Aerial view of Swakopmund.

Swakopmund, known as Swakop in Namibia is the country's biggest coastal town and a resort for Namibians on holiday. The city's German origins are quite pronounced in beautiful old German colonial buildings throughout the city, making an even starker contrast for this town sitting at the edge of the Namib Desert. Swakopmund is like a German North Sea town with an African flair (or vice versa).



The first European explorers of the area, Dutchmen Sebastian van Reenen and Pieter Pienaar described the area in 1793 as one with lush vegetation and elephants and rhinos. Nowadays the area can be described as ocean on one side and desert on the other, featuring some shrubs as the only natural vegetation.

About a century after the Dutch exploration, the area was a colony of the German Empire, and was chosen as a second port for German Southwest Africa after Lüderitz. The architects decided that Swakopmund should resemble the German homeland as much as possible, wherefore the city now looks at it does. The boom period of the city continued until the outbreak of World War I. This also interrupted the construction of the massive pier, nowadays one of the city's main sights. After the war, the colony became a League of Nations mandate, later a de facto part of South Africa and Swakopmund mostly a city in decline.

Since the independence of Namibia in 1990, the city has established itself as a resort town. It's the fourth most populous city in the country, and popular among domestic and German vacationers.


 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Daily highs (°C) 22 23 22 21 21 20 20 18 18 19 21 22
Nightly lows (°C) 16 16 16 14 12 11 10 10 11 12 14 15
Precipitation (mm) 2 3 6 2 1 1 0 0 1 0 1 1

Swakopmund has a mild desert climate, with the temperature varying only a little during the year. The town sees only about 20 mm of rain around the year, but instead thick fog is a frequent occurrence. This is also why the Namibian coast is infamous for its shipwrecks. In addition to bringing needed moisture for the vegetation, the fog is also able to drop the temperature below +10°C in the winter.


Swakopmund was used as the setting for The Village in the 2008 production of The Prisoner by AMC and ITV. Its quaint buildings and unusual appearance made a perfect replacement for Portmeirion where the original 1960's series of The Prisoner was set.

Get in

By car

The best way to get to Swakopmund is by road from Windhoek. The B2 is the main road from Windhoek (362 km inland), and takes 4-5 hours by car. Walvis Bay, the closest major city, is 35 km to the south, also next to B2. The road is paved and in good condition.

From elsewhere, you need to take a "C"-road. C34 goes north along the coast from Skeleton Coast National Park, and is a dangerous drive due to the aforementioned thick fog. There are also two roads that are more of dirt tracks, but interesting if you want to see some of the Namibian outback and have a 4WD vehicle; C28 coming in from Windhoek via the Namib-Naukluft National Park and C14 connecting to Walvis Bay.

By plane

Swakopmund does have an airport, but it's just used by the local skydiving club and for some charter flights. The closest airport for with passenger traffic is 35km away near Walvis Bay, and you can fly there from Johannesburg and Cape Town by South African Airways and Air Namibia; the latter also has flights from the capital Windhoek. Some hotels and guest houses will provide a shuttle service to/from the Walvis Bay airport. Otherwise, there are a couple of local shuttle services — The Flying Coffee Pot (+264 811 287455) and Raiwin Shuttle Service (+264 81 273 9309) — that do the trip between Swakopmund and the airport for around N$200. Bookings can be made through the shuttle service's website.

If you have more money to spend, there are numerous small aircraft charter operators in Namibia, and flying from destination to destination on a tour through Namibia is an effective way to minimize the time spent travelling the long distances.

By minibus

Minibuses operate from Windhoek almost every 2-3 hours, ask the taxi drivers where the buses leave. There are multiple minibus ranks in Windhoek for different destinations, so make sure you find the right one. For about N$120 you can have a ride in an minibus. The ride will take about 4-6 hours. Pay immediately and try to get yourself a seat next to the driver for a bit more space.

By bus

B2 between Swakopmund and Walvis Bay

Although the minibuses are slightly cheaper and are an experience, they have no fixed time schedule and are often overloaded. So check out these operators:

By train

The StarLine service between Windhoek and Walvis Bay runs on weekdays. Trains leave Windhoek in the evening and arrive in Swakopmund early in the morning, if they are on time. Bring a jacket, as it can get quite cold in the night. There is a first and second class but no sleeper.

By ship

The RMS St Helena makes regular round-trips from St Helena Island to Cape Town via Walvis Bay. Catch a taxi from Walvis Bay to Swakopmund. However, as the airport on St Helena will open in May 2016, flights will entirely replace the ship route.

Occasionally cruise liners visit Walvis Bay, and passengers may take a tour to Swakopmund.

On a tour or safari

Swakopmund is a frequent one or two night stop on most tours around Namibia. There are many tour operator doing tours both from Namibia and from outside, such as South Africa.

