LifestyleKolmanskop: From Diamond Boom to Ghost Town Tourist Gem

Kolmanskop: From Diamond Boom to Ghost Town Tourist Gem

Kolmanskop is now a ghost town
Kolmanskop is now a ghost town
Images source: © Adobe Stock | Burt Johnson

7:43 AM EDT, April 8, 2024

Once at the heart of the diamond fever, today, Kolmanskop resembles an abandoned ghost town. Despite its desolation, thousands of tourists flock here annually to witness the devastation inflicted by nature.

On the southern tip of the African continent, Kolmanskop, a small abandoned mining town nestled in the Namib Desert of Namibia, was once buzzing with activity. In 1908, a worker laying railway tracks discovered a shiny diamond, heralding the dawn of the diamond era for this town.

Treasure seekers swarmed to Kolmanskop. Within a few years, the town, located in what was then a German colony, boasted a population of over a thousand.

Luxurious Living in the Desert's Embrace

As the mine prospered, Kolmanskop swiftly built-up residential areas, a hotel, a hospital, and a post office. Not stopping there, it also established a school, theater, and even a casino. The town quickly became a hub of luxury unheard of in such a remote location.

Residents had water transported via train from Cape Town to maintain their gardens, and an on-site ice factory ensured local lemonade availability.

The mine went to great lengths to provide top-tier entertainment, even financing European musical and theatrical troupes to perform locally. Former residents recall a town where extravagance knew no bounds and champagne flowed abundantly. One resident is said to have kept a domesticated ostrich which, come Christmas, would pull a sleigh for festive rides.

The mining operations were so efficient that, at one time, Kolmanskop accounted for nearly 12 percent of the global diamond output. However, the frenetic pace of extraction led to the depletion of diamond reserves by the late 1920s. The discovery of new diamond fields less than 250 miles away in Oranjemund prompted a mass exodus searching for greater fortunes.

Gradually, the town fell into decline, completely abandoned by the early 1950s. What's more, it faces the threat of being completely consumed by the desert. Over time, its once-modern structures have been invaded by sand, seeping through every open door and window.
  • After the old luxuries, no trace remains today.
  • Kolmanskop can be visited.
[1/2] After the old luxuries, no trace remains today.Images source: © Adobe Stock

The "Ghost Town" Reawakens

In 2002, Ghost Town Tours, a company specializing in visits to abandoned sites, received permission to turn Kolmanskop into a tourist destination. Since then, visitors from across the globe have been able to explore the "Ghost Town."

Kolmanskop is accessible to visitors from 4 AM to 9 AM Eastern Time daily. Entry requires the purchase of a ticket, which grants special permission. Guests can explore on their own or participate in an hour-long guided tour that delves into the town's past and its poignant story.

An all-day ticket option also exists, perfect for those wanting to capture Kolmanskop in the golden hues of sunrise or sunset. Ticket prices range from NAD 50 to NAD 350 (approximately $3.25 - $22.75), depending on the visit type.

The simplest route to this "Ghost Town" is a flight to Lüderitz, followed by a fifteen-minute drive. Visitors need to understand that touring Kolmanskop is at their own risk. The abandoned and sand-engulfed buildings are not maintained, posing an ever-increasing risk of collapse.

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