Swakopmund in Namibia is a favourite with holidaymakers who enjoy its laidback atmosphere, fresh air and beaches. It's carved out of the dunes between the Namib Desert and the ocean, and the breezes blowing off the Atlantic bring cooler temperatures here than inland. But for me Swakopmund is more about old buildings, desert and adventure than beaches.
This is home to the famous Moose McGregor’s apple crumble. Despite the death of this larger than life character a few years ago, the same staff is still baking, making it well worth the stop. Although the settlement is tiny (population 92, brags the sign), it’s not as solitary as its name would make you think: in the 20 minutes we were there I saw at least 10 cars and a fully loaded overland truck pull in either for fuel or to visit the bakery.
And so to Swakopmund. We hadn’t enjoyed it much on our first visit years ago, probably because we’d misjudged its popularity and arrived in the mad crush of school holidays. So we’d never been back despite numerous visits to Namibia. Now we wanted to give it a second chance. And we were glad we did.
Despite its size, Swakopmund still has quite a lot of wide sand roads, which give it a Wild West kind of appeal – until you look at the style of the buildings. Some of the most attractive historical buildings date back to the early 20th century, many of them in the ‘Wilhelminische’ style, named after Wilhelm II who was German Kaiser until the end of World War I when he abdicated and fled to the Netherlands to lick his wounds. Given the style’s flowing lines and ornate features, you might also call it Jugendstil or Art Nouveau.
Old post office
Old railway station
If you’re not into old buildings or historical sites, you’ll be relieved to know that these days Swakopmund is considered the adventure capital of Namibia – anything from sand boarding, paragliding, sky diving and hot air ballooning to microlighting, quad biking, horse trails, fishing or sand safaris.
If you have a morning to spare, I can highly recommend taking a Living Desert Tour into the dunes just outside town with Tommy Collard. He’ll show you a fascinating landscape stuffed with miraculous desert-adapted creatures. The kids will love it too.
If you work up an appetite with all that activity, there are lots of popular coffee shops and restaurants to choose from in Swakopmund, offering everything from German-style coffee and cake to pure Namibian plates heavy with meat and seafood, and of course ice-cold beer by the bucketload.
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