Total distance: 860km (including detours)
Suggested time period: 3-4 days
This route links Namibia’s premier coastal holiday destination, Swakopmund with the wildlife spectacle of Etosha National Park. The well-maintained gravel road passes by some of the most spectacular landscapes and attractions in Namibia. Dominating the landscape en-route is the towering Sptizkoppe and Erongo mountains.
The mineral rich nature of the area is visible when driving into Uis. The town offers basic amenities such as fuel and other supplies, as there are no tar roads and only a handful of small towns in the region it calls for a degree of self-sufficiency. The Brandberg has at least 2 000 recorded rock art sites. The best of these can be visited on a walking tour with welltrained local guides. It is also one of the more accessible locations to view desert elephants attracted to the only greenery found in the dry riverbeds. Twyfelfontein is a prime attraction in the north-west and has a wide range of accommodation from upmarket lodges to community campsites. The World Heritage site is known to have the largest concentration of petroglyphs in Africa.
The town of Khorixas is the obvious supply point for independent travellers before heading into the more remote northern parts if this region. The simple beauty of the rocky landscape en-route to Kamanjab allows glimpses of giraffe, springbok, milkbush shrubs, local villages and tribesman herding flocks of damara sheep. Spectacular mountain passes offer endless vistas of the surrounding landscape until reaching the rural town of Kamanjab, just short of the new Galton Gate
Rising to 1800m above sea level, the famous Spitzkoppe Mountains in the south of the region are one of Namibia's most striking geographic splendours.
Home to many significant rock paintings, including the famous White Lady, the Brandberg is Namibia's highest mountain and on a clear day can be seen from a great distance. Birds such as ostrich, Herero and Mountain Chats and animals like the rock hyrax, baboons, zebra, oryx and springbok can be seen around the Brandberg.
Ugab Desert Elephants:
The White Lady Lodge offers daily tours to the infamous Desert Elephants along the Ugab River. Especially during the drier periods of the year, groups of desert elephant rove in the valley of the Ugab River.
Orabeskopf is a 400m (1200-foot) granite face on the southern reaches of the Brandberg Massif. Orabeskopf was first climbed by R. Lichman and R. Blumgart, in December 1974, via a central chimney route. Water is the main logistical issue for climbing Orabeskopf however and travellers should take note of this.
Aba Huab River:
The Aba Huab River is a sand river in the north west of Namibia that runs between mountain ranges. It rarely has water flowing along its length, just for a brief few days during the rainy season. Desert Elephants can be spotted occasionally along the river bank
The Grootberg is a table mountain in the Damaraland region of Kunene, located 1640m above sea level. The mountain is of volcanic origin and forms a south facing open U-shaped plateau above the canyon of the Klip Rivier. Guided walks to the top of the plateau are available to travellers. Guides are available from lodges and have the ability to interpret local flora, the amazing rock formations of the Etendeka Mountains and the wild animals.
Etosha National Park - Galton Gate:
Arguably Namibia's most famous natural attraction, Etosha National Park's Galton Gate allows visitors access to the previously restricted western area of the park. The Galton Gate will open up an area of Etosha National Park to travellers that is quite different to the rest of the park, both in its vegetation and wildlife.
The new route links Galton with Okaukuejo along a 190km stretch of road. The route traverses three distinct ecological landscape with high concentrations of game around the Renostervlei and Ozonjuitji-Mâ Bari waterholes - especially in the dry winter months (May to November). The western area of the park is the only area Hartman's Mountain Zebra and Burchell's Planes Zebra co-exist. Lion and elephant are also frequently seen at the waterholes along this route.
The fountain on the outskirts of town was the reason that this village was started. The water from this fountain irrigates surrounding orchards and supports the local community.
Twyfelfontein World Heritage Site:
Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007, Twyfelfontein or /Ui-//aes has one of the largest concentrations of petroglyphs in Africa. Most of these well-preserved engravings represent a variety of rhinoceros, elephant, ostrich and giraffe, as well as drawings of human and animal footprints in rock shelters. The objects excavated from two sections, date from the Late Stone Age. The site forms a coherent, extensive and high-quality record of ritual practices relating to hunter-gatherer communities in this part of southern Africa over at least 2 000 years, and eloquently illustrates the links between the ritual and economic practices of hunter-gatherers.
The main engravings of interest lie along two circular routes, taking around two hours to complete and a visitor centre provides information on the history, people and geology of the area.
Uiba-Oas Crystal Market:
The Uiba-Oas is a community market that gives visitors an opportunity to buy locally mined crystals from small scale miners. A variety of crystals are for sale including Garnet, Black Tourmaline, Quarts and Topaz. The market is positioned on the tar road between the coast and the interior and operates within in a newly built structure that also houses a mineral museum exhibit.
One of Namibia's more popular tourist draw cards, the volcanic Erongo mountain range is a roughly circular massif that dominates the flat plains west of Omaruru. The mountain range is easily accessible and is home to some of the most well-known cave sites in the country (Phillip's Cave and the Bull's Party). This rare confluence of ecosystems is also home to a vast array of plant, reptile, mammal and bird species, some endemic to Namibia
The organ pipes are a fascinating geological formation located near Twyfelfontein. Strikingly rich rusty colours are portrayed in long columns resembling those of a church organ, some rising up to 5m high. Thought to be the result of the Gondwanaland breakup, fractures and cracks were formed as the dolomite columns cooled through the process of columnar jointing approximately 120 million years ago.
Just a short walk from the Organ Pipes is a small inselberg called the Burnt Mountain. The Burnt Mountain was proclaimed a national monument on 15 September 1956. The reason for the name is evident in the early mornings and late evenings when the rays of the sun seem to set the mountain ablaze. Rich red colours mixed with shades of black and purple are quite strikingly caused by Manganese coated clay molecules. During the day however, the inselberg is just a normal black colour as if the morning fire has burnt it to ashes.
In a dry riverbed between Khorixas and Twyfelfontein the Petrified Forest is a large assemblage of fossilized tree trunks. The forest is situated in a dry riverbed where the wood was washed downstream and deposited 200 000 years ago. In time the logs turned into stone and trunks of up to 42m can be distinguished in this forest of fallen trees. The Petrified Forest was proclaimed a national monument in 1950. An attraction within the Petrified Forest is the Welwitschia mirabilis that grows among the trunks. This curious plant is endemic to the Namib Desert and is something of a living fossil as it lives for more than 1000 years.
The Doros Crater is a differentiated igneous intrusion, situated to the northwest of the Brandberg. It can be regarded as one of the finest and best-exposed examples of a differentiated complex in Southern Africa. All the individual layers, except for the marginal phase, can be recognized from aerial photography, and it is therefore a textbook example of a layered igneous body. The Crater has the same height as the surrounding hills, but it stands out because of the dark colour of its rocks.