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If you’re landed on this page then you’re hopefully planning a trip to the magical Sossusvlei to visit the famous Deadvlei, Dead Vlei. Located in the heart of Namibia’s Namib-Naukluft National Park in Sossusvlei, Deadvlei is one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Africa, and for a good reason! This basin of petrified trees feels like a scene from a movie, something that you can’t fully grasp even when you’re walking right through it. You’re surrounded by “dead” trees, stuck in a moment in time, surrounded by these bright orange sandy dunes.
It was definitely one of the highlights of our two week road trip in Namibia. This guide will cover all of the basics for visiting Deadvlei, so your trip can be one that you never forget.
Before you dive into the article, I’ve highlighted a few of the most popular tours in Namibia. You do not need a guided tour to visit Deadvlei, but for some it may make the experience more enjoyable.
Popular tours in Namibia
What is Deadvlei?
Translating to “dead marsh” Deadvlei is a basin in Sossusvlei where you’ll find what appear to be petrified trees. An estimated 700-800 years ago these trees were cut off from their water source, causing them to die. But rather than decompose, a funny thing happened. The climate was incredibly dry and the clay ground super hard, causing the dead trees to appear petrified.
Deadvlei is found among some of the highest dunes in the world – a stark contrast of life between the frozen forest and the evermoving red hues of the sandy dunes.
Visiting Deadvlei is an experience that I hope you get to have in your lifetime, if you haven’t already.
How to get to Sossusvlei
Before we can cover how to get to Deadvlei, you need to understand how to first reach Sossusvlei, where Deadvlei is located. Sossusvlei is a destination that is quite literally in the middle of the desert. You’ll be first navigating yourself to Sesreim, the tiny village right outside of the park. This village is essentially the gateway to Sossusvlei.
The most common way to get to Sossusvlei is by flying into Namibia’s capital city, Windhoek. From there, most people rent a 4WD truck and drive 4-5 hours to reach Sossusvlei, either immediately or part of a larger Namibia road trip. We found the drive to be easy and enjoyable. Another option, however, is to fly on a small domestic plane directly from Windhoek, or Walvis Bay, or the Sesriem Airstrip inside the park.
It is important to know that although Sesriem is the closest village to Sossusvlei, as it is located at the park entrance gates, you still need to drive quite a bit once you enter through the gates. The Deadvlei parking lot is located 60 kilometers from the entrance, approximately an hour drive down a paved tar road from the entrance, if you are adhering to the local speed limit.
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How to get to Deadvlei
If you are not driving a 4×4 vehicle, or do not feel comfortable driving in sand, then you will need to park at the Sossusvlei parking lot. From here you can hop on a shuttle for the remaining 6km drive for around $12 round trip. The shuttle runs frequently, starting in the early hours for sunrise. It is possible to walk but its quite a long walk in deep sand with no protection from the sun. I personally wouldn’t recommend it, as the hiking views will be far better once you reach the parking lot.
If you have your own 4×4 vehicle then you are free to continue driving all of the way to the Deadvlei parking lot, which is an additional 6km. The roads are extremely sandy, so it is not uncommon for cars to get stuck, especially if you do not have experience driving in sand. Make sure to deflate your tires and do not stop throughout the ride.
From the Deadvlei parking lot it is a 1.2km walk to the petrified tree forest. While the hike itself isn’t super long, the path is sandy and slightly uphill, with no protection from the sun. Make sure that you wear sunscreen and a hat, and pack ample water.
If you’re feeling ambitious, you also have the opportunity to hike to Deadvlei via Big Daddy Dune. While this is definitely the harder option, you’ll be rewarded with incredible views from the top of the dune.
How much does it cost to visit Deadvlei?
In addition to your lodging costs (if you’re choosing to overnight), there is a daily fee per person and per car for visiting the park. For a two-night stay in the park for two people with one vehicle you can expect to pay 350 Namibian Dollars, or around $19, as of July 2023. This is a recent price increase.
Once you’re in the park, all of the sites are free to visit, including the famous Deadvlei.
When to visit Deadvlei
Sossusvlei, where Deadvlei is located, is a year-round destination. That said, a trip during Namibia’s winter, which lasts from April to October, will be considerably more enjoyable. During these months the weather is still hot, but much more manageable.
You will find more crowds during this time, however we still found that the sites never felt super crowded, even during the busiest season. You will, however, need to make sure to book your campsite or lodge in advance, especially if you are trying to stay within the park. We booked 4 months in advance and found that most days were already sold out.
Best time of day to visit Deadvlei
The park is most enjoyable during the early morning and evening, when the sun is less strong and the lighting is perfect. I recommend either visiting for sunrise or sunset, when the sun isn’t high in the sky. Unlike the dune peaks, you’ll often find that the wind settles down in this basin.
If you visit for sunrise, I would recommend hiking up Big Daddy Dune and enjoying the sunrise from the top of the dune before making your way to the petrified trees.
If you visit for sunset, please make sure to keep track of time so you do not miss the closing of the gates. As a reminder, the outer gate closes an hour earlier than the inside gate.
What to pack for a visit to Deadvlei
Despite not being a terribly long walk from the parking lot to Deadvlei, it is a hot one with little protection from the sun. The route is just slightly uphill, making your trek in the sand that much harder. There are bathroom facilities at both the Sossusvlei and Deadvlei parking lots, but the ones at the Sossusvlei lot are much nicer.
Here are a few key items I definitely recommend packing for your hike to Deadvlei
- Water – I always hike with at least a liter of water with me
- Sun protection – sunscreen, a hat, even a thin long sleeve layer for when the sun is the strongest
- Snacks – you won’t find any dining facilities near Deadvlei, or within an hour for that matter. If you plan on hanging out and hiking for a bit, I recommend bringing some snacks or a packed lunch.
Where to stay near Deadvlei
If you are planning a visit to Deadvlei then I highly recommend that you stay overnight in the park. While a day trip from Windhoek is possible, I don’t recommend it.
It would be a shame to come all this way and not take the day at least to explore the wonders of Deadvlei and Sossusvlei.
Sesriem Oshana Campsite – In terms of camping within the park, one of your only options is to camp at Sesriem Oshana Campsite. The campgrounds are a bit steep at around $50 USD per night, but each site can hold multiple cars if you’re camping with a few people. Your site comes equipped with a fire pit, toilet, outdoor sink for washing dishes, and a shower with hot water.
Dead Valley Lodge – as one of the only lodges inside of the park, this is a great option for anyone looking to enjoy sunrise and sunset in Sossusvlei. The individual chalets and icy pool overlook Elim Dune.
Desert Camp: Located about 5 kilometers from the entrance gate of Sossusvlei, Desert Camp is a great option for budget travelers who would like a break from camping, or don’t have camping equipment. These individual chalets are each equipped with a kitchenette, as well as a private bathroom and a private deck with panoramic views of the desert.
We Kebi Lodge – this lodge completely took us by surprise! Before arriving we had decided that we wanted to spend one more night in the general area before heading south to Swakopmund. We Kebi Lodge is located an hour from the entrance gate of Sossusvlei so while it is not the most convenient for visiting the park, it is 100% worth a visit. Located on a reserve, with a watering hole right by the lodge, you will have ample wildlife sightings. We were literally able to see rhinos and zebras from our bedroom window.
Planning a trip to Namibia? Make sure to check out these other articles:
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