Editors' Picks

Sossusvlei Dunes

Unnamed Road, Namibia

Pronounced soh-soos-vlay, this valley-like area of the southern Namib Desert is famous for having the world’s biggest sand dunes. In fact, many of the mountainous beasts are individually named, numbered and studied. A paved road (a rarity for this region of the country) begins at the tiny town of Sesriem and travels due west for 37 miles, alongside the underground Tsauchab River, which is noticeable only by the strip of vegetation it supports. About 15 miles outside of Sesriem, dramatic sand dunes start to become visible and the valley seems to narrow. Dune 45, one of the most famous, is on the left, and can be climbed up (and slid down).

Unlike other dunes, these are relatively stationary, and have maintained their structure and placement for centuries. The dunes are poetic in their silent power and beauty. Gracefully undulating, they peak with sharp crests that define their curves and it seems somewhat incredible that they are, in fact, only made of piles of very fine sand.

After the paved road ends, the sand path can be accessed only by certain approved trucks. (Those not staying at a Wilderness Camp or similar must buy a ticket on the public shuttle truck that departs from the road’s terminal parking lot.) A few miles further sits Big Daddy, another famed dune that can be climbed. In its shadow is the famous and oft-photographed Deadvlei, a dried-up pan that is home to dozens of acacia tree skeletons estimated to be as ancient as 700 years old.

As Sossusvlei is relatively accessible (and certainly the most easily reached part of the Namib Desert for those not on safari), it can get crowded. We recommend arranging for an early morning visit, when the temperature is still bearable, crowds are not yet very thick and the sun hits the dunes in acute angles, creating gorgeous and dramatic colors.

Accommodating Lodge: Little Kulala

Written by Amelia Osborne Scott

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