If you are planning a trip to one of Namibias Highlights, here is some information about the amazing things to do in Sossusvlei, you definitely should not miss!
Red-orange sand dunes reach high into the sky, surrounded by unreal-appearing dead trees, and white salt pans glittering in the sunlight. This is Sossusvlei! Deadvlei, Dune 45, and the Sesriem Canyon are all part of the Sossusvlei region, located within the world’s oldest desert – Namib.
We recommend staying at least two nights around Sossusvlei! But of course, it is also possible to spend much more time here and it won´t get boring, we promise!
What Sossusvlei has to offer
Sossusvlei is a desert wonderland that offers a variety of activities to enjoy. The most popular activity is hiking up the towering red sand dunes, which provide breathtaking views of the surrounding desert landscape. Some of the most popular dunes to climb are Dune 45, Big Daddy, and Dune Elim. Close to Big Daddy, Dead Vlei is the place where you can find the 1000-year-old tree graveyard located at an old clay pan.
But not only hiking fans will love Sossusvlei! Wildlife enthusiasts and photographers will also make their way to this mesmerizing place to capture its beauty and explore desert-adapted species from large Oryx to small Geckos.
How to get to Sossusvlei
Sossusvlei is located in the Namib-Naukluft Park and the towering red dunes are probably the most famous photo motif associated with Namibia. Sossusvlei actually describes a salt pan and rather “a blind river” located between the towering dunes of the Namib. There are several of these “vleis”, such as the well-known Deadvlei or Hidden Vlei.
Some of the dunes that rise along the road in the park can be hiked. You can see this by the small park bays and signposts in front of each dune. The Sesriem Canyon is also located in this accessible part of Namib-Naukluft Park. The road ends at Sossusvlei, 60km from the entrance to Sesriem Gate. There is a first car park here, which you can reach without problems with a normal car. From here, however, you can only continue to Deadvlei & Sossusvlei and the Big Daddy Dune with a four-wheel drive or the National Park shuttle.
How to get to the park entrance: The entrance to this part of the Namib-Naukluft Park is in Sesriem, where you will find a campsite and a petrol station with a small shop where you can stock up on supplies. Tickets for the park can be purchased directly at the gate. Opening hours vary according to sunrise and sunset.
Entrance fees to the National Park (2023):
Prices are in Namibian Dollars NAD (which is equivalent to South African Rand ZAR) and are PER DAY – valid for a period of 24 hours from the time of entry into Sossusvlei National Park.
Prices per person
Children from 0 to 8 years are free
Adults (foreigners) NAD 150 per adult per day
Children (foreigners) NAD 100 per child per day (9 to 16 years)
Adults (SADC) NAD 100 per adult per day
Children (SADC) NAD 50 per child per day (9 to 16 years)
Adults (Namibian) NAD 50 per adult per day
Children (Namibian) free of charge (9 to 16 years)
Prices per vehicle
Vehicles with 10 or less seats cost NAD 50-00 per vehicle per day
Vehicles with 11-25 seats cost NAD 100-00 per vehicle per day
Vehicles with 26-50 seats cost NAD 400-00 per vehicle per day
Vehicles with more than 51 seats cost NAD 700-00 per vehicle per day.
Fees are subject to change without prior notice.
Upon entry into the Namib National Park, all visitors must present identification, either in the form of a passport, driving licence or ID.
1. Hiking in Sossusvlei: Make the most of your dune experience
Sunrise dune hikes in Sossusvlei:
One of the most common things to do in Sossusvlei is hiking. Offering some of the highest dunes in the world, it’s an outdoor lovers’ paradise. But it gets hot in the desert, so most people climb the dunes at sunrise or the late afternoon. The gate to enter the park at Sesriem just opens after sunrise, when you stay outside the park, so there might be a long row of cars waiting to enter! So be prepared not to have this remote dune experience all for yourself! If you want to be on the dune at sunrise/sunset then you should consider staying at an accommodation inside the park. No matter how you plan it, it´s still an amazing experience!
Probably the most visited and photographed dune in Namibia is Dune 45. The number of the dunes is accordingly to their distance in km from Sesriem (the spot where you enter the gate). So Dune 45 is super easy to reach by just driving straight from the gate. That’s why most people climb the 170m dune for sunrise – you get a stunning view over the valley and the contrasts of shadow and golden light are just breathtaking.
You can also stop 5km earlier at Dune 40. It is one of the lesser visited dunes, but still, a great place to enjoy a calm and still beautiful sunrise view!
Sunset dune hikes in Sossusvlei:
If you want to experience sunset at the dunes, you should consider staying at one of the lodges located inside the park. It’s one of the most beautiful things to do in the Sossusvlei, but due to the closing hours of the gate, one usually has to leave the park before sunset. If you have the chance for a sunset stay, drive to Dune Elim. From here you have a beautiful view over the whole Sossusvlei area and with the tufted grass around, the dune itself is an amazing photo motive in the evening light. Although, all dunes offer a mesmerizing view over the valley for sunset.
