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Luderitz

Population

12,537 (2011)

Founded

1883

Best time to visit

All year

Where time almost stands still

In many ways, Luderitz seems frozen in time. Originally built on such high hopes, the town has preserved much of its alluring German architecture, almost like a memory to a time passed. Today one cannot help but feel the peculiarity, as well as the charm, of this remote little coastal town.

Buildings at Luderitz town at night

Luderitz: A quiet town with many stories to tell

With its unique setting, interesting history and friendly people, Luderitz (Lüderitz) is a coastal holiday town with a difference. Not only does the town’s architecture have a story to tell, but the nearby ghost towns of Kolmanskop and Elizabeth Bay, as well as the wild horses at Garub, all contribute to the mystery and bizarreness connected to Luderitz.

Bartolomeu Dias erected a stone cross on this rocky coast as early as 1488 whilst on his famous quest to find a sea route to India. Today, a replica of the cross marks the location where it was originally placed and can be visited. The Portuguese, however, were not interested in this inhospitable land. Eventually, in 1883 the German merchant Adolf Luderitz landed in the bay that was later to be named after him. He bought the surrounding land from the Khoekhoe chief Joseph Fredericks in an event, which many believe is the beginning of German colonial rule in South West Africa.

At first, progress was very slow. But then the town of Luderitz suddenly experienced an unexpected surge in wealth and population when, completely by chance, diamonds were discovered in 1908. The area soon found itself amid a tremendous diamond rush. Many people became very wealthy, very quickly and naturally, they needed a way to show their wealth. As a result, new and ornate buildings started springing up, many in the German art nouveau style which was in vogue at the time. Most notable of these buildings is perhaps the Goerke House, built for Hans Goerke who was the manager of the local diamond company. This magnificent house has been well maintained and can be visited on guided tours during certain hours. Another one of the town’s most famous buildings is the Lutheran Church known as Rock Church (Felsenkirche), sitting atop of Diamond Hill, overlooking the town. Built in a mostly neo-gothic style it is both impressive and beautiful and yet, as is often case in Luderitz, feels slightly out of place. A guided city tour of Luderitz is certainly worth it. It allows you to not only admire, but also understand the history behind some of the town’s most notable structures.

With the afore mentioned diamond boom also came new settlements such as Elizabeth Bay and most notably, Kolmanskop. The settlement at Kolmanskop grew particularly fast and took the shape of a small German town. The only difference was that this town was not somewhere in the Bavarian Alps, but in the middle of the Namib Desert. Soon, ostentatious villas sprung up with the newfound wealth. The town had its own school, skittle alley, gymnasium, butchery, ice factory and a hospital with the first x-ray machine in the southern hemisphere.

The diamond rush did not last long however, and the diamond industry soon moved further south, leaving the beautiful buildings of Luderitz as relics to its once prosperous past and ultimately, transforming Kolmanskop and Elizabeth Bay into ghost towns. The sands of the Namib have been gradually reclaiming the settlements and now, particularly Kolmanskop has become probably the area’s foremost tourist attraction.

But Luderitz has even more bizarreness to offer and the wild horses of the Namib are another one of the region’s strange attractions. Their exact origin remains a mystery, but many suggest that the horses are the descendants of domesticated horses which were freed during the First World War. You could see these now feral horses for yourself, as they are often sighted near a place called Garub, near Aus, approximately on hours’ drive from Luderitz.

A less well-known and considerably darker chapter of Luderitz’s history is found on Shark Island, a jagged peninsula that juts out into the Atlantic just outside of the town itself. Now used as a campsite, this island was once a concentration camp where thousands of ethnic Hereros and Namas were incarcerated and where many died due to exposure, following a bloody colonial war.

Today, Luderitz is striving to rekindle the optimism which once enveloped the town. Luckily, there are several wonderful accommodation options to choose from when staying here. Ranging from small owner-run guest houses to larger hotels, there is something for everyone. Many of the accommodations provide a sea view and allow you to gaze out onto the Luderitz harbour or over the Atlantic Ocean.

Luderitz is often forgotten by those who travel to Namibia and that is a real pity. The town is in a very remote region and on face value, seems like just another a sleepy seaside town. But it is more than that. It is a sleepy seaside town with plenty of stories to tell and it offers many things to do and discover for any traveller who visits.

