Swakopmund is a small and slightly incongruous coastal town that is jam-packed with attractions and adventure activities.
From alluring art nouveau German architecture to sandy beaches, a mineral museum and educational walks in the dunes of the Namib, you certainly won’t run out of things to do here. But it is the adventurous travellers that really come alive in Swakopmund.
Swakopmund, or simply ‘Swakop’ to locals, is also a favourite with Namibians during holidays, when they flock to the coast to escape the heat of central Namibia. Overland trucks stop here regularly and the backpacker hostels and bars dotted across the town are ideal for socializing with other travellers.
The towering dune belt behind Swakopmund is a huge playground for anyone looking for an unusual and adventurous experience. Tour operators offer a range of adventure and outdoors activities including sandboarding, paragliding, skydiving, quad bike safaris, scenic flights surfing, fishing, boat trips and educational tours that give visitors a more intimate knowledge of the unique desert environment that surrounds the town.
For more conventional sightseers, historic buildings from the German colonial era make for an interesting walk through the city. The Old Barracks, the Woermann House, the Old Magistrate’s Court, the Hohenzollern Building, the Swakopmund Lighthouse and the iron jetty were all built at the beginning of the 20th century.
The Swakopmund Museum has exhibits that range from fossils and meteorites to cultural artefacts, while the Swakopmund Aquarium has modern displays of the West Coast marine life. The Kristall Galerie is home to the world’s largest quartz crystal cluster and the Martin Luther steam engine has a curious story to tell just outside of town.
Immersive township tours are also available on the outskirts of town.
Swakopmund has a vibrant restaurant and nightlife scene. Like the town’s architecture, much of the cuisine is still heavily influenced by the town’s German heritage. The beachfront also has many restaurants with scenic views and the freshest of seafood offerings. There are plenty of popular bars around too, which combined with the overland truck crowds and holiday makers makes Swakopmund probably Namibia’s party capital in season.
Captain Curt von François founded Swakopmund in 1892 as the main harbour for the Imperial German colony—The deep sea harbour at Walvis Bay belonged to the British.
The founding date was on August 8 when the crew of gunboat Hyäne erected two beacons on the shore. Swakopmund was chosen for its availability of fresh water, and because other sites further north such as Cape Cross were found unsuitable.
In recent years, Swakopmund and neighbouring Walvis Bay have become Namibia’s biggest boom towns, driven by substantial mining wealth in the area.
Rössing, the world’s biggest open-cast uranium mine found just outside Swakopmund, can be visited on small group tours.