Swakopmund is a coastal town in Namibia that sits about 225 miles west of Windhoek. Sandwiched between the massive Namib Desert and the South Atlantic Ocean, this charming little town offers plenty of outdoor adventures to keep visitors entertained for several days. It’s a must-see destination when touring this beautiful country.
Don’t miss the top 12 things to see and do during your visit to Swakopmund, Namibia!
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Preparing for Your Visit to Swakopmund
Things to Know Before You Go
- Namibia accepts two kinds of currency: the Namibian Dollar (NAD) and the South African Rand. However, both do not hold the same value in South Africa so be sure to convert your currency from NAD prior to leaving the country. At the time of writing (March of 2018) the exchange rate was 11.79 NAD to $1 USD. So if we say that something costs 100 NAD that’s just about $8.35 USD.
- English is the official language of Namibia but there are more than 11 languages that are indigenous to the country and more than 49% of the population speak Oshiwambo. It is very common for Namibians to speak two or three languages. Most people you’ll encounter will speak English.
- Tipping is commonplace in most tourist areas of Namibia. Expect to give a “car guard” 2-3 NAD if you are making a quick trip or 5 NAD if you plan on being away from your car for an hour or more. 10% at restaurants is customary if you are satisfied with your service.
- Visitors from the United States, South Africa, Australia, Germany, Canada, Japan, and the UK qualify for a 90-day visa on arrival. Check your visa requirements here.
Best Time to Visit Swakopmund
The climate in Namibia is pleasant year-round and can be visited pretty much any time of the year. The dry season is May to October and if you are interested in seeing wildlife that is the best time of the year to plan your trip as the animals will gather around the watering holes. However, July to October is high season so you will need to book your car and accommodations well in advance.
The wet season is between December and March although Namibia receives far less rain than its neighbors. Animals will be more scattered throughout the parks during the wet season, which lowers your chances of spotting them easily. April and May experience very moderate temperatures with little or no rainfall and October to February can be very hot.
Traveling in the off-season is recommended as the weather is pleasant and there are far fewer crowds to contend with.
Getting to Swakopmund
Swakopmund is located about 225 miles west of Windhoek which is the airport that most visitors fly into. The drive from Windhoek to Swakopmund will take about three and a half hours. Driving in Namibia is easy, and all the roads are paved between Windhoek and Swakopmund so you won’t need a 4×4 for this stretch.
Safety in Swakopmund
Namibia is an incredibly safe country (even if you’re traveling alone in Africa); however, the increase in tourism over the years has also brought an increase in car theft. Rental car smash and grabs can be common in cities when tourists leave valuables in plain sight. This is rare but not uncommon in Swakopmund.
Many young entrepreneurs wait in busy parking lots with an offer to watch your car for a small tip which is worth paying for added security. Expect to give them around 2-3 NAD if you are making a quick trip or 5 NAD if you plan on being away from your car for an hour or more.
Tipping in Namibia
Tipping in Namibia is expected so keep small change on you at all times. Expect to tip around 10% in restaurants, 5-10 NAD for your gas station attendant, and around 5 NAD to the person bagging your groceries at the supermarket. Also, be sure to tip your hotel staff and any tour guides during your stay.
The World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control recommend getting the following standard travel vaccines prior to visiting Namibia: Hepatitis A and B, Typhoid, and Yellow Fever.
The risk of contracting malaria in Swakopmund is low year-round. The side effects of pills that protect against malaria are often worse than the disease itself and are generally not recommended.
Renting a Car
Read about everything you need to know about renting a car in Namibia here!
The Top 12 Things to do in Swakopmund, Namibia
1. Relax at the Villa Margherita
The Villa Margherita is the most darling antique colonial boutique hotel located in the heart of Swakopmund. With just 10 incredibly large and beautifully decorated rooms, every guest will receive the personalized royal treatment from the attentive and helpful staff.
Arrange to have a full-body massage during your stay. It’s the perfect way to unwind after spending several days in the car touring Namibia. And while you should certainly sample all of the amazing cuisine options in Swakopmund, be sure to try the fresh fish at the Villa Margherita for dinner at least once. Their dinner menu and the wine list are superb!
The helpful staff at the Villa Margherita can also help you to arrange all of your activities during your stay in Swakopmund!
2. Drive Along the Skeleton Coast
Stretching from Swakopmund all the way to Angola, Namibia’s Skeleton Coast has been called both “the land God made in anger” and “the gates of hell”. Sadly many ships have wrecked along this desolate coastline over the years, notably, the name was coined by the author of the book chronicling the Dunedin Star shipwreck in 1942.
