After an unbelievable and stunning stay in the Namib desert, it was time to continue North further into Namibia where our first stop was Swakopmund. Namibia is just full of amazing places. The desert is unlike any other desert I’ve been to (and I’ve been to many deserts). Swakopmund continues the trend with a beautiful Bavarian style town. Think of Munich but sandwiched between the Atlantic and white sand dunes.
Swakopmund Travel Guide
After leaving our Bushman campsite early on Day 6, we proceed onwards and northwards towards the Atlantic ocean and the coastal city of Swakopmund. Before we get there, we make one stop at the Tropic of Capricorn, one of the latitude lines that I learned about in elementary school passing through Africa, South America and Australia.
There’s nothing to actually see here but it does make for cool photography and no matter what overland tour you are on, you will undoubtedly stop at this spot if you’re passing through Namibia.
As you approach Swakopmund, you can see the scenery shifts again, from rocky mountains to white/yellowish dunes. These dunes are similar to the ones we saw in Sossusvlei but they are much lighter in color.
The Bushmen tour from the previous day explained that the red dunes of Sossusvlei can attribute their color to the iron content in the dunes mixing with the sand over many years. The sand nearer to the ocean is lower in iron content. In fact, if you swipe a magnet on the sand, you can actually see the iron deposit on the magnet.
Nevertheless, seeing the dunes again never get old. We pass through a city called Walvis Bay, the industrial port of Namibia, where we stop to look at some flamingos. Before Long we are finally in Swakopmund!
History of Swakopmund
Namibia is Germany’s one and only colony in Africa. As you drive through Namibia, you can see German words all over. Swakopmund was the main port of German South Africa during colonial times. You can see the architecture is has much German influence and there is still a large German speaking population still residing in the city. Germany wasn’t known as a strong colonial power and it eventually gave up the country to South Africa, which is why you’ll see a lot of Afrikaans influence as well. Many of the people in Swakopmund can speak English, German, and Afrikaans.
The city is really something unique. If you’re in the city center, you feel like you’re in a small European town. However, if you look around you, most people are either black or colored. Heading towards the beach, you’re on the Atlantic ocean, surrounded by palm trees and sand making you feel like you’re at a coastal resort. All the while, if you just look outside the city, you are surrounded by the white dunes in the background making for a city unlike anything else I’ve seen. Oh, and you’re also in Africa, which adds to the unique appeal of this city.
Where we stayed in Swakopmund
Finally, no more camping! After 6 nights of camping, I’m ready for a break and we finally get one in Swakopmund. Our accommodations are simple but a room and bed is all one can ask for. We arrive at our lodge Amanpuri shortly after lunch.
This lodge must have some sort of agreement with the overland groups because all of Acacia and Nomad’s tours stop here (we saw an Acacia truck while we were here). This is also the first time you’ll have wifi since the first night of the trip. There also won’t be wifi until you get to Etosha after you leave Swakopmund.
There are plenty of hotels and lodges for people on all budgets. Our accommodation was a little bit out of the city center but the city is so small that it didn’t make much difference.
What to do in Swakopmund
There isn’t much to do in the city of Swakopmund. A stroll through the city shouldn’t take you more than a hour or two. Head towards the beach, check out the local markets selling touristy things for decent prices (if that’s your thing), and just walk along the beach. Make sure to walk along the Jetty while on the beach as there are some great views of the city with the dunes in the background. Aside from these things, the city isn’t where you want to spend your money. There are so many half day and full day excursions around the city.
Quadbiking Tour in Swakopmund
One of the most popular things to do in Swakopmund is take a quadbike and ride around the dunes. There are a few companies that do this but Nomad has some sort of agreement with Desert Explorers and we actually stopped at this place to book all the things we wanted to do before heading to our lodge. I had been eyeing this excursion for awhile so I booked it right away.
Another popular activity in Swakopmund is Sandboarding down the dunes. There are two options, one for stand up snowboarding style, and another lying down. We did a combo tour with quadbiking and lay down sandboarding for 650R. To do both quadbiking and stand up sandboarding, two separate bookings will have to be made for more money. I wanted to do both stand up and quadbiking but it would have taken the whole day and costed 900R.
