Luderitz, Namibia. If there is a place you shouldn’t miss on your trip to Southern Africa, this is it. Between the Namib Desert and the South Atlantic coast (by far the most inhospitable one of this part of the world), this town leaves many a visitor puzzled. Because frankly, it is plain weird – though in a good way, obviously.
This small town of just 18000 people has a lot to offer to those who venture there. Colonial architecture makes it look like it’d be more in place somewhere in South Bavaria (and that’s why it’s called Little Munich) – but we are in the middle of the desert. The Art Nouveau buildings give it a quirky look.
Add to this the wildlife sightings and the beyond interesting surroundings and you’ll get why this is an unmissable destination.
In this post, I highlight the things you shouldn’t be missing when visiting Luderitz. Before I do so, however, let me first share some background information on how this lovely town came about.
Some Background Information On Luderitz
The first European to arrive in the area where Luderitz was founded was Bartolomeu Dias. It was 1487 and he named the bay where he stopped Angra Pequena (small bay) and erected a cross on a stone to indicate the exact point where he landed.
In the 18th century, the Dutch started looking for precious minerals, but weren’t very successful. Subsequent expeditions in the area established that there was a very rich wildlife and activities such as whaling, fishing, seal hunting and even guano-harvesting were started. That’s how Luderitz was first founded.
It was in 1883, when Heinrich Vogelsang bought the bay Angra Pequena and the land nearby on behalf of Adolf Lüderitz, that the city got its name. The city expanded thanks to the efforts of the Herero and Nama prisoners who were held in a concentration camp located on Shark Island and created in 1905 during the Herero Wars.
In 1909 diamonds were first discovered in the area of Kolmanskop, near Luderitz, and the city started to prosper.
After the German population was forced to leave once World War I was over and the trade in diamonds started to shrink, Luderitz started losing importance as a trading harbor. Nowadays, the town has become a popular tourist destination.
Continue reading to discover the things to do and see in Luderitz.
7 Great Things To Do In Luderitz
Admire the colonial architecture and Art Nouveau buildings
Luderitz is packed with excellent examples of colonial architecture and Art Nouveau buildings, and a quick walk around town will unveil the best kept buildings.
Among the ones you shouldn’t miss there are the Deutsche Africa Bank building, which was built in 1907 and is the most important colonial building in town – we well as a national monument.
Located on Diamond Hill there’s Felsenkirche, or Rock Church, a vertical gothic style church that was consecrated in 1912. This is another national monument, recognized in 1978. It can be easily spotted from Luderitz Nest Hotel.
More colonial and Art Nouveau buildings include the Gluck Auf, built between 1907 and 1908 to be the mansion of a lawyer who worked for the diamond companies in the nearby Kolmanskop. It was declared a national monument in 2014.
The Goerkehaus was built between 1909 and 1911 to be the house of Hans Goerke, who also worked for the diamond company (he was a manager). Like the others, it is a national monument.
Lastly, there are the Kreplinhaus, built in 1909 and home of the first mayor of Luderitz, Emil Kreplin; and the Railway Station, built in 1904. Both of them are national monuments.
See the other side of Luderitz
Namibia became independent from South African in 1990, and like its neighbor country it has several townships. Even Luderitz has its own, and it is an interesting place to visit. I am always thorn when I have to write about visiting them, because there is an element of voyeurism in visiting a place where poverty is predominant. But if done on a good tour and with an excellent guide, it can be a great way to get a better understanding of the local way of life, of the relationship between the various communities living in a said place.
The living conditions in Luderitz township vary from one place to another, with some people making an obvious effort and accepting government aid and housing to improve their living conditions, and others simply living in poverty and below acceptable standards in improvised huts.
Perhaps the highlight of a trip to Luderitz is visiting Kolmanskp, a ghost town which is at just 10 km, in the middle of the desert. The town was founded at the beginning of the 20th century, then diamonds were found in its surroundings. It was small yet very wealthy and with state of the art infrastructure.
Kolmanskop was completely abandoned when it was determined that extracting diamonds in the area was no longer profitable – more places were discovered in South Africa that were far more suitable. People living there had to leave their homes taking whatever they could with them.
