First 24 hours: Wind­hoek, Namibia

New­com­ers to the African con­ti­nent will find a per­fect en­try point in Wind­hoek, where rich cul­ture and nat­u­ral beauty are al­ways at hand, says

Wanderlust Travel Magazine (UK) - - Contents - Sarah Gil­bert

Of­ten dis­missed as ‘Africa for begin­ners’, Namibia’s colo­nial cap­i­tal is not just a gate­way to the parks but a fas­ci­nat­ing liv­ing doc­u­ment of the coun­try’s his­tory

Be­fore you ar­rive

Wind­hoek is Namibia’s cap­i­tal and in­ter­na­tional gate­way, and is nes­tled deep in a pic­turesque val­ley in the cen­tre of the coun­try, flanked by the Khomas Hochland Plateau to the west and the Auas Moun­tains to the east. For those who have yet to visit the coun­try, a Namib­ian hol­i­day may bring to mind wor­ry­ing vi­sions of swel­ter­ing heat. But at 1,700m above sea level, Wind­hoek is spared the op­pres­sive weather found in many other parts of the coun­try, with tem­per­a­tures rarely go­ing over 30 de­grees (ºc) in sum­mer, while in win­ter they dip to around six de­grees, on av­er­age.

Set­tled by the Ger­mans in the 1890s, it has an in­ter­est­ing mix of Euro­pean and African ar­chi­tec­ture, but it’s keen to shake off its pro­vin­cial im­age and colo­nial past, and mod­ern sky­scrapers are springing up in con­trast to its in­con­gru­ous Ger­man cas­tles. The city has spread over the years, but is still small for a cap­i­tal, and it’s rel­a­tively safe and quiet – es­pe­cially for an African city – with clean streets free of chaotic traf­fic and honk­ing horns. Those fa­mil­iar with some of the more bois­ter­ous ar­eas of the con­ti­nent will un­der­stand why Namibia is of­ten dubbed ‘Africa for begin­ners’.

Wind­hoek may be short on ma­jor sights, but with com­fort­able guest­houses and good din­ing op­tions, it makes a pleas­ant place to spend time at the start of a trip, stock up on sup­plies be­fore driv­ing on, or re­lax be­fore your flight home.

At the air­port

Hosea Ku­tako In­ter­na­tional Air­port is lo­cated 45km and a 45-minute drive west of the city. There are no di­rect flights from the UK. South African Air­ways (fly­saa.com) and Bri­tish Air­ways (ba.com) have daily di­rect flights from Lon­don Heathrow to Jo­han­nes­burg for on­ward flights to Wind­hoek with South African Air­ways or Air Namibia (air­namibia.com). To­tal flight time is ap­prox­i­mately 13 hours, de­pend­ing on con­nec­tion times, and re­turn fares start from around £700. In Ar­rivals there are cur­rency ex­changes and ATMS, car hire firms and sa­fari com­pany of­fices.

Get­ting into town

Ar­range a trans­fer through your ho­tel or op­er­a­tor, or use a reg­is­tered trans­fer shut­tle such as City Cab (wind­hoekair­portshut­tle.com), rather than take a taxi. Trans­fers cost from around N$200 to N$300 per per­son.

Other ways to ar­rive

If you are com­ing from else­where in Africa and look­ing to save money, In­ter­cape Main­liner (in­ter­cape.co.za) op­er­ates bud­get-friendly bus routes from South Africa and Botswana.

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