Will you be visiting Namibia and want to learn more about the country before travelling there? Or are you interested in learning some unique and fun facts about Namibia that most people don’t know? We’ve got you covered with this post.

Located in Southern Africa, Namibia is a sparsely populated yet fascinating country to visit. Vast open landscapes interspersed with red coloured dunes where wildlife can still roam free in their natural habitat make Namibia a country to visit again and again, at least it goes without saying for me. Over the years, I have visited Namibia numerous times and every time I discover something new. There are a lot of interesting Namibia facts that are worth mentioning and that are interesting to know before visiting the country.

desert road with spiky mountains in the background

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Post updated April 2020

Pictures sometimes can say more than words which is the case for this amazing country. So, have a look at these photos to inspire you to visit Namibia. You might also want to read about these interesting and useful things to know before visiting Namibia. So let’s see, what is Namibia famous for?

Namibia is one of the youngest countries in Africa

Namibia only got independence from South African rule on March 21, 1990, making it currently the 3rd youngest country in Africa.

Namibia is the world’s 2nd least densely populated country

With a population of nearly 2,4 million and a land mass of about 825000 km2, Namibia is the second least densely populated sovereign country in the world, after Mongolia. However, when driving around in the Southern part of Namibia it feels like there is no one around at all. Most of the population lives in the central and northern part of the country. The advantage with this lack of human habitation is that you come across incredible, breathtaking, unspoilt scenery and landscapes.

The Namib is the world’s oldest desert

The Namib desert stretches along the Namibian coast all the way up to Angola. It is estimated that the area has been dry for at least 55 million years, making it the oldest desert in the world. The Namib desert is a very inhospitable area, with sand dunes near the coast and gravel plains with mountain outcrops more inland making it one of the least populated areas in the world. It is also the only desert in the world where you can find large mammals like elephants, rhinos, lions and giraffes which means it is also a living desert.

Namibia is home to the Namib desert and the Kalahari desert

An interesting fact about Namibia is that the country is home to two large but very distinctly different deserts; the Namib desert and the Kalahari desert. They each have a different look and geological structure. The Kalahari desert is a semi-arid desert, covering parts of Namibia, South Africa and Botswana. It does get slightly more rainfall than the Namib desert and therefore attracts a larger variety of wildlife and supports different types of vegetation.

savanah with trees and blue sky
The Kalahari desert

The coastal desert is on the Unesco Heritage List

The Namib Sand Sea is the only coastal desert in the world where fog influences the sand dunes. Since 2013 it is on the Unesco Heritage list. Animal as well as plant life in that area depend on the daily fog for survival. They have adapted in this harsh climate to survive on the little water provided through the fog. The fog is formed, mostly in the morning, due to the cold Benguela Atlantic ocean currents conflicting with the hot desert air. Most of the time the fog will disappear around noon. It is also unique because the dunes are formed with material that has been transported from the hinterland of Africa through the river systems as well as wind into the ocean and from there back onto the coastal region of Namibia.

desert coastline with blue sky
The Skeleton Coast

Twyfelfontein has one of Africa’s largest amount of rock engravings 

Twyfelfontein (Afrikaans for ‘spring of doubt’) became Namibia’s first Unesco World Heritage site in 2007. With over 2000 engravings, it has the largest single concentration of rock art engravings in Africa. 

Fish River Canyon is the oldest canyon in the world

The Fish River Canyon is the oldest canyon in the world, and also the worlds second largest. The Canyon is over 500 million years old and was formed due to the collapse of the valley floor. It was further formed by water and wind erosion. It is located in the southern part of the country, not that far from the South African border and is one of the highlights to visit in Southern Namibia. I have been able to visit the Fish River Canyon multiple times and every time the scenery was breathtaking with a very tranquil atmosphere.

Sossusvlei has some of the highest sand dunes in the world

The sand dunes of Sossusvlei in the Namib desert are some of the highest dunes in the world. Dune 7 is the highest in the area measuring 383 meters. The most climbed one is Dune 45. Most people visiting Sossusvlei will climb Dune 45 to enjoy a spectacular sunrise. It is a challenging climb, especially early morning before sunrise, but really worthwhile. The main characteristic about the dunes in Sossusvlei is their red colour, caused by the presence of tiny iron ore particles that oxidised over time. By pure coincidence, Dune 45 is exactly 45 Kilometres from the main entrance gate. This is good to know if looking for it in the dark before your sunrise climb.

3 people on top of a very high red dune at dusk
Dune 45 Sossusvlei, Namibia

Largest amount of free roaming cheetahs

Namibia has the largest amount of free roaming cheetahs in the world. Over the years, the cheetah population has declined a lot worldwide, due to habitat loss, but also due to conflicts with local farmers. Namibia has put a lot of effort in to the conservation of cheetahs. Approximately 2500 – 3000 cheetahs are living in Namibia. Cheetahs are amazing animals, and with a top speed of around 113 km/hour they are by far the fastest land mammals on the planet. I recently managed to see a cheetah kill in the wild and what an experience. They are really fast. It was amazing to see how fast they close the gap between themselves and their prey.

