We already wrote an extensive blog about visiting the Sossusvlei. An extensive description of the many highlights in the national park, the pros and cons of the different sleeping places and a description of the route through the Sossusvlei. But are you just looking for the best tips? Then read this list and make your visit to the Sossusvlei one to remember!
25 tips for visiting the Sossusvlei in Namibia
#1 Find accommodation in the Sossusvlei National Park.
If you spend the night at the Sesriem Campsite or Sossus Dune Lodge, you will sleep within the park boundaries. You may then enter the park an hour earlier and stay here one hour longer. We were therefore allowed to stay in the park until 8:45 pm and were already allowed in at 5:15 pm.
#2 Camp at the Sesriem Campsite.
Your travel budget will thank you for it. The lodges of the Sossus Dune Lodge are spectacularly beautiful, but also spectacularly expensive (about 2000 Namibian dollars per person).
#3 Book your accommodation well in advance, especially in high season.
You are not the only one who wants to spend the night in the park, so book your sleeping place in advance. In the low season, this can be done shortly beforehand, but in the high season we advise you to insure your place to sleep well in advance. You can make a booking by telephone, via the site (www.nwr.com.na) or by e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org).
#4 Ask for one of the ten original camping spots when booking.
All camping pitches have the same facilities and a large tree for shade. But the ten camping spots the campsite once started with are encircled by a low wall. It can be very windy in the late afternoon and the small walls offer some protection against the wind.
#5 Bring your own food and drinks.
The store at Sesriem Campsite is perhaps larger than the average camping store in Namibia, but it can’t compete with a supermarket.
#6 There are two gates.
You register with the first, but you must then pay at the reception of the Sesriem Campsite. Only then you can enter the park further through the second gate. Remember the number you get at the first gate, as on that basis you have to register again (yes, there is a lot of paperwork involved in Namibia) at the reception. A 24-hour permit costs 80 Namibian dollars per person and 10 Namibian dollars per vehicle, as usual in national parks. You can pay with both pin and cash.
#7 Don’t join a tour, but visit the dunes with your own rental car.
The impressive sand dunes and beautiful ‘vleis’ are most beautiful when you visit them with as few people as possible. It is therefore preferable to head into the park as early and late as possible on your own and at your own pace. This way you make sure you visit the most beautiful places in the park without the crowds.
#8 Drive a 4×4 at the Sossusvlei.
The most beautiful places in the national park – the Dead Vlei, the Big Daddy and Big Mama and the Sossusvlei itself – are more difficult to visit on your own without 4×4. You will then have to park your car at the 2WD parking at about 60 kilometers from Sesriem, after which you will have to walk for a while or take the shuttle bus to the 4WD parking.
#9 Lower your tire pressure to 1.6 bar at a gas station.
The asphalt road leading to the 2WD parking area is of great quality, but continues with a bumpy ride in the soft sand. Your car will be grateful if you lower your tire pressure in advance.
#10 The speed limit in the park is 60 km/h.
Hardly anyone sticks to it and the road is of such good quality that it is hard to hold yourself from speeding. But we were told that there are checks sometimes. And of course, the speed limit is there for your own safety. All sorts of animals live among the rough sand dunes, crossing the road. We saw an oryx, ostrich and hyena right next to the road.
#11 Skip the sunset on Elim Dune.
This is where most travelers go to see the sunset, so you will rarely be able to enjoy this moment in peace here. Instead, drive further into the park.
#12 Visit one of the other dunes or valleys before sunset.
Head further into the park. Where to? For example, choose Dune 45, the Big Daddy or Big Mama. Or go to one of the valleys! We visited the Hidden Vlei around sunset and were completely alone there. Especially if you sleep in the park and can stay in the park for an hour longer, you will be back at the gate well in time.
#13 Use the offline app maps.me to find the exact location of the Sossusvlei sand dunes and ‘vleis’.
