be sleeping outside. You may need a recent medical certificate of fitness dated no more than 40 days prior to your trip. Take enough water, not all is drinkable. You aren’t allowed to make fires in certain places.

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