Swakopmund is a beautiful town on the coast of Namibia, about 350 km west of Windhoek. It’s safe to say that Swakopmund is the most beautiful and interesting town in the country. It’s definitely worth including it in your Namibia road trip itinerary.
There are many amazing things to do in Swakopmund from observing incredible wildlife to skydiving over the desert and tasting local craft beer. If you’re looking for a nice place where you can stay for a couple of days and chile Swakopmund is a great option. Swakopmund is a perfect place for solo travelers and those who don’t want to rent a car. There are many group and private tours that take travelers to the main highlights of Namibia.
Nature and wildlife experiences in Swakopmund
You’ll be surprised by the diversity of wildlife and landscape of the area. Within a couple of hours’ drive, you can see impressive sand dunes, bizarre rock formations, deserted coast, and thousands of animals and birds.
Visiting Dune 7
Many tourists associate Namibia with desert so visiting the highest dune in the Namib Desert is a must-do thing for anybody visiting Swakopmund. Dune 7 is situated 35 km south of the town close to the road you don’t need a 4×4 to get to it. There is a parking lot at the dune you can leave your car there. Sunset is the best time for visiting the dune. You can enjoy the sun going down from the top of the dune in the endless Namib Desert.
Dune 7 is not the only famous dune in the Namib Desert. If you want to see impressive dunes and dried salt pans make sure to visit Sossusvlei.
Watching flamingos in Walvis Bay
Wildlife around Swakopmund is incredibly diverse. The flamingo colony in Walvis Bay, a small town 40 km south of Swakopmund is one of the places worth visiting. You can see birds from close-by from the promenade. A tidal pool at Pelican Point is the best spot for watching these magnificent birds. The best time to see flamingos in Walvis Bay is between November and April. During the peak season, December to March, there are thousands of birds in the area.
Spotting whales and dolphins from a boat
Watching flamingos is not the only thing to do in Walvis Bay. If you do a boat or catamaran tour at Pelican Point you will be able to see whales, dolphins, seals, sunfish, and leatherback turtles. The best season to see whales are the winter months from July to November. During that time you can see Southern Right Whales and Humpback Whales. Other marine animals can be seen year-round. You can do a catamaran tour to see the diverse marine life of the Namibian coast.
If you’re planning to visit southern Namibia consider visiting Luderitz, a small coastal town in the south of the country. There are some interesting things to do in Luderitz including observing marine wildlife.
Driving along the Skeleton Coast
The secluded coast of Namibia is an interesting place to visit. A drive along the coast is an adventure on its own. The name comes from several shipwrecks that can be found along the coast. Some of the wrecks are worth a stop. Zeila wreck is probably the most famous here. It’s a well-preserved wreck situated close to the shore, about 60 km north of Swakopmund.
Shore fishing is a popular activity on the Skeleton Coast if you’re a keen fisherman bring your rods with you.
You can include a drive along the Skeleton Coast into your Namibia Victoria Falls Road trip.
Watching seals at Cape Cross
It’s is one of the not-to-miss places in Namibia. Cape Cross is a nature reserve that is home to the largest land colony of Cape Fur seals. In the peak season, you can see up to species. The best time to visit Cape Cross Seal Reserve is the breeding season, between January and March, when you can see thousands of cute seal cubs crawling around the area. Visitors walk on boardwalks seals and their cubs aren’t disturbed by human presence. If you’re a nature photography lover Cape Cross is a fantastic place for taking close-by photos of seals. The only downside of the place is the smell if you’re sensitive bring a napkin or a mask with you.
You can combine a visit to this place with a drive along the Skeleton Coast. Cape Cross is 130 km north of Swakopmund.
- Working hours – daily from 10 am to 5 pm
- Admission fee – NAD 150/US$10 per person, NAD 50/US$4 per car
Looking for wildlife in the desert
The desert might look like an uninhabitable place for untrained eyes. In fact, many endemic species can be found in the sand dunes just outside Swakopmund. Don’t expect to see big mammals but rather small endemic species like lizards, snakes, beetles, and spiders. This activity is one of the things that I’d strongly recommend doing with a guide. During the tour, you’ll learn a lot about the wildlife of the Namib Desert.
Admiring Moon Landscape and Welwitschias
The Moon Landscape is situated 40 km east of Swakopmund. You can visit it as a day trip from the town or on the way driving from Windhoek or Sossusvlei. The landscape in that part of the Namib desert reminds the surface of the Moon. From the lookout point, you can see rocky hills carved in the desert by the Swakop River. The landscape was formed millions of years ago when the climate in the region was more humid. In the background of the valley, visitors can see the Rossin Mountain.