Namibia Luderitz map
German colonial architecture

German Architecture

You can see examples of German art nouveau architecture on buildings such as the Felsenkirche, Goerke House, the Old Station Building, the Turnhalle, Kreplin House and Troost House, giving the town a peculiar German feel. On a guided tour, you can learn about the colonial history of Namibia.

Luderitz waterfront

Luderitz Waterfront

You can take a stroll along the newly created Luderitz Waterfront and spend some time exploring the restaurants and shops and mingle with some of the friendly locals whilst doing so.

Crayfish Festival Luderitz

Luderitz Crayfish Festival

You can discover why the people of Luderitz are so proud of their local crayfish (rock lobster), particularly during the annual Luderitz Crayfish Festival which runs from the end of April until early May and taste many delicious crayfish dishes.

View of Luderitz town

The small town of Luderitz overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

Seaside jetty at Luderitz

Luderitz is a desert and a seaside town at the same time – a fascinating and odd place to visit.

Felsenkirche rock church Luderitz

The Felsenkirche evangelical Lutheran church built in 1911 is situated on Diamond Hill.

House and tub at Kolmanskop ghost town

The mystical nearby ghost-town of Kolmanskop is a window into times gone by.

Wild horses near Aus

With a bit of luck, you can see wild horses near Aus.

WHEN TO GO

Best time to visit Luderitz

Luderitz has a desert climate, and the weather is constant throughout the year. You can expect foggy mornings and nights with cool to mild daytime temperatures and a chilly breeze (or sometimes strong wind) regularly coming in off the cold Atlantic Ocean. Do not expect any rainy days however, as Luderitz hardly ever experiences rainfall.

Dry season

Dry season

All year

Mild daytime temperatures with a breezy wind

Rainy season

Rainy Season

Never

Rainfall in Luderitz is a rather abstract concept

Why to go

Visit the ghost town of Kolmanskop

The ghost towns of Kolmanskop and Elizabeth Bay in the Luderitz environs showcase the weathered remains of the diamond rush that boomed here in the early 1900s. Kolmanskop is particularly worth a visit – this once thriving town is now gradually being reclaimed by the desert sand and makes for a fascinating trip back into time and for eery photo motifs.

Inside of abandoned ghost house in Kolmanskop
City tour red building colonial architecture Luderitz
Go on a City Tour

Learn about the history of this incongruous town and its many colourful buildings

Catamaran boats in harbour at Luderitz
Catamaran Marine Tour

Discover the marine wildlife that lives in the cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean

Things to do

Explore the town Luderitz and the unexpected wildlife nearby

On a city tour you can explore this peculiar town and with the help of a guide, gain a better understanding of its unique history. By going on a catamaran marine tour, you can also learn more about the rich ecosystem found beneath the waves of the Atlantic Ocean.

  • Go on a City Tour
  • Catamaran Marine Tour
Penguins swimming in Atlantic Ocean
Penguins

The nearby Halifax Island is home to thousands of African (jackass) penguins

Cape fur seals Namibia
Cape Fur Seal

The cold Benguela stream provides these seals with enough fish to support them in large numbers.

Wild horse at Aus near Luderitz
Wild Horses

These horses have adapted to their desert environment and continue to eke out an existence against all odds.

WILDLIFE NEAR LUDERITZ

Life in the desert

The rich Atlantic Ocean is home to a wealth of aquatic wildlife for you to discover. By stepping onto a boat and heading out into the bay, you might be surprised by what you find. Speaking of surprises, further inland you may also encounter the only feral horses in Africa too.

Where to stay in Luderitz

Luderitz Nest Hotel sunset

Luderitz Nest Hotel

Desert Horse Inn

Desert Horse Inn

Location

Luderitz sometimes feels like it is located on the edge of the earth. You travel through the arid Namib Desert before finally reaching it, built on the granite rocks of the Atlantic Ocean’s rugged coastline. The shallow rocky bay is not suitable for larger vessels, which along with its remote location, has kept the town mostly quiet for the past decades.

Experience Luderitz

Zebra closeup Namibia
Namibia travel expert
Sand dunes Namibia

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