The Top 10 Things to Do in Swakopmund, Namibia

Namibia was once a German colony, and you can see this clearly in the tranquil town of Swakopmund, situated along the Atlantic Ocean. Many old houses and government buildings display the typical German architecture combined with vibrant colors. Swakopmund is the perfect base for a variety of exciting activities, such as a 4×4 tour through the desert at Sandwich Harbour where the undulating sand dunes meet the sea. But you can also kayak among the seals or ride quads through the Namib Desert. Plenty of fun options to choose from!

The Brief History of Swakopmund

Namibia was a German colony from 1884 to 1919, and in 1892, German settlers founded the city of Swakopmund. The name Swakopmund refers to the mouth of the Swakop River, which flows into the Atlantic Ocean here. The Germans aimed to develop Swakopmund into a port city. They competed against the nearby port of Walvis Bay, which was controlled by the British. The location of Swakopmund proved less suitable for a port due to strong currents, and the wooden pier turned out to be too weak. After a new steel pier was built, Swakopmund became an important port city. Although Germany lost its colonial influence after World War I, German influences remained visible in Swakopmund. There are many German-speaking residents, many street names are German, and German architecture dominates the streetscape.

The 10 Most Fun Things to Do in Swakopmund

Most people spend about two days in Swakopmund, and then you’ll have to choose one or two activities. Here are the top 10 fun things to do in Swakopmund to choose from.

Tear through Sandwich Harbour with a 4×4 Tour

The sand dunes of Sandwich Harbour form one of Namibia’s most unique and dramatic landscapes. This is one of the few places on earth where the desert meets the ocean. The undulating sand dunes seamlessly transition into a rolling sea of icy cold water. We found this to be a truly remarkable place that you shouldn’t miss when visiting Swakopmund. The protected nature reserve can only be accessed with a guide. With a 4×4 vehicle, you’ll tear across the beach between the sand and the water. Later, the ride becomes like a roller coaster as you zip up and down sand dunes while enjoying the impressive views. Along the way, you’ll stop at many beautiful viewpoints where you can easily capture your most beautiful photos of your trip. The Sandwich Harbour tour takes you to several amazing viewpoints while the guide tells you all about the nature. At the end of the tour, they set up a small buffet with delicious fresh snacks, Namibian oysters, and champagne. This was so much that we didn’t need to prepare dinner anymore. A perfect conclusion to a remarkable tour!

Kayaking Among the Seals

If you’re up for some active fun in Swakopmund and want to spot wildlife, it’s awesome to go kayaking at Pelican Point. Here, you’ll kayak for about two hours among hundreds of seals, many pelicans, and with a bit of luck, you’ll spot dolphins. The guide will tell you all about the behavior of the animals you encounter while you enjoy the view. If you’re traveling with Namibia Nomads, you can book these activities with your trip. If you’re traveling through Namibia in another way, you can book the kayaking tour here.

Spotting Flamingos at Flamingo Lagoon

30 minutes’ drive from Swakopmund lies Walvis Bay. This is the second-largest city in Namibia after Windhoek. As a traveler, you don’t have much to seek here, but on the outskirts of the city lies Flamingo Lagoon. The name says it all; it’s a lagoon inhabited by flamingos. A lot of them, indeed. It can vary by season, but on an average day, you’ll see hundreds of flamingos wading through the water. A cool place to observe these birds up close!

Note: The photos of the flamingos below were taken during the Sandwich Harbour tour and not at Flamingo Lagoon.

Cape Cross

In Namibia, there’s an impressive colony of about 2.7 million seals, to be precise Cape fur seals. So, there are more seals in the country than people. At Cape Cross, about 80,000 Cape fur seals gather, turning the beach black due to their large numbers. They catch a lot of fish and shrimp and relieve themselves both in the sea and on the beach. With these enormous numbers, you can imagine how it smells here. During the months of November and December, new pups are born, causing the colony to grow to as many as 200,000 seals. However, there isn’t enough fish to raise all the pups, so some are abandoned. Unfortunately, during this period, you’ll also see many dead and dying baby seals. We recommend skipping Cape Cross during these months because it was a terrible sight that, combined with the smell, caused a small trauma.

Sandboarding, Biking, or Quad Biking in the Desert

From Swakopmund, you can explore the vast desert landscapes in several ways. Jump on the fat bike and ride steeply downhill from the sand dunes through dried-up riverbeds. Or opt for a quad bike and tear through the desert without having to do much yourself. Lastly, you can also conquer the rolling sand dunes on a board. Whether you want to challenge yourself actively or just press the gas pedal, there’s a unique experience for everyone in Swakopmund.

Welwitschia Drive & Moon Landscape

If you feel like going for a drive, we recommend the Welwitschia Drive. Through an area called Moon Landscape, you’ll cruise to a valley where the Welwitschia plant grows. This is one of the rarest plants in the world. What’s special about this plant is that it grows in a desert where it hardly ever rains. In Afrikaans, the plant is called kanniedoodplant, which translates to “cannot die plant.” The plants you see here are thousands of years old. Along the way, you’ll encounter various viewpoints at Moon Landscape where, as you might expect, you can enjoy moon-like landscapes.

Stops on the Welwitschia Drive

  1. Starting Point
  2. Moon Landscape Viewpoint
  3. Another Viewpoint
  4. Valley with Welwitschia Plants

Explore the Center of Swakopmund

Nowhere else in Namibia is the German influence as evident as in Swakopmund. You can see it in the architecture, many street names, and numerous restaurants with German menus. Taking a short walk through Swakopmund is enjoyable. Woermannhaus and Hohenzollernhaus are beautiful buildings. The Swakopmund Museum is also an interesting sight. Here, you’ll learn all about the history of Swakopmund.

Enjoy Delicious Food at Wild Rocket Cafe in Swakopmund

During your journey through Namibia, you’ll probably often prepare your own breakfast and lunch, so it’s extra enjoyable to just sit down and have a meal in Swakopmund. We ate every day at Wild Rocket Cafe, where you can enjoy an extensive menu of fresh and healthy dishes like generously filled sandwiches, soups, salads, and burgers.