Swakopmund may not be its official capital, but it's undoubtedly Namibia's adventure and extreme sports capital. A popular holiday destination, it is a coastal city more geared towards tourists than Windhoek. Its appeal includes a pleasant summer climate, the seaside setting, its distinctly German flavour and the myriad adventure activities on offer. Swakopmund is a convenient gateway and ideal stopover for trips heading south into the Namib Desert and the Fish River Canyon; or northwards along the Skeleton Coast into Damaraland and on to Etosha National Park.
- Beaches and seaside lifestyle
- Adventure activities: skydiving, hot-air ballooning, scenic flights, sandboarding, horse trekking into the desert, quad biking and more
- Fishing and cruising
- Visits to Cape Cross seal colony
- Distinct German character: architecture, cuisine, heritage, locals, visitors and cultural influences
- Historical mining tours
- Cultural tours to local villages
A visit to this interesting city is a strange throwback to colonial times, especially in the quiet season when it feels almost surreal, as if you've stepped back in time to an ancient Germanic city. Buffered between the sweltering Namib desert and the icy Atlantic Ocean, Swakopmund overflows with holidaymakers and buzzes with activity during the peak summer season (December and January). It's a favourite choice of the locals as it's generally cooler, giving a much-needed respite from the sweltering heat experienced in the interior.
Things to Do in Swakopmund
One of the great things about Swakopmund is that it offers both adrenalin-pumping pursuits and leisurely sightseeing excursions. You can take in some hectic quad-biking across the sand dunes, or drive to the desert to see the almost prehistoric welwitschia plants.
Founded in 1892 when Namibia was colonised by the Germans, Swakopmund has retained much of its European influence. The architecture with its domes, turrets and towers distinctly reflects German grandeur from bygone days. There's also a very European-style café culture with loads of small sidewalk eateries and diners. You'll also find that most of the locals speak fluent German.
Besides a wealth of adventure and adrenalin-based activities, from quad biking to paragliding and scenic flights to duneboarding, there are many popular sights and attractions worth a visit, including:
The world's largest open-cast uranium mine, situated about 55km east of Swakopmund, is a huge contributor to Swakopmund's economy. Tours are around three hours long and only available twice a month, so please enquire in advance.
Established as a hotel in 1906, this is an exceptional example of German architecture, with intricate details and embellishments. Today, it comprises sectional-title apartments.
Otavi Railway Station
This turn-of-the-20th-Century Otavi Railway is in the city centre.
The Woermann House
Dating back to 1905, this stately building was erected as offices and living quarters for the Damara and Namaqua Trading Company. Later renamed Woermann, Brock & Co, this retail company still trades in Swakopmund and other towns in Namibia.
On the southern side of town, you'll find the Hansa Brewery, established by the German settlers and still contributing to the daily diet of local folk.
Welwitschia Desert Trip
This odd-looking shrub grows in the Namib Desert. It's said to have only two leaves which curl and twist. These prehistoric plants receive water from the sea mists that drift off the icy Atlantic and they live for over 1 000 years.
Situated next to the lighthouse, this museum is a treasure trove of all things botanical, with displays depicting the enormous variety of Namibian/desert vegetation as well as a wealth of wildlife that have made this area their home.
This town landmark was built by the Germans in 1903.
By road: It's about a four-hour drive from Windhoek. Regular buses service this route and road transfers are available.
By air: The closest airport to Swakopmund is in the town of Walvis Bay, a 30-minute drive away. Air Namibia offers regional flights and international arrivals come from Cape Town, Johannesburg and further afield.