Situated in the largest conservation area in Africa, the Namib-Naukluft National Park, Sossusvlei is possibly Namibia’s most spectacular and best-known attraction.
However, what you may not know is that there are a number of other attractions around Sossusvlei that should not be missed – ranging from fossilized trees to the best apple strudel is the desert!
Here are the Top 7 places you should visit during your Sossusvlei trip:
Sossusvlei, which literally translates to “dead-end marsh”, is a large, white, salt and clay pan and is best known for the large, red dunes that surround it. The dunes meet at the pan, preventing the Tsauchab River from flowing any further. However, the dry conditions in the Namib Desert often prevent the River from flowing as far as the pan leaving it bone-dry the majority of the time. The interesting landscape and stark contrasts make this area one of the most photographed areas in the world.
2. Sesriem Canyon:
Sesriem Canyon is located along the road that takes you to Sossusvlei, approximately 4.5km from the entrance gate of the Namib-Naukluft Park. The Canyon is one of the few places in the area that holds water all year round and was named by the early Afrikaans explorers in the region after the fact that they had to use six (“ses”) leather straps (“riem”) tied together to create a rope long enough to lower buckets to fetch water from the canyon below. The Canyon is made up of stunning rock formations that have been shaped by the Tsauchab River over millions of years and make it well worth a visit.
3. Dune 45:
Dune 45 is the most popular viewpoint for tourists in the area and its fascinating shape and accessibility makes it the most photographed dune in the world. It is situated 45km from the gate, hence its name, and is easily reached using a 2×4 vehicle. Visitors are allowed to climb Dune 45, so be sure to visit early in the morning to watch the sunrise over the vlei from the top of the Dune. The Dune is 85 meters high and the incredible panoramic view of Dune Valley from the top is well worth the climb. In the morning and evening light the floor of the pan is truly a sight to behold.
4. Big Daddy:
Big Daddy, as the name implies, is the tallest dune in the area. At 325 meters tall, this monolithic dune dwarfs the dunes surrounding it. Should you want the ultimate bragging rights, trek to the top of Big Daddy where you can look down onto Deadvlei. Big Daddy is situated between Sossusvlei and Deadvlei.
Not far from Sossusvlei, Deadvlei is well known for its dark, dead camel thorn trees contrasted against the white pan floor. Hundreds of years ago the Tsauchab River flooded the pan and the abundance of water allowed the camel thorn trees to grow. However, the climate changed and the sand dunes encroached on the pan, blocking the river from reaching the area. Estimated to be approximately 900 years old, the dead trees have not decomposed due to the dry climate in the area. Photographers should not miss the opportunity to visit Deadvlei as the contrast between the pitch-black trees and bleached-white pans, and the rusty-red dunes and deep blue sky make for incredible images.
Hiddenvlei is the least visited of all the vleis allowing those who make the journey to the pan to enjoy some solitude in the beautiful desert surroundings. During your walk to Hiddenvlei, look closely at the sand to examine the various tracks of the animals that occupy the area. On close inspection you will be able to see the tracks of the small animals that generally live underneath the sand, for example the little Namib Gecko.
Unlike the other 6 attractions, Solitaire is not in the Namib-Naukluft Park. However, it is en-route to Sossusvlei from Windhoek at the intersection of the C14 and C19, 83km north of Sesriem Gate and, if only for a taste of Big Moose’s Apple Strudel, is well worth a visit! In 1948 Christoffel van Coller and his wife Elsie built a single cottage where this tiny settlement now stands, and due to its remote location aptly named it Solitaire. Over the years more facilities were added and today you will find a filling station, a small shop, accommodation and Big Moose’s Bakery. Take a seat outside of the bakery, in the shade of the trees and feast on an exquisite treat, while ground squirrels and weavers fight over the crumbs that escape your fork.
The attractions surrounding Sossusvlei are easily accessible via a 65 km road starting at the Seriem Gate, with as all but the last 5 km tarred. Shuttles provide access to the last 5 km, should you not have a 4×4 vehicle. Keep in mind that visiting these attractions involve at least a short walk from the designated parking areas, so remember to take enough drinking water with you as it gets very hot in the area.
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