Swakopmund, Namibia is a unique city that you wouldn’t expect to find in Africa. The coastal town on the Atlantic Ocean was once a German colony and today retains a heavy German influence that can be seen in its architecture and the large European population that lives and visits here. According to the most recent estimates, about 45,000 people live in this city.
The list of things to do in Swakopmund ranges from outdoor adventures like climbing sand dunes and skydiving to more traditional tourist activities such as museums and beaches. You can also visit local townships, go on guided boat tours to see dolphins, or take a day trip to see the seals at Cape Cross.
Check out our guide to the best Swakopmund attractions and activities and those in nearby Walvis Bay. Scroll to the end for a handful of recommended Swakopmund hotels, and feel free to leave a comment if you think we’ve left out any fun things to do in this awesome Namibian city!
Note: I visited Swakopmund as part of my two-month overland tour through eight countries with Absolute Africa. Interested in finding out more? Here’s a link to the tour I took, and here’s an extensive review of the adventure.
Things To Do in Swakopmund – Inside the City
Walk on the jetty
There’s a 100-year-old jetty that extends right from the heart of town 262 meters (859 feet) out into the ocean. It’s basically a long pier that folks can walk on to get cool views looking back at the city. The jetty was renovated in 2006 and now features a moderately expensive and restaurant called Jetty 1905 that serves mostly seafood and sushi.
The largest private museum in Namibia features collections related to geology, botany, zoology, archaeology, and more. Established in 1951 by a German doctor, the Swakopmund Museum displays sights such as fossils, bird eggs, and a large “People of Namibia” exhibit that describes the country’s various ethnic groups of the past and present. Admission cost as of this writing is 30 Namibian rand, or about $2 USD.
Hang out on the beach (Swakopmund Mole)
Swakopmund generally isn’t the kind of place where people sunbathe all day long in the sand. The main beach (called the Mole) isn’t very big, and the water here in the southern Atlantic is chillier than you’d expect. Even if you don’t feel like being one of a small number of people who lie out on the beach or go swimming in the ocean, at least walk past and see the place.
National Marine Aquarium
See African penguins, ragged-tooth sharks, octopus, green turtles, and numerous other types of ocean life at Namibia’s National Marine Aquarium. Open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm, the museum has an underwater walkway that provides visual access to some of the larger species in the tanks.
Many visitors try to time their visit to catch the daily feeding at 3 pm. The aquarium should be at the top of your list of things to do in Swakopmund.
Find a good restaurant
In addition to Jetty 1905, Swakopmund has a variety of places to eat that offer different types of cuisine. We had a fantastic meal at Kucki’s Pub, a seafood & grill restaurant that also serves up burgers, game meat steaks, and German specialties like spatzle and pork schnitzel. Other Swakopmund seafood eateries worth considering include Ocean Cellar, the Wreck, and BlueGrass.
For non-seafood meals, try Old Steamer, an upscale buffet restaurant; Garnish, which serves good Indian food; the Tug, a fancy spot that specializes in fish, beef, and pasta; Swakopmund Brauhaus for German pub food; Welwitschia for Portuguese cuisine; or Gabrielle’s Italian Pizzeria.
Perhaps the most famous building in Swakopmund is the Woermann House. Built in 1905, the property originally belonged to a German trading company and now contains an art gallery and library. For a fee of barely $1 US, you can enter to see the house and climb its small tower, which gives panoramic views of the ocean and desert.
Here’s another old German colonial building worth checking out. The Hohenzollern Building is a served as a hotel and administrative office for much of its 100+ years before being converted into housing units. The building was declared a National Monument in 1983. Today, visitors cannot go inside, but you should stop by just to see the ornate architectural designs on the exterior of the structure.
Walk around to see the architecture
Swakopmund has many more interesting structures than just the two listed above. Take some time to walk around the streets of the town to check out all the old German buildings, many of which have been restored to look brand new. The architecture is fascinating around every corner. Walking around also gives you a chance to pop into the many gift shops in town and stop by any street markets that may be going on.