The current here is strong and scattered along the shore are the remains of both animal skeletons and ship remains. And because this area of Namibia is so forbidding, it is also one of the most pristine coastlines in the world. You will be in awe of the views along your drive up the C34 highway.
There are a few cool stops as you drive north on the C34 highway. At the Cape Cross Seal Reserve, you’ll find thousands of stinky, noisy fur seals. You can walk along the fenced walkway to safely see them up close. And the Huab Lagoon is a stunning pink salt lagoon sitting just inland from the ocean – it’s just one more feature of the Skeleton Coast that will make you feel like you have landed on another planet.
3. Take a Boat Cruise
Why stick to the land when there is so much fascinating marine life in view right offshore? Enjoy some fresh, delicious oysters and bubbly champagne while cruising around the South Atlantic Ocean with stunning views of the shore. You’ll likely spot seals, pelicans, or even whales or dolphins if you’re lucky. It’s the perfect way to spend a morning in Swakopmund.
4. Take a Quad Bike Tour of the Sand Dunes
The dunes of the Namib Desert overlook the sea below and extend for miles in every direction. And the best way to take a tour of this vast sandy wasteland is to speed through it on a quad bike! Don’t worry about safety – you’ll have a guide and a helmet and they’ll take care to ensure that you travel at speeds that you’re comfortable with.
5. Take a Scenic Flight
While the Skeleton Coast is incredibly harsh and bleak, from the air it is nothing short of spectacular! The massive and imposing sand dunes begin at the shoreline that is continuously pounded by crashing waves. It is truly the best way to view this region of Namibia.
Helicopter flights vary in length and you can choose between several scenery options. The most popular flight travels south along the coast to Sossusvlei and back again.
6. Hit the Beach
The public beach in Swakopmund is filled with tourists and locals alike having a great time lounging in the sand and taking a dip in the ocean. And with plenty of restaurants close by, it’s the perfect way to spend an afternoon!
Wander down the boardwalk as well to find your own quiet spot if the beach right in the center of town is too rowdy for your liking.
7. Go Fishing
You’ll find the freshest seafood in all of Namibia is served in Swakopmund so you cannot leave without sampling the local catch. Or better yet, head to the ocean and try your hand and hooking your own dinner! You can choose to try your hand at fishing from the beach, off a boat, or go deep-sea fishing (only offered from October to February).
8. Visit the Swakopmund Museum
This random private collection of Namibian history is definitely worth checking out while visiting Swakopmund. A vast array of taxidermy is on display as well as a very detailed explanation of the various indigenous groups that inhabit the country. Plan on spending at least an hour learning about Namibian history, culture, wildlife, and geology.
9. Enjoy the Delicious Cuisine
You’ll find the best cuisine in all of Namibia in this darling town! And because there are so many options to choose from, picking a spot for dinner can be daunting. You’ll find plenty of German-inspired cuisines, fresh seafood, specialty pizzas, and everything in-between!
Best Restaurants in Swakopmund:
- For fresh seafood and perfect wine pairings, dine in at the Villa Margherita Restaurant.
- For unique pizza combinations, don’t miss Bits N Pizzas.
- Village Cafe is the perfect spot for a delicious breakfast in a fun, casual atmosphere.
- For comfort food with stunning views of the sea, head to Farmhouse Deli.
10. Shop in the Craft Market
If you are looking to bring home any traditional carvings from Namibia, you’ll find plenty to choose from in the outdoor craft market in the heart of the city. You’ll even spot a few women from the Himba tribe offering handmade jewelry and the opportunity to snap a photo of them for a price.
11. Sample the Craft Beer
The largest employers in Swakopmund produce uranium, beer, and salt. So it’s imperative that you sample the goods! Not the uranium, the beer of course. Brewer & Butcher has plenty of outdoor seating and a beer sampler so you can try it before you commit. The Helles is our favorite – light, refreshing, and perfect for day drinking.
12. View the Flocks of Flamingos of Walvis Bay
You’ll find thousands of flamingos hanging out in the shallow waters of the Namib Desert coast, and Walvis Bay is a particular hot spot for these beautiful birds. And being that the bay is just about 20 minutes south of Swakopmund, bird enthusiasts and amateur photographers will rejoice!
The flamingos prefer to congregate in three areas; the lagoon located southwest of Walvis Bay, near the Salt Works complex which supplies over 90% of South Africa’s salt, and Bird Paradise which is a sanctuary for the birds.
We hope this guide helps you in planning your trip to Swakopmund!
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