Named after early Afrikaner trekker Jani Kolman, whose ox wagon became bogged in the sand here, Kolmanskop was originally constructed as the Consolidated Diamond Mines (CDM) headquarters. Although Kolmanskop once boasted a casino, bowling alley and a theatre with fine acoustics, the slump in diamond sales after WWI and the discovery of richer pickings at Oranjemund ended its heyday. By 1956, the town was totally deserted, and left to the mercy of the shifting desert sands.

Today, Kolmanskop has been partially restored as a tourist attraction, and the sight of decrepit buildings being invaded by dunes is simply too surreal to describe. You can turn up at any time, and you’re not required to arrive as part of an organised tour, though you do need to purchase a permit in advance through either the NWR office in Lüderitz or a local tour operator. Guided tours (in English and German), which are included in the price of the permit, depart from the museum in Kolmanskop. After the tour, you can return to the museum, which contains relics and information on the history of Namibian diamond mining.

Unfortunately the coffee shop and gift shop and often-large tourist numbers dampen the potentially eerie effect of this old town. If there are a lot of tourists around (likely) then you’re better off skipping the organised part of the trip here and focusing instead on wandering around the decrepit buildings and piles of sand, getting a bit of a taste for this old deserted town.

Kolmanskop is only a 15-minute drive from Lüderitz, just off the main B4 highway. Tour agencies sell tours to Kolmanskop, or you can drive yourself so long as you have arranged the permit beforehand.

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