TRAVEL | Namibia
Hypnotic, tranquil and sometimes even deadly - the Namib Desert and its ever-changing dunes can have quite a hold on unsuspecting visitors.
While it once spelt death for shipwreck survivors and lost travellers, traversing some of its veins is a lot easier in the modern world.
If the allure of peace and never-ending vistas are what you crave in your soul, check out this itinerary for seeing the best parts of his ravishing desert.
This itinerary is built around travellers flying in from South Africa, but can easily be done in reverse if you're driving in your own car from South Africa - just remember to always have lots of water packed!
Day 1-2: Swakopmund
Travel: Landing at Hosea Kutako International Airport, pick up your rental car and start taking the four-hour drive to Swakopmund - the town constantly battling against the desert's attempts to take it back.
Stay: The outskirts of the town are dunes as far as the eye can see - and the best spot to view them is a stay at Desert Breeze Lodge. Their secluded chalets look out onto golden horizons.
Do: Book a quad bike tour through the dunes, or if you prefer something slower you can hop onto a camel and pretend you're in the Middle East.
Then head to the most popular desert attraction in-between Swakopmund and Walvis Bay - Dune 7. This is the highest dune in Namibia - and claimed to be in the world - and a hike up will work those calve muscles. You can also try your hand at sandboarding, but be prepared to eat a lot of sand.
Day 3: Sandwich Harbour
Travel: Walvis Bay is a short half-an-hour drive from Swakopmund. Remember to stop in Swakopmund at the Ministry of Environment and Tourism office to buy a permit for Namib-Naukluft National Park.
Stay: You can opt to stay another night at Desert Breeze, or check-in to one of Walvis Bay's more affordable self-catering options or guesthouses.
Do: Take your desert trip to the coast by booking a half-day trip to Sandwich Harbour with one of the many operators. There are few things as beautiful as the drive on the beach with cold Atlantic on one side and mountainous hot dunes on the other.
Day 4: Gobabeb
Travel: Take a detour into the unknown on a drive past dunes and historic settlements to the lands of Namib-Naukluft National Park.
Stay: Try something different by staying at the Gobabeb Namib Research Institute right in the middle of the park. They offer camping, villa and room accommodation to visitors, but must be booked far in advance.
Do: Nestled in-between the dunes, the research centre offers a guided nature and night walk - you can get a first-hand look at the Namib Desert ecosystem and at night try to find all the nightly creepy crawlies - from geckos to scorpions!
And remember to look up at the brilliant stars far from city lights.
Day 5: Sossusvlei
Travel: Prepare for a longer drive - about four hours and 40 minutes - to the breathtaking experience that is Sossusvlei.
Stay: The area has many accommodation options - ranging from cheaper camping to exorbitant luxury - so depends on your budget and tastes.
Do: Sossusvlei offers some of the most epic landscapes your eyes will ever see, where gold and red clash and dead trees are beautiful. You might even spot a gemsbok or two wandering its hot sands.
The best time to see this is to get up before sunrise as it gets hot real fast and the sand can burn through your shoes. Drive here to stay the night and be well-rested to see it on the morning of Day 6.
Day 6-7: Lüderitz
Travel: After your jaunt in the dunes, prep for another long drive of more than six hours to the picturesque town of Lüderitz.
Stay: Again many options to choose from - self-catering to lodges to guesthouses. If you want to stay in a traditional German-style house, check out the Kratzplatz hotel.
Do: Nearby is the ghost town Kolmanskop filled with abandoned house reclaimed by the desert, creating ghostly vistas that would be any photographer's dream canvas. The part still inhabited is filled with architecturally quaint buildings from Namibia's colonial era and well worth a stroll.
Day 8-9: Windhoek
Travel: The drive back to the Windhoek airport is about eight hours, so best to drive the whole day and stay over the night in Windhoek the day before your flight back.