If you’ve ever wanted to see a 220,000-pound cluster of quartz, here’s your chance! This massive cluster required five years to excavate and is now on display at this gallery, which also has a crystal cave, craft area, and coffee bar. The gem shop sells necklaces, jewelry, art, and carvings, but if those aren’t in your budget, it’s perfectly fine to just wander through and look.
Ride a bike around the city
Join a guided bike tour, or just pay to rent a bicycle for an hour or two. Most of the streets of Swakopmund are quiet, so you can pedal around at a leisurely pace to see the fun attractions listed in this article. Companies such as Swakop Cycle, Cycles4U, and Swakopmund Fat Bike Tours offer tours and/or individual rentals.
Living Desert Snake Park
Imagine a zoo where all the animals are snakes! If these slithery reptiles don’t freak you out, stop by the Living Desert Snake Park to see black mamba, cobras, boas, adders, and rattlesnakes, plus other desert critters like scorpions and lizards. This Swakopmund attraction seems to be particularly popular with families and children.
Swakopmund Activities Outside the City
Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Welwitschia Plains are the best place to see the massive and quirky welwitschia plant. Just an hour outside Swakopmund, this area contains thousands of welwitschia plants. The largest and oldest specimen is estimated to be around 1500 years old. Incredible! It has its own informational sign and a circle of rocks around it. This is also the area to see the strange landscape known as the moonscape because of rocky, cratered appearance.
I had a chance to go skydiving outside Swakopmund, and it was an incredible experience. If you’re ever going to jump out of an airplane, why not do it in a place with such remarkable scenery? As you race down to the earth, you’ll be able to see the ocean, the sand dunes, and the desert beneath you. I fell from 10,000 feet, but you can go as high as 15,000 feet if you want a full minute of freefall time.
My jump was with Ground Rush Adventures, a reputable company that has been in business for more than 20 years and completed more than 100,000 tandem jumps. They’ll provide transportation from the city out to their launch area, and prices are noticeably cheaper than back in the U.S. They even have a small bar on-site! Downing a beer or two is a great way to relax the nerves and build up some liquid courage before strapping on your parachute.
Quad Bikes, ATV Riding, Sandboarding
The sand dunes outside the city hold lots of different kinds of outdoor adventures. You can ride quad bikes, fat bikes, dune buggies, or ATVs across the dunes. You can go sandboarding, which is basically like snowboarding except the terrain is a sand dune instead of a snowy mountain. Several different companies in Swakopmund offer these adventures, so search around for a deal, or book a quad biking group experience.
Mondesa township tour
Mondesa is a township in Swakopmund. Townships are traditionally poor and racially segregated areas in communities in Africa. Township tours have become popular recently. These tours can be worthwhile as long as they do not exploit the people of the community and the money from the tours goes directly to the residents, such as the tour guide leaders. If you book a Mondesa tour, spend a few bucks buying gifts from the local market or lunch in a restaurant (try Hafeni, an eatery renowned for its traditional African food.)
See the Cape Cross seal colony on the Skeleton Coast
Here’s an absolute must-visit: The Cape Cross Seal Reserve along Namibia’s northern Atlantic coast, also known as the Skeleton Coast. Thousands of fur seals gather in this now-protected area, and you can get within a few feet of them as they walk along the boardwalk and lounge on the beach. Cape Cross is only a 90-minute drive from Swakopmund.
Living Desert Tour
Multiple companies in the area offer a ‘Living Desert Tour‘ that takes guests in 4×4 vehicles to see the unique landscape of the Namib Desert. It may seem like nothing could live in these dry dunes, but the tour focuses on the plants and animals that find a way to thrive here, including scorpions, snakes, geckos, and lizards.
