If you think of Namibia chances are you imagine these big dunes that can be found in the Sossusvlei. But what is the Sossusvlei and why is it that special? The Sossusvlei, which means “dead-end marsh” is a salty and white valley right in the middle of spectacular red dunes. They’re also the biggest dunes in the world and can reach heights of up to 325 meters! The dunes hold back the Tsauchab river that flows into the sea. Since it’s so dry there’s seldom any water in the river.
On to the Sossusvlei
The Namib-Naukluft National Park is where you’ll find the Sossusvlei. The entrance to the National Park is in a little town called Sesriem. The entry fee is N$250 per person if you’re a foreigner and getting in there with a car means it’ll set you back another N$50. You can get your tickets at the NWR office near the entrance. The funny thing is that you’ll have to take a lot of dirt roads to get to the park but once inside there’s a perfectly fine tarred road in the middle of nowhere! The dirt roads are pretty good by the way and are even accessible with a regular car.
So once you paid the admission fee you’ll get on the previously mentioned tarred road. This 65 kilometer long road will bring you to almost all the highlights of the park such as Sesriem Canyon, Dune 45, Hiddenvlei and Big Daddy. You can park your car at these spots and some of them even have toilets. If you’ve parked your car the next thing is climbing the dunes! Be sure to take enough water when your climbing and be careful not to get lost. There’s a chance you’ll see some wildlife such as the iconic oryx.
If you get to the end of the tarred road there’s some really soft sand waiting for you to get to the Sossusvlei. You really need a 4×4 and make sure that you deflate your tires. Tourists get stuck every single day (and we got stuck as well hehe). Another option is to park your car at the end of the tarred road and take a shuttle to the Deadvlei and Sossusvlei.
Sunrise and sunset: the best moments
The best moments to visit both the valleys are either sunrise or sunset (obviously). The Sesriem gate opens up a bit earlier for guests staying at the Sesriem campsite. This simple campsite is right next to the entrance to the park. Another way more luxurious option is the Sossus Dune Lodge. This lodge is amazingly situated right along a rock formation with a view on the Sesriem Canyon. Be sure to grab your entry tickets to the park one day ahead so that you can visit the Sossusvlei early in the morning without queueing up that day.
Deadvlei is at its best at sunrise since the valley will lighten up slowly and the dunes will get their famous red color. If you go here on your own make sure to bring a GPS or get the maps.me app. Due to the wind the footsteps from the previous day will be gone and it’s a bit of walk to get to the valley.
Centuries ago Deadvlei used to be a lake near the Sossusvlei. Since the surrounding dunes prevented water from flowing into the lake slowly but steadily it became as dry as it is today. The trees that used to grow in and near the lake died but due to the drought and high temperatures they simply dried and are still there. Some of these magnificent trees are more than thousand years old.
Sossusvlei from above
Of course there are other ways to see the Sossusvlei. How about hopping into a hot air balloon? You’re picked up at your hotel (you do have to stay reasonably close the park) and will start your flight from one of the two launch sites. It’s an amazing feeling to fly over the dunes with just some hot air (and a balloon) above your head. If you want to cover a bigger part of the park you opt to fly with a Cessna. This gives you a better picture of how big the park actually is. You’ll fly from the airstrip near the Sossusvlei Lodge (which is an awesome place to spend a night as well). For more overnight options check out accommodations in Sesriem.