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Motto: Providentiae memor
Swakopmund is located in Namibia
Location in Namibia
Coordinates: 22°41′S 14°32′E / 22.683°S 14.533°E / -22.683; 14.533
Country  Namibia
Administrative Division Erongo
Founded August 4, 1892
 - Mayor Germina Nadapua Shitaleni
 - Total 181.3 km2 (70 sq mi)
 - Total 35,000
 Density 193.1/km2 (500/sq mi)
Time zone South African Standard Time (UTC+1)

Swakopmund (German for "Mouth of the Swakop") is a city on the coast of northwestern Namibia, 280 km (175 miles) west of Windhoek, Namibia's capital. It is the capital of the Erongo administrative district. As a seaside resort, the weather is cooler here in December to January (Namibia's summer months) so the territorial administration moves to Swakopmund for these months.[1] Swakopmund's population as of 2007 is approximately 28,552.[2]

Swakopmund is a beach resort and an example of German colonial architecture. It was founded in 1892 as the main harbour for German South-West Africa.[citation needed]

The city lies on the B2 road and the Trans-Namib Railway from Windhoek to Walvis Bay. It is also home to Swakopmund Airport.

Buildings in the city include the Altes Gefängnis prison, designed by Heinrich Bause in 1909. The Wörmannhaus, built in 1906 with a prominent tower, is now a public library.

Attractions in Swakopmund include a Swakopmund Museum, the National Marine Aquarium, a crystal gallery and spectacular sand dunes near Langstrand south of the Swakop River. Outside of the city, the Rossmund Desert Golf Course is one of only 5 all-grass desert golf courses in the world. The city is known for extreme sports. Nearby lies a camel farm and the Martin Luther steam locomotive, dating from 1896 and abandoned in the desert.



Lutheran Church

The majority of towns and villages in Namibia have grown out of indigenous settlements and very often were located close to sources of water. Names of places given by original inhabitants were very descriptive and in many cases those names were retained by European settlers who sometimes simplified pronunciations of the names. The Nama word "Tsoakhaub" can be translated as "excrement opening" which was an offensive but accurate description of the waters of the Swakop River when it flooded, carrying masses of mud, sand, pieces of vegetation and animal corpses to the Atlantic Ocean.

The Nama name was changed to "Swachaub" by German settlers, and with the proclamation of Swakopmund as an independent district of German South-West Africa in 1896, the present way of writing Swakopmund (meaning Estuary of the Swakop in German) came into use.


Swakopmund was founded in 1892, two years later than Windhoek, by Captain Curt von François. It was intended to be the main harbour of German South-West Africa. Increased traffic between Germany and its colony necessitated establishing a port of its own, as Walvis Bay, located 33 kilometres south, was in British possession. The choice fell to a site north of the Swakop River, because water was readily available, and because other sites were unsuitable. It should be noted however, that the site did not offer any natural protection to ships lying off the coast, such places being very rare on Namibia's western coast.[3]

On 4 August 1892 the crew of a gunboat named Hyäne (German for Hyena) erected two beacons on a large dune, probably in the vicinity of the present lighthouse. This is regarded as the founding date of Swakopmund. The first settlers were 120 Schutztruppe with equipment and 40 settlers who offloaded from the Marie Woermann using four landing boats. The settlers had to build caves on the beach to protect themselves against hostile weather. Before a breakwater was built in 1898, which later became known as the Mole, all offloading was done with special boats that could only be handled by Kroo men from Liberia. At that time, up to 600 Kroo tribesmen were employed by the Woermann Line. The number of vessels offloading in Swakopmund was increasing rapidly. In 1894, only four ships offloaded, and in 1895 there were five. In 1896 the Woermann Line introduced bi-monthly service, and in 1899, monthly service to Swakopmund. Due to a lack of building materials, most of the first settlers' houses were prefabricated wood.

Swakopmund Lighthouse

Swakopmund quickly became the main port for imports and exports for the whole territory, and was one of six towns which received municipal status in 1909. Many government offices for German South-West Africa had offices in Swakopmund.

Soon, the harbour created by the Mole silted up, and in 1905 work was started on a wooden jetty, but in the long run this was inadequate. In 1914 construction of an iron jetty was therefore commenced, the remains of which can still be seen today. After World War I it became a pedestrian walkway. It was declared structurally unsound and was closed to the public for seven years and in 2006 renovations to the portion supported by concrete pillars was completed with the remaining portion being alienated. It was opened to the public once more in late 2006.

