Namibia is truly unique, influenced by at least 11 major ethnic groups, each celebrating their past while working together toward the future. With its ancient deserts, parched salt pans and a windblown shoreline littered with the weathered hulls of foundered ships has a startling beauty in its vistas—from the multihued dunes of the Kalahari and Namib deserts to the foggy shores of the Skeleton Coast.

Its national parks and wildlife refuges are among the finest in Africa. Perhaps most surprising are the people who have adapted to this harsh environment: San Bushmen and the Herero women with their banana-shaped headdresses and bright Victorian-style dresses patterned after those of early German missionary women.

The German influence can also be seen in the colonial-era towns scattered along the coast and central highlands—there is something surreal about imperial-style German architecture poking up above desert sands.

The first people to inhabit Namibia were the Bushmen (San), a nomadic people who lived in small family groups. The San were then displaced by the Khoi-Khoi (Hottentots) who remained in control of the area until around AD 1500. They were followed much later by the English and Germans, who eventually colonized the area before World War I. Namibia is truly unique, influenced by various cultures during colonization and now reborn from the shadows of Apartheid in 1990. What has emerged is a true sense of unity in diversity, the coming together of at least 11 major ethnic groups

Namibia’s landscape is a result of its extremely dry climate. The Kalahari Desert stretches along the southeastern border of the country, and the sandy dunes of the Namib Desert cover much of the west coast. The central part of the country is a plateau sitting between 3,500 ft/1,100 m and 5,500 ft/1,700 m. The central plateau is home the majority of Namibia towns and villages and is divided between rugged mountain ranges and sand-filled valleys. Next is the vast Kalahari Desert with its ancient red sand and sparse vegetation.

The only remotely lush part of the country are Kavango and Caprivi, blessed with generous amounts of rain and typified by tropical forests, perennial rivers and woodland savannahs. The Caprivi Strip, a narrow finger of Namibian territory that stretches halfway across the continent into the woodlands of south-central Africa.