There are several points of interest in the valley including rare plants, World War I remains, mines, and bizarre rock formations. If you want to visit all points of interest (beacons) you’ll need 4-5 hours.
Besides the surreal landscape, visitors can see the Welwitschia mirabilis. These plants are unique to the Namib Desert. They’re called living fossils. The average age of welwitschias is 400-500 years though some of the plants reach 1500 years.
To visit the beacons you need a permit that can be obtained at Ritterburg Office in Swakopmund. You can visit the Moon Landscape and see Welwitschia with a guided tour from Walvis Bay.
Spitzkoppe means pointed dome in German. This beautiful place is located 150 km northeast of Swakopmund. It’s famous for its granite peaks and bizarre rock formations. The peaks dominate the plains of the Namib Desert. The highest peak is 1728 m. You can visit Spitzkoppe is a day trip from Swakopmund. If you don’t want to do a self-drive trip you can join a small group tour to Spitkoppe from Swakopmund.
To really appreciate the beautify of the place I’d recommend staying here for the night. Camping under the stars in this incredible place is an amazing experience. Spitzkoppe Camp is one of our favorite campsites in Namibia.
Adventure things to do in Swakopmund
Adrenalin junkies and outdoor lovers will have plenty of things to do in Swakopmund to keep them busy for a couple of days. Swakopmund can easily be called the adventurous capital of Namibia.
4×4 drive in the desert
Driving in a 4×4 car past the giant sand dunes is one of the not-to-miss things in Swakopmund. For a desert drive, you can head to Sandwich Bay, drive along the Skeleton Coast, towards the Moon Landscape. Before going on a drive make sure you have enough petrol in your tank, check your wheels, pack a spare tire in your boot, and take enough water and snacks with you.
You don’t have to rent a 4×4 vehicle to enjoy the desert joining a day tour is a great option of experiencing the drive especially if you’re not very confident with driving on rugged sandy surfaces.
Quad biking in the dunes
Another great activity in Swakopmund. Riding a quad bike is a fun way to experience the desert. To be honest, I prefer it over 4×4 driving it’s more exciting and you can actually go over pretty big sand dunes. No need to worry about getting stuck or having a flat tire. Plus, everyone (even older children) can get his/her portion of adrenaline and maneuver over the dunes.
Skydiving over the desert
Tandem skydiving is an activity not for everybody. I must admit we didn’t do it. Mainly because it didn’t fit in our budget and we do regret it. Luckily Namibia is not far from South Africa I’m sure we’ll get a chance to do it on our next trip.
Enjoying the incredible landscape of the Namib Desert while free-falling from 2000 m is definitely a lifetime experience. Add to this the scenic flight over the wild Atlantic coast where the desert meets the ocean. The free fall lasts between 30 and 40 seconds but it feels like a lifetime (believe me I’ve done it once).
Kayaking around Bird Rock Island is a fantastic way of observing the diverse marine life of the region. During the excursion, you’ll get to see dolphins, seals, flamingoes, pelicans, and other marine birds. Paddle in a kayak is a must-include in your Swakopmund itinerary especially if you’re a bit overwhelmed by sand dunes and the desert. As an option, you can combine kayaking with a 4×4 desert drive. This way you’ll get to see both the impressive dunes of the Namib Desert and the diverse marine life of the region.
Riding a bike in the desert
Exploring the Namib Desert on a bike is a truly amazing thing to do in Swakopmund. Cycling over sand dunes gives you a chance to enjoy the unique environment of the desert without engine noises and air pollution. For us, doing any outdoor physical activity after spending days sitting in the car was amazing. Cycling on sand is a bit tricky and quite challenging sometimes, especially when you try to go up the hill be ready to sweat from both the effort and the heat. When doing any outdoor activity in the desert always put on sunscreen and wear a cap.
Sandboarding from the high dunes of the Namib Desert is a great and fun activity. Going down a sand dune on a board standing is quite tricky. It might take a couple of tries to get hold of it. It helps if you have some experience in snowboarding though it’s not the same.
If you want an easier alternative you can do a lie-down sandboarding. In my experience, it’s faster to go down lying down than standing. Whichever way you choose prepare yourself for a physically challenging walk up the dunes with your board after every slide.
Things to do for culture and food lovers
Nature and adventure activities are not the only things to do in Swakopmund. The town offers great cultural and gastronomical experiences.
Exploring the town on foot
Swakopmund is our favorite “walking town” in Namibia. It has everything to enjoy a nice stroll: long sandy beaches, small squares, beautiful architecture, cozy coffee shops, great vistas from the pier. We stayed in Swakopmund for almost a week and were very happy just to walk around after many long days of driving. All the main attractions, restaurants, shops, and the beach are close to each other you really don’t need a car to move around.
