Swakopmund might be one of the oddest towns in Namibia.
Strolling through its streets you might think that instead of an African town you've stumbled into a wormhole that's transported you to Germany. Signs like 'bäckerei' and 'willkommen' are plastered everywhere, the bookshop is pretty much dedicated to the German language and you'll actually struggle to figure out who's a tourist and who's a local (the tan normally helps).
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Beyond the language, cuisine and architectural styles also make sure that you never forget about Namibia's German colonial roots, although the streets named after prominent Namibians remind you of their own struggle for freedom.
Swakopmund started as a major African port for the Germans - and there's little trace of the Herero concentration camps that was once an institution in the desert town.
The town almost died after port activities were moved to its neighbour - Walvis Bay - after South Africa took over then-South West Africa, but tourism managed to get it vibrant again. This is now the biggest economy for the area, which means it's also one of the most tourist-friendly places to visit.
And the best part is that you don't have to drive a day and a bit to get there from South Africa. There's an international airport in Walvis Bay, and with direct flights from Johannesburg and Cape Town (the most beautiful flight you will ever take), the short flight means you'll make it there before lunch.
Public transport however is quite lacking, so you'll have to calculate into your budget a rental car to give you the freedom to explore the town and its dry but otherworldly surrounds.
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Check out this perfect itinerary to make the most out of a long weekend in Swakopmund.
A dune tour by quadbike
Swakopmund is in a constant battle against the ever-creeping desert, its yellow and red sands forever trying to invade its streets. Besides a 4x4, the second-most popular form of transport is by quad bike! There are a variety of tour operators that offer tours on these growling steeds that will take you deep into the desert.
An ocean safari in the cold Atlantic
Not only is it a desert town, it's also a coastal haven - but the water is freezing! While it might get a bit much for humans, dolphins love it and are commonly spotted just off the coast saying hi to us landlubbers. Take a boat tour out to the deep waters to get closer, and you may even spot a whale, leatherback turtle or orca!
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Drive up to the biggest seal colony in the world
Cape Cross is about an hour-and-a-half from Swakopmund, just before the infamous Skeleton Coast, and is home to an insanely huge colony of Cape fur seals. They stretch as far as the eye can see, and with so many seals comes a not so nice smell! December is the height of pup season, but due to the dwindling fish reserves on the coast it's not the most pleasant sight when the babies are starving.
A 4x4 expedition to Sandwich Harbour
If you're looking for a little bit of adventure and see the most beautiful parts of Namibia, book a 4x4 expedition to Sandwich Harbour from Walvis Bay. This isolated piece of coastline offers giant dunes juxtaposed against the blue ocean, and if you're a birder this will be an absolute thrill. Please note though this is a half-day excursion so prepare your activities accordingly.
Enjoy a das boot and eisbein at Swakopmund Brauhaus
For the most German experience that ever Germaned, quench that dry Namibian thirst with a glass boot filled with beer at Swakopmund Brauhaus. This typically Bavarian institution is in the heart of town and offers German cuisine to help fill that belly after a long day of exploring. Do know that the das boot will take you a while to finish, and remember to twist it near the end!
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Have a swim at the Mole
Swakopmund Mole was the original harbour, but now it's the best spot for a brunch, a walk through African craft markets and a frisk swim that will give your goosebumps goosebumps. You can also walk up to the lighthouse or use it as a starting point for a leisurely stroll along the beach.
Marvel as sparkling gemstones at the Kristal Galerie
Another big industry in Namibia is diamond mining, and crystals and other gemstones are abundant in the Namib desert - if you know where to look. Instead of trekking through a scorching landscape to find them, take a trip to the Kristall Galerie - a gemstone museum with the largest quartz crystal cluster in the world. And if you want to take something sparkly home with you, Swakopmund has some of the best jewellers in the world to peruse.
Eat seafood on a jetty that's over a hundred years old
The jetty is a historical icon in the town - some say it's the reason why Swakopmund became what it is today. It was the main cargo-offloading spot for many years since 1905, and when it became in disrepair it was rescued through a funding campaign. Now it hosts a restaurant right at the end that makes for a spectacular dining experience or sundowner spot.
Hike up Dune 7 - one of the biggest in the world
Feel like you need to walk off that beer and eisbein somehow? Try a hike up one of the biggest sand dunes in the world, just outside of Swakopmund. It's free and your calves will get a workout like it's never gotten a workout before - and if you're feeling extra brave you can try a bit of sandboarding down its steep slopes.
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