Drive Time: 2 hours, 45 minutes Distance: 199 km
Ready to go? We started this itinerary ambitiously!
We arrived into the airport in Windhoek around 10 AM. We were smack dab in the middle of the plane, which meant that exiting from the front and rear of the aircraft left us right at the end of the customs line. We waited for almost 2 hours to get through the customs line and another 45 minutes to purchase a MTC SIM card. One tip we can absolutely share is that you don’t need the SIM card until you get to your rental car pick up spot. The rental car company we chose was 40 minutes outside of the airport in Windhoek itself. Thus, you can avoid a very lengthy line waiting for the card by picking up your car first. Then, when you get a few provisions before starting your drive, you can get the SIM card. We would recommend picking up some jugs of water, ice and some snacks before your first long road trek.
We came with a giant snack bag from the States so we didn’t need to grab anything besides liquids and ice.
Namibia in general is considered a very safe country. However, just as with any cities, in Windhoek, I would exercise a bit of caution; keep valuables out of site, try not to leave your car for more than absolutely necessary, etc. One of us generally tried to stay in the car any time we were with all of our luggage. You could opt to stay in Windhoek, but we were there for nature, not buildings! You’ll also get a small taste of city life in Swakopmund later in the itinerary.
After a much later, start than anticipated, we were ready to go. Soon after your departure from Windhoek you’ll leave the paved road for the gravel road drive to Barkan Dune Retreat. If one of your first major stops is Sossusvlei, Barkan is a good location to break up the drive. It is situated in the midst of the desert surrounded by sweeping dunes, red sands, grasses, and mountains.
As we started out, we were very surprised to see baboons frequently along the roadside. The gravel road was uneventful, until we reached Spreetshoogte Pass. This one is a white knuckler. As you approach, you can look down into the valley below to see beautiful vistas and a somewhat terrifying twisty, narrow road to traverse. We were fortunate that no cars were coming in the opposite direction making it feel slightly more safe. There have been deaths on this road, so go slowly and enjoy the thrill.
Barkan Dune Retreat...stay in a dune chalet
We arrived to Barkan Dune Retreat and were surprised to learn that we were the only guests staying there. The property is located on a sandy road off of the gravel road that you enter by way of a beautiful stone circle. The property consists of a handful of dune chalets which are beautifully built into the landscape. They are very well equipped with a comfortable bed, large window to overlook the sunset, and ample bathroom, including indoor and outdoor shower. Most properties we stayed in on this trip had a small refrigerator to keep drinks cool, and this property was no exception. Our breakfast and dinner were included and they were quite delicious. Breakfast consisted of some yogurt, toast, fruit, and made to order eggs. Dinner included a small starter, followed by a chicken dish and dessert.
Finally, the property is equipped with a pool and walking trails as well as bikes with fat tires if you have time to venture around the property. As a bonus, the property is also home to a number of meerkats. They pop their heads out in the morning to bask in the warm sun. Overall, we highly recommend staying here and we liked the location so we didn’t have to drive all the way to Sossusvlei after our airport arrival. I wouldn’t recommend any great driving distance after your flight as you might encounter delays at the airport and remember you can’t drive after dark.