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Swakopmund

Colourful activity centre of Namibia

The popular Jetty, the old landing bridge

The popular Jetty, the old landing bridge

Colourful restored colonial buildings with the Woermann tower in the back

Colourful restored colonial buildings with the Woermann tower in the back

The Hohenzollern house, an alleged secret whorehouse

The Hohenzollern house, an alleged secret whorehouse in colonial times

The Swakopmund street market

The Swakopmund street market

Swakopmund is the capital of the Erongo Region and has about 34,000 inhabitants.

The town’s history starts with the landing of the Portuguese sailor Bartholomew Diaz on Namibian soil at Cape Cross in the year 1487 where he erected a stone cross. Much later, in 1793, two Dutch sailors were anchoring shortly at the mouth of the Swakop River. In 1862 the crew of a German gunboat hoisted the German flag at the mouth of the Swakop River to signal the territories occupancy.

Another gunboat marked the possible landing site with poles in August 1892. With this sovereign act the occupation of this coastal area by the German Reich was demonstrated to the English who were occupying the harbour of Walvis Bay.

Geographically Swakopmund is situated amidst dunes and desert close to the mouth of the Swakop River. During the colonial period Swakopmund was an important harbour, although the conditions were not really favourable: the coastal waters were far too shallow, a sheltered lagoon was missing and the surf was much too strong. Additionally the harbour of Luederitz was too far away and the nearby Walvis Bay harbour was under British occupation. As the disembarkation of settlers and troops on surf boats was a life threatening undertaking, an artificial harbour was built at very high costs and from 1894 regular freight traffic started led by a shipping company in Hamburg. Initially a 325 meter long, wooden jetty was built in 1902, which was replaced by an iron one in 1912. The complete supply of the colony was handled via Swakopmund. The remains of this Jetty can still be seen today and in 2010 an oyster bar even opened on the so called “Jetty”.

To upgrade the means of transportation the first German – South West African railway line between Swakopmund and Windhoek was opened on the 01 July 1902. The Namib Desert is over 100 kilometres wide; the track distance to Windhoek covered 382 km in which the railway had to climb to 1673 metres above sea level. This narrow-gauge railway runs today from Walvis Bay via Swakopmund to Windhoek, whereas on some days during the week passenger waggons are attached to the freight train. Additionally the luxury passenger train Desert Express commutes between Swakopmund and Windhoek.

Today Swakopmund serves mainly as a holiday resort and is thus of touristic importance. Due to its mild climatic condition especially during the high season December and January the town is an attraction to many tourists especially from the inland – to such an extent that accommodation has to be pre booked way in advance. Many South African and Namibian pensioners take up residence here. During colonial times Swakopmund was referred to as “Germany’s most southern coastal resort“, even though water temperatures, due to the cold Benguela current of the Atlantic hardly reached over 20 °C.

Swakopmund offers many touristic attractions like splendid buildings, a wonderful town promenade, the aquarium and many more. The nearby surroundings are also of touristic importance. Especially the coastal road which is flanked by dunes on the one side and by the Atlantic Ocean on the other is very impressive. Excursions can be made 30 km south to Walvis Bay, as well as up north to the fishing paradise of Henties Bay or to Cape Cross to one of the world largest seal colonies.