It is not difficult to find Dune 45, as the dune is named after its distance to Sesriem: 45 kilometers. You might find it harder to locate the other places though. Use the offline maps of the maps.me app for this. The map also shows the hiking routes from the parking areas to these highlights.
#14 Leave your flip-flops at home and go for closed shoes.
Walking through the sand is hard, especially if you are climbing up a dune. If you’re also bringing a load of sand in your flip-flops and sandals every step of the way, you’ll only make it harder for yourself. And not just that: the sand can also be quite hot in the heat of the Sossusvlei and burn your feet.
#15 Follow the footsteps.
Do you find it tough to walk through the sand and climb a sand dune? It is a lot easier if you follow in the footsteps before you exactly! Of course, this tip won’t work if you are the first to climb one of the sand dunes in the dark for a beautiful sunrise, as we did.
#16 Enter the park as early as possible.
We were already entering the park at 5:15 in January. Yes, that was an early rise. But the sunrise was absolutely worth it! This way you also make the most use of the cooler morning before the beating sun warms up the Sossusvlei. And trust me: even in the cool early morning, we were still sweating a lot climbing a dune in the dark.
#17 Don’t go to Dune 45 at sunrise.
Dune 45 is the most popular place to enjoy the sunrise, but it is therefore much busier than the other places around the park. So keep driving while the other cars turn off left and choose a more quiet spot.
#18 Be the first to visit the Dead Vlei to stay ahead of the crowd at this beautiful place.
To us, the Dead Vlei is the most beautiful place in the park. The dark silhouettes of the acacia trees against a white clay soil and brightly colored dunes are a beautiful sight. Make sure you are ahead of the crowds, so you can enjoy this spectacular place all by yourself and take pictures without others in the background.
#19 Then climb one or more of the sand dunes at the Dead Vlei for a beautiful sunrise.
You can enjoy a beautiful sunrise without the crowds from one of the dunes next to the Dead Vlei, such as the high Big Daddy. We chose to immediately climb a sand dune to see the sunrise. Immediately afterward we descended into the Dead Vlei. We were not the first, but we were still ahead of the crowds arriving at the Vlei when we left.
#20 Take the steepest route up the Big Daddy.
There are two options to climb the Big Daddy, as you will notice on the maps.me map. We recommend taking the shortest, but steepest. Climbing the sand is hard, so if you take the longer and less steep route, you will exhaust yourself before making it to the top.
#21 Don’t underestimate the heat and bring plenty of water.
In the early morning when it is still dark outside, you may not yet be thinking about the heat that will strike right after sunrise. But trust us: even in the dark you’ll be sweating climbing up a dune and you’ll easily drink a liter of water before the sun’s even out. So make sure you bring lots and lots of water with you.
#22 Don’t forget your sunscreen in the early morning.
Even though sunscreen might not be the first that comes to mind when waking up before 5 AM, don’t forget that soon after sunrise the beating sun will easily burn you.
#23 Put on a photogenic #instagram dress for beautiful photos.
This may sound a bit touristy, but our photos were much prettier because of my long yellow dress. The magical atmosphere of the dunes and the valley is much better captured with a matching dress.
#24 Don’t touch the trees.
This was totally obvious to us, but apparently not to all visitors. The trees are hundreds of years old and have survived under the harshest circumstances. They shouldn’t have to survive the hands of tourists as well, should they? Apparently, not everyone feels that way – despite the clear sign at the vlei – and we saw people sitting on trees and hanging on branches for ‘cool’ photos.
#25 Save the less impressive Hidden Vlei for the end of your visit.
We were thinking of the famous spectacle of white clay soil, red sand dunes and petrified acacia trees when entering the Hidden Vlei. Unfortunately, this vlei looks much different. There are only two old acacia trees in this valley, so you will not have the unique sight you might know from the photos and guide books. So save this place to visit last, if it is already busier in the park. You want to use the early rest before the crowds enter to visit the most beautiful places, such as the photogenic Dead Vlei.