Your trip to Namibia will start from Windhoek (very likely).
Windhoek is the capital of Namibia and it is where the international airport is – so you will most probably fly into it as a start.
After couple of experiences in Windhoek you will drive out of the city heading towards your adventure.
What described in this post will probably be the first stage of your road trip in Namibia (at least it was our first drive).
You will soon leave civilization and tar roads behind immediately after having left Windhoek and you will immerse yourself into the full Namibian untouched nature.
In this post you will learn more the very first part of our trip.
- Windhoek – what to do and where to stay / eat
- Spreetshoogte Pass – breathtaking scenary on the way to Solitaire
- Solitaire – the perfect stop to refresh while you head into Sossusvlei Desert
- Sossusvlei – the magic desert of Namibia
This is the detailed drive we had from Windhoek to Sossusvlei on the map.
In the meantime, if you want to check our full itinerary in Namibia, we recommend you to read this post where we also give some advices about going for a Solo Drive vs. Guided Tour.
Also, if you access this link, you will find the reviews of all the places we visited in Namibia during our entire journey. You may want to search for the reviews by Gianmarco Cicuzza.
If you are in search of any additioanl information please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
Windhoek – what do and where to stay / eat
To be absolutely honest with you there is not a lot to do and see in Windhoek.
The city is no different than any other city you might see in any other part of the world – actually not even the best. It has grown a little bit in a disorganized fashion and there is not a proper city center with shops or other attractions.
Depending on how you have organized your trip, you might end up spending one night in town to rest after the long flight. If this is the plan we definitively recommend you to stay at Rivendell Guest House. Here is the link at their website for more pictures and info.
RIVENDELL GUEST HOUSE
The property is made of three or four cottages developing around the swimming pool. The rooms are very well equipped and furnished. They are also very cleaned and very large. The staff of the guest house is also amazing and super friendly. The breakfast is cooked on the moment and is extremely yummy. Absolutely recommended for a stop.
If you are staying overnight in Windhoek then you will surely have dinner in town.
If so, you cannot simply miss a visit to Joe’s Beerhouse. This is absolutely an amazing experience which really sets the tonality for the rest of your trip.
By Entering this restaurant you have the feeling to enter the jungle with all its characteristic features. There is even a pond in the middle of the huts. The interiors of the restaurant itself cannot be fully described. They are all decorated with trophies from hunting sessions and a huge variety of items which massively enrich the place and the experience. The food is super good. Here you can eat all the game meat you want – superbly cooked. The staff is also very friendly and makes the stay even more enjoyable. We had the chance to have a table close to the fireplace which made the experience even more intimate and memorable. You cannot miss this restaurant.
Spreetshoogte Pass – breathtaking view!
I must admit that the first part of the drive between Windhoek and Solitaire is quite boring and “traditional”. In fact, you will complete that on standard tar road still being sorrounded by a lot of civilization.
This will be so until you get into the D1275. At that point you will understand what your next driving days will be like :-).
The D1275 is an offroad path that will take you to the amazing Solitaire.
However, before getting there you will definitively need to have a stop at the Spreetshoogte Pass.
Passing by the Spreetshoogte Pass though is not for all. This is because there is a restriction on the kind of vehicle that can take the pass route vs. those which are forced to continue driving on the standard D1275.
You can make the pass only if you are driving in a 4×4 car. If you are on a 4×4 truck or any other vehicle you are restricted from it because its steep roads make it dangerous for other vehicles to join.
This also means that this place is not very touristic and you will have the privilege of staring at this amazing view only with the few ones you love. The feelings you get once you are at the top cannot be fully described. Goose-bumping!
Solitaire – the smallest town in Namibia
Leaving the Spreetshoogte Pass behind, you will reach Solitaire in about one hour.
Solitaire is officially the smallest city in the whole Namibia (clearly the tribal locations are not included into this ranking because they do not count as recognized cities :-)).
If you ever watched the Disney cartoon “Cars” with your kids, Solitaire is just the real life Radiator Springs.
Solitaire is literally just made of a small hotel, a fuel station, a workshop and plane runaway.