Dolphin watching tour
The Atlantic Ocean is full of dolphins that can be seen near Namibia’s coast. Wildlife enthusiasts often book dolphin watching tours to try to see them in their natural habitat. For a slightly more upscale but still affordable adventure, consider the luxury catamaran tour from Walvis Bay. The four-hour tour aims to seek out dolphins, whales, turtles, and seals.
Dorob National Park
Pretty much the entire coast north of Swakopmund is part of Dorob National Park. Created in 2010, the park borders Cape Cross, so if you’re driving up to see the seals, you’ll pass through Dorob without even realizing it. Dorob doesn’t necessarily have a lot of attractions, but it is a good spot for fishing along the coast and desert scenery as you move inland.
Rossmund Golf Course & Mini Golf
There are only five desert golf courses in the world that feature fully green fairways, and Rossmund is one of them. Watch out for springbok and other wildlife on the course! If you’re not up for the big par-72 course, try the driving range or the family-friendly mini golf.
Swakopmund Camel Farm
Just east of the airport sits the Swakopmund Camel Farm. In addition to traditional farm animals, this 30-year-old farm along the Swakop River Valley has a population of camels. Tourists often come to see them up close or hop on for a camel ride. Twenty-minute rides for adults currently cost 200 Namibian rand (about $13 USD), with kids’ rides half that price.
Kayaking in Walvis Bay Lagoon
Companies like Pelican Point Kayaking and Namibia Kayak Tours give travelers a chance to get out on Walvis Bay Lagoon in kayaks. You may be sharing the waters with seals, dolphins, and flamingos! Most tours also include a stop to the salt mine, one of the largest in the world.
Day Trips and Longer Excursions from Swakopmund, Namibia and Walvis Bay
Sossusvlei and Deadvlei
Five hours south of Swakopmund is one of the great natural wonders of Africa – the region known as Sossusvlei. This salt and clay pan features a number of red sand dunes, such as the famous Dune 45, which many visitors climb before sunrise.
Also located here is Deadvlei, an area known for its standing dead trees. This area once held a river, but these days so little moisture occurs here that the trees can’t even decompose naturally. Thus, they remain standing more than 500 years after they died off.
Two hours from the city is Spitzkoppe, a small group of mountains that rise majestically from their flat, desert surroundings. These granite peaks are roughly 700 million years old. The largest, Groot Spitzkoppe, stands 5670 feet (1728 m) above sea level. The smaller rocks offer great hiking and climbing. Expect to pay a small entry fee at the site.
Safari in Etosha National Park
Etosha National Park is about five hours from Swakopmund by car, so this is less of a day trip and more of a multiple-day excursion. But it’s absolutely worth it. Etosha was the scene of some of the most amazing wildlife I saw in Africa, including endangered black rhinos, lions, giraffes, elephants, zebras, jackals, and cape buffalo. Don’t forget to use our safari packing checklist before heading over there.
Tropic of Capricorn
It may not be as cool as the equator, but the Tropic of Capricorn is still a pretty nifty spot to pull over and grab a selfie. There’s a sign on route C14 indicating the location of the Tropic of Capricorn, which lies about 23 degrees south of the Equator and marks the southernmost spot where the sun still shines directly overhead. If you’re heading south from Swakopmund, you’ll run into the Tropic of Capricorn road marker about 2.5 hours outside the city.
Pass through Solitaire
The tiny town of Solitaire – an hour south of the Tropic of Capricorn and about 3.5 hours south of Swakopmund and Walvis Bay – is a common pit stop for road trippers in Namibia. It’s basically a glorified rest stop, with a gas station, café, and some abandoned cars that have been turned into art pieces.
The bakery is known for its apple pie. Spend a few minutes here, use the bathroom (small charge), buy a souvenir, or grab lunch, and then continue on your way. Or book a room at the lodge and stay overnight.
Sesreim is a small community near the Naukluft Mountains. There’s a lodge and camping area for folks passing through. Make sure to see Sesreim Canyon, a half-mile long natural canyon about 100 feet high. Sesreim is a little further south than Solitaire, so it’s a bit out of the way unless you are already heading that direction.
