Swakopmund is an incredible destination and if you happen to visit Namibia you should make it a point to go.
Located on the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by the Namib Desert, this is a place where you will get to experience all the best that Namibia has to offer – unique landscape; wildlife; excellent food and an overall relaxed vibe.
In this post, I highlight the best things to do in Swakopmund and share some useful tips that will help you plan your trip.
13 Unmissable Things To Do In Swakompund
Visit the Skeleton Coast
One of the top things to do in Swakopmund is visiting the Skeleton Coast. Known as “The Gates of Hell,” the Skeleton Coast is one of the most unique places on earth. Picture sand dunes and no buildings at all – the only man made thing you will see here are the many shipwrecks.
The Skeleton Coast stretches for more than 500 km, from Swakopmund all the way to the border with Angola. It’s pretty much a deserted place. Its name comes from the many shipwrecks scattered along the coast – the most famous one the Dunedin Star which drowned in 1942.
This is an unforgiving place – so much so that it is actually pristine.
Admire wildlife in Walvis Bay
Walvis Bay is a fantastic place to admire the local wildlife. You will get to see flocks of pink flamingoes and other species of birds. You can explore it on land, but it is even better from water – which is why I recommend doing a boat tour.
These are the best tours of Walvis Bay:
Go to Spitzkoppe
Spitzkoppe is one of the most famous landmarks of Namibia. This mountain reaches 1728 meters and it is a fun place to go to for hikes and adventure activities. You do need logistical support though – so I don’t recommend going there by yourself.
These are some good guided tours of Spitzkoppe:
Go to Cape Cross Seal Reserve
Cape Cross Seal Reserve is a place where around 100000 seals live. It’s a real must see; an experience that is very visual but which your nostrils and ears will also remember: seals tend to be quite loud and the smell of guano in the colony is actually overwhelming.
One thing to know before visiting Cape Cross Seal Reserve is that Namibia still practices culling. Every year around 80000 seal pups are cubbed to death – something that according to Namibian authorities is meant to help sustainable seal harvesting.
Visiting this colony may be a chance of telling the local government that there actually is a monetary value in protecting the seals for tourism purposes.
Enjoy the colonial architecture
Swakopmund is packed with interesting examples of German style colonial architecture. One of the nicest things to do is strolling around to take in all the lovely views.
Among the most interesting buildings there are the State House (whose actual name is Kaiserliches Bezirksgericht), which was build in 1901 and served as the district magistrates’ course. It then became the residence of the South African administrators and in 1945 a tower was added. Since 1990, the year of Namibian independence, it has been used as the summer residence of Namibia’s President.
Another building is the Lighthouse, which was first built in 1903, when it reached 11 meters. Another 10 meters were added in 1910. The Lighthouse served the purpose of warning ships of the dangers of the Skeleton Coast.
If you want, you can do a guided tour. These are the best options:
Visit a local township
Townships are a sad reality of life in Namibia and South Africa. Though I am not a fan of hit and run tourism that brings no relief to the local population, I think that townships tours – if done with a responsible operator that gives back to the community – can be a great way of learning about the history and culture of this portion of Namibia. You can book a township tour with a local guide here.
Explore the desert
Right outside town you will find some incredible sand dunes that call for adventure! You can ride a quad bike there, take incredible photos, enjoy the landscape and the unique wildlife you will encounter.
These are the best desert tours in the area:
Fly over the city and the desert
One of the most impressive, adrenaline filled things to do in Swakopmund is seeing the city and the desert from above. The views from the sky are truly breathtaking. You can take a scenic flight – it’s not cheap, but you only live once! For an even more adrenaline filled day, you can even go skydiving. Whichever thing you opt to do, plan to spend a few days in town as flights only depart if the weather conditions are optimal. You can book your sky-diving experience here.
Go to the beach
Beaches in this part of Namibia are stunning – long and sandy. The currents are a bit strong to swim, but if the weather is nice, you definitely should take a day off to be lazy in the sun. The weather wasn’t really cooperative when I visited (it was winter) so I could only go for a walk – another soothing option.
Enjoy food at the many delicious restaurants
Food is generally good in Namibia, but many of the best restaurants in the country are actually in Swakopmund. You will find plenty of local eateries, fancy restaurants and options that go from meat to seafood to vegetarian and vegan.