However, one of the main reasons to stop there is to try the outstanding Moose McGregor’s Desert Bakery. This Bakery was opened several years ago (20+) by Percy Cross “Moose” McGregor who left Scotland and moved to town to open this bakery. Among the various delicious food they serve there is the original German Apple Pie which is really delicious…especially in the middle of the desert.
Stopping by Solitaire is something absolutely mandatory – not only for a pit stop. Having breakfast or simply a break into the McGregor’s bakery is also a “must do”. We had a magnificent breakfast in the bakery while driving from Sossusvlei back to Swakopmund and it was really luxurious. The quality of coffee and Cappuccino is just great!
Sossusvlei & Deadvlei – Namib Desert National Park
The key attraction of this part of the trip is surely the Sossusvlei National Park.
This is where you will experience the amazing beauty of the Namib Desert and you will fill your eyes with all the colors of the magnificent sand dunes. Your soul will be extremely pleased as you will be staring at the sinuous dune shapes and enjoy the contrasts between light and shadow on the dunes’ crest.
General Info About Sossusvlei
Sossusvlei (literally “dead-end marsh”) is the largest conservation area in the whole of Africa.
Like all other national parks in Namibia – Sossusvlei (though the name of the park is Namib-Naukluft National Park) has quite strict rules starting from the opening and closing hours. However, in this park you can get off the car and walk away from your car quite freely because the desertic environment is not home for dangerous wildlife.
The actual opening and closing hours of the park vary based on the season and the month. Normally they cover the period of time between 7.00am and 6.00pm. At the opening of the gates you might experience quite a long queue of vehicle trying to get into the park. However, if you avoid queuing and you just go for a coffee in the nearby fuel station, you can then access the park, just 30 minutes later, without any queue or problem.
However, being early at the gate is quite important if you want to capture the golden hour sunrise light on the dunes and if you also want to avoid that the dunes become too crowded. Please also read our Where to Sleep because this is also important to plan your visit to Sossusvlei.
The park itself is made by a 60km tar road driving through the dunes which gives access to the main dune attractions. To reach Deadvlei, though, there are 5km of pure sand / off-road at the end of the 60km tar road. However, you do not have to drive there because the park has organized a shuttle service which covers the last 5km.
Also, there is off-road path to reach the Sesriem Canyon and Le Mirage Resort.
Sossusvlei Key Attractions
We recommend to spend one full day in Sossusvlei which typically goes (depending on gate opening times) from 7.00am till 6.00pm.
These are the key attractions we definitively recommend:
- Enjoy the breath-taking scenery
- Hike a dune
- Sesriem Canyon
- Have a drink at Le Mirage
- Fill your water tanks with Desert Water
Enjoy the breath-taking view around you
As you drive on the tar road in the park, there are multiple viewpoints where you can stop to have a look at the scenery around you. On top of the many view points, we also suggest you continuously have a look around because as the light intensity changes new colors and contrasts come up and so you are more than welcome to stop any moment and drop off the car for a picture.
Hike a dune
Hiking a dune is definitively a super recommended experience. You will discover how hard and pleasant at the same time is to walk on that fluffy red sand. In addition, achieving the top of a dune in a desert offers unprecedented views and landscapes which are great photo opportunity.
There are typically two dunes which are famous to be hiked. Dune 45 and majestic Big Daddy.
The Dunes are named after the number of kilometers between the dune itslef and the entrance gate. So, for example Dune 45 is at 45km from the entrance gate. Big Daddy’s name derive instead by its huge height (close to 400m) and also its overall size. Big Daddy is actually almost at the end of the tar road before going to Deadvlei.
Depending on how fit you are, how much time you have available and how much you want to exercise you need to take into account that reaching Dune 45 top is quite achievable for all and it takes about 60 minutes (going up and coming down). Big Daddy top is much more demanding because the top can be reached in 3 hours (going up and coming down) and clearly the ascent is much steeper than Dune 45 – so more physically demanding.
Overall – if you have kids or your team is not made of good athletes we recommend you to climb Dune 45 – also not to eat too much time into the daily schedule for one activity.
