Luderitz, Namibia, is wedged between the Namib Desert and the icy Atlantic, a colourful hamlet in a windswept landscape. To get there you must drive 340km from Keetmanshoop on a straight road that takes you through forbidden diamond territory. When you crest the last dune, the town appears out of a barren landscape like a mirage, as misplaced as any tiny German hamlet could be.
I have to confess that Luderitz isn’t one of my favourite places in Namibia, but it’s definitely worth a trip if you’ve never been before – especially if you take in the ghost town of Kolmanskop and the wild horses of the Namib at Aus along the way.
Things to do in Luderitz
Kolmanskop ghost town
Explore Luderitz’s early 20th century Germanic architecture. The town is a strange mixture of lovely, well-restored German-style buildings from the diamond-rush days of the early 1900s, some old, sad and very bedraggled buildings from the same period, and quite a lot of ugly, scruffy buildings with no style at all. The old power station looks like something from a bombed town, derelict, windows broken.
Nowadays, Shark Island is a campsite that gives views back towards the town and out to sea. You’ll need to pay a small entrance fee to visit the site even if you’re not camping there. A lone monument to local leader Cornelius Fredericks who died here hints at its dark history as a ‘death island’. (The names of Germans who died are etched into a much bigger wall.)
Luderitz has one of the best harbours on Namibia’s inhospitable coastline, so the fishing industry adds a rugged, salty flavour to the town. It’s not surprising, then, that fishing and sailing charters are popular activities, for instance to Halifax Island to see African penguins. Charters leave from the Waterfront, where tourists enjoy the shops and restaurants.
Take a drive to Diaz Point – where Portuguese explorer Bartholomeu Diaz planted a cross in 1488 – for a chance to see seals, penguins, flamingos and dolphins, and listen to the thundering of the ocean.
As for Luderitz restaurants, you won’t find fine dining but you will find a number of places offering satisfying plates of fresh seafood, steak and good Namibian beer.
Although it’s a small town, there’s quite a choice when it comes to Luderitz accommodation – from camping and self-catering to B&Bs and hotels. The Luderitz Nest Hotel has great sea views, but comes at a price. For a cheaper alternative still with a sea view, try The Cormorant House. Alte Villa guesthouse is a smaller, more personal guesthouse for those who don’t like big hotels. See Afristay or Booking.com for rates and bookings.
If you prefer not to stay in town and don’t mind driving 120km to visit Kolmanskop and Luderitz for the day, I can recommend the rustic campsite (no power points) at Desert Horse Campsite at Klein Aus Vista, near where you may also see Namibia’s wild horses. That’s exactly what we did the last time we visited Luderitz.
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