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The Namib Desert has the oldest and most evocative desert scenery in the world. Witnessing the changing colours of the shifting sands gleaming in vibrant reds and oranges at sunrise and sunset is one of country’s quintessential experiences. While it is the towering dunes that most people come to see, Sossusvlei itself is actually the pan (vlei) or valley floor that you will park on. The ever-changing landscape of gravel plains, rugged canyons, towering walls of volcanic rock and vast dune seas forms one of the world’s most striking, well-preserved and easily accessible deserts, and is well worth the effort of getting there.
Sossusvlei itself is 65 km from the park gate along a paved road. It’s worth stopping at the photogenic Dune 45 (coincidentally, 45 km from the gate) and climbing to the top for the view of the surrounding dune sea. Depending on fitness, it takes 20-40 minutes to reach the main ridge. This is a lovely spot to watch the sun rise to the east in the early morning or setting over the dunes to the west in the evening. On clear days your view over the dune sea extends to around 100 km in all directions.Read more
There are no restrictions to walkers so you are free to explore at will. Rather than following the herds up the nearest dune, walk a few hundred metres beyond the final car park to Dead or Hidden Vlei to enjoy the tranquillity and scenery of the area, before climbing one of the less crowded dunes. Being even one ridge away from the crowds transports you into your own silent and awesome desert wilderness. For an alternative experience, flights and balloon trips over the mountains and dunes in light aircraft provide breathtaking views of the magnificent natural formations.
Located near the entrance to Sossusvlei is another interesting geological feature, the sharp schism in the earth known as the Sesriem Canyon. The name Sesriem is derived from the ses riems, or six lengths of rope that were needed to haul water out of the gorge from the top. This narrow gorge is 1 km long and up to 30 m deep running west before eventually flattening out as it approaches Sossusvlei. After good rain, pools of water form in the bottom of the gorge; take your swimming things and enjoy a quick dip.