Woermann House & Tower

Trading and shipping companies founded branches in Swakopmund. A number of these buildings still exist today. After German South-West Africa was taken over by the Union of South Africa in 1915, all harbour activities were transferred from Swakopmund to Walvis Bay. Many of the Central Government services ceased. Businesses closed down, the number of inhabitants diminished, and the town became less prosperous. However, the natural potential of Swakopmund as a holiday resort was recognised, and this potential has subsequently been developed. Today tourism-related services form an important part of the town's economy.

The discovery of uranium at Rössing, 70 km (43 mi) outside the town, led to the development of the world's largest opencast uranium mine. This had an enormous impact on all facets of life in Swakopmund which necessitated expansion of the infrastructure of the town to make it into one of the most modern in Namibia.

In October 2000 an agreement was signed between the Namibian and People's Republic of China governments to build a satellite tracking station at Swakopmund. Construction was completed in July 2001 at a site north of Swakopmund to the east of the Henties Bay-Swakopmund road and opposite the Swakopmund Salt Works. The site was chosen as it was on the orbital track of a manned spacecraft during its reentry phase. Costing N$12 million, the complex covers 150m by 85m. It is equipped with five meter and nine meter satellite dishes.

In August 2008 filming commenced in Swakopmund on the AMC television series The Prisoner starring Jim Caviezel and Sir Ian McKellen. Swakopmund was used as the film location for The Village.[4]

Democratic Resettlement Community

The Democratic Resettlement Community is an informal settlement in Swakopmund. It was founded in 2001 as temporary housing for people waiting for subsidized housing in the city.[5]



The city has scattered coffee shops, night clubs, bars and hotels. There are balloon rides, sky diving and quad biking.

Public health

The main healthcare provider in the city is the Cottage Medi-Clinic, a hospital with 70 beds.[6]


Surrounded by the Namib Desert on three sides and the cold Atlantic waters to the west, Swakopmund enjoys a temperate climate. The average temperature ranges between 15°C (59°F) to 25°C (77°F). Rainfall is less than 15 mm per year, making gutters and drainpipes on buildings a rarity. The cold Benguela current supplies moisture for the area in the form of fog that can reach as deep as 140 km (87 mi) inland. The fauna and flora of the area has adapted to this phenomenon and now relies upon the fog as a source of moisture.

Notable inhabitants

See also


External links

Coordinates: 22°41′S 14°32′E / 22.683°S 14.533°E / -22.683; 14.533

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Beach in Swakopmund at dusk.
Beach in Swakopmund at dusk.

Swakopmund, known as Swakop in Namibia is the country's biggest coastal town and a mecca for Namibians on holiday. The city's German origins are quite pronounced in beautiful old German Colonial buildings throughout the city, making an even starker contrast for this town sitting at the edge of the Namib Desert. [1]

One artifact of the German colonization includes an old museum/store, selling genuine artefacts from the 19th century. Cover a child's eyes, because some of what is on sale is aesthetically--and historically--difficult to look at.

Swakopmund was used as the setting for The Village in the 2008 production of The Prisoner [2] by AMC and ITV. It's quaint buildings and unusual appearance made a perfect replacement for Portmeirion where the original 1960's series of The Prisoner was set.

Get in

By car

The best way to get to Swakopmund is by road from Windhoek. The B2 is the main road from Windhoek, and takes 4-5 hours by car.

By minibus

Minibusses operate from Windhoek almost every 2-3 hours, ask the taxi drivers where the buses leave. There are multiple taxi ranks in Windhoek for different destinations, so make sure you find the right one. For about N$60 you can have a ride in an overloaded minibus. The ride will take about 4-6 hours. Pay immediatly and try to get yourself a seat next to the driver for a bit more space.

  • Air Namibia [3] A number of flights are offered by Air Namibia, from Windhoek as well as Cape Town in South Africa. Flights operate from Walvis Bay, 35km south of Swakop.
  • South African Airways [4] They operate flights from Johannesburg and Cape Town. SAA flights also operate from Walvis Bay.
  • By small aircraft There are numerous operators in Namibia, and flying from destination to destination on a tour through Namibia is an effective way to minimize the time spend travelling the long distances.

On a Tour or Safari

Swakopmund is a frequent one or two night stop on most tours around Namibia. There are many tour operator doing tours both from Namibia and from outside, such as South Africa.

By bus

Although the Mini Buses are slightly cheaper and are an experience, they have no fixed time schedule and are often overloaded. So check out these operators:

  • Intercape [5] operates a service from Windhoek via Okahandja. Intercape service also extends to South Africa and Zimbabwe.
  • Econolux Tel +264 64 205935.

By train

The train service to Windhoek will take up to 21 and a half hours.

By ship

The RMS St Helena makes regular round-trips from St Helena Island to Cape Town via Walvis Bay. Catch a taxi from Walvis Bay to Swakopmund.

