Sossusvlei, located in the southern part of the Namib Desert, in the Namib-Naukluft National Park, is a 5-hour drive from Windhoek, the capital of Namibia. It is one of Namibia’s most iconic sites, with unique dead trees surrounded by red-orange sand dunes and a must-see for anyone traveling to Namibia. Read my article and find out my tips on how to get the most out of your 4×4 self-drive trip to Sossusvlei!
Sesriem Gate, Km 0
First thing, find the opening and closing times of the Park the day before. The gate opens one hour earlier for those who spend the night inside the park at Sesriem Campsite.
If you spent the night outside the Namib-Naukluft National Park, as we did, your day begins at Sesriem gate. Get up early and be at the gate when it opens. Don’t panic if you see too many cars waiting in line. We had 45 cars in front of us, and we passed the gate in no more than 10minutes after opening. The officer at the gate will ask very quickly: name, origin country, and car plates. Then he will pass a permit, which you have to keep until later. After that, you are good to go. It’s not possible to get the permit the day before.
Sesriem Campsite, inside the Namib-Naukluft Park: 490N$ (30.5€, 33.5US$)/per person/night
Sesriem Oasis Campsite, outside the Park: 230N$ (14€, 15.8US$) /per person/night
Namib-Naukluft Park entry fees: 80N$ (5€, 5.5US$) /per person + 10 N$ (0.62€, 0.68US$)/car
Dune 45 – Km 45 (skip this part if you choose to climb dune Big Daddy or do it on your way back)
Drive 45km on the tarred road until you reach Dune 45. The speed limit inside the park is 60km/h, so it will take around 40min to reach the dune. Most tourists stop here and climb the Dune 45. It’s easily accessible from the parking lot, not so high, and the hike takes not more than 25 minutes. You’ll have a fantastic 360degrees view, with a great mix of colors.
If you have less mobility or you want to climb a dune quickly, take some photos and leave; that’s your dune.
My suggestion would be to skip this dune, avoid the crowds, and self-drive further to climb the famous Big Daddy.
2WD Parking – Km 60
Another 15km, and you’ll reach the 2WD Parking. Here you have two options by car:
1. If you have a 2WD or don’t trust your 4×4 driving skills on sandy roads, leave your car here. Get in a shuttle bus and head to 4×4 Parking for the main attractions: dune Big Daddy and Deadvlei. Shuttle service costs around 180N$, return trip.
2. Don’t stop here and drive further to 4×4 Parking. You won’t regret doing that and will complete your driving experience in Namibia. First thing: release some air pressure from your tires. We preferred 1.6 tire pressure for our tires, while others chose even less. Also, make sure that 4WD is engaged in low gear.
From 2×4 Parking to 4×4 Parking, shuttle-buses run very oft, at this time of the day, so wait until one is leaving and follow its tracks exactly, by the same speed. If you don’t want to wait, drive further, and follow the tracks on the road. But never speed down; that’s the moment you can sink in the sand. Hit the road and stop only when you reach the 4×4 Parking. If it happens to get stuck, don’t worry. Everybody helps everybody here. We helped others, as well.
4WD Parking – Km 66.5
Just 6.5km from the 2WD Parking, and you made it! See? It wasn’t so hard as you’ve read or heard. Now leave the car, take enough water (around 3 liters of water for two persons), and head to Big Daddy.
Big Daddy – Km 68
Big Daddy is one of the highest dunes in the Sossusvlei area. Walk 1.5km until you reach the base of the dune. You will have to climb 263m, which takes more than 1hour. It’s quite a steep walk up, especially the last part, but just walk the ridge. Please, don’t be scared about the climb. It’s morning, not so hot, and nobody is chasing you, so keep ongoing. You will make it, and the views will reward you well.
We visited Namibia in September, so we were able to stay on top of the dune for more than an hour, all by ourselves, taking this beautiful scenery into our hearts. It was already scorching by noon, but the views from above are stunning, with dunes stretching in every direction.
The journey back takes less than 5 minutes, and at the bottom, you reach Deadvlei.
Tip: Climb the dune barefoot or on socks! By the time you’ll make it down, the sand will be so hot, and it will be impossible to walk on, so wear closed footwear. Rundown from the top, it is hilarious!
Deadvlei or Dead Marsh
Leaving the Big Daddy behind, you will bump into a stunningly beautiful valley with unique dead trees. Many years ago, a river settled into a small lake into the desert but soon after, a dune blocked the route of the river, and everything here died. Now is a white salt and clay pan with dead trees. The landscape is so beautiful, just perfect for photos.
4WD Parking to 2WD Parking
Once you reach 4WD Parking, drive back the same way. By the time we got to the parking lot, there were only a few cars left. And none of them belonged to an organized tour. We knew we shouldn’t wait too long, so we decided to be the first ones to leave the place. I guess the others were too afraid to drive back and were waiting for someone to hit the road. The road was easy to drive, but a car behind us got stuck, and we all opted to help the poor guy. Unfortunately, its squills were not appropriate for diving this road.
Tip. Just before 2WD Parking, choose a shaded spot, pull the chairs from the trunk and enjoy something cold from your fridge. Contemplate the beauty and serenity of the place. An oryx might pay a visit, so have the camera on hand.
From 2WD, you can head to Hiddenvlei if you still have the energy and mood for that. Not quite impressive as Deadvlei, and you’ll have to walk 4 km over soft sand to get there. It will take 45minute.
Before you leave the park, head to Elim Dune, 5km north of the Sesriem Campsite. Elim Dune can be reached by a 2WD vehicle on a self-drive day trip and can make a pleasant afternoon walk.
One last stop before you exit the car. Buy some souvenirs, have a cold drink at the bar, and enjoy the rest of the day. Remember to pay the permit, which you’ll show at the gate, on your way out.
Other activities in Sossusvlei
Visit the Sesriem canyon!
Take a balloon ride early morning!
Take a scenic helicopter flight!
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This article is very informative and helpful. Thanks a lot. We will visit dune 45 in 2022 Aug. I read that on your way from 4WD Parking to 2WD Parking, you helped a guy got stuck in the sand. So he managed to get out of the sand in the end? It would be our first time driving 4×4 in sand. We are a bit afraid getting stuck in the sand.
Thank you for the kind words! I’m so happy for you! You will love Namibia so much!
The guy was terrified and he knew nothing about driving generally! But, yes, he managed pretty quickly to get out! Forget about him!
My advice: leave all the worries behind and enjoy the experience! It was the first time we drove 4×4 in the sand and we managed it. We even laughed at how many concerns we had!
If you have any other questions, I’m ready to help!