The architectural highlights of Swakopmund are the Prinzessin Rupprecht Heim building, the Old Prison, the State House, Woermannhaus, the Lighthouse, Hohenzollern Building, and more. Most of these remarkable buildings were built at the beginning of the XX century.
Township tour just outside Swakopmund is a great way of meeting locals and learning about different tribes living in the area. Visiting the townships gives you a chance to see Swakopmund from a different perspective. You’ll meet the Damara, Nama, and the Herrero people. During the tour, you get to visit a local school, try some traditional homemade food, listen to the choir, and more. It’s a fun, informative, and engaging way of experiencing local culture.
If you’re interested in the Namibian tribes you’ll enjoy visiting the Himba People in Northern Namibia.
Chilling on the beach
What can be better than relaxing on the beach after long days of driving through the desert?! We really enjoyed long sunset walks and morning runs on the long sandy beach in Swakopmund. Like everywhere in Namibia the ocean is pretty cold not really suitable for swimming. Temperatures range between 18°C in summer and 14°C in winter.
Visiting the National Marine Aquarium
It might be not the first choice especially if you have limited time to spend in Swakopmund. The great thing about the aquarium is that you can learn about the marine life of the region. There are only local species that live in the Atlantic’s cold Benguela Current. You can see here sharks, rays, lobsters, and different kinds of fish. The aquarium is quite small you’ll need an hour or two to visit it. It’s an interesting place to visit with children they’ll enjoy watching rays feeding and running through the glass tunnel.
- Working hours – Tue – Sun, from 10am to 4pm, feeding daily at 3pm
- Admission fee – NAD 30/US$2
Learning history at the Swakopmund Museum
The museum was established in 1951 by Dr. Alfons Weber. Nowadays it’s the biggest private museum in Namibia. Here you can learn pretty much everything about the region from indigenous plants and animals to the traditional living styles of local tribes and old motorized vehicles. It’s a great place to visit especially if Swakopmund is a starting point of your Namibia trip.
- Working hours – Mon – Sun, fom 10am to 5pm
- Admission fee – NAD 30/US$2
Tasting craft beer
If you’re a beer lover you’ll definitely enjoy Swakopmund. Its German past To get a first-hand beer tasting experience visit the Namib Dunes Craft Brewery. They have a great variety of beers and ales.
If you want to have a great meal e.g. a steak, a burger, etc. with your beer make sure to visit Joe’s Beerhouse or SKW Brathause and Beergarden. Both places have delicious food, good beers, and a great vibe.
Enjoying fresh seafood
Fresh seafood and fish are something not to miss in Swakopmund. Here you can enjoy freshly caught local specialties such as lobsters, oysters, and fish. There are several great restaurants where you can try some of the best sushi and seafood in Namibia. Ocean Cellar and Jetty 1905 serve fresh seafood, excellent sushi, as well as meat and vegetarian dishes. From both restaurants, you can watch the sunset enjoying a delicious meal.
How to get to Swakopmund?
The best way of moving around Namibia is by car. If you’re coming from overseas you’ll probably fly to Windhoek where you can rent a car. The easiest is to rent a car at Windhoek Airport. It allows you to be flexible and make spontaneous changes to your travel itinerary.
Swakopmund is 300 km west of Windhoek, the drive takes about 4 hours. Many travelers prefer visiting Sossusvlei first and from there go to Swakopmund. Sossusvlei is 400 km south of Swakopmund. The road is mostly gravel, it takes about 5 hours to drive.
If you don’t want to rent a car you can get to Swakopmund with a shuttle bus. There are several companies operating on this route. The best is to ask your hotel to arrange it for you.
For solo travelers joining a small group tour across Namibia might be a good option. In this case, you don’t have to worry or plan anything yourself.
Where to stay in Swakopmund?
There are plenty of accommodation options in Swakopmund for different budgets from backpackers’ hostels to luxury hotels.
- Lower end | Skeleton Beach Backpackers | Sea View Backpackers | Salty Jackal Backpackers & Surf Camp |
- Middle price | The Secret Garden Guesthouse | Jetty Self-Catering | Hansa Hotel Swakopmund |
- High-end | Be-Still Accommodation | Alternative Space B & B | Mylas Cottage |
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The pretty half of Stingy Nomads, responsible for all our land adventures (hiking, climbing, walking the Camino) and following them write-ups. Alya loves walking since she was a child, she prefers to walk 1000 km with a backpack rather than to do a 10 000 km road trip (actually any road trip). Alya is a big fan of Latin America, the Spanish language, and dancing. Every time we go away she desperately misses our dog Chile.