3 cheetahs in the namibian bush
Cheetahs in Namibia

The Namibian dollar is the legal currency

Since 1993, the legal currency is the Namibian Dollar (NAD). Previously, the South African Rand (ZAR) was used when they were under South African rule. However, the SA Rand is also still accepted as legal tender because the Namibian dollar is pegged to the Rand. The exchange rate is 1:1 and the currencies are just mixed in Namibia. However, the Namibian Dollar is not accepted anywhere in South Africa, so when you continue travelling to South Africa, make sure you spend or change all your Namibian Dollars in Namibia. Changing can be done for no commission at any shop or place that might have Rands. You can change Namibian Dollars in South Africa at an official Bureau De Change, but you won’t get 1:1.

Namibia is home to 13 different ethnic groups

Even though Namibia has a very small population, the country is home to 13 different ethnic groups. The Ovambo group represents nearly half the population. The most famous ethnic group are the Himba people, a semi nomadic tribe living in the north eastern part of the country. The Himba people still live according to traditional beliefs and culture and especially the woman are known for rubbing their skin with red ochre. The Himba villages are open for tourists to visit and get to know their culture. Another tribe you will see often is the Herero, where the woman wear the beautiful and colourful victorian dresses. To visit a Himba village should be on everyone’s list of things to do in Namibia.

himba and herero woman standing at a road side market
Herero and Himba woman in Namibia

English is the official language of Namibia

Even though a variety of languages are spoken amongst the different tribes and people, English is the only official language. When travelling in Namibia, you will hear it pretty widely spoken, although in many areas people will also speak German and Afrikaans.

Namibia has its own ghost town

Kolmanskop or Kolmanskuppe, located near to the town of Lüderitz, is Namibia’s most famous ghost town. Kolmanskop was established as a mining town when in 1908 diamonds were found along the coast in Lüderitz. The diamond rush led to the establishment of the town. When 30 years later the diamonds in that area were depleted, Kolmanskop became a bona fide ghost town. Currently Kolmanskop is one of the most beautiful and special places to visit in Namibia, especially for photographers at sunrise.

old desert ghost town
Kolmanskop, Namibia

Gibeon meteorite shower

The Gibeon meteorite shower is the largest meteorite shower on earth. It took place in prehistoric times and covered an area of 275 by 100 kilometres in central Namibia. It was an iron meteorite. The early inhabitants of Namibia, the San or the Bushman, used the material of the meteorite to make weapons and tools. Some of the remains of the meteorite are on display in the city centre of Windhoek, the capital of Namibia.

First country to include the environmental protection into the constitution

Namibia is the first country to include the protection of the environment into their constitution. In fact, at 42%, Namibia is the country with the highest amount of area under official conservation management.

Brandberg is Namibia’s highest mountain

The Brandberg mountain is the highest mountain in Namibia. The highest point on the mountain is the Königstein, standing at 2573 metres above sea level. The word Brandberg is Afrikaans for mountain of fire, coming from the beautiful golden glow the mountain emanates when the sun is setting.

The Oryx is the national animal of Namibia and the African Fish Eagle is the national bird

The Oryx or the Gemsbok is native to arid areas and has learned to survive in harsh climate conditions where water is scarce and temperatures are high. While driving through Namibia you will normally see Oryx on the side of the road, or in places like Sossusvlei, apart of course from Etosha National park.

oryx walking up red dune
Oryx in the Namib desert

The wild horses of Namibia

It is fascinating to see the wild horses in Namibia and how these animals have managed to adapt and to survive the extreme and harsh conditions of the Namib desert. The origin of these horses is not really certain. When visiting Namibia, you can find these wild horses in the area of Aus on the road to Lüdertiz where they often come for a drink.

Finding Germany in Swakopmund

When visiting Swakopmund you’ll get the feeling you are walking around in a German town. The German influence is still very prevalent, with typical German style houses, coffee shops, pubs, restaurants and you will also hear quite some German spoken too. Prost!

example of german architecture
Swakopmund, Namibia

Namibia is home to the elusive desert elephant

Namibia is one of the few places where desert elephants can still roam freely. They can be seen in the Kunene area in the north western part of Namibia. Desert elephants have adapted to live in these arid areas and only need to drink every few days, unlike the African elephant who still needs water everyday. 

Namibia has been the setting for numerous movies

The breathtaking and unique landscape of Namibia has been the setting of numerous well-known box office movies, like Mad Max: Fury Road, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Cell, 10000 BC and The Flight of The Phoenix.

We often get asked the questions: What is Namibia famous for? What are some interesting Namibia facts? And what is Namibia known for? I hope that this post has provided a brief overview of some basic but interesting things that Namibia is famous for and that you learned more about Namibia as a country.

How many of these fun facts about Namibia did you already know?

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