Trying to sort out the best things to do in Swakopmund, Namibia and finding yourself a bit in a pickle?
Let our guest author Adam, who spent one month in this beautiful coastal city, guide your through the 21 best things to do in Swakopmund:
Swakopmund, the city next door to Skeleton Coast (sometimes referred to as the Lost Coast), has an unexplained history with not as much tourism it deserves. Swakopmund is perfect for any traveler and ought to be high on any list of the best places to visit in Africa.
Whether it’s the adventure sports that is your calling or the idea of rediscovering a whole city before anyone else does; there’s a ton of things to do in Swakopmund to keep the budget-minded traveler busy for any length of stay.
Here is a list of the best things to do while you visit one of the most traveler-centric cities in Southern Africa. Oh, and you must make sure number thirteen is on your list of things to do in Swakopmund, Namibia!
[affiliate disclosure: Travel Lemming may receive a commission from tour purchases made through links in this post]
One of the most popular things to do in Swakopmund, Namibia is to rent a 4-wheeler and zoom your way up some of the tallest nearby sand dunes of the Namib Desert. You’ll see dozens of tourists doing the same thing every day.
Rentals are affordable, there’s always afternoon sunshine (however, if you’d rather, locals say an overcast morning isn’t uncommon in Swakopmund), and the dunes stay uncrowded all of the time! If this opportunity existed anywhere else in the world, you would surely share the dunes with a swarm of tourists. Not here, though!
Have you ever been skydiving? If you haven’t, the experience will be completely new to you anyway.
However, even if you have been, I bet you can’t say you’ve flown over the ocean and desert dunes before dropping out of the sky!
Swakopmund has one of the most unique environments on the planet, meaning you’ll surely get an experience free-falling that is unlike any before — and did I mention that skydiving here will be at a fraction of the cost as other places?
Either rent a car or take a tour of the lands of the historic indigenous plant this region is known for. Just a heads up — if you decide to go on the self-guided tour of the Welwitschia Plains, you may want to rent a Land Rover or a vehicle with four-wheel drive and the capabilities of taking on some not-so-stellar road conditions (just make sure you have travel insurance that will cover you!).
It’s a bet that you’ll come home that day with a newfound interest in desert ecology!
One of the most popular things to do in Swakopmund is to check out the Swakopmund Jetty!
There are two excellent restaurants at each end of the long pier and a view that is to die for. Come back for the big African sunset in the evening, as it is one of the most romantic places to visit in Swakopmund.
Where Swakopmund is known as the tourist-centered city between the two, Walvis Bay (pronounced “Wall-fish Bay”) is where all the locals live in the region. More business-focused, but also with a perfect touch of culture and tradition, Walvis Bay makes a great and easy day trip along a beautiful desert coastal highway. Only a thirty-minute drive from Swakopmund, you’ll have the opportunity to explore a completely different city.
While visiting Swakopmund for the month, I had heard of a small, private museum housed in an old railway station. By that point in our month-long excursion, we had been literally searching-out shade — the Swakopmund Museum seemed perfect and I’m so glad we took a hot afternoon to check it out!
For only a few dollars upon entry, its an easy budget thing to do in Swakopmund. We were greeted by positive, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable volunteers who really enjoyed showing us around. With interesting information on the biology (especially the flora), ecology, colonial days, and nearby tribal history, there is a little something for everyone at this quaint museum. And if you do not enjoy any of that, at least get the delicious cake at the cafe next door!
Give it a chance! At first sight, it may seem kind of run down and past its prime, but the information really is the best you can get in town!
An African Safari experience is something you can’t miss in Africa. Some of the most famous safari expeditions are found in Southern Africa and in Swakopmund, it’s no different.
Spend your afternoon in search of the Big 5: the lion, elephant, cheetah, water buffalo, and the soon-to-be-extinct African rhino. There are many reasons to go on a safari, but extinction puts a rush on all of it. Don’t miss your opportunity to see these beautiful exotic creatures.
The Southwestern African coast is known for some of the most plentiful whale and dolphin sightings in the world, making this one of the most popular things to do in Swakopmund Namibia.
From encounters with pelicans and feeding seals to a chance to see leaping dolphins and fluttering whale tails — this is an opportunity you cannot pass up.
Children and adults alike will love the National Marine Aquarium of Namibia, one of the best things to do with kids in Swakopmund Namibia.
Inside its tanks is a taste of all mammals and reptiles apart of Namibian aquatic life. It even has a walk-through tunnel that the kids will love! Imagine their faces when they are literally walking underneath Atlantic Ocean life!
Manage your expectations as this is not a huge place. However, what it lacks in size, it makes up in a variety of things to see. Plus, at only a few dollars for an entrance fee, it’s hard to find something that will keep the whole family entertained at a price so affordable! If traveling with children, especially, the National Aquarium of Namibia is a must visit!
Is history your thing?
Well, it’s certainly not mine, but that doesn’t mean that a history exhibit for less than $2 upon entrance can’t pique my interests. The Woermannhaus in Swakopmund is situated at the end of the main drag near the Swakopmund Jetty. The museum is a preserved colonial home that holds a large collection of artifacts that tell of a life much different than present-day Namibia.
Swakopmund, like most of Namibia, was once a German colony and there is still a lot of evidence of that today. The Woermannhaus is the best example of the city’s history and one of the most beautiful buildings in Swakopmund as well! If you have any bit of German family history, you will find this place even more interesting.
