Though its literal translation is “dead-end marsh”, visiting Sossusvlei is a sensational experience you should not miss if you plan to travel to Namibia. Situated in the heart of the oldest desert in the world: the Namib desert, this awe-inspiring place is famous worldwide for having the highest sand dunes.
Climbing the towering dunes and watching your trail of footprints tracked across the warm sand is a memorable experience.
This is not the only reason Sossusvlei is such a popular destination among adventurous travelers; its ever-changing landscape of colors, especially during sunrises and sunsets, makes Sossusvlei a top attraction when traveling to South Africa.
If you plan to visit this incredible part of the world, check out this guide to find out when is the best time to visit, how to get there, where to stay and what to expect from this deserted wonder of nature.
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Best time to visit Sossusvlei
You can visit Sossusvlei whenever you are heading to Southern Africa. However, you will have the best experience in spring: from August until October, or in autumn: from March to May, when the air is slightly cooler and the sky is crystal clear.
Not only can you achieve the ultimate photoshoot during this period, but the temperature is mild, making the experience extremely pleasant.
We visited in early July and had spectacular weather during our visit. It was hot during the day with insane clear skies that carried over into the night.
The temperatures were very cold at night though, compared to the day, but the star gazing was some of the best we’ve ever had in our travels.
How to get to Sossusvlei
Sossusvlei is located in the Namib-Naukluft National Park in the southern part of the famous Namib Desert. The best way to get there is with a car rental, but there are also many tour companies that offer visitors the chance to travel from Windhoek, Namibia’s capital, to the “dead-end marsh”.
Fly to Namibia’s main airport: Hosea Kutako International Airport, located in Windhoek.
From there you can rent a car, and once you are ready for a sensational road trip, hop in and head down the highway to Rehoboth, taking the C24, followed by the C14, and finally, the C19. Don’t expect perfect roads, and definitely don’t expect to see too many other cars or people.
Keep in mind that, since there are no fences, wild animals can rest on the road, so drive carefully and obey the speed limits. The chance to spot exotic species as you drive through the incredible scenery is part of the attraction of this wild place, but try to avoid driving during the night.
Due to the remoteness of some areas, always ensure you bring enough food, water, and fuel to last the trip.
What to expect from your trip
Planning to visit Sossusvlei means you most likely already know that the main attraction is the impressive sand dunes.
If you are hoping to have an unforgettable experience you won’t be disappointed, especially if you visit the dunes very early in the morning or late in the afternoon, when the vibrant colors created by the sun are absolutely mesmerizing.
Wander around, admire the natural beauty, and even hike the imposing sandy hills. Just keep in mind that, even if it might seem so, hiking to the top is not effortless at all but the views of the Mars-like landscape are worth the effort.
One of the places you must see while exploring this park is Deadvlei. The breathtaking white clay pan with its dead trees, surrounded by the orange dunes, creates a picture-postcard view hard to forget.
Don’t miss exploring the most famous dune of Sossusvlei: Dune 45. Located only 45 kilometers from Sesriem, reaching it is easy if you have a car. If you don’t feel overwhelmed by its 170-meter height and want to take a hike up the dune, prepare for a difficult climb, but the views from the summit will make it well worth it.
Smaller than most people expect a canyon to be, Sesriem Canyon can be explored in less than 30 minutes. More than two million years old, the canyon is only one kilometer long and 30 meters deep. This is another landmark you should try to see at sunrise or sunset to admire the hypnotizing scenery created by a perfect combination of rocky landscapes and soft colors.
While exploring Sossusvlei, keep your eyes open for creatures of the desert. Though you might believe there is no life around the sand dunes, they do indeed host spiders, beetles, and reptiles. Don’t panic if you see an ostrich or a hyena, whether it is brown or spotted. If you visit Sossusvlei during the colder season, you might even spot a cape fox or porcupine.
Where to stay in Sossusvlei
A great choice for an unforgettable experience is to spend the night in the park, or at least very close to its entrance. Sossusvlei’s main gate opens at sunrise and closes at sunset, so spending time in the park at night is out of the question.
However, you should aim to be there when the sun rises and sets. Luckily, there is a second door that remains open one hour after sunset and opens one hour before sunrise, giving people who overnight within the boundaries the chance to admire the sand dunes at their best moment.
Even if there are more accommodation options outside the camp, making it hard for you to have the experience you dream of, you can also sleep inside Sossusvlei and watch the sunset and sunrise within the park. Sesriem Camp is a fantastic choice, especially if you have a strict budget and camping is your only option.
Not only is it affordable, but it is also located inside the park, giving you the chance to see the dunes in all their sun-drenched glory. There are 24 shaded campsites available, with a shop, bar, and restaurant on site.
Travelers who have a more generous budget and want a luxurious experience can make a reservation at Sossus Dune Lodge. Right near the Namib-Nauklauft National Park, this is an amazing property, with beautifully arranged rooms that are part safari tent; featuring incredible balconies overlooking the never-ending desert.
The room price includes breakfast and dinner served on the terrace, in a very romantic atmosphere. You can also indulge in delicious drinks at the bar, enjoy their swimming pool, and take advantage of their tours and activities.
Keep in mind that if you want budget-friendly accommodation you should make early reservations. Otherwise, you might end up sleeping in your car or paying a fortune for one night.
Read reviews and check prices with our Hotel Search Engine, that gives you the best hotel deals found on the web. Our search engine pulls results from all of the major booking places, including Expedia, Hotels, Booking and more. All the options, all the deals, all in one place and just for you.
Safety Tips for visiting Sossusvlei
If you want to drive to Deadvlei, you need a 4×4 vehicle. Or if you prefer, you can take one of the shuttles available. If you choose to drive, make sure you have enough fuel for the journey, because there are only two gas station in the area: one is at Solitaire and the other at the park entrance.
Driving after sunset is not recommended, so if you’re going to be there in the evening, choose to spend the night at one of the accommodations available.
Unless you are on a specific tour, you will be wandering around by yourself or with your own group, as there are no guided visits. If you travel with your family or a group of friends, try not to wander off by yourself and risk getting too far from the pack.
In this unfortunate case, your phone could be useless, since you might not have cell service inside the park.
In order to safely explore the park, you need to have a lot of water. The only shops available are at the park entrance. So buy what you need before you venture in to discover the sand dunes.
Wearing sunscreen is strongly recommended. The dunes are 90% quartz and the sunlight reflected is extremely dangerous for your skin. In addition, even if in the morning flip-flops might seem like a good idea, during the day the sand gets very hot, making them a poor choice of footwear.
Wear proper shoes to protect your feet from discomfort and burns.
Lastly, don’t bother searching for WiFi. As mentioned, you may not even have service inside the park. Outside Sossusvlei’s borders, only the big hotels have WiFi, and it is almost never free of charge.
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