Kolmanskop, Namibia’s Hauntingly Beautiful Ghost Town
Kolmanskop, Namibia

On an otherwise normal evening in 1908, a railway worker by the name of  Zacherias Lewala, was clearing sand off rail tracks when something caught his eye. It happened to be a diamond, and although he was never paid for his find, his discovery of the diamond started a rush that has come to define a significant part of Namibian history.

Kolmanskop was initially built to be the headquarters for Consolidated Diamond Mines (CDM) but as news spread of the possibility of riches to be made here, the town grew at a rapid pace, attracting settlers from all over. Luxurious houses, casinos, bowling alleys and billiard rooms sprang up, parties were thrown, and people made their lives here. For a while, life was good.

But diamonds, like desert winds, are fickle.

The discovery of richer diamond deposits elsewhere eventually lured the miners, and with them, the business of the town, away, leaving Kolmanskop to its slow, sandy slumber.

Today the town has all but returned to the desert.

Kolmanskop is a ghost town, by definition, a deserted settlement where the only sounds are those made by the desert winds blowing through ancient, forgotten buildings which each year sink further and further into the sands.

For decades it was almost completely forgotten, but in recent years, the town has been partially restored, to be more accommodating to tourists.

Now, as one of Namibia’s most iconic destinations, the ghost town attracts curious travellers from all over the world, who hope to learn a bit more about the area’s past and perhaps get a feeling for what the town once was. Kolmanskop is a stark reminder of nature’s relentless reclaim and if this is a place you hope to see, we’re going to give you all the information you might need to make the most of your Namibia tour to Kolmanskop.

Are you ready to explore the echoes of Namibia’s diamond rush past?  We have a guide just for you.

  Kolmanskop Ghost Town Namibia


Getting to Kolmanskop

Kolmanskop is named after Jani Kolman, an Afrikaner trekker whose ox wagon became stuck in the heavy desert sands as he was passing through the area. But unlike this early explorer, you don’t have to worry about getting stuck when travelling to the area. There are guided Namibia tours, offered in both English and German, constantly heading to the ghost town, and all you need to do is book your tour and make your way to Namibia to explore this truly surreal destination.

There are two ways that you can get to Kolmanskop:

How do you get to Kolmanskop from South Africa?

By Road: Kolmanskop lies roughly 1,448 kilometres southwest of Johannesburg and if you choose to drive the distance, you can look forward to a scenic 15-and-a-half-hour trip through the ever-changing and always stunning South African landscapes.

By Air: While a road trip through Namibia is undeniably an exciting thought, time constraints might necessitate using an alternative and faster option. Several airlines offer flights from Johannesburg or Cape Town to Walvis Bay, Namibia’s delightful coastal town, or Windhoek. From there, you can rent a car (or book a tour) and drive the final 350 kilometres to Kolmanskop, a scenic two-hour drive that offers a taste of the Namib Desert’s beauty.

How do you get to Kolmanskop from Windhoek?

By Road: For those setting off from Namibia’s capital, Windhoek, the journey becomes a shorter 700 kilometres, which is a more relaxed and manageable eight-hour expedition. No matter your starting point, be sure to consult a reliable map app like Google Maps for the most up-to-date road conditions.

By Air: Regular flights take off from Windhoek’s Eros Airport (ERS) and touch down at Luderitz Airport (LUD), with the journey being a short hour. This quick hop will get you closer to Kolmanskop, leaving you with just a short onward journey (around 70 kilometres) to see the evocative ghost town.

For most guests who wish to see Kolmanskop, a guided tour is the natural option.

Just about all guided Kolmanskop tours leave from Windhoek and they typically give guests enough time to explore the remains of luxurious homes and to hear tales of the families who called this desert oasis home. Sometimes, if only for logistics reasons, it is best to book a Kolmanskop tour because there will be permits involved.  


Kolmanskop Settlements seen on a Namibia Tour


What should you pack for a trip to Kolmanskop?