A tower overlook is the biggest draw to the attraction as it gives you the best view of the entire city of Swakopmund that you can find. If the tower door is locked (which it often is), simply ask the security employee to direct you to the door key. You will be allowed to unlock it and take the 90-plus stair climb in solitude. Bring a camera!
This is not your average bike tour and can even become a bit strenuous. However, the views, knowledge, and adrenaline you will gain from this ride is well worth the extra strain.
Take a thick-tired bike across the Namib Desert and see some of the most unseen landscapes on the planet. On the way, your guide will stop and show you some of the diverse desert ecology and biology that you would have never seen on your own.
The guided tour is not as expensive as you think and many tour companies throughout the city compete with each other for customers. Usually, you can swindle the price down a bit if you are on a budget.
There is no place in the world you can hang up in the air over desert dunes and a great blue ocean like in Swakopmund. The city is an adrenaline junkie’s paradise waiting to be explored!
With competitive prices and a range of package offers, you will be able to find a price that is right for you and potentially end up coming back for other adventures at a discount! If you’ve never paraglided before, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you will want to take.
My biggest surprise while in Swakopmund came on a lazy beach day. Routinely, you will see locals out on the beach with long fishing rods mounted in the sand with a cast out into the ocean. I was always curious what they were fishing for.
To my surprise, one day I witness a few fishermen wrestle a nine-foot Atlantic Bronze Whaler shark out of the ocean. I immediately ran over towards them for a closer view.
Afterward, after they had released it back into the Atlantic, I had a conversation with them. They call the sharks “Bronzys” and they only fish for sport. Following that, I witnessed them catch several more in a few hours. Don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation! They’ve got a lot of information — not only about the fishing — but Swakopmund and Namibia in general.
Home to some of the oldest existing human communities on the planet, Namibia is one of the only places in Africa you can get such an authentic tribal experience.
Thanks to the Living Museums of Namibia, visitors are able to get an inside look at some of the most diverse communities on the planet. The Living Culture Organization, which takes you to the tribes where they have organized tours of everyday life within the community, you’re able to live a day in the life of an African tribal person.
Though a lot of controversy surrounds the tours, you can be at peace with yourself knowing that many tribal communities are only still in existence because of your tour money. The climate has become too hot over the centuries in Namibia for them to grow their own food and water has dried up. Without your donations, the communities would cease to exist.
Whether it is the Himba people, Sans people, Damara people, or any other tribal community that has survived in present-day Namibia, you’ll get an opportunity to see it all!
You may have taken a horseback ride before, but you’ve never taken one in an environment like this! As you ride a horse trotting along the great, long sandy beaches that stretch miles and miles, you’ll look to one side and see the surf of the Atlantic Ocean and on the other side the high-rising dunes of the Namib Desert.
There’s not a place like it where water meets the desert! This is surely a top-notch experience in Namibia and one of the top things to do in Swakopmund.
When will you ever get the opportunity to ride a camel again? For me, it was a no-brainer — I had to do it! Spend some time before and after with the camels feeding and showing it some love!
On the West coast of Namibia is Skeleton Coast — where the desert meets the ocean. It got its name (or the Lost Coast) from mysterious carcasses that would show up on shore. Many believe these skeletons came from either the Atlantic Ocean or were buried under feet of sand in the Namib only to be revealed when the wind moves the sand off of them.
Don’t worry, the skeletons are far removed from the beaches of Swakopmund and you can spend your time relaxing on the beach in peace knowing a skeleton won’t wash up next to you.
The best part about the beaches of Swakopmund is that, even in the middle of the tourist season, they remain virtually empty. Soak up the sun in solitude with the exception of a few local fishermen.
Interested in the reptiles of the desert?
There’s no better place to see the widest variety of desert snakes than Snake Park in Swakopmund.
As mentioned before, this is one of the only places on Earth where the desert meets the ocean. It’s a photographer’s dream landscape. The sharp edges of the sand dunes mixed with the surf of the southern Atlantic — there is nothing else comparable!
If you’re lucky, you’ll see the blowing sands of the desert mix with the mists of the Atlantic at night to create a red-pink night sky. It’s a sight you’ll never believe.
Getting out your camera is certainly one of the best things to do in Swakopmund!
Perhaps the biggest attraction of Namibia, Sossusvlei is a world renown salt and clay pan surrounded by the high red dunes of the desert. It is located in the Namib-Naukluft National Park which is one of the most often-visited places in Namibia.
Swakopmund is quite a drive from Sossusvlei — perhaps more than a day trip — however, a Namibia guide of any kind wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the famous Sossusvlei.
Ecological lovers unite! Many people believe the desert is a dead zone for life. However, this is a common misconception. There is plenty of life hiding in the desert and it is extremely hard to see without a guide. If you have any interest in the desert life, the Namib desert is where to learn!
Anyone who wants to travel to Namibia will not lack things to do in Swakopmund.
There are adventures in Swakopmund for travelers of all kinds, but particularly the adrenaline-seeking junkies. Whether you’re looking for a heart-stopping freefall from the clouds or looking for places in Swakopmund to experience the historic German culture, the city offers so many incredible things to do and explore!
If you liked this list of the best things to do in Swakopmund, Namibia, or if you have a question, scroll down and leave us a comment!
Oh, and one last thing before you go: if you’re on Pinterest, be sure to pin this image for later here:
About the Author: Adam Cheshier has traveled the world for three years and documented his exploration on his blog Wanderway, where he writes about his most thrilling travel stories and adventures. He has three fiction travel novels set to be published in late 2018.