Get around

As with other Namibian cities, there is no public transport in Swakopmund. But the city is small enough to get around easily on foot. All the major attractions and facilities are downtown. It´s hard to get a taxi in city centre (there are no taxi's on a saturday after 7pm), but once you get one it takes you wherever you want for the same rate as the Windhoek Taxis. A trip to Walvis Bay shouldn´t be more than N$40.


Swakopmund is Namibia's adventure capital. Because of this, taking advantage of the following is a must.

  • Do a tour Go out to see the Welwitschia plants, the Cape Fur Seals at Cape Cross, the Swakop River and the life and beauty of the dunes and desert.
  • Elephant Conservation Go on a locally based desert elephant conservation trip with EHRA, +264 64 402 501 (), [6]. Elephant Human Relations Aid  edit
  • Beach People don't come to Swakopmund to hang out in the desert. Hang with the Namibians away on school holiday and go to the beach. You'll find cold water, but warm sands. The beach, just to the north of town, is ringed with museums and cafes.
  • Helicopter You can take marvellous helicopter and lite plane rides around the Skeleton Coast (to the north) and around the Namib desert (the oldest desert in the world, with the tallest sand dune in the world).
  • Sandboarding You can ski the dunes just like you're snowboarding, or ride the board on your belly. Extremely high speeds.
  • Dune 7 Sandboarding, 064220881 (, fax: 064220881), [7]. Quadbike to take you up; Snacks and Drinks incl. N$ 350.  edit
  • Quad-biking This is an excellent way to see the Namib desert close up. Several tour companies offer lessons and guided tours on four-wheel motorbikes through the desert surrounding the city. Breathtaking views of the dunes and the Atlantic Ocean.
  • Skydiving Learn to jump from concerned, compassionate professionals in one of the cheapest, best skydiving schools on earth.
  • Educate Yourself Swakopmund has one of the best libraries in Africa.
  • Party Swakop has an unusual number of skilled rock musicians and an impromptu "Open Mike Night" can usually be organized at one of the local nightspots. Travelling musicians take note!
  • Okakambe Trails, Horse Rides About 8km outside Swakop. Tel +264 64 402799
  • Camel Safaris About 8km outside Swakop. Tel +264 64 400363
  • Aquarium Pay a visit to the aquarium.
  • Surf Hit the surf spots to the north of town, such as 'Thick Lip' and 'The Wreck'. Travel further south towards Langstrad for 'Guns'.
  • Hotair ballooning & Microlight Flights There are few better ways to see the Namib Desert.
  • Walk in the dunes Just south of town on the road to Walvis Bay, there are some nice sand dunes. Cross over the Swakop River, smile at the fact that there's rarely any visible water in it, and stroll through the dunes.
  • Birding There are several birding locations in the town. At the Swakop River mouth there is a small fresh water lagoon which always has good birds to see. In the town there is the water treatment area. This is more for the twitcher (birders chasing rare birds) looking for rare birds. It is only open on working hours on week days. North of the town is the Mile 4 Salt works. Some roads go along the open saline lakes where the salt is being extracted. This area is very important for various birds, including Flamingos.


There are several nice shops in Swakop selling souvenirs and art. There is also a very good craft market near the lighthouse, which has a lot of items which are difficult to find elsewhere in Namibia.

