SOSSUSVLEI, in the Namib-Naukluft National Park of Namibia, might look familiar to you — high-contrast photos you might have seen of it are unforgettable. This area is dotted with flat, arid salt and clay pans surrounded by towering bright orange sand dunes.

Sossusvlei is the name of a particular pan, but it’s also used to refer to the surrounding area, which includes other vleis — like the famous Deadvlei.

Deadvlei, a white clay pan about 2km from Sossusvlei, used to be an oasis that has since dried up when the river that supplied the oasis changed course. Today, it’s dotted with 700-year-old dead acacia trees, and the unique contrast between the blackened trees, white floor, and red dunes has been featured in countless photos and films.

The name, Sossusvlei is a mixed-origin word — part Afrikaans, part Nama — meaning “dead-end marsh”. The encircling dunes are rich in iron, which gives them their orange coloring, and are some of the highest dunes in the world — many of them are more than 200m tall, the tallest being around 350m.

How to get there

Sossusvlei is 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. There are several tour companies that operate out of Windhoek if you don’t want to make the drive.

What to consider

  • The first dune is a 30-40 minute-drive from the park entrance.
  • If you want to drive to Deadvlei and Sossusvlei, you’ll need a 4×4 vehicle, but you can also park in the lot and take the shuttles, which run pretty much non-stop.
  • The only amenities are at the park entrance — so get your snacks and drinks there.
  • Exploring the area is done on foot and is self-guided unless you’re on a tour.
  • There are lots of accommodation options — for every budget — within an hour’s drive of the park entrance.