Usually the first point of entry into the splendour of Namibia, Windhoek lies nestled between the Khomas Highland, Auas and Eros Mountains. The city, with its estimated population of around 300 000, is geographically set at almost the precise centre of the country at 1 680m above sea level, and is the perfect place from which to explore this region – with a plethora of Windhoek accommodation options to suit any budget.
Windhoek is not only the financial and commercial hub of the country, but also hosts the University of Namibia, ministerial head offices and various embassies. Throughout the city and also the rest of the country English is the dominant language, while German is also another popular language which is spoken.
The climate of the region is semi-arid. During summer, days are warm to very hot (20 °C – 31 °C) while winter months between June and August deliver minimum temperatures of between 5 °C and 18 °C but with little rain. Incidences of drought are common, although the 2010/2011 rainy season broke all records with more than 1 000mm of rain instead of the 360mm annual average.
Windhoek was known by quite a few names during the course of history. The Damara called it |Ais|Gams (firewater), while the Hereros named it Otjimuise (place of steam) in reference to the many hot water springs found in the area. It was Jonker Afrikaner, a Nama leader, who named the settlement Winterhoek after the mountains in Tulbagh, South Africa where he was born. This later dissolved into Windhoek, which is also Afrikaans for windy corner.
The German influence on the city can be seen in the various forms of German architecture, while German cuisine is popular in restaurants. The city has a European feel to it with an eclectic mixture of culture and history.
After the settlement established in 1840 by Jonker Afrikaner, there was unrest between the Nama and Herero people, leaving the region neglected until a German colony was stationed at Windhoek in 1890. On the 18th of October, Major Curt von François placed the foundation stone of the fort, and Windhoek was officially established.
European settlers from Germany and South Africa streamed to the city after 1907, and the city’s three castles were also built during this period.
Between 1915 and 1920 a military government of the British Empire administered South West Africa. South African troops occupied Windhoek in 1915 during World War I and the city’s development deteriorated. This only improved after World War II when major upgrades and expansions once again took place throughout the city.
South West Africa proclaimed their independence from South Africa in 1990, and Windhoek was officially recognized as capital city of Namibia.
The Windhoek Hosea Kutako International Airport is the largest of three international airports in Namibia. Several airlines fly here directly from Europe. It is also only a 2-hour flight from Johannesburg in South Africa where you can easily link up with a flight to almost anywhere in the world.
The Eros Airport closer to the city centre is busier in terms of take-offs and landings, but due to its limitations it is reserved for domestic flights and chartered light aircraft.
The roads leading into the city are the B1 (north-south) and the B2 (east-west). Car hire is available at airports as well as in the city centre.
The Desert Express tourist train transports passengers to Walvis Bay, Swakopmund and the Etosha National Park. The TransNamib also operates on routes between Windhoek and various Namibian destinations.
Intercape provides a bus service between Windhoek and Cape Town, Johannesburg or even Livingstone in Zambia.
In Windhoek itself there is a public bus system and shared taxi’s however the most reliable form of transport for travellers, is the on-demand taxis.
STAY AND EXPLORE
Accommodation in Windhoek varies across the board with backpackers, B&B, guesthouse and luxury options available. Namibia safaris are extremely popular and can be arranged on a fly-in or self-drive basis.