Cheetah Sanctuary, Otjititongwe
At 5.5 hours from Swakopmund, the Cheetah Sanctuary in Otjititongwe is a bit far. But if you’re already heading to Etosha, you can swing by on the way. The sanctuary provides a home for cheetahs that cannot survive in the wild. Some of the more tame ones are kept right near the owner’s house, where guests can pet them up close. The wilder ones are kept in a large enclosed area on the grounds, with plenty of room for them to run around. You’ll never get to see these incredible animals any closer than this!
Visit the World’s Largest Meteorite
A little further east of the Cheetah Sanctuary, you’ll find the world’s largest meteorite. The Hoba Meteorite is a 50-ton nickel and iron meteorite that seems to be around 200 to 400 million years old. It landed on earth a mere 80,000 years ago. It’s nine feet wide and nine feet long, and you can stand on it!
Visit the capital of Windhoek
Those who have a desire to check out Namibia’s capital city should set aside some time to make the trip. Windhoek is a typical large city, with museums, malls, and historic attractions.
Windhoek is a 3.5 hour drive from Swakopmund. There are also buses and trains available, a rarity in this part of Africa. As of this writing, you can find buses via Intercape that travel between Windhoek and Swakopmund at least once a week, as well as occasional weekend trains on the Desert Express.
Recommended Accommodations in Swakopmund
• Strand Hotel. If you’re searching for a beach hotel in Swakopmund, the Strand Hotel is one of your best options. It’s literally steps from the Atlantic Ocean and features a spa, air conditioning, and multiple restaurants and bars. It’s the best taste of luxury among Swakopmund hotels.
• Swakopmund Plaza Hotel. Here’s another upscale hotel with spacious rooms, an airport shuttle, and bicycle rentals for those who want to explore the city on two wheels.
• Desert Villa Guesthouse. Slightly cheaper than a hotel, the Desert Villa Guesthouse is a cozy place with rooms named after deserts around the world. It’s within walking distance to everything in town and the price includes breakfast.
• Comfort Gardens Bed and Breakfast. For an affordable bed and breakfast, check out Comfort Gardens. The only drawback is this one’s a little further north. It’s a 15-minute drive into town, so you’ll need a vehicle.
• Amanpuri Traveller’s Lodge. A good option for budget travelers, Amanpuri Lodge has both private rooms and dorm style lodging. We stayed here and found the lodging acceptable and convenient to town.
You can also find some good Airbnbs in Swakopmund if you want to stay with locals. If you’ve never used the service before, you can get a $40 credit by signing up with my referral link. Airbnb is safe to use in this part of Africa – just be sure to read the property descriptions thoroughly and choose a place with lots of positive reviews.
Bonus: When Should You Visit Swakopmund, and How Safe Is It?
What time of year should you visit Swakopmund? The weather is pleasant all year, with high temperatures averaging between 68 and 73 F all year except for August through October, when they drop to the 64-66 F range. Rain is rare. March receives an average of 0.2 inches (6 mm) of rain per year, and that makes it the rainiest month of the year here.
Fog is present along the coast up to 180 days a year. This is one of the places that has been featured in many nature documentaries because of the uniqueness of its atmosphere. The fog that rolls in off the coast feeds the inland plants and small animals that manage to live in the rain-free desert areas.
How safe is Swakopmund? It’s generally safe, but there is a rising level of crime. Mostly, this involves property theft from houses and cars, but there are occasional muggings as well. Walking around town during the day is fine. At night, depending how far you are going, you may want to travel in a group or use a taxi. I felt comfortable walking 5-6 blocks alone at night, but I have good street smarts and was aware of my surroundings.
So there you have it. If you have trouble figuring out what to do in Swakopmund, it will be because you have too many options, rather than not enough. I love this town and I think most visitors will too.
Do you have any more suggestions for fun things to do in Swakopmund, Namibia?