Sossusvlei safaris, tours & accomodationThe world's tallest dune fields
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The dry pans known as Sossusvlei and Dead Vlei form the most iconic of Namibia's landscapes, enclosed as they are in the world's tallest and arguably most spectacular dunes
Sossusvlei is the main tourist focus in Namib-Naukluft, the world's largest national park. And it is a truly breathtaking site, comprising a cluster of parched clay pans towered over by a field of curvaceous scorpion-tail dunes up to 300 metres tall. Formed over millions of years, these rippled apricot sand mountains are composed entirely of orange sand that has blown across from the Kalahari Desert and the mouth of the Orange River. Occasionally you might make out the distinctive outline of a rapier-horned gemsbok catching the breeze on the crest, one of the strategies this desert antelope uses to reduce its body temperature.
Popular Sossusvlei safaris
These popular itineraries can be customised to match your budget and travel dates
Experience Sossusvlei's red dunes glowing in the early morning light, find desert-adapted elephant in Damaraland and meet the Himba nomads in Namibia's far north-west
Reconnect with nature in Namibia's southern desert and marvel at Sossusvlei's high red dunes glowing in the early morning light
Though Sossusvlei is less well known than, say, Victoria Falls, Kilimanjaro or Table Bay, I'd rank it right up there with these great travel icons as one of the absolute must-see sights in sub-equatorial Africa.
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The most beautiful – and most photographed – of the pans are Sossusvlei itself and nearby Dead Pan. The latter retains a floor of cracked dry mud and supports a spectral forest of camelthorn trunks that died around 500 years ago, when this arid parody of a lake last received water on a regular basis. Another important landmark here is Dune 45, the only dune of comparable size that visitors are permitted to climb. Be warned, the foot-dragging ascent of this immense shadeless sandhill will give fresh meaning to the phrase ‘two steps forward, one step back’. But if you make it to the top, the fabulous view justifies the effort. South of Sossusvlei, Sesriem Canyon is a spectacular 40-metre gorge carved into layers of ancient schist and gravel by the Tsauchab River. From the rim, which is accessible by road, a steep path leads down to the canyon floor.
Sossusvlei's location on Google Maps