Hiking to Deadvlei and climbing Big Daddy
After a lovely sunrise view, you should quickly head further in the direction of Deadvlei. At the end of the road, you find a parking lot with picnic sites around. You can park the 2×4 car here and use a shuttle service for the last meters to the starting point for the hike to the famous Deadvlei. Owning a 4×4, you can drive there on your own! Deadvlei is known for the 1000-year-old fossiled Acacia trees creating an otherworldly contrast to the white clay pan, surrounded by high, orange dunes like Big Daddy.
You can consider hiking the Big Daddy dune directly in the morning or directly after sunrise so that it is still cool enough to enjoy the hike through Deadvlei. But it is also possible to hike one of the other dunes for sunrise and just make a walk through Deadvlei itself (you do not have to climb Big Daddy to reach it).
Make sure to bring enough water and sunscreen, it gets hot here really quickly, and exploring Deadvlei alone will take a minimum of 2 hours. Follow the tracks from other groups or have a look for the white pillars – it is really easy to get lost here!
Hidden Vlei – a hidden gem
The name gives it away – Hidden Vlei is only accessible if you consider a 4km walk, starting from the 2×4 parking lot to reach Deadvlei. Naturally not easy to find, the way is now marked by white pillars. If you love hiking, this place is the perfect opportunity to explore the more remote area of Sossusvlei!
Sesriem Canyon – a hiker’s paradise
The Canyon offers an amazing contrast to the sandy dune landscape. You can directly drive to Sesriem Canyon and park in front. The best time to hike the 3km long Canyon is in the early morning or late afternoon, otherwise, the sun is shining directly on top of you. It is so much fun climbing along the clips in search of water sources or lizards. Especially during the rainy season, it is possible to find little waterholes nestled between the rocky outcrops. To explore Sesriem Canyon you should plan with a minimum of 2 hours.
2. Photography Tour to Sossusvlei: Capturing the magic
Don’t miss the chance to photograph the surreal landscape of Deadvlei, where the stark white clay pan contrasts with the dark dead trees and the surrounding fiery dunes. The ever-changing light throughout the day offers endless creative possibilities for photographers.
In general, it is the perfect location for landscape photographers, no matter if day or night!
Wildlife-photography at Sossusvlei
A lot is going on in the desert – offering a perfect chance for wildlife lovers! Capture Oryx walking through the desolate landscape, creating interesting patterns with their shadows on the red sand. Sometimes even a giraffe or jackals make their way through the desert. Or get a closer look at the small inhabitants of the Namib – Geckos, Lizards and even Snakes hide beneath the sand in cooler regions. Maybe you are lucky enough to capture one of them! Especially around the trees in Deadvlei, lizards love to hide in the shade.
Explore the Fairy-Circles
When you drive towards Dune Elim, turning the first street to your right after entering the Gate at Sesriem, you can drive past the Dune and Viewpoint. Drive a couple of minutes further in the direction of Sesriem Airport and keep your eyes open for circles forming on the ground. It looks nearly like someone mowed circles in the grass. That’s the Fairy-circles! A nice motiv for photographers and a mystery for Botanics ;).
3. Things to do in Sossusvlei offered by surrounding Lodges
Hot Air Ballooning: Soaring Above the Namib Desert
For a truly unforgettable experience, consider embarking on a hot air balloon ride over Sossusvlei. As you gently float above the desert, you’ll witness the mesmerizing sunrise casting a golden hue on the dunes, creating a breathtaking spectacle. The peacefulness and serenity of the desert from a bird’s-eye view is an extraordinary adventure that will leave you in awe of nature’s beauty.
Stargazing: Clear skies and the Milkyway
You will always do stargazing when staying in or close to Sossusvlei. Sitting outside of your deck, or even sleeping under the million stars, you will be blown away by the clear Milkyway above you. Some lodges offer stargazing experiences, where you will learn more about star constellations and planets and also stories from former times!
Experience the desert in different ways:
Many lodges also offer guided nature walks, tours, or even quad-biking experiences! We are sure there will be the right activity for everyone. And sometimes just enjoy the calmness of the Namib, watch the birds, and take a deep breath to fully relax in this beautiful place on earth!
Conclusion – all the things to do in Sossusvlei!
Sossusvlei is a destination that captivates the senses, leaving visitors in awe of its natural wonders. From hiking the majestic dunes to floating above the desert in a hot air balloon, every experience in Sossusvlei is a testament to the awe-inspiring beauty of our planet. Whether you’re an adventure seeker, a nature lover, or a photography enthusiast, this extraordinary destination promises an unforgettable journey into the heart of the Namib Desert. Plan your visit to Sossusvlei and prepare to be amazed!
If you want to find out more about the emergence and history of Sossusvlei, have a look here.