Many people who’ve heard from Namibia, defenitely have seen the photos of the large salt pan surrounded by deep orange sand dunes, called Deadvlei. Deadvlei is part of the Sossusvlei area, which is located in the southern part of the Namib-Naukluft National Park. Sossusvlei is the most famous site of Namibia and rightly so! People from all over the world come to Namibia to witness this unique part of the world! However, there’s more to see in the area of Sossusvlei than only Deadvlei.
How to get to Sossusvlei
By Rental Car
To get around Namibia, a rental car is not only essential, but It’s also the easiest way to get to the famous and picturesque place of Sossusvlei. Most people will start their Namibian roadtrip flying in through Windhoek. From there it’ll take you about 4 to 5 hours to Sesriem, the tiny town next to the national park. Same counts for Swakopmund if you’re coming from the north. Because most attractions are located beyond 45km inside the park, prepare for at least a 1hour drive even after entering the park.
Explore the home of the desert-adapted elephants, the most photographed sand and world’s largest cheetah population!
Multi-day Tour to Sossusvlei
Self-driving trips through Namibia are very popular among travelers, however some people prefer a guided trip and visit the country with a tour. These tours include accommodation and transport, which can be very tempting for solo travelers or if you don’t like the idea of driving around Namibia yourself. Do mind, this often comes with a higher price point, compared to self-drive trips. Many of these tours start in the capital of Windhoek, where you fly into or in Swakopmund.
Best time to visit Sossusvlei
Sossusvlei is located in the desert and therefore the temperatures can go up extremely high during the day. Even though it’s an all-year destination, it all depends what you prefer and which parts of Namibia you’re visiting as well.
Early Winter, March – May
If you’re visiting Sossusvlei during these months, you’ll have ideal weather conditions. With comfortable temperatures and no rain, it’s probably one of the best times to visit this part of the Namib-Naukluft National Park.
Winter, June – August
Winter in Sossusvlei comes with sunny & dry days, however you may experience very cold nights (0 degrees Celsius). June is the start of Namibia’s peak, so expect to see more crowds coming in.
Early-Summer Sep – Nov
Sossusvlei is at its hottest during these months with temperatures reaching 40 degrees Celsius during the day. However September is one of the best months for game viewing in Etosha. During this month it’s important to visit Sossusvlei as early as possible (preferably sunrise. It’s still comfortable until 10am, after that it’s getting hot very quickly!
October and November are crazy hot, so try to avoid these months.
Mid-summer, Dec – Feb
At the beginning of summer, Sossusvlei is experiencing basically all years rain. This may create unique situations at the salt pan’s, which is perfect for photography. The annual rain is only 50mm a year, so don’t let this scare you off. 😉
Where to stay
Whether you’re camping your way through Namibia or sleeping in lodges, Sossusvlei has great options for both. When it comes to accommodation, you must decide if you want to stay inside the national park or in Sesriem. Keep in mind that accommodation is very popular inside the park, therefore book in advance!
Basic campsite: starting from €10 per spot.
Campsite with private ablution: starting from €25.
Lodge: from €100 – €1200 per night. You can go as crazy as you want with this one 🙂
Sleeping inside the park comes with it’s benefits. You’re allowed to enter the sights before sunrise, and stay for sunset. Compared to day-visitors, whom can only enter at sunrise and have to be out at sunset.
By choosing one of the accommodations options inside the park, you can witness the beauty of the sunset/sunrise over the dunes. Accommodation in the park range from basic campsites to luxury lodges.
Take a look here to find all other accommodation inside Sossusvlei.
Accommodation inside the park may be full-booked even months ahead. Don’t be disappointed though. Sesriem is a tiny town right next to the gate of the park. If you’re camping I highly recommend staying at Sossusvlei Oasis Camp Site, a luxury campsite only a 1 minute drive to the National Park. For only €25 per night you have your own private ablutions and the perfect location outside the park. One of the best campsites we stayed at in Namibia!
What to do in Sossusvlei
The top attraction of Sossusvlei and probably Namibia, Deadvlei. This stretched out clay pan is home to hunderds of years old trees, that neighbor the deep orange sand dunes. This combination creates a magnificent and unique site to see, famous among photographers all over the world.
Travel Tip! Bring enough water as it’ll get hot very quickly!
