Stunning, sparsely populated, and full of the kind of diverse landscapes and striking wildlife that will stop you in your tracks—Namibia is the perfect locale to visit for anyone wanting a true taste of the magic Africa has to offer without encountering tons of tourists along the way. Today, I’m serving up an at-a-glance overview of all this country and its capital city of Windhoek have to offer. Read on for the ultimate Windhoek, Namibia travel guide.
Namibia Overview & Fun Facts
Namibia is a country in the southwest of Africa, with Angola to its north, Botswana to its east, and South Africa below it. Distinguished by the Namib Desert (the country’s namesake and one of the oldest deserts in the world) along the Atlantic Ocean Coast, it is home to expansive landscapes and is renowned for its striking dunes, some of which are the most massive in the world—including “Big Daddy” in the Sossusvlei area and “Dune 7” located on the southern end of Dorob National Park (measuring a soaring 325 metres and 383 metres respectively). No trip to Namibia is complete without a peek at the Sossusvlei Sand Dunes—it’s a sight you’ll remember for a lifetime.
Thanks to its incredible deserts, Namibia is one of only two countries in the world that has desert elephants—and you’ll also find plenty of opportunities to embark on a sandboarding adventure across its many desert landscapes. But deserts aren’t all this remarkable country has to offer. It’s also home to incredibly diverse wildlife—including the world’s largest population of both free-roaming cheetahs and free-roaming black rhinos.
While Namibia is home to 13 different ethinic groups, it’s the second least densely populated country in the world—offering visitors plenty of room to roam and explore without encountering fellow tourists, traffic, or tension. If you fancy yourself a ghost-story-aficionado, you might also find the history of Namibia’s Skeleton Coast fascinating. Full of whale and seal skeletal remains and home to blinding fog, thousands of ships met their end along this iconic coastline.
The capital city of Namibia located right in the heart of the country, Windhoek has a reputation as being an incredibly welcoming, inviting small city. With modern office buildings, well-groomed parks, and a cosmopolitan population, Windhoek certainly feels established and has a hustle and bustle about it. (Travellers should be alert, however, that thefts and muggings in the area are an issue.)
One of the major centres for the Karakul sheep trade, Windhoek was formerly established on October 18, 1890—with its first-ever pharmacy founded in 1910 and proudly still operating under the same name today. In 1992, Miss Universe brought its coveted competition to Windhoek, a city that’s not just known as Namibia’s capital city—but also its “art capital.”
What to do in and around Windhoek
There are so many enriching experiences awaiting those travelling to Namibia—below are just a few of my favourites.
Explore the National Art Gallery of Namibia
Situated right in the heart of Namibia in Windhoek, the National Art Gallery of Namibia (NAGN) offers a permanent exhibition of Namibian, African, and European Art that visitors can experience year-round. You can get a feel for all of NAGN’s exhibitions here—and start following NAGN on Instagram to familiarise yourself with all of the amazing visual art pieces they’ll have on display before you visit. It really is such an incredible, immersive place to learn more about African history and culture through the avenue of unforgettable art—I highly recommend adding a stop here to your Windhoek itinerary.
Shop at the Namibia Craft Centre
For anyone seeking to purchase authentic gifts, handcrafted jewellery, and stunning wood carvings—all while supporting local entrepreneurs and artisans—I promise you: you will fall in fast love with the Namibia Craft Centre on your travels. A space that provides a platform for more than 40 women-owned or community-driven businesses, not only is everything on display at the Craft Centre truly authentic and of the highest craftsmanship (and unlike anything you’ll find anywhere else)—but you can rest easy knowing your purchase helps to uplift communities who need it most. A little shopping, a little supporting local, and a few extra one-of-a-kind goodies in your suitcase on the way home—what could be better?
Visit Christuskirche (Christ Church)
A historic landmark and Lutheran church in Windhoek, Christuskirche is a place chock-full of rich history—I definitely recommend stopping by when you’re in the capital city to get a glimpse at the stunning architecture and to soak in the storied and reverent atmosphere. With construction commencing in 1907, the church sits on top of a hill (so as to make it visible from a long distance) and boasts a striking gothic spire, three bronze bells inscribed with Ehre sei Gott in der Hohe (Glory to God in the highest), Friede auf Erden (And on earth peace) and Den Menschen ein Wohlgefallen (Goodwill towards men), and three stunning stained glass windows donated by German Emperor Kaiser Wilhelm.
Spend a day—and the night—at Daan Viljoen Game Park
Located just outside of Windhoek, Daan Viljoen Game Park acts as a sanctuary for a large population of game species and other wildlife—from Blue Wildebeests and mountain zebras to leopards and over 200 species of birds. It really is a sight you have to see to believe—and it’s one of my favourite spots in all of Namibia. The best part? Daan Viljoen Game Park also offers overnight accommodations for anyone who wants to spend a night in nature. With 19 luxury chalets and 12 well-appointed campsites, it offers a great night’s rest—and sights you won’t find anywhere else on earth.
Where to eat in and around Windhoek
No trip to Namibia is complete without amazing, authentic, soul-warming food. Below are a few of my favourite spots to pull up a chair and dig in.
The Stellenbosch Tasting Room
With a focus on fresh, natural ingredients and a wine list that’s begging to be explored, you can easily lose track of time (and calories) at The Stellenbosch Tasting Room in Windhoek. A charming indoor space and a dreamy al-fresco dining patio make for an atmosphere you’ll fall fast in love with—while menu favourites like yellow-fin sashimi, thai green curry, honey mustard pork rib, and Namibian prime beef carpaccio make it hard (actually: impossible) to only order one thing.
The Stellenbosch Wine Bar & Bistro
With exclusive rights to serve Namibia’s premium meats and an extensive selection of private cellar wines, The Stellenbosch Wine Bar offers a bistro experience marked by incredibly tasty pairings and thoughtful treatments of the diverse flavours of Namibia. It’s one of my go-to spots anytime I have the pleasure of visiting Namibia—I have a feeling it will become yours, too.
Sardinia Blue Olive
For Italian eats in Windhoek, it has to be Sardinia Blue Olive. Here, you’ll find a cozy, welcoming atmosphere and all of the pizza, pasta, fish, chicken, and vegetarian options your heart desires.
A cobblestone castle serving up mouthwatering international plates, incredible wines, and some of the best views of the city you’ll find? That, friends, is the experience you can expect at the one-and-only Heinitzburg Castle—and it’s absolutely one worth adding to your Windhoek itinerary. I particularly love Heinitzburg Castle because of how historic it feels and their diverse array of eatery options. Their Garden Terrace offers tasty patisseries and fresh coffee in the morning hours—and sundown cocktails and light snacks as you enjoy the golden African sunset setting alongside you. Their Wine Cellar boasts the largest collection of South African vintages in all of Namibia. And Leo’s at the Castle offers a gourmet-dining experience complete with city views and a menu filled with both local options and international cuisine. If you’re seeking a diverse dining experience in an atmosphere that’s rich with history, Heinitzburg Castle may just become your new favourite spot in all of Windhoek.
Overall, I truly hope you get a chance to check out Windhoek in Namibia. It really is such an incredible city full of incredible experiences, fascinating sights, and tasty cuisine.
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Until next time, happy travels!
March 17, 2022