Despite being the administrative centre of the large Hardap Region, which stretches from the Atlantic coast to Botswana, Mariental still avoids being a centre of attention by having remarkably few attractions. It is central and pleasant, with a sprinkling of efficient businesses serving the prosperous surrounding farmlands... but contains very little of interest. Visitors view it as a place to go through, rather than to, often skirting around the town on the main B1 – stopping only for petrol and cold drinks, if they stop at all.
Standing on the edge of the Kalahari Desert, in an area which has long been a centre for the Nama people of Namibia, Mariental's current name originated from the area's first colonial settler, Herman Brandt, who named it Marie's Valley, after his wife.
Agriculturally, Mariental is succeeding by changing with the times. The shrinking trade in pelts of karakul sheep – once so important to southern Namibia – seems to be concentrating around here. Also a new ostrich abattoir has established the town as an important centre for the country's ostrich farming, which is expanding rapidly as markets open up around the world for the ostrich's lean, low-fat meat.
With virtually no rain some years, Namibia's successful commercial farmers have diversified in order to survive. The (welcome) current trend towards managing native game rather than farm animals, and earning income directly from tourism, is just an example of this – like the boom in ostrich farming.
Approaching by car you can't miss Mariental. It's set slightly back, adjacent to the main B1. The turnings for the town centre are around the Trek garage, which has an excellent Wimpy and small supermarket adjacent to it. These are south of the larger side-roads to Stampriet and Hardap Dam, and just north of the tarred C19 to Maltahöhe.
Intercape Mainliner run a good service linking Windhoek and Cape Town, which stops at Mariental, at the Engen station, at 20.00 – Sun, Mon, Wed and Fri – heading south, and then at 02.15 Tue, Thu, Fri and Sun going north. It costs N$345 to Cape Town, N$170 to Keetmanshoop, and N$130 to Windhoek, and must be booked in advance.
Starline buses link Mariental with Gochas on Wednesday, leaving Mariental at 08.00 and returning at 15.30. There are also buses on Monday and Thursday to Maltahohe, departing at 08.00 and returning at 15.00.
Mariental is linked to Windhoek and Keetmanshoop by a slow, overnight train service. It departs daily except Saturday for Keetmanshoop at 01.50 and for Windhoek at 23.50.