Namibia is home to some of the most surreal sights on earth, from breathtaking canyons and towering dunes, to barren pans and ancient plants. Here are the five most surreal Namibia sights:

5. Etosha National Park

Etosha National Park, in northern Namibia, is best known for its array of incredible wildlife. The park is home to four of the Big Five (rhino, leopard, elephant, and lion), as well as a multitude of others. Many of these animals are easily spotted around the waterholes.

Lion and lioness in grass with desert backdrop, in Etosha National Park, Nambia
Lions in Etosha National Park. Image credit: Ailish Casey

But what makes Etosha a surreal sight is its landscape. The southern side of the park features desert landscape punctuated by dry shrubbery and the occasional waterhole. Along the northern side, this landscape gives way to a massive salt pan, which stretches for 75 miles (120 km) throughout the park.

This pan forms part of the Kalahari Basin, and was once a lake bed. In the rainy season, the Etosha pan is covered in a thin layer of very salty water, while in the dry season the pan is barren, giving it a dazzling white appearance.

Bull elephant walking on sand with trees, in Etosha National Park, Namibia
Elephant at Etosha. Image credit: Ailish Casey

4. Fish River Canyon

Namibia is home to the largest canyon in Africa (and, by some measurements, the second largest canyon in the world, after the Grand Canyon in the USA). Fish River Canyon stretches for an incredible 100 miles (160 km) along the south of Namibia. At its widest point, the canyon is 27 km wide, and its depths reach almost 550 metres.

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Though it is far away from most other Namibia sights, Fish River Canyon is well worth the trip. Gazing out from a viewpoint over the canyon, it’s hard to believe you’re not looking at a highly detailed painting. If you’d like a closer view, guided hikes through the canyon are available between May and September. The trek takes five days, and you must bring all your supplies with you- definitely not for the faint of heart!

Fish River Canyon, top Namibia sights
Fish River Canyon. Image credit: Ailish Casey

Like many Namibia sights, Fish River Canyon is accessible only by car or guided tour, as no public transport runs here. Some of the canyon viewpoints are reachable by a short drive along a gravel road, while others require a 4×4. Visitors can camp at Hobas, or try more upscale accommodation 40 miles away at Ais-Ais.

3. Welwitschia Drive

The Namib-Naukluft National Park is home to the bizarre welwitschia plant. These plants, also called tree tombos, look like a jumble of half-rotten leaves, but are actually an amazing example of desert adaptation. These plants can survive in arid conditions by pulling moisture from the air, and can live to be over 1,000 years old!

 

Welwitschia with stone circle in desert, Namib-Naukluft National Park, Namibia
A Welwitschia plant. Image credit: Ailish Casey

To visit the park, you must first purchase a permit in the Ministry of Environment and Tourism Offices in Swakopmund. From here, a short drive will take you to Welwitschia Drive, in Namib-Naukluft park. Here, you can leave your car and walk freely among these ancient plants.

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2. Moon Landscape

Many of the desert views throughout Namibia can be likened to a lunar landscape, but none more so than the aptly named Moon Landscape. With its pale sand, craters, and endless barren land, the area appears just like the surface of the moon. It’s no wonder that filmmakers are seeking out this landscape for its post-apocalyptic feel (you may recognise the dystopian view from Mad Max:Fury Road).

Moon landscape in Namib-Naukluft National Park, Namibia
The Moon Landscape. Image credit: Ailish Casey

The Moon Landscape (also referred to as the Lunar Landscape) lies just a short distance from Welwitschia Drive, in Namib-Naukluft National Park. Both sights can be visited in a single trip from Swakopmund (give yourself at least three or four hours in total).

1. Sossusvlei

Though there are plenty of surreal Namibia sights, the most other-worldly of all is Sossusvlei. This is a pale salt and clay plan, dotted with blackened trees, and surrounded by red sand dunes. The bizarre view, with its contrasting colours, is one of the most surreal (and photogenic) sights in Namibia, and indeed the world.

Sossusvlei, clay pan with red dunes and dead trees, Namibia
The surreal sight of Sossusvlei. Image credit: Ailish Casey

Sossusvlei is located in the south of Namib-Naukluft National Park. Visitors can stay in the nearby town of Sesreim, or at a camping site near the park entrance. Be sure to get up early to drive the 27 miles into the park and climb Dune 45 in time for sunrise (it’s a tough climb, but worth it!). From here, Sossusvlei can only be reached by 4×4 or on foot. If you choose to walk, bring plenty of water and protection from the sun, and expect the journey to take at least an hour. Alternatively, you can take a tractor shuttle that runs between Dune 45 and Sossusvlei.

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Red sand dunes with sunrise through clouds
Sunrise from Dune 45. Image credit: Ailish Casey

 

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