Lüderitz in Namibia is the much less visited little brother of the coastal town of Swakopmund. Just like big brother Swakopmund, Lüderitz has a lot of German architecture, street names and bratwurst. But it definitely has its own attractions like the bizarre ghost town of Kolmanskop and the beautiful Lüderitz peninsula. Both were highlights of our Namibia trip. Though only few travelers visit the town during their trip, as its never on your travel route, located in the middle of nowhere. We will tell you about the best things to do in Lüderitz, hoping to convince you to take a detour to this coastal town.
How to get to Lüderitz?
As I already wrote, Lüderitz is in the middle of nowhere. Take a look at the map of southern Namibia and you will see that a long B-road leads straight to Lüderitz from the town of Aus. There are no stops along the way; there is nothing else here.
Lüderitz is about 125 kilometers from Aus, the closest other town. The road between the places is the B4 and as speed limits are high on a B road, you can get to Lüderitz from Aus in about an hour. Note that the road near Lüderitz is sometimes partly swallowed by the sand dunes and it can also be quite windy here. So adjust your speed accordingly.
Lüderitz can be reached by public transport, but just like in the rest of Namibia, that is not recommended. The biggest highlights of Lüderitz are not in the city itself and are just too far to walk.
The background story of Lüderitz
Let’s start with a brief history lesson: Lüderitz was the first German settlement in Namibia and is named after its founder Adolf Lüderitz. This German entrepreneur bought the land at the end of the nineteenth century to set up a trading post. Namibia was one of the few areas in Africa that did not fall under any colonial rule; there was simply nothing worth claiming in the desert. Merchant Lüderitz therefore asked Germany for protection, which was the start of German influence in Namibia.
Not much later, it turned out that there actually was a lot to be found in the desert near Lüderitz. In 1908, a railroad worker found a diamond lying in the desert. There turned out to be many, many more. They were just on the desert surface! A diamond fever arose, so Germany proclaimed the area around Lüderitz to the restricted ‘Sperrgebiet’ to be able to protect its diamonds. The area is still a ‘Sperrgebiet’; it is not possible to visit this area without prior permission.
Because of the flourishing diamond industry, Lüderitz prospered and it was decided to build a luxurious town 10 kilometers from the city to accommodate the staff and their families of the diamond company. This village – Kolmanskop – was equipped with every possible luxury and had facilities that were not even available in most German cities at that time yet. Until more and especially bigger diamonds were discovered more to the south of the Sperrgebiet..
Even today, diamonds are still being extracted in Lüderitz, but not from the desert any more. They are found in the sea! Many diamonds from the desert had, of course, already been blown into the sea in the decades before the diamond fever, with many still lying on the bottom. While fishermen use nets and fishing rods in other coastal towns, they dive for diamonds in Lüderitz.
Best things to do in Lüderitz
There seems only little to do in this small town, but that is not true at all. You can visit two of the highlights of our Namibia trip – the Peninsula and Kolmanskopf – from this German coastal town. In only 48 hours you can visit both two places and the other sights of the town. These are the best things to do in Lüderitz:
#1 Goerke Haus
This German house is perhaps the best symbol of German influence in Lüderitz. The house was built in the early twentieth century, entirely in the art nouveau style that was then popular in Germany. The name giver of the house was Hans Goerke, an inspector of the diamond company. The diamond fever allowed him to build this extravagance house on the hill on the outskirts of Lüderitz. He did not enjoy it for a very long time though, as he already returned to Germany a few years later. The building is nowadays open to visitors from Monday to Friday from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm and on Saturdays and Sundays between 4:00 pm and 5:00 pm.
#2 Have breakfast at Diaz
Our favourite place in Lüderitz was the Diaz Coffee Shop. Its coffee is made from the best beans in Namibia – including the Namibian brands Two Beards and Slotown – and the most delicious breakfast is served at this spot. Besides breakfast there’s also a bar, where you can go for dinner and a drink in the evening.
#3 The Peninsula
This was one of the best small trips we made in Namibia! How about a deep blue ocean against a clear blue sky, tough 4WD roads, penguins and flamingos, a red saltwater lake and a light house. And all of that is located in a rugged environment with only sand and stone. We drove around this desolate area for a morning, driving on cool 4WD roads to the most beautiful blue bays. We didn’t go for a swim there though, as the water is ice and ice cold.
#4 The Kegelbahn
The town also has an old bowling alley in German style, how cool! The evening we wanted to go, the Kegelbahn was unfortunately closed. But the night before, we walked past and could take a quick look inside. It was so typical German! Note that you will not find the alley on a map, but is located on Bay Road at the junction with the B4.
#5 Ghost town Kolmanskop
This old diamond town is a bizarre ghost town. When the diamond fever moved further south, the luxurious town was abandoned. Although the last inhabitant would leave Kolmanskop only in the 1950s, most people moved out within a short time. You can still visit the old bowling alley, auditorium, ice factory and the enormous hospital. The desert is slowly taking over the old German houses. In this blog you can read more about this special place.
#6 The buffet at Barrels
Eating at Barrels is an experience in itself. The tables are old barrels and candles are lit everywhere to bring some light into the dark pub. Most visitors eat here the buffet; as a vegetarian, even I could eat part of the buffet for a reduced price. The food is not amazing, but the atmosphere in this pub absolutely was.
#7 Agate Beach
This beach is located aboout 5 kilometers north of Lüderitz. There are picnic areas with – how else in Namibia – braai spots. The beach gets its name from the small pieces of agate that sometimes can been found here on the beach.
Tips for Lüderitz
#1 Buy mineral water. In Lüderitz you can drink tap water just like in the rest of the country, but it tastes a bit different. For its water supply, Lüderitz dependents on an underground water source and the taste of its water is, in our opinion, not as good as other water.
#2 Don’t camp at the coast. Lüderitz has a two beautiful campsites on the coast, including one at the Peninsula. We first considered one of those campsites on the beach, but we are very glad that we eventually opted for a camping option in the city – in the garden of Lüderitz Backpackers. The wind in Lüderitz can get bizarre hard, it was even difficult to handle in town with the protection of the houses!
#3 Don’t come Sundays. We heard from people visiting Lüderitz on a Sunday that they didn’t like the town at all. We can understand that, as nothing is opened then.
#4 Plan your visit to Kolmanskop in the morning. The ghost town is only open between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. If you want to be there sooner or later, probably to take stunning pictures of the ghost town at sunrise or sunset, you can buy a separate photo permit.
#5 Bring your binoculars. The area around Lüderitz is known for its birds! At the Peninsula, you can spot a penguin colony with binoculars from the coast.
#6 Download the offline map from the maps.me app. There are many 4WD roads at the Peninsula. On the maps.me map you can clearly see which ones are leading to a small bay or viewpoint.
#7 Don’t order pizza at Ritzi’s. This was the worst pizza I have ever eaten. The seafood seems to be the best in town though.
#8 Take a tour at Kolmanskop. The tour gives you an even better picture of the town and is included in the price of your ticket. Tours are at 9:30 AM and 11:00 AM from Monday to Saturday and at 10:00 AM on Sundays and public holidays.