We have all seen it on a photograph before – the incredible, surreal dead trees and red sand dunes of Sossusvlei in Southern Namibia. The Namib Desert is the oldest desert in the world and home to some of the highest dunes reaching over 400 m. In this post you will find out everything you need to know about traveling to Sossusvlei.
How to get to Sossusvlei
Sossusvlei is a small valley in the dunes of the Namib Desert in Southern Namibia about 400 km from Windhoek:
The entry gate to Sossusvlei is in the town of Sesriem, about 65 km away. And in the case of Sesriem, the word town means a gas station and a camp site. Apart from a few farms and two gas stations, there is no civilization between Windhoek and Sossusvlei.
If you are planning to self-drive to Sossusvlei, keep in mind that apart from the last 60 km between Sesriem and Sossusvlei, the road is unpaved so it is best to rent a 4WD car (starting at around €50 per day – fully insured). We made the mistake to drive there in a Toyota Yaris. On our drive between Windhoek and Sesriem, we drifted off the road once, got stuck in the desert sand and in the end our car was leaking some fluids. But eventually we made it there and back safely – that’s all that matters.
In case you are dreading the long drive through no-man’s-land, you can join an organized tour starting from Windhoek or Swakopsmund. Prices for a 3 day / 2 night tour start at €350.
The entrance fee for the Naukluft National Park is 80 Namibian Dollars per person per day (around €5.6) plus another 10 NAD per vehicle.
Best time to visit Sossusvlei
Seasonal changes are not very dramatic in the Namib Desert. Therefore, Sossusvlei can easily be visited all year round. But during winter times from May to August, temperatures may drop to 0 °C (32°F) at night. The best months to visit Sossusvlei are March, April and May.
Regardless of the time of the year you are going, make sure to enter the national park early in the morning. At this time of the day, the light is much clearer so your experience of the surreal landscapes will be even more impressive. Also, if you want to take good photographs on your trip to Namibia, you will get the best results in the morning light.
Accomodation in Sossusvlei
There are plenty of accommodation options in the Sossusvlei region. I would recommend to choose an option that is close to the park entrance so you can head into the park right at sunset. Depending on your budget, these are the best options to stay at Sossusvlei:
Budget Accomodation in Sossusvlei: Sesriem Campsite
Right at the entry gate of the national park you can find the Sesriem Campsite operated by Namibian Wildlife Resorts. They offer 24 campsites with a fire pit and a thorn tree each. You can bring your own tent or rent one at the reception. There are showers and toilets in the camp as well as a swimming pool – perfect for a dip in the cool water after a hot day in the dunes. If you are visiting Sossusvlei between March and May it is best to book the campsite in advance as it may sell out.
Prices: 220 NAD per person (€15)
Reservations: Namibia Wildlife Resorts
Mid-Range: Desert Quiver Camp
Located only around 3 km from the entrance gate and one of the best rated accommodation options in the Sossusvlei area. The camp offers several uniquely designed cabins, a pool with a pool bar and several other amenities. This accommodation is perfect if you are looking for a unique and somewhat upscale experience at an absolutely affordable price.
Prices: Starting at €75 for a 2 person cabin
Upscale: Sossusvlei Lodge
Sossusvlei Lodge, also conveniently located very close to the park entrance is the perfect accommodation choice if you are looking for an upscale experience. The spacious and luxurious chalets in the beautiful desert setting are every travelers dream. The private Jacuzzi in the suite rooms offers the perfect way to relax the sore muscles after climbing the dunes all day.
Prices: Starting at €200 for 2 people including breakfast and dinner
What to see in Sossusvlei
The main attraction in Sossusvlei is Dead Vlei – a salt and clay pan created by a river that was flowing here some 1000 years ago. Since the river that flows through Sossusvlei every 5-10 years, has changed its direction, all the trees in the Dead Vlei have died. Due to the extremely low moisture, the trees didn’t decompose and are still standing, perfectly preserved for eternity. To get here, you can drive your car until the end of the paved road and take a 4X4 shuttle for the last 5 km through the desert. Even if you are driving a 4X4 car, only experienced drivers should risk the drive through the sand dunes themselves – the safer option is to jump on one of the shuttle jeeps (150 Namibian Dollars or €10.5 per person).
The landscapes along the road from the entrance gate of the park towards Sossusvlei are incredible. One massive red dune follows the next and they are there for you to be explored. Just stop your car somewhere on the roadside and start hiking up the sandy mountains. One of the most accessible and highest dunes along the road is Dune 45. You will see a sign as you drive along the road and there is also a small parking space where you can leave your car. Put on some sunscreen before you start hiking up the dune. It looks like hiking up the slope of the dune will only take a couple of minutes but walking in the soft sand is quite exhausting. I’ve spent nearly 1.5 hours on the dune. After every step, the scenery got even more beautiful so I just had to continue walking.
Sossusvlei Packing Tip: Make sure to pack some sunscreen, mosquito spray, a hat for protection against the heat, lip balm (the wind of the desert will dry out your lips), plenty of water and some snacks.
There aren’t any dedicated game drives in the area but you will definitely encounter some wildlife during your time in the Namib Desert. Buffaloes, ostriches, springboks, oryx, jackals were just a few of the animals we saw during our drive to Sossusvlei.
Have you been to Sossusvlei or are you planning a visit? Namibia is the 5th safest country in Africa. While you should be carfeul moving around the big cities, there is absolutely nothing to fear in Sossusvlei.
Let me know in the comment section. Also, if you have some tips I should include in the list, feel free to tell me below or through the contact me section.
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