Nestled among rolling hills in a valley created by the sloping Khomas Hochland Plateau to the west and the Auas Mountains to the east, Namibia’s capital, Windhoek, is scenically situated. At an altitude of almost 1700m, the city avoids the excessive heat experienced in much of the rest of the country, with daytime temperatures rarely topping 30 degrees in summer, or dipping under 10 degrees in winter. What’s more, whether due to meticulous German planning or serendipity, Windhoek lies almost in the centre of the country, which makes it the perfect starting point for any tour of Namibia.
Strolling down Independence Avenue, Windhoek city centre’s tree-lined main boulevard, it’s easy to feel you’re in a provincial town in northern Europe. Its tidy, clean pavements, dotted with German colonial architecture, lack the frenetic and chaotic pace and horn-honking mayhem more readily associated with African capital cities. Yet this is a city striving for modernity, keen to shrug off its small-town image and colonial past: new high-rise buildings now pierce the CBD skyline, and the brash multi-million-dollar post-independence constructions, such as the new State House and Heroes’ Acre, dominate the surrounding hillsides.
Windhoek is somewhat short on sights beyond a few modest museums; however, a wander around the National Botanical Gardens in the suburbs and a day’s outing beyond Windhoek to the attractive surroundings of Daan Viljoen Game Park – Namibia’s smallest reserve – will whet your appetite for some of the extraordinary landscapes and wildlife that await. Besides, Windhoek’s comfortable guesthouses and a handful of pleasant alfresco dining options make it an agreeable environment to spend a couple of days getting your bearings at the start of a trip – as well as stocking up on supplies – or unwinding at the end of a hectic safari.