Daniel Zvereff, 26, photographer–illustrator–designer–travel blogger
Duration: 3 Weeks
“I’m seeking something drastically different from my everyday life. I typically don’t plan—I just walk and let whatever happens unfold. When you travel alone, you’re more open to experiences; it forces you to meet people you’d never otherwise speak to had you been with friends.”
Go here: Windhoek, Namibia
Why now: Bypassed by most tourists en route to desert dunes and the Skeleton Coast, the Namibian capital is a model of African urbanism with its slick new culinary center and forthcoming Independence Memorial Museum.
What to do: Unapologetically clean and modern, Windhoek’s walkable city center is ideal for photographers looking to get beyond African clichés, e.g., Big Five Game and poverty. Start at the intersection of Fidel Castro Street and Robert Mugabe Avenue (photo-worthy itself) at the iconic Christ Church, then head toward the Office of the Prime Minister, built in 1964 and filled with artist murals, native-wood paneling, and sun-filled terrazzo hallways. After dusk, swing by dance bar Chez Ntemba (Mandume Ndemufayo Ave.), where local musicians sometimes play. For a more immersive experience, volunteer with the Beautiful Gate Namibia outreach program (beautifulgatenamibia.org), a center for orphans living with HIV/AIDS in the Katutura township.
Where to stay: The new skyscraping Hilton Windhoek (from $120; hilton.com) has a rooftop pool and scene-y lounge right downtown, but if it’s a global stew of strangers you’re after, crash at the Cardboard Box hostel (from $11; cardboardbox.com.na). In addition to dorm beds and private lodging, there’s a bar, swimming pool, communal kitchen, barbecue grills, and free breakfast.
What to eat: Joe’s Beerhouse (160 Nelson Mandela Ave.; 264-61-232-457), a favorite of pilots gossiping in Afrikaans, is known for its relaxed bush ambience, selection of Namibian lagers, and giant cuts of wild game like oryx and springbok. Nearby, O Portuga (312 Sam Nujoma Ave.; 264-61-272-900) is the preferred hangout of Portuguese-speaking Angolan expats, who eat towering grilled mixed-meat platters. The restaurant at the new culinary-arts center, Namibia Institute of Culinary Education (No. 2 Mozart St.; 264-61-300-710), is an elegant scarlet-bathed dining room where Windhoek’s aspiring chefs mingle with the city’s diamond-studded set.
Buy this: Ostrich-egg shells can be found at the city’s craft market on Post Street Mall, in both painted and plain form ($10–$30).
Know this: Many locals want to change the name of the Independence Memorial Museum, slated to open in a blocky gold building in the city center in 2013, to the Genocide Remembrance Centre to reflect the Hereros, Namas, and Damaras killed in the 1904–08 German-Namibian war.
Also consider: The desert city of Santa Fe, New Mexico, home to the International Folk Art Market, old train depots, dusty cowboy-hat and denim shops, and a fantastic contemporary-art space, Site Santa Fe, which offers a break from the city’s dreamcatcher art.