I probably should have just done the whole day and paid more because it would have been awesome to snowboard down the dunes. Nevertheless, laying down sandboarding is still incredibly fun and you pick up some serious speeds up to 70km/hr. Only thing that isn’t fun is climbing up to the top of the dune to go again.
Swakopmund is also famous as a skydiving destination. Regular daily trips are done from just outside the city and spectacular views of the entire dunes are guaranteed. At a price tag of 2100R, it is a bit expensive for my tastes so I opted out. If you do intend to do this trip on an overland tour with Acacia or Nomad, you can leave in the afternoon the day you get into town, and still have time to quadbike/sandboard the next day. Great pictures of the dunes, the ocean, and the the city will await.
Sandwich Harbor Walvis Bay Tour
One of the reasons I really wished we could stay another day in Swakopmund is being able to visit this place. I’ve seen pictures prior to going on this trip of the dunes meeting the ocean with no roads or cities in between. I thought that I would see that in Swakopmund but that’s not the case. Located about 45 minutes outside of Swakopmund, Sandwich harbor is where you can take in some breathtaking views of the dunes meeting the ocean.
I didn’t actually know that Sandwich Harbor is the only place to see this until my quadbiking tour, at which point it was too late to book anything else. Nevertheless, if I could do the trip again, I’d most certainly book a half day trip to Sandwich Harbor. Sandwich Harbor 4×4 is the company that does these full day/half day excursions.
What to eat in Swakopmund
There are plenty of good dining options to be had in Swakop. With the city’s German influence, there are plenty of good restaurants serving German fare and beer. South Africa is not known for good beer and certainly does not have the craft beer culture of America (I can attest to this) so it was refreshing to finally drink some quality beer again. Namibia is also known for their meat, but be sure to try the game meats in this country as it is abundant and cheap. Be adventurous and try some springbok, kudu, croc, oryx, warthog etc.
Here’s a list of the restaurants we went to:
Napolitana – Recommended by our guide and driver, seems like this place is popular among the overland groups as another group ate here with us. Food was average but atmosphere is fun for groups.
Village Cafe – Rated #1 on TripAdvisor, this place is a quick and cheap eatery perfect for breakfast and dinner. Food is amazing, especially their home made bread.
Swakopmund Brauhaus – A German restaurant in the heart of the city, this place serves solid German fare with game meats.
Kucki’s Pub – Another restaurant serving good German fare and a wide selection of imported beers. Good for late nights as well.
Desert Tavern – Great place for steaks and game steaks.
The Tug – Great seafood restaurant right at the base of the Jetty with great ocean views. Perfect for sundowners but great for dinner as well. The seafood here was phenomenal and all for very reasonable prices.
We leave Swakopmund around 9am the next morning after a stay that’s too just too short. We keep driving north towards the Etosha National Park but not before we make another stop at a place called Spitzkoppe. It’s hard to describe this place but it seems like a huge rock in the shape of a mountain. It’s different than normal mountains as there’s little to no vegetation, most of what you see is pure granite. It’s about 700m high and has only ever been climbed by a handful of people.
About 2 hours north or Swakopmund, we got here quickly and have most of the day to explore the area. There really isn’t much to explore around here besides try and hike some of the smaller rocks around the main mountain. However, the weather is a blistering 45+ during the day so you’re quickly dehydrated and hanging out in your tent seems more appealing. In fact, climbing Spitzkoppe itself is only allowed during the winter season.
Power Plugs: No | Hot Showers: No | Wifi: No | Toilets: No
The Spitzkoppe campsite will be the most basic camp you’ll encounter the entire trip. There are no showers, no toilets, and no electricity here. It is as bare bones camping as it gets. It really makes you appreciate your surroundings. Doesn’t hurt that you’ll see some amazing sunsets and likely one of the best viewing of the stars in the world. Make sure to get some elevation before sunset comes so to have the best views of the sunset. African sunsets, can’t beat them.
I ended up sleeping on the top of our truck at this campsite. There is no electricity, no noise, and unobstructed views of the stars from the truck. I’d recommend doing this, you won’t regret it. Waking up in the middle of the night isn’t so bad either when the first thing you see is thousands of stars.
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I totally missed out on Sandwich Harbour when travelling Namibia for the first time. Will add it to the list for next year.