Sossusvlei, located in the southern part of the Namib Desert, in the Namib-Naukluft National Park, it’s about 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 travelling to Namibia.
Here you have some tips on how to get the most out of your 4×4 self-drive trip to Sossusvlei!
SESRIEM GATE, KM ZERO
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. Find out the opening and closing times the day before. Don’t panic if you see too many cars waiting on 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.
If you spend the night inside the park, at Sesriem Campsite, it means the gate opens 1 hour earlier than for people spending the night outside the gate.
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$)/car
DUNE 45 – KM 45 (skip this part if you choose to climb dune Big Daddy or do it on your way back)
Drive 45km on the tarred road until you reach Dune 45. Speed limit inside the park is 60km/h so it will take around 40min to reach the dune. Most mass of tourists stops here and climbs the dune. It’s easy accessible from the parking lot, not so high, and it takes not more than 25 minutes. You’ll have a fantastic 360degrees view, with a great mix of colours.
If you have less mobility or you want to climb a dune quickly, take some photos and leave, that’s your dune.
My suggestion would be to skip this dune, avoid the crowds and self-drive further, to climb the famous Big Daddy.
2WD PARKING – KM 60
Another 15km and you reach the 2WD Parking. Here you have two options by car:
1. If you have a 2WD or you don’t trust your 4×4 driving skills on sandy roads, leave your car here. Get in a shuttle bus and head to 4×4 Parking for the main attractions: dune Big Daddy and Deadvlei. Shuttle service costs around 180N$, return trip.
2. Or, 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 tyres. We preferred 1.6 tyre 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 track exactly, by the same speed. If you don’t want to wait, follow the tracks on the road. And 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. Everyone helps everyone here. We helped others, as well.
4WD Parking – KM 66.5
You made it!! 6.5km from the 2WD Parking. See? It wasn’t so hard as you’ve read or heard. Now leave the car, take enough water (around 3 litres of water for two persons) and head to Big Daddy.
BIG DADDY – KM 68
Big Daddy is one of the highest dune in Sossusvlei area. Walk 1.5km until you reach the base of the dune. You will have to climb 263m, taking more than 1hour. It’s quite a steep walk up, 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 well reward you.
We visited Namibia in September, so we were able to stay on top for more than an hour, all by ourselves, taking this beautiful scenery into our hearts. The view from above is stunning, with dunes stretching in every direction. By noon it will be scorching. The journey back takes less than 5 minutes, and at the bottom, you reach Deadvlei.
Tip: Rundown from the top, it is hilarious! Climb the dune barefoot or on socks! By the time you make it down the sand is so hot, so it’s impossible to walk on, so wear closed footwear.
DEADVLEI OR DEAD MARSH
A stunningly beautiful valley situated at the base of the Big Daddy dune. Many years ago a river settled into a small lake into the desert. A dune blocked the rivers route, 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. Just before 2WD Parking, choose a shaded spot, pull the chairs from the trunk and enjoy something cold from your fridge. Contemplate on 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 energy and mood for that. Not quite impressive as Deadvlei, you have to walk 4 km over soft sand to get there. It will take 45minute.
Just before you leave the park, head to Elim Dune, 5km north from the Sesriem Campsite. It can be reached by 2WD vehicle, on a self-drive day trip, and can make a pleasant afternoon walk.
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!