Here is a selection of the best restaurants in town:
- The Jetty – guaranteed to please you, this restaurant is literally an institution. Located on the jetty, it gives you fantastic views of the coast, a great menu of fish, seafood and meat dishes, huge portions and unbeatable prices.
- The Tug – known as Swakopmund’s fanciest restaurants, you will need to make reservations in advance. Food is delicious.
- The Fish Deli – one of the best places in town if you love anything fish and seafood.
Taste the craft beer
Brewer and Butcher is a lovely place to taste craft beer – something that isn’t exactly common in Namibia. They will bring you a beer sampler before you order, so you will know what to pick!
Visit Swakopmund museum
It may not be the most impressive collection in the world, but this small museum is worth visiting. Its exhibit gives interesting insight on the history, culture, and even wildlife of Namibia. It’ll take around one hour to go through the collection.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The museum is open daily from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. Admission fee is 30 Namibian Dollars (around $2 USD).
Not exactly the New York of Africa when it comes to shopping, yet there are a few good boutiques, crafts and souvenir shops in Swakopmund that are worth checking. Store on presents to bring back home, or simply enjoy browsing through the shelves.
Practical Tips To Organize Your Trip To Swakopmund
When to visit Swakopmund
Compared to most of Namibia, thanks to the fact that it is right by the ocean Swakopmund is quite humid – which is actually nice, for a change The weather is usually dry, though the sky is often overcast.
The dry season runs from May to October. High season is usually between August and September. June is a good month to travel, with pleasant temperatures during the day, and colder nights. It may get windy during the day.
Where to stay in Swakopmund
Swakopmund has a few good accommodation options. These are the best places to stay in Swakopmund:
- Hotel A La Mer is very close to the beach. Rooms are modern, spacious and with a cozy feel. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
- Desert Sands Boutique offers self catering apartments – perfect if you plan a longer stay in town. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
- All African Colours is a lovely guest house near the beach and close to the center of town. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
How to get to Swakopmund
You have to options for visiting Namibia: on an overland guided tour (they are usually a lot of fun) or independently, with a rented 4×4. In both cases, it takes around 4 hours to drive from Windhoek to Swakopmund.
You can also fly to Wolvis Bay Airport, which is at about 40 km from Swakopmund.
How to move around Namibia
The best way to move around Namibia – if you want to travel independently – is by car. You ideally need a 4×4 with all the equipment to camp. You can rent a car here.
Guided tours of Namibia that also go to Swakopmund
You can travel to Namibia independently, but as the landscape is rather desert and the roads empty, you may be better off joining a group tour. There are a lot of great options and some also include neighboring countries as well. These tours all go to Swakopmund.
- Wonders of Namibia – In this classic, NatGeo-inspired tour, you will spend 10 days circling Namibia. The tour includes places such as Windhoek, Etosha NP, Paimwag, Twyfelfontein, Swakopmund, Namib-Naukluft NP, and Sesriem. Check here for more information
- Cape & Dunes Overland – The northbound (13 days) tour will take you to Swakopmund, Spitzkoppe, Etosha NP, and Windhoek. Check here for more information
- Discover Namibia & Victoria Falls – This 12 day tour covers mostly Namibia — WIndhoek, Etosha NP, Palmwag, Twyfelfontein, Swakopmund, Namib-Naukluft NP, and Sesriem. Is also goes to Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls. Check here for more information
- Classic Cape and Namibia Adventure – not as budget friendly, this 12-day tour that begins in Cape Town, goes through Lambert’s Bay, Gariep River, Fish River Canyon NP, Namib Desert, Swakopmund, Etosha NP, and ends in Windhoek. Check here for more information
Save for some areas of Windhoek that you are better off avoiding, Namibia is an overall safe country to visit. Swakopmund is a very pleasant place to walk around.
You main concern when traveling to Namibia independently should be minor road accidents (ie getting a flat tire) in the middle of nowhere, or opportunity crimes such as thefts. Make sure to never leave any valuables in sight in your car and to always lock it properly.
Other useful information
For more readings about Swakopmund, you can check one of these books:
If you are planning a trip to Namibia, you may find these posts useful:
- Everything You Should Know Before Visiting The Himba Tribe In Namibia
- 27 Things To Know Before Camping In Namibia
- 35 Simply Unmissable Things To Do In Namibia
- A Complete Guide To Luderitz, Namibia
- 13 Ways To Help The Himba People And Culture In Namibia