  • Leder Chic (leather boutique for ostrich, kudu and buffalo leather articles), Brauhaus Arcade, (Centre of town in Roonstreet), +264 64 463979. from 8h00 to 18h00. Luggage and leather retail shop, the finest ostrich and kudu wallets and purses. Modern zebra skin belts, ostrich and kudu leather belts as well as designer handbags in springbok, kudu, nguni, buffalo and ostrich leather.  edit
  • Desert Sky Backpackers Lodge, 35 Lazaret St. (at the corner of Breit St.), +264 64 402339, [8]. Five minute walk from downtown and the beach; clean, friendly owner; Internet access; and camping area. $N40 camping, $N70/person for a dorm, $N140 for a double room.
  • Alternative Space, 167 Lazaret St. At the edge of town. The hostel is a unique facility, decorated throughout with Namibian art. $N175 double room, $N225 triple room.
  • Villa Wiese Backpackers, +264 64 407105, [], [9]. Another great backpackers. Plus they have their own bar.
  • Swakopmund Hotel & Entertainment Centre is a 4 star luxury hotel, built in and around the impeccably restored old station building. Includes casino, pool and restaurant. From $N940 per Room, incl. breakfast
  • The Stiltz [10], luxurious with a very romantic setting.
  • By the Beach, Ph +264 64 405 442 or +264 81 244 6336 (Email: A new self catering accommodation service offering affordable luxury, with sea views, coffee/tea, DSTV in master bedroom and lounge, indoor BBQ, from $N550 per Unit, sleeping up to 6 people.
  • Swakopmund Municipal Bungalows, Ph +264 64 4104333. Selection ranging from tiny two bedroomed units (approximately N$250 a night)to luxury bungalows (TV, stove, etc) at N$650-700 a night. Centrally located within walking distance to town
  • Dünenblick self-catering apartments, riverside av 37 and rhode allee no 5 (overlooking the namib dunes and close to the beach, opposite the Swakopmund jetty), +264 81 1290489 and +264 81 149 0449 (), [11]. checkin: 14h00; checkout: 10h00. Luxury apartments, stylishly decorated in contemporary look, with all the comforts possible. Including full DSTV and Internet , well situated with sea view or dune view. All within walking distance to the centre of town From N$ 400.00 per apartment.  edit
  • The Tug Restaurant, (at the jetty), +264 (64) 402356 (, fax: +264 (64) 402356). A great seafood restaurant. It is an actual tug with a great view of the sea - reservations are essential.  edit
  • Light House Pub, (Located at the Mole). Try the calamari and seafood dishes, serves pub meals and restaurant. Big room, so nothing if you want to feel homely.  edit
  • Weinmaus, Poststraße. Very friendly host. Not many tables, so make a reservation.  edit
  • Kückis Pub, Tobias Hainyeko 22, (064) 404207. Warm and enjoyable atmosphere with great service. Limited menu, but interesting dishes (shark steak, etc) and very well prepared.  edit
  • De Kelder. A little bit hidden, does not look attractive from outside. But everything else is perfect!  edit
  • Tiffanys. Fresh fish, good wine, reasonable prices. The locals eat here!  edit
  • Cape To Cairo. Excellent African themed restaurant. changed to GK Restaurant-new owners  edit
  • Kupferpfanne. Game food and good wines.  edit
  • Out of Africa Get your coffee and cake here. African-sized muffins and mugs of European coffees make you wish for the movies.
  • Cafe Anton Great for an all-you-can-eat Breakfast. Around N$60.
  • Caffe Treff Punkt. Great German cafe, lovely breakfast.  edit
  • Dünenblick selfcatering apartments, Riverside Avenue 37 and Rhode Allee no 5 (Riverside Avenue first road left as you come into Swakopmund from Windhoek, into Aukas Street, go straight till T junction, then turn right into Riverside Avenue.), +264 81 129 0489, [12]. all. We offer clean, well serviced close to the beach and the namib desert, self catering apartments. All of them are luxuriously furnished in a contemporary stylish look. We offer full DSTV and Internet. from N$ 400.00 per apartment.  edit
  • Exousia Self-Catering Accommodation, +26464405386. Excellence impresses people and honours God! We offer an upmarket, self-catering one bedroom apartment, en-suite bathroom, open plan living area, fully equipped kitchen, DSTV, DVD, washing machine, bedding, security alarm, garage in a secure court yard, lapa and braai area, big heated swimming pool. from N$ 500 per night.  edit


This is Jagermeister country and don't forget to sample the famous, locally brewed Hansa Draught.

  • Tiger Reef - beach bar, excellent place for a sundowner on the beach. Go to the aquaruim and walk along the beach in the direction of Walvis Bay. Grab a bottle of bubbly for the amazing sunset (Locally called sundowners)
  • Grunerkrantz Located above Cape to Cairo. This is where everyone comes for their late night drink.
  • Rafters, great sports bar with big LCD screens.
  • Pane Fresco. 7-14:00. Great croissants, freshly baked. Excellent espresso.  edit
  • Swakopmund is a good starting point for trips up the Skeleton Coast. A good day-trip would be south from Swakop to Walvis Bay, Namibia's port town. The road to Walvis Bay provides good views of the Namib dunes meeting the Atlantic.
Cape Cross
Cape Cross
  • 120 km north of Swakopmund lies Cape Cross, where every October to December about 100,000 of the Cape Fur Seals breed. The sight and the noise (and also the smell) is absolutely breathtaking! The name Cape Cross comes from a stone cross erected 1486 by the Portuguese Diego Cáo. Entry fee to the nature reserve is 10 N$. Accommodation at the Cape Cross Lodge [13].
  • For hobby botanists a half day trip to the south east will take you to the legendary Welwitschia Mirabilis plants. In a place where there is no rain for decades the only water source this plant uses is humidity. Welwitschia can become over 1000 years old and only live in this part of the Namib desert, 40 to 120 km away from the coast. Take the Welwitschia drive that starts 50 km east of Swakopmund. Be careful not to walk too close to the plants (roots easily destroyed) or even take plants with you, the species is highly endangered!!!
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