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Planning a trip to Namibia? Take a drive along the new Arid Eden self-drive route to discover some diamonds in the rough.

Eupupa Falls, Namibia

Photo: Namibia Tourism Board

Most travellers stick to what they know when venturing through Namibia but a new self-drive tourism route has been developed in the north west of the country, taking travellers off the beaten track to discover one of Namibia’s last remaining wildernesses.

One of three new routes designed by Open Africa for visitors to explore, the Arid Eden Route, stretches from Swakopmund in the south to the Angolan border in the north and includes the previously restricted western area of Etosha National Park. The route serves to uplift and sustain local communities through tourist activities and can be enjoyed by travellers who are interested in taking their time as they meander their way through the vast landscape.

The Arid Eden Route consists of four experiences with a variety of attractions namely, the Windhoek to Galton Experience, the Welwitchia Experience, North West Trail and the Himba Cultural Experience.

Elephant on Arid Eden Route

Photo: Namibia Tourism Board

Stretching 520km, the Windhoek to Galton Experience is a gateway to the desert attractions of the Arid Eden Route. Towering mountain peaks, vast vistas, desert-adapted wildlife, rock art, unusual geological features and a spread of rich local cultures await the adventurous traveller. The route gives alternate access to the less frequently visited western part of Etosha National Park via the Galton Gate. Novelties en-route include German delicatessens, coffee shops and locally run butcheries that source delicious game and beef from surrounding farms. The highway offers glimpses of families of warthogs foraging on the road verge and quick views of kudu, giraffe and other game as travellers pass by.

The Welwitchia Experience spans a massive 860km with some detours along the way and 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.

Spitzkoppe

Photo: Charl Pauw of Open Africa

Dominating the landscape are the towering Spitzkoppe and Erongo mountains that attract both mountain bikers and rock climbers while less adventurous hikers can experience this wilderness at a more leisurely pace. The Brandberg has at least 2, 000 recorded rock art sites. The best of these can be visited on a walking tour with well-trained 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. This World Heritage site is known to have the largest concentration of petroglyphs in Africa and the geological wonderland is also home to the Organ Pipes, the colourful Burnt Mountain and a large assemblage of petrified trees. The town of Khorixas is the obvious supply point for independent travellers before heading into the more remote northern parts of this region.

The last of the Arid Eden’s suggested experiences is the Himba Cultural Experience which takes travellers along 443km of remote settlements that form part of the Himba tribal heartland. Palmwag is a cluster of ancient palm trees where herds of elephants congregate and local tour operators also offer walking tours to find the last free ranging black rhinos in this area.

Himba Namibia

Photo: Namibia Tourism Board

The remote Himba settlement at Puros comes as a surprise in the harsh desert environment. Cool campsites under huge camel thorn trees offer shelter from the blazing sun with the occasional desert elephant strolling by. At the local supply store Himba men with tribal regalia play billiards while women stock up on sugar, oil and soap.

Whichever road you choose to travel along the Arid Eden Route, it promises to be a one-of-a-kind, authentic experience.

The Arid Eden Route was developed by the Namibia Tourism Board and local non-profit organisation, Open Africa in a project funded by the Millennium Challenge Account Namibia which aims to diversify tourism in Namibia.