Spitzkoppe means ‘pointed dome’ in German, and this is a clear-cut description of this bald granite inselberg found on the way to Swakopmund from Windhoek.
The tallest peak, known colloquially as the Matterhorn of Namibia, towers above this range, rising 1 784m above sea level.
The Spitzkoppe rises dramatically out of the Namib Desert between Usakos and Swakopmund about 280km from Windhoek.
The Spitzkoppe was formed about 130 million years ago, when the great continent of Gondwanaland split into the continents of Africa and South America. The resulting upheaval caused volcanic activity throughout Namibia, forcing magma towards the surface of what is now the Namib Desert.
For millennia, the Spitzkoppe and adjacent Pontok Mountains were buried below ground level and their strange shapes slowly became visible above the surface due to erosion.
In 1896, a German trading post was built at the foot of this landmark. Local legend has it that a soldier climbed to the top of the Spitzkoppe just before the start of WWI, and is rumored to have disappeared in the process.
No evidence was ever found to support this legend, but it did put scaling the Spitzkoppe firmly on the bucket list of every rock climber to visit Namibia.
Climbers and campers come from all over the world to lap up the scenery, take part in the activities on offer and camp at the foot of this unique mountain range. At first, it was a willy-nilly affair with tourists setting up camp wherever they felt like it.
Today, things are more organized with basic camp sites demarcated, fireplaces set up and pit toilets installed. It’s the perfect getaway for those who like to rough it during their Namibian adventures.
The campsite is run by the local community and they benefit from the proceeds of your stay as well as the takings from a small onsite curio shop filled with their handiwork.
There are a few Damara-style huts set up for those who don’t have their own tents or who don’t want to lug camping equipment with them.
Spitzkoppen Lodge offers luxury eco-friendly tented accommodation in the area with private bathrooms and viewing decks, luxurious fittings and even a swimming pool to stave off the Namibian heat.
There are no restrictions on children staying at Spitzkoppe but the environment and activities are not ideally suited to very young visitors.
It’s all about the great outdoors at Spitzkoppe and most of the activities are geared towards fit or very fit individuals. All the trails at Spitzkoppe must be done with an experienced guide in attendance.
Hiking at Spitzkoppe
There are 3 hiking trails at Spitzkoppe which are clearly demarcated as follows:
- The Pontok Route which takes you to the lookout point at the top of Spitzkoppe.
- The Matterhorn Route which takes up to 8 hours and is suitable for very fit, experienced climbers only.
- Although the Bushman Circle Route takes 7 hours to complete, it is the least strenuous. This route involves a steep chain climb followed by relatively flat terrain.
Rock Climbing at Spitzkoppe
Although most of the walks at Spitzkoppe involve some climbing, true enthusiasts can tackle this inselberg head on.
There are about 100 climbing and bouldering routes to try out during a visit to this challenging destination. Rock climbing at Spitzkoppe is very varied with steep inclines interspersed among gentle slopes.
Examples of early artworks are found all over the Spitzkoppe and Pontok Mountains. Many of these were vandalized by early visitors to the sites but there are some that have been well preserved.
A moderately difficult walk to Rhino Rock takes you to the site of bushman art dating back about 4000 years.
The Spitzkoppe is one of the most photographed places in Namibia, attracting the focus of photographers since the camera was invented.
Early morning and evening light is perfect for capturing incredibly beautiful shots and the many interesting rock shapes make for some of the most amazing photography in Africa.
When evening falls, the skies light up with billions of stars clearly visible in the low light conditions of the campsite. It’s worth spending a few nights camping at Spitzkoppe just to witness this spectacle.
The panoramas of the Spitzkoppe are surreal and stunningly beautiful. Two movies were filmed against these barren scenes, namely 10,000 BC and Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 Space Odyssey.
Fauna and Flora
Despite its desolate environment, the Spitzkoppe is alive with over 200 species of birds including the Herero chat, rosy-faced lovebird, dusky sunbird, booted eagle and Augur buzzard.
Wildlife includes bat-eared fox, oryx, aardwolf, dassies and mountain zebra. If you are very lucky you may get to see one of the spotted or brown hyenas, caracals or leopards which are endemic to the area.
You can expect to see quiver trees, acacia, shepherd trees, thorny scrub and dry grasslands on walks and hikes around the Spitzkoppe.
A sturdy pair of hiking boots is essential for walking and you’ll need a good pair of gloves for rock climbing at Spitzkoppe. Sunblock and a hat are imperative too.
You need to be totally self-sufficient when camping at Spitzkoppe. This includes bringing all your own water and food. There are no shops or restaurants nearby.
Driving – The road to Spitzkoppe is easily navigable by ordinary sedan car, but a 4×4 vehicle is a must if you want to explore Namibia more fully during your trip.
From Windhoek: Follow the B1 and B2 to road D1918, which is clearly demarcated as the road to Spitzkoppe. After 18km, turn off on the D3716 to reach your destination.
From Swakopmund: Head out on the B2 towards Usakos. You’ll find the D1918 about 40km before Usakos. Follow this road for 18km until you reach the D3716 which takes you to Spitzkoppe.
By Air: From Hosea Kutako International or Eros Airport in Windhoek, you can charter a plane to Walvis Bay or Swakopmund and drive the rest of the way to Spitzkoppe.
For more information or to book your trip to the Spitzkoppe in Namibia, get in touch with us via our contact us page, and we will gladly assist you.
Please Note: The details shared herein were correct at the time of publishing. However, with time some of this information may change. We recommend confirming information with suppliers prior to making final travel arrangements. If you do happen to find an issue with any information we’ve shared here, please feel free to contact us so that we can make the relevant changes.