Fish River Canyon facts – Location in Namibia, hiking & more

Fish River Canyon view at sunset, Namibia

Are you looking to learn some fascinating Fish River Canyon facts? Well, did you know it’s the second-largest canyon in the world?

You probably know the world’s biggest canyon, the Grand Canyon, in Arizona, USA. However, the Fish River Canyon is just as impressive, except the experience is totally different.

Over 6 million people visit the Grand Canyon every year. Less than 1% of that number make it to Fish River Canyon in Namibia. Here, you won’t find large numbers of tour groups getting in the way of another.

Instead, the Fish River Canyon provides a truly natural experience with its landscape and baffling scale.

Let’s find out more about this magnificent Namibian attraction below. 

Tip: To see more of Namibia’s natural treasures, be sure to visit Skeleton Coast, where the desert meets the ocean. 

Fish River Canyon Panoramic View (Video Footage)

Fun Facts About Fish River Canyon, Namibia

There are plenty of exhilarating experiences on offer at this scenic destination. Before we jump into the activities in Namibia, take a look at some fun facts about the Fish River Canyon.

What is the Fish River Canyon?

Sensational view of the Fish River Canyon in Namibia

Wondering, “why is the Fish River Canyon important?” It is one of the most remarkable natural wonders in Africa.

The Fish River Canyon is the world’s second-largest canyon.

A canyon is a deep gorge between cliffs, often carved by a river. As its name implies, the Fish River Canyon comes from the “Fish River.”

The Fish River is the longest interior river in Namibia (650 km in length).

Where is Fish River Canyon located?

Fish River Canyon at sunset

The Fish River Canyon location is in the south of Namibia, close to the border of South Africa.

It’s roughly equidistant between Windhoek and Cape Town. Travel overland between these two cities, and this is a convenient place to stop.

How old is the Fish River Canyon?

This place has been around since before the dinosaurs. The canyon is over 500 million years old, with part of the strata formed as far back as 650 million years ago.

How was the Fish River Canyon formed?

Scenic view of Fish River Canyon during the dry season

How was the Fish River Canyon formed?

It was not only created through water and wind erosion, but also due to the collapse of the valley floor as a result of tectonic plate movements.

How big is the second biggest canyon in the world? Fish River Canyon vs. Grand Canyon

Let’s compare the famous canyons. Fish River Canyon is over 160 kilometers in length. It’s 27 kilometers across at its widest point.

This enormous ravine is also over 550 meters deep – the descent onto the canyon floor isn’t for the faint of heart!

In comparison, the Grand Canyon is far longer (446 km) and deeper (1800 m), although it has a similar width.

However, the Namibian canyon is grand too. The Fish River Canyon area stretches across a whopping 5900 square kilometers, far more than its American rival.

And there’s only so much of a canyon you can realistically see. Visit Fish River Canyon, and you’ll encounter a spectacle that continues beyond the horizon in each direction.

Things to Do in Fish River Canyon, Namibia

When visiting the Fish River Canyon, you can either do the helicopter tour or walk to a few viewpoints in the stifling heat.

There are some more serious hikes, but the general impression is of noise, especially in the places that tour operators use.

Intense heat is going to follow you around Fish River Canyon, but there’s a lot to do.

Viewpoints and scenery

Fish River Canyon: Panoramic viewpoint of the Western rim

Nature is the highlight, and breathtaking views come from everywhere on the canyon rim. It’s possible to walk along the rim in some places, but always get advice from your lodge first.

This can be a brutal landscape, and you have to take every hike seriously, even if it is only for 20 minutes. Additionally, it’s best to carry water and wear strong shoes.

Day hikes into the canyon

Hiker in the Fish River Canyon

The area has become a very popular hiking destination over the years, which includes the well-known Fish River Hiking Trail. This trail runs along the canyon floor, surrounding you in silence and wilderness for four days!

Fortunately, you don’t need four days just to see the canyon. It’s possible to visit on a day hike. And in this case, a day hike really means a full day of hiking.

It takes five hours to get down onto the canyon floor. You leave at sunrise, and after reaching the canyon floor, there is some time to find shade and check out the immense space and silence.

Then it’s at least five hours back up to the canyon rim before sundown.

Expect to be absolutely exhausted, but what an adventure! On the hike, you can truly appreciate the canyon’s colors and details, notably how each line across the canyon wall is a slightly different hue.

Wondering, “why is the Fish River Canyon famous?” This trek will have you gazing in awe and leave you at a loss for words. You’ll certainly see why it’s one of the greatest geological wonders in Namibia.