Kolmanskop can be visited on a guided tour, typically lasting around 45 minutes. After the guided tour, you are free to walk around and take photos for as long as you want.
In Kolmanskop you’ll be able to admire the gorgeous mansions – some of them still well kept and with pieces of furniture, some completely taken over by the elements; the post office; a general store with bottles and glass windows and other objects of the time; a bowling alley which still functions; a restaurant and a train station. As the guide will explain, there used to be a cart that went around the town, taking the people living there to the various places.
Take care to also notice the small buildings in the distance (you won’t really be able to go there): these housed the workers who were quarantined before leaving Kolmanskop. The quarantine was practiced to avoid them leaving after having swallowed diamonds.
To discover more about Kolmanskop, make sure to read this post by National Geographic.
Fight against the wind at Diaz Point
One of the nicest places to visit near Luderitz is Diaz Point, which is at about 18 km from town. This is the place where Bartolomeu Dias placed a stone cross, which is still visible today. You can walk up via a narrow wooden causeway, which has definitely seen better days. The views of the Atlantic Ocean from up there are marvelous, and if you look closely you can even see seals resting on some of the rock formations nearby. Make sure to bring a jacket as the wind in this part of Namibia is fierce!
Admire wildlife at Luderitz Peninsula
If there is one thing Namibia is famous for that’s its wildlife, and Luderitz Peninsula, near Luderitz, is a great place to admire various species. The area is fantastic for birdwatching – the best sight is that of pink flamingoes who frolic here to feed on the shrimp that live in the clean waters of the region.
See the sunset from the pier at Luderitz Nest Hotel
Luderitz glows at sunset. Several places in town offer great views of the sunset – there is a spot where lots of vans and camper-vans park from where you can get nice views. However, I think the best place to enjoy the beautiful light as the sun goes down is the pier right next Luderitz Nest Hotel, which overlooks the bay. If you are lucky enough to stay there, you may even get a room with a direct view of the balcony.
Eat the delicious seafood
Most of the food you’ll be eating in Namibia is meat – take it as a warning if you are vegan or vegetarian: your options outside of Windhoek are very limited. Thus, Luderitz will come as welcome change as you’ll find a few, excellent restaurants where you can enjoy very good, fresh fish and seafood. Among the recommended places there are the Portuguess Fisherman and Penguin Restaurant, which is located in Luderitz Nest Hotel.
Practical Tips To Organize Your Trip To Luderitz
When to visit Luderitz
Compared to the rest of Namibia, thanks to the fact that it is right by the ocean Luderitz is quite humid. It may be a welcome change from the incredibly dry air – depending on how you feel about humidity. The weather is mostly dry, with sunny days year round. The warmest months are March and April, the coldest ones June and July. The busiest months are April, August and September. I visited in June and even it was windy but pleasant during the day, and just chilly at night.
Where to stay in Luderitz
Luderitz is fairly small but there are a couple of good accommodation options. I don’t recommend camping, as the Atlantic current means that it gets cold and very humid at night. These are the best places to stay in Luderitz:
- Luderitz Nest Hotel is known as the best hotel in town. It has spacious, comfortable rooms with fantastic views of the ocean and an excellent on site restaurant. There is also a pool. Click here for the best rates and here for reviews.
- The Cormorant House offers comfortable, spacious rooms with a kitchenette and sea views. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
- Timo’s Guesthouse has basic but comfortable, spotless rooms. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
How to get to Luderitz
There are two main ways to visit Namibia: on an overland guided tour (I recommend those run by Wild Dog Safaris) or independently, with a rented 4×4. In both cases, it takes around 8 hours to drive to Luderitz from Windhoek, but chances are you’ll be arriving from a different, closer place such as Keetmanshoop.
Luderitz has a small airport at about 9 km from town, with three weekly flights to the capital. There are some combis (minibuses) that connect Luderitz to the capital, but there is no set schedule.
Other useful information
For more readings about Luderitz, you can check one of these books:
If you are planning a trip to Namibia and Southern Africa, you may find these posts useful:
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