This eerie German colonial village is being slowly buried by desert sands

Visit the Ghost Town of Kolmanskop in Namibia

A desert in southern Africa is probably the last place you would expect to find a little slice of German life.

But knee-deep in the shifting sands of the Namib Desert in Namibia, the abandoned village of Kolmanskop stands as a testament to German colonization of the early 20th century.

The town sprung up around a diamond-mining operation and quickly became known as one of the richest towns in southern Namibia, a German colony until World War I.

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Kolmanskop ghost town
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This eerie German colonial village is being slowly buried by desert sands

Abandoned building in the once rich mining town of Kolmanskop, Namibia.

(Photo credit: Getty)

Pictures of desolate ghost town at Kolmanskop Namibia. (Photo by: Hoberman/UIG via Getty)
Wild horses in Namiba. (Photo by: Hoberman/UIG via Getty)
Diamond area warning sign, Kolmanskop, Namibia, Africa (Photo by Hoberman Collection/UIG via Getty Images)
[UNVERIFIED CONTENT] Kolmanskop, Namibia - Interior of an abandoned building. Kolmanskop (Afrikaans for Coleman's hill) is a ghost town in the Namib desert in southern Namibia, a few kilometres inland from the port town of Lüderitz. It was named after a transport driver named Johnny Coleman who, during a sand storm, abandoned his ox wagon on a small incline opposite the settlement. It was a small but very rich mining village. (Photo credit: Getty)
Wild ostriches in namibia. (Photo by: Hoberman/UIG via Getty Images)
Landscapes of Klein-Aus Vista in Namibia. (Photo by: Hoberman/UIG via Getty Images)
Abandoned Buildings, Kolmanskop, Namibia, Africa (Photo by Hoberman Collection/UIG via Getty Images)
Pictures of desolate ghost town at Kolmanskop Namibia. (Photo by: Hoberman/UIG via Getty Images)
Old get away car wreckage. (Photo by: Hoberman/UIG via Getty Images)

The diamond fields were so bountiful that some say the precious stones could be scooped right out of the sand.

The town had numerous amenities including a hospital, casino, ice factory, and electrical plant, and even its own swimming pool. Kolmanskop's German heritage is unmistakable in the style of the once pristine villas and shops, and many signs about the town are in German.

But with Germany losing World War I and diamond production moving elsewhere, the town soon lost its prosperity and was entirely abandoned by 1954. Now it survives as an attraction with guided tours bringing tourists through the empty houses filling with sand as the desert slowly retakes the town.
The town of Kolmanskop lies about 8 miles in from the Atlantic coast and is accessible with tours from the nearby port of Lüderitz.

As a large swath of the area is still an active diamond field, entrance to the "Sperrgebiet" — "Prohibited Area" in German — is restricted to only those with permits.

Allegedly, a railroad worker found a huge diamond in the sand while shoveling next to the tracks in 1908. Word spread quickly, and soon a diamond rush began.

The town soon became a bustling center of business. Here, the entrance shows the town's German spelling. "Kolmanskop" is Afrikaans.

This house was owned by the former mine manager. Its restoration shows the huge wealth of the town and the mine officials, as well as the beautiful turn of the century German architecture.

This is the dining room, complete with period German colonial furnishings.

However, very few houses have been restored. Most lie in a decrepit state of decay, buffeted by the desert wind.

Some houses are filled with sand reaching from knee depth all the way to the ceilings.

The railroad running through brought further growth. The desert community's peak was around 1,200 workers and residents immediately following WWI.

Kolmanskop's luxurious amenities once included a theater and a bowling alley.

The town had electricity, a water supply brought in by rail, and was home to Africa's first tram system.

The residents enjoyed breathtaking views of the arid Namib desert, which is now reclaiming the town.

This bedroom's restored decor is typical of early 20th century German colonial homes.

The town has been used as a location in numerous films.

It's popular with photographers too, who hope to capture it before the desert reclaims it entirely.
Families of affluent mine officials who strolled the streets are long gone; only tourists visit Kolmanskop now, a curiosity in the shifting sand.

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This eerie German colonial village is being slowly buried by desert sands

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