Sossusvlei in Namibia
Namibia’s most visited attraction is one of the best places to experience the serene beauty of the Namib Desert, that quintessential landscape of undulating burned orange and apricot-colored dunes towering above the desert floor.
Sossusvlei itself is a salt and clay pan encircled by dunes in central Namibia, but the name has now come to refer to the surrounding area, which includes other pans and dunes.
Lying within the Namib-Naukluft National Park, Sossusvlei is the only point of call in the park for many travelers due to its ease of reach and accessibility, even in a 2WD vehicle. It offers a wonderful taste of the vast and largely untouched wilderness.
Despite being the most popular place for safari in Namibia, the magic of Sossusvlei lies in just how remote and isolated you can feel, even on a busy day, when you’re on top of your own massive dune and all you can see is sand and sky as far as the horizon.
Highlights of a Sossusvlei Safari in Namibia
Near Sossusvlei is Deadvlei, another clay pan, which is even better for photographic safaris in Namibia. Surrounded by soaring terracotta dunes, the blinding white pan is dotted with the blackened skeletons of 900-year-old petrified trees under a brilliant blue sky, a scene that’s so startling you can hardly believe it’s real.
Sand dunes surround Sossusvlei in every direction. These are the world’s tallest dunes and climbing them is a highlight of any trip to Namibia. Some are famous, such as the 170m/557ft Dune 45, which is one of the most climbed dunes due to its accessibility next to the road 45km/28mi from Sesriem. Another popular dune is Big Daddy, towering 350m/1148ft above Deadvlei.
If you want to find your own sandy spot away from other travelers, just pick a slope and climb to the top for breathtaking views over a never-ending sea of dunes. Soaring high above Sossusvlei and the Namib Desert in a hot air balloon as the sun rises is one of Namibia’s most unforgettable activities.
Practical Advice for a holiday in Sossusvlei
Sossusvlei lies within the Namib-Naukluft National Park. You need to buy a permit to enter the park, and your visit is limited to the hours of the gates, which close around sunset and open around sunrise.
The best times to explore Sossusvlei are in the early morning and late afternoon, when the sun isn’t so harsh, and the golden light makes the desert glow.
Check the opening and closing times of the gates (they differ in summer and winter months) to plan your visit, and bear in mind that it’s a 60km/37mi drive from the parking area of Sossusvlei to the gate, so leave enough time in the afternoon to drive back before the gates close.
If you want extra time before sunrise and after sunset, you can opt to stay at one of the two lodging options within the park – a campsite or an upmarket luxury lodge.
The last few kilometers to Sossusvlei are on a sandy track that’s only suitable for 4x4s. If you’re traveling in a 2WD, you can park your vehicle in a car park and get a ride in a safari shuttle.
The Petrified Forest in Namibia is a national monument with 280 million-year-old petrified trunks. Take caution when visiting, and avoid sitting on trunks or damaging any part of the monument.
There are plenty of lodging options near the entrance of Sossusvlei in the tiny village of Sesriem and just a short drive away. Take your pick from well-maintained campsites with all the amenities you would need to high-end luxury lodges set in private reserves.