It’s hard to believe you’re still in Africa when you arrive in Swakopmund. This town, the second biggest in Namibia, looks so German you might think we’re still in colonial times. But all you need to do to remember where you are is walk 10 minutes out of town and find yourself surrounded by sand dunes, or go to the market and hear people talk in “clicks”! I really liked this city, that locals simply call “Swakop”, and there’s a tone of things to do there! Stay there for two days, and you’ve got yourself a perfect budget weekend in Swakopmund, enjoy!
Take the morning to explore this very european-looking city. Follow the main road (Sam Nujoma Avenue), and wander into the side paved alleyways where you’ll find art stores, book stores, small restaurants, … everything for a relaxing shopping morning.
When you get closer to the beach, the red and white lighthouse comes into view. Turn into Strand Street and visit the Swakopmund Museum (entry fee: 30ND), the biggest museum in Namibia! When you exit on Strand Street, you’ll quickly find the outdoor Crafts Market (signs indicate the place). Although sellers are a bit pushy, the art is really worth a look!
Buy a sandwich somewhere while wandering and eat it on the beach. When you’re ready to keep going, follow the beach left (left when you’re facing the sea). Walk the jetty, then keep going until you’re out of the town.
After the last campsite, you’ll find yourself face to face with the Swakop River. Most of the year, this river is dry and the only thing left is a small lake full of flamingoes, pelicans et many other kinds of birds !
Keep going along the beach, past the pillars in the sea. Can you see those purple shades in the sand? This comes from precious stones residues! You’re just walking on money …
Keep going until you reach the dunes, or even further if you feel like it (keep following the sea, don’t go loosing yourself in the desert, it’s easier than it looks)! On the way back, keep walking along the sea, past the jetty and all the way to Moses Garoeb Street where your hostel waits. I recommend sleeping at Skeleton Beach Backpackers: small prices, good atmosphere, helpful staff and right next to the sea!
Enjoy the sunset from the beach. Always keep an eye out for whales or dolphins, they often come near the coast! I myself saw three black fins in the bay. I still don’t know if it was sharks or whales, but it was very impressive all the same!
To eat, I recommend the deliciously decadent Bits’n Pizza (try to book in advance). This restaurant cooks huge pizzas in a wood oven. One pizza for two is more than enough!
Warning: Swakopmund is a very safe town, but if you go out at night, you might not get to keep your valuables very long. Only bring enough money for the night and stick with a group. If you’re alone, ask the restaurant to call you a taxi to go back home. This advice is true for Windhoek as well. (If you’ve been reading me for a while, then you’ll know that I don’t give that advice lightly and that I’m not the kind to be scared over nothing, so trust me and don’t take any risks!)
Ask reception to book you a taxi to Walvis Bay (about 70ND). The road between the two cities lasts half an hour and is really beautiful. At one point, you have the dunes going forever on one side of the car, and the sea rushing right next to the road on the other … incredible.
Ask the taxi to stop at the Lagoon, this is the main attraction in Walvis Bay. The Lagoon is a piece of water full of flamingoes! If you have your own car or rent a 4×4 for the day, you can explore deeper into the salt pans and the protected area. But the flamingoes are guaranteed even if you stay inside the town, they are really everywhere!
Next, take a taxi to Dune 7 (about 40ND). Dune 7 is the highest dune in the country, it’s a lot of fun to go up and down its side, and I promise that the view at the top is well worth the pain in the legs on the way up!
You can make a day of visiting Walvis Bay, or squeeze the Lagoon and Dune 7 in one morning so you can spend the afternoon on activities! Obviously, these are not budget activities, but the prices are small if you compare them with the usual price for those around the world.
I mainly recommend SandBoarding to slide down the dunes, standing up or lying down on a board (500ND with Alter Action), and of course it’s the opportunity to try out Skydiving (2500ND with Ground Rush Adventures). That’s what I did, and I think Skydiving is seriously one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life. This company was safe, I wasn’t sick, it was amazing in a way I can’t describe. I did it in a group and everyone loved it and landed with a big smile on their face. Just try it, it’s the best!
How to get to Swakopmund:
– With a car: about 5 hours from Windhoek.
– By shuttles: hostels in Windhoek often have a shuttle going to and from Swakopmund (about 250ND).
– By train: this is by far the cheapest option. The night train links Swakopmund and Windhoek every day except sunday. It takes some time, but it costs only 150ND!
– With a tour: I spent two days in Swakopmund and Walvis Bay during my tour with Acacia Africa!