Get around

As with other Namibian cities, there is no public transport in Swakopmund. But the city is small enough to get around easily on foot. All the major attractions and facilities are downtown. It´s hard to get a taxi in city centre (there are no taxis on a Saturday after 7PM), but once you get one it takes you wherever you want for the same rate as the Windhoek Taxis. A trip to Walvis Bay shouldn´t be more than N$40.



No, this isn't the Baltic Sea beach. It's the Woermannhaus in Swakopmund
The Lutheran church

Much of the downtown is built in early 20th-century German style.


"Martin Luther", standing where it once broke down



Swakopmund is Namibia's adventure capital, and there's a great selection of activities to try out on land, sea and in the air. Tours and activities may also be booked once you're in Swakopmund.


The desert as seen from a hot air balloon

The impressive Namib Desert (the oldest desert in the world, with the tallest sand dune in the world) around Swakopmund and the Skeleton Coast to the north can be appreciated in their entirety from the air, from a hot air balloon, a helicopter or a light plane. There are several kinds of flight tours are available, ranging from a few hours to a few days. Some flights enables you to see the desert and the ocean from above, others include safaris.

If you're really adventurous, your other options are paragliding (also beginner courses available) as well as skydiving — learn to jump from concerned, compassionate professionals in one of the cheapest, best skydiving schools on earth. The tour usually starts with a scenic flight and then a tandem jump with an instructor from 3000m.


The beaches are one of Swakopmund's top attractions

Many locals don't come to Swakopmund to hang out in the desert. Hang with the Namibians away on school holiday and go to the beach. You'll find cold water, but warm sands. The beach, just to the north of town, is ringed with museums and cafes. Beware that further south there are no breakwaters, so the beach is exposed directly to the waves of the Atlantic, which means that swimming may not be safe.

Surfing is popular too. Hit the surf spots to the north of town, such as 'Thick Lip' and 'The Wreck'. Travel further south towards Langstrad for 'Guns'. Fishing is a more relaxed sea-related activity and tour companies also offer offshore fishing tours.



Also the desert has many different activities, one local specialty being sandboarding, also known as duneboarding. You can ski the dunes just like you're snowboarding, or ride the board on your belly. Extremely high speeds — not for the faint hearted. This activity can be performed either on the world's highest sand dunes near Walvis Bay or some smaller dunes near Swakopmund. Alter Action has access to the infamous "Dizzy" hill. Tight clothing, sport shoes, sunglasses and sunblock are needed to take part in this activity. Beware that sand may damage your camera; though usually the price includes the operator taking video and photos of you performing the activity and giving you the footage.

Quadbiking is an excellent way to see the Namib desert close up. Several tour companies offer lessons and guided tours on four-wheel motorbikes through the desert surrounding the city. Breathtaking views of the dunes and the Atlantic Ocean.

Just south of town on the road to Walvis Bay, there are some nice sand dunes suitable for a walk. Cross over the Swakop River, smile at the fact that there's rarely any visible water in it, and stroll through the dunes.

There are several birding locations in the town. At the Swakop River mouth there is a small fresh water lagoon which always has good birds to see. In the town there is the water treatment area. This is more for the twitcher (birders chasing rare birds) looking for rare birds. It is only open on working hours on week days. North of the town is the Mile 4 salt works. Some roads go along the open saline lakes where the salt is being extracted. This area is very important for various birds, including flamingos.

Other than this, there are also tours to the natural attractions mentioned in the Go next section.

In the city

Swakop has an unusual number of skilled rock musicians and an impromptu "Open Mike Night" can usually be organized at one of the local nightspots. Travelling musicians take note!

Also, in addition to being located in the beautiful Woermannhaus, the library of Swakopmund is reportedly one of the best in all of Africa; why not sit down and educate yourself?


Brauhaus Arcade

Many Namibians travel to Swakopmund for shopping. While the selection is not as wide as in the capital, you can really buy everything you need here. There are several nice shops in Swakop selling souvenirs and art; in particular if you're interested in traditional African silver jewelry. There is also a very good craft market near the lighthouse, which has a lot of items which are difficult to find elsewhere in Namibia.


Typical local cuisine, insofar as it exists, is a combination of the hearty German cuisine and fish and seafood of the ocean. Being a resort city, many restaurants are located in hotels. For some of the most popular ones you will need to book a few days ahead, especially on weekends and holidays.

An average sit-down restaurant meal costs around N$150-300, and on top of that it's customary to leave a tip of 10%.

Sam Nujoma Avenue





Homebrewed beer from a street vendor is also an option

This is Jägermeister country and don't forget to sample the famous, locally brewed Hansa Draught.



The Alte Kaserne (the old Imperial German barracks) is a used as a youth hostel


The old railway station nowadays hosts a luxurious hotel, a casino and restaurants


Stay safe

Swakopmund is generally a safe city, though you should follow some basic rules:


Go next

Cape Cross Seal Colony

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Monday, March 14, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.