Hiking the Dune Sea
By far the most popular activity at Sossusvlei is to climb one of the huge red dunes to the top. It is certainly advisable to have an early start if you are planning to do this, so that you can get up and back down again before the heat of the day.
On the way between Sesriem and Sossusvlei is Dune 45, 45 km from the park gates and one of the most climbed and photographed dunes. It is over 150m high, but many people feel it is best to simply photograph it and continue onto the main pan itself to exert your energy on the bigger dunes there!
From the 2WD Car Park
A 4WD is needed to drive the last 5 km to the pan itself. Drivers of 2WD vehicles have to park in a car park and walk the remaining distance or use the 4WD shuttle service which run to the pan. Another option from the 2WD car park is the 4 km round trip hike leads to Hidden Vlei, a dry lake surrounded by red dunes. The route is clearly marked with white posts, and is a relatively easy walk if done early morning or later in the afternoon when it is much cooler.
From the 4WD Car Park
The 4WD car park is the main centre for hiking at Sossusvlei, and once you arrive you have several options. As there are no restrictions imposed about climbing the dunes, and you do not need a guide to take you up, you are free to wander around and choose whatever dune you like the look of to climb. There is one nearby large red dune in particular that appears to be a magnet for climbers, and a constant stream of people can be seen steadily making their way up along the edge. The walk up is fairly strenuous, as walking on sand is notoriously difficult and it is a steep climb.But it is definitely worth the effort! The views from the top are stunning and on a clear day you can see the huge dunes stretching to the horizon. Running down the slopes of the dune to the bottom is an exhilarating experience in itself.
The other option is to follow the popular trail in the opposite direction to the Dead Vlei, a picturesque setting amid the dunes. The blackened dead trees eerily dotted around the white dried lake bed make for some stunning photography.
Getting Back without a 4WD!
The shuttle services theoretically operate throughout the day but it is advisable to check what time the last one leaves the pan to come back to the car park, as after a long and tiring day in the sun the last thing you want is a 5 km slog back to your car.