Kolmanskop, for the most part, is such an unusual place that it can be difficult to describe. As a ghost town, one almost completely devoid of all life, it can be a little bit eerie to visit this place although, truth be told the eerie feeling is lightened a little by the nearby gift and coffee shop! Most tours of the area are quick while some will have you spending most of the day outside, exploring the abandoned buildings and taking loads of photos. To help you prepare for your time in the ghost town, here’s what you need to pack for a fun and comfortable day trip to Kolmanskop:

  • Comfortable clothing and sturdy shoes: You’ll be doing a fair amount of walking on uneven terrain, so ditch the flip-flops and pack comfy shoes with a good grip.
  • Sunscreen, hat, and sunglasses: The Namibian sun is no joke, so pack plenty of sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses to protect yourself from the harsh rays.
  • Camera with a zoom lens: Kolmanskop is a photographer’s paradise. A zoom lens will allow you to capture the town’s unique details from afar, like the intricate architecture of the abandoned houses or the vastness of the surrounding desert. When travelling here, you will want to keep your camera in hand because everywhere you turn, there’s a story waiting to be captured.
  • Your Permit: If you choose to travel here on your own, you will need to have a permit. This is a protected place, and not just anyone can enter. While on the subject of a self-drive, when travelling on your own, be sure to arrive early, before 9 am. Not only will you have the best light for your photos, but you will also be able to get parking. Believe it or not, this is quite a busy destination.
  • Pack a scarf: You’ve read that the winds shape the sands of the desert, so you probably realise that the winds can be a problem here. A scarf or even a bandana is a must for keeping the sand out of your face (and camera lens) once the winds pick up.
  • Lots of water: The desert is as hot and dry here as it is everywhere else. Be sure to make an effort to stay well-hydrated.

How much time should you spend at Kolmanskop?

While the destination looks fairly fascinating in photos, not everyone finds such abandoned places interesting. If this is not your sort of idea of a fun thing to do, give yourself at least 3 hours in the town. This will be more than enough time to quench your curiosity, snap some photos, and be able to say that you have seen Kolmanskop. If you are a history buff or if you simply love exploring intriguing places like this, then you should spend between 5 and 8 hours exploring.  


Abandoned Houses in Kolmanskop


Why Book a Kolmanskop Tour Through a Travel Company?

Sure, you could brave the dusty Namibian roads and drive to Kolmanskop on your own. But there’s a far richer way to unearth the secrets of this truly haunting ghost town. Here’s why booking your adventure with a tour company, like ours, can be the best option for you.

  • Leave the Logistics to Us: When you book a Namibia tour you can relax and focus on soaking up the atmosphere, while we handle all the nitty-gritty details. Our seamless booking process takes care of everything, from securing your tour spot to arranging comfortable transportation to and from the ghost town. All you have to do is pack your sense of wonder and show up ready to be amazed.
  • Learn Kolmanskop’s Secrets with Expert Guides: Kolmanskop has all sorts of stories, but deciphering them requires a keen ear. Most tours are led by passionate local guides who possess a wealth of knowledge about the town’s fascinating history. They’ll paint a vivid picture of Kolmanskop’s diamond-fueled frenzy, the lives of its inhabitants, and the forces that ultimately led to its abandonment. It’s the difference between simply seeing a deserted house and truly understanding the soul that once resided within.
  • Go Beyond the Surface: There’s more to Kolmanskop than meets the eye. By booking with us, you gain access to exclusive areas or lesser-known sights often missed by independent explorers. With a tour, you can set off the beaten path to find out more about the hidden historical gems or snap that perfect photo from a secret vantage point. With expert guides leading the way, you’ll experience Kolmanskop on a whole new level.

Our company offers exclusive, guided tours led by local experts who breathe life back into these dusty streets. They’ll regale you with tales of boom times and busts, of miners and madams, and unveil the hidden secrets that lie beneath the surface.  

Don’t miss out on the chance to visit this surreal ghost town.