In the earlier days this place was covered by the Tsauchab River, allowing the camel thorn trees to grow. However, due to climate change the sand dunes made it’s way to the area, blocking the river. Which made it impossible for the trees to stay alive. They are approximately 900 years old and even though they’re dead, they haven’t been able to decompose due the the dry climate.
Climbing Big Daddy
Big Daddy is 325 meters high and therefore the highest dune of the area. It’s located right next to Deadvlei and the hike starts a bit further from the parking lot.
Start climbing early in the morning to skip the heat and bring enough water. On the top you’ll be rewarded with incredible views over the dunes and Deadvlei. Reaching the top will take most people around 1/1,5 hours, depending on your speed. However, the way down will only take you 5 minutes though ;). When you’re done admiring the dunes from above, running down the dune may be the most fun part and it’s the perfect combination with Deadvlei.
Don’t forget: sunscreen, hat, camera.
Even though, we’ve chosen to skip climbing the highest dune of the Sossusvlei area, it’s a well worth activity to do. If you don’t feel like climbing the highest dune in the park, consider climbing a smaller dune like we did which is just as rewarding.
If climbing Big Daddy is too much, consider climbing Dune 45, world’s most photographed dune. The dune thanks his name to it’s distance from the Sesriem Gate, which is 45km. With 170 meters high, the climb is doable for most people and will take you around 40 minutes to reach the top.
Same as many dunes in the park, Dune 45 shows off incredible shadows and colors during the late afternoon which makes it the perfect place to spend the sunset or watch the sunrise (if you’re staying inside the park).
Photography Tip! Best times for capturing the dunes are during sunrise/sunset, when they have spectacular shadows.
The name ‘Sossusvlei’ is often referred to the surrounding area (including Deadvlei and the other dunes), but is a ‘vlei’ at it’s own actually. Being located around 65km from Sesriem gate, Sossusvlei is often skipped by visitors in the park, because people only stick to Deadvlei and the dunes. However, if you’re visiting during flood season, the salt pan is covered in a layer of water which creates an unique sight. Sometimes several years pass between one flood and another, so you may consider yourself lucky to witness this event.
The least visited ‘vlei’ of them all, Hiddenvlei is located 2km from the 2×4 car park. Same park where you depart from to reach Deadvlei/Sossusvlei with the shuttles. The track is marked with wooden polls. We weren’t able to fit in Hiddenvlei anymore, but as it’s mostly skipped by tourists it’s the perfect addition to your list to find some quietness.
Hot Air Balloon flight
Looking for an once in a lifetime experience? Visiting the Namib desert itself is already pretty magical, but being able to admire it from a bird perspective.. that’s something else. Book yourself a hot air balloon flight over the oldest desert in the world!
Book the tour at your lodge/camp your staying, if not available book it here!
Hidden gem of Sossusvlei
Often overseen by most visitors, but well worth a short stop when you’re visiting Sossusvlei. Sesriem Canyon is located about 5km from the entrance of the national park. The canyon has been shaped over millions of years by the Tsauchab River, creating incredible rock formations. Come in the morning if you visit during summer as it gets insanely hot during the day.
Entrance fees & Times
As I mentioned, the Sesriem gate opens at sunrise and closes at sunset. If you’re staying inside the park it opens 1hour before sunrise. These times differ on what time of the year you’re visiting Sossusvlei. It changes every month and is shifted by 30 minutes intervals.
If you want to be out in the park directly at sunrise, I recommend getting your permit the day before. By doing this, you don’t need to stand in line to buy it the day itself. Make sure to be at the gate
Entrance foreigner: N$80 (€4) per person
Private vehicle: N$10 per car.
Children -17: free.
Do I need a 4×4 for Sossusvlei?
To reach the national park you don’t necessarily need a 4×4. If you’re coming from Windhoek, I recommend skipping the Spreetshoogte Pass though. This route is very scenic, but not that suitable for smaller cars.
Inside the park there’s a very decent tarred road until the 2×4 car park. If you don’t drive a 4×4, you need to park here and take the shuttle to visit Deadvlei and Sossusvlei. After the 2×4 car park, there’s loose sand for about 10 minutes.
Driving tip! Drop your tire pressure to 1.2 bar when driving over loose sand!
However, even though you may not need a 4×4 to visit Sossusvlei, you probably will need it to visit other places in Namibia. Personally, I highly recommend saving yourself the amount of stress and spend a bit more money on a 4×4. You’ll thank me later. 😉