Fish River Canyon hiking trail

Starting point of the Fish River Canyon hiking trail at Hobas

If one day isn’t enough, then this trail is a beast.

Covering 86 km in total, the four-day hiking trail means you can hike almost the entire length of the world’s second-largest canyon.

Hiking trips are only available from May to September, during the dry winter months. It’s dangerous during other months due to the heat and risk of flash floods.

When tackling this trek, you must carry all your provisions and prepare for four long and hot days on the canyon floor.

It’s not for novice hikers, and it’s worth getting good advice from one of the lodges about the exact foods to take. This is a real adventure into the wild.

Only a small number of permits are given out each day. So, you’ll have to book these in advance.

They are inexpensive (around USD 25), but the prerequisite is that you must bring a note from your doctor stating you are healthy enough for the hike.

Löwenfish hiking trail

Hardly anybody knows about this trail. It’s a very challenging trek across part of the Fish River Canyon and the Löwen Canyon nearby.

You constantly go up and down, and hopefully, don’t get too many blisters or knee pains.

There is hardly any water on the trail, and large sections are exposed. However, if you want to walk in the wilderness, on landscapes untouched by people, then Löwenfish will satisfy your yearning for the wild.

Scenic flights over Namibia’s Fish River Canyon

Last rays of sunlight on Fish River Canyon

The best way to appreciate Fish River Canyon is on a scenic flight.

An aerial perspective showcases the size of this wonder and how it twists majestically through the desert. Shimmering red beneath the wingtips, it is one of Africa’s most inspiring sights.

You can combine a scenic flight with a longer aerial safari above Sossusvlei as well.

Horse riding trails

You can cover more ground when riding a horse, although horses aren’t capable of making the dangerous descent into the canyon.

This is a nice option for a half-day ride close to the rim, taking you to places that are inaccessible by road.

Game viewing in Ai-Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park

Dead tree stump trunk at dusk in the Ai-Ais Richtersveld Transfrontier Park

This lovely little park makes a good addition to any experience in the area. Visit for a day or spend an overnight safari in Namibia.

You’ll likely see Hartmann’s mountain zebra, kudu, and a pretty eclectic mix of other African animals roaming around.

Fish River Canyon Accommodation

Canyon Roadhouse Lodge in Namibia

If you’re planning to visit the canyon for several days, here are a few top accommodations for a splendid stay.

Fish River Lodge

This is the only facility on the rim of the canyon. It’s definitely a winner if you want to have a lazy day and still enjoy the crater.

Here you’ll have breathtaking views, a carefully designed lodge, and a wide variety of activities on offer.

Ai Ais Hotsprings Resort

Ai Ais Hotsprings Resort and Spa in southern Namibia

This is where I stayed during my overland trip back in 2011.

Ai Ais Hotsprings Resort is a “decent” hotel and spa with a swimming pool that gets its water directly from the hot springs.

The place used to be known as the “southern jewel” of Namibia, though things have become less pretty lately due to poor management and neglected facilities.

The resort also offers self-catering units and a camping ground, which are probably your best options right now.

Canyon Adventures Guest Farm

Situated at the confluence of the Löwen and Fish River Canyons, the ranch offers the possibility to swim in river pools and to admire bizarre petroglyphs.

It’s relaxed and laid-back, a good choice if you plan to do plenty of full-day activities as there’s not much around here during the day.

Sandfontein Lodge

This lodge is privately owned and extends across the Sandfontein Lodge and Nature Reserve (over 76 000 hectares of land).

It is a highly exclusive accommodation venue, featuring only four bungalows and one suite. There are great wildlife viewing opportunities, as well as exceptional outdoor pursuits.

Have an Adventure at the Fish River Canyon in Namibia

Pretty vegetation on the verge of Fish River Canyon

After reading these fun facts about canyons, it’s easy to see why the Fish River Canyon is a wonderful destination.

However, it is just one of the vast and mostly unknown natural wonders in Namibia. Check out this post on the Namib Desert to learn about a few more.

If you’re wondering, “where is the Fish River Canyon located?”, and “should I take a trip there?”, this experience is certainly worthwhile.

And if you’re seeking more wild adventures, booking a safari in Africa will not disappoint either.


3 thoughts on “Fish River Canyon facts – Location in Namibia, hiking & more”

    1. Thanks so much for pointing that out Horst, our mistake. I will adjust accordingly. 🙂

      The best places to see elephants in Namibia include Damaraland, Etosha National Park and the Caprivi Strip up north.

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