Deadvlei is located at the very end of the 60km long tar road + 5 km off-road path. From the parking at the end of the 65km journey you then need to take a 1 km walk to reach the actual pan. No matter how much you will have to travel you simply cannot miss Deadvlei.
Deadvlei is a clay pan characterized by dark, dead camel thorn trees. There was a time when the the Tsauchab River flooded and the abundance of water allowed camel thorn trees to grow. However, the climate changed and the sand dunes sorrounded the pan. So, the river could not reach this area of the desert anymore. The trees are estimated to be approximately 900 years old, however they have not decomposed due to the dry climate.
This is the paradise for photographers as the contrast between the pitch-black trees and bleached-white pans, the red dunes and deep blue sky offers incredible photo opportunity and.
Just unleash your creativity completely.
Sesriem Canyon is a dried canyon where the Tsauchab flows. However, seeing the river flowing in Namibia is a very exceptional event. In any case, the Canyon, which is quite deep offers dramatic scenery and quite refreshing shadowed path to walk through. It is similar to a maze but there are directions to guide tourists through. We also found a little pond with some water in the Canyon and enjoyed tracking all the animals that for sure go for a drink at night.
Have a drink at Le Mirage Desert Lodge and Spa
At the end of the day and before the gates close we recommend you to head for Le Mirage Lodge. This is a lodge inside the actual boundaries of the park which is built with the shape of a Moroccan Castle just in the middle of the desert. It really looks like a mirage given the way it pops out tri-dimensionally from the flat ground.
We suggest you go there at the end of the day or very close to sunset hour so you can enjoy a wonderful drink by watching the incredible african sunset colors while thinking about all the amazing experiences of the day.
Fill your water tank with Desert Water
This is probably something you will not find in my tourists’ guide about Namibia and it drove me absolutely mad. Follow the map posted below. If you drive from the park Entrance and you turn right, you will see two trees which are normally used as camp sites. Underneath the tree which I marked with the description “desert water” you will find a water fountain which takes water from an underground water basin that will be as old as the dinosaurs. The water is a little bit salty but absolutely fresh and refreshing.
Fill up your water tanks with fresh desert water before leaving Sossusvlei.
Where to sleep during your Sossusvlei visit
When it comes to where to sleep during your Sossusvlei visit, the key choice is wheter sleeping inside or outside the national park.
The key advantage of sleeping inside the park is that you are not restricted by the gate opening and closing times to visit the park. This means you can also commence your visit before the gate opens. However, while this might sound a super advantage it is actually not so big. In fact, the gate opens anyway before the sun rises and starting a visit before that moment would anyway mean starting in the dark. However, if your photographic objective is to capture Deadvlei at sunrise then it is definitively recommended to sleep inside the park.
At the same time, apart from Le Mirage, the overall level of the camps and lodges inside the park is not great. Inside the park you could sleep at:
- Sesriem Campsite – only if you have a tent. This is managed by NWR (the Namibian Government) and it is not the best you can have.
- Le Mirage – quite expensive but surely the best you can find inside the park and overall quite far from Deadvlei anyhow.
- Sossus Dune Lodge – I honestly did not have time to go checking the quality of this one but based on what I learnt should be average.
Outside the park you could sleep at:
- Desert Quiver Camp – our recommended choice
- Sossusvlei Lodge – the closes to the gate entrance, however it is a little bit too modern for our tastes. It is very good quality but lacks a bit of authenticity.
- Sossus Oasis Camp Site – only if you have a tent – it is a quite nice and well organized camp site just outside of the park.
DESERT QUIVER CAMP
Desert Quiver Camp is simply amazing. The rooms and the infrastructure are very new and extremely comfortable. It is located just few meters away – outside – of the Sossusvlei national park. When you sleep at Quiver Camp you really have the feeling to sleep into incontaminated nature – although you will have all comforts around you. Each room is equipped with outside kitchen and the barbecue that are amazing to spend the evening dining under the stars. The Camp has also a swimming pool close to the main reception area where you can also enjoy free wi-fi. Close to the pool there is a bar which serves refreshing drinks for both your time at the pool but also for the dinner (in case you want beer or coke). Although not being located inside the national park i truly believe this is the best choice for a wonderful stay when visiting Sossusvlei.