The Unexpected Road Trip You Need to Take Now

Namibia may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think “road trip,” but that’s about to change.

The Unexpected Road Trip You Need to Take Now

Namibia is known for its landscapes, including sand dunes.

Photo by Anne Cui

Exploring offbeat destinations is one of the best ways to #traveldeeper—and sometimes, that means hitting the road. That’s where Anne Cui comes in. We presented her as an Instagrammer to Follow last summer, and after catching wind of her most recent adventure—a road trip through the desert, cities, and coastline of Namibia—we had to track her down once more. If an off-the-grid getaway loaded with wildlife and dreamy landscapes sounds like the adventure of a lifetime to you, this road trip will be right up your alley.


An elephant grazes, its family nearby

Photo by Anne Cui

Anne’s journey kicked off in Windhoek, the country’s capital—a city that’s made for losing yourself amid craft markets and winding streets. She then headed north to Etosha National Park, with a stay at Okaukuejo Camp; southwest to the coastal cities of Swakopmund and Walvis Bay (“driving the highway between those two cities was utterly surreal—just sand dunes to one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other”); onward to Sesriem, at the southern end of the Naukluft Mountains (the gateway to Sossusvlei, a national park of white salt and claypan); before coming full circle to Windhoek once more.


Anne Cui takes a walk in the Sossusvlei sand dunes.

Photo by Anne Cui

What tips do you have for other travelers hoping to recreate this trip?

“A road trip is the best way to explore this incredible country because you can go at your own pace and stop off the road whenever anything catches your eye. Plan to start your days early, as driving past sunset is not recommended—it can be unsafe due to increased wildlife as well as many roads being unlit outside of urban areas. Be sure to hit the road during the dry season. It’s their winter, so the weather is quite mild that time of year, and road conditions are excellent. But as it’s mostly gravel roads, definitely pack an emergency kit and ensure that you’re equipped with a local SIM card, maps, and spare tires. Don’t leave your binoculars at home, either!”


An ostrich looks on while Anne Cui and her fellow travelers take its portrait.

Photo by Anne Cui

How was your experience with Namibia’s wildlife?

“Wildlife was everywhere I went—from baboons on the side of the road to huge flocks of pelicans dipping in the waters of Walvis Bay. Animals are among the biggest draws of Etosha in particular. We encountered elephants, giraffes, springboks, kudu, black rhinos, zebras, and a lioness. Being that close to wildlife is truly special. At one point during a morning drive, we encountered hundreds of zebras and springboks crossing the road at one time. What’s fascinating is that they’ve adapted to living with the safari vehicles and cars, so they took cues from humans. They’d wait to see if we would give them the right of way, and if so, would scurry in front of our car. If we started to move, they would pause to give us the right of way. It was very unexpected!”

“It was nothing short of spectacular to see the herds of zebra roaming the plains,” says Cui.

Photo by Anne Cui

What inspired you most about Namibia?

“The most inspiring aspect of Namibia was the surprises we found in its desolation—for instance, the appearance of a signpost for a small town while driving through vast stretches of empty land. The landscape could be very unforgiving, so I found the resilience of the locals inspiring, too. Other inspirational aspects include the colors of the desert—they seemed to change throughout the day—and the architecture of the towns. I loved the unexpected design of the homes in Namibia, which are much more colorful and distinctive than I’d imagined they would be.”

Road Trips

Do you have any must-do recommendations for this trip?

A Little Sossus Lodge, near Sossusvlei, is a true gem. Don’t be fooled by the name—there is nothing little about the place. For being in such a rural location, we enjoyed a delicious and gourmet three-course meal each night. Our cabins were perfectly appointed and offered gorgeous views of the desert plains.


A full moon sighting on the Namib plains

Photo by Anne Cui

An architecture tour of Swakopmund. The city feels a little bit like Los Angeles on safari. There are loads of palm trees, cacti, a gorgeous beach dotted with surfers, and so many Land Rover Defenders. The aesthetic is really interesting, especially taking into consideration its German influences.


Springbok are one of the many species in Namibia.

Photo by Anne Cui

Welwitschia Drive, which is a short distance from Swakopmund or Walvis Bay, in the northern corner of the Namib-Naukluft National Park. The area is home to plants unique to Namibia, as well as ‘the Moonscape,’ a beautiful vista formed by the valleys of the Swakop River.


“These camel thorn trees were the catalyst for the trip, and they did not disappoint,” says Cui.

Photo by Anne Cui

Sossusvlei National Park is another must. Visitors typically tend to hike there at sunrise, but we waited until late morning, which I’d definitely recommend; we had the entire place to ourselves. The canyons and sand dunes surrounding this area are out-of-this-world beautiful, too.


“We saw safari vehicles occasionally,” says Cui, “but we mostly had the road to ourselves.”

Photo by Anne Cui

Joe’s Beerhouse in Windhoek is an institution for both locals and tourists. It’s quirky and kitschy, but serves up delicious game and is now one of my favorite restaurants. Other must-try foods in Namibia include its famous local oysters, and a dessert of malva pudding served with custard sauce. Don’t skip dessert on this trip!”

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