Sossusvlei to Swakopmund: a drive through the Namibian desert

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The drive from Sossusvlei to Swakopmund is a unique route which meanders through the Namib desert. The highlights of the drive include the burnt red dunes of Sossusvlei, crossing through the Tropic of Capricorn, apple pies in the tiny settlement of Solitaire, the moon like landscape of the Namib-Naukluft National Park, the flamingo filled lagoon of Walvis Bay and the coastal town of Swakopmund. We loved our drive through the Namibian Wilderness and have put together our guide to the best stops en route from Sossusvlei to Swakopmund.

1 | Sossusvlei

Sossusvlei is the heart of the Namibian desert and is home to burnt orange sand dunes and endless desert sands synonymous with images of the country. It is home to some of the highest sand dunes in the world and, it is here, that the dunes come together to stop the flow of the Tsauchab River and create the parched conditions of  the pan. Sossusvlei is home to some of the most famous sights in Namibia and the highlights include Deadvlei and Hiddenvlei with their 900 year old camel thorn trees, Big Daddy and Dune 45 both of which dominate the landscape with their ancient sands and the pan of Sossusvlei itself, surrounded by high red sand dunes.

Where to stay in Sossusvlei: 

  • The Desert Camp is a great option just 5k from the entrance gate to Sossusvlei, the Sesriem Gate of the Nambi-Naukluft National Park – Check prices here!
  • Sossusvlei Lodge is one of the most popular lodgings and overlooks the vast Namib desert – Check prices here!

Click here for the best Sossusvlei hotels

Big Daddy Sand Dune

2 | Solitaire

A stop in the solitary desert town of Solitaire (between Sossusvlei and Walvis Bay) is a must if only to visit the old school convenience store, grab a slice of Apple Pie in Moose McGregor’s Desert Bakery and pose by the colourful car graveyard in the sand. Named Solitaire due to its remote location, the settlement started off as a single cottage in 1948.

Where to stay in Solitaire:

  • The Solitaire Desert Farm is the best option at Solitaire – Check prices here!
  • We spent the night at the Gondwana Desert Lodge to split the journey between Sossusvlei and Solitaire. The food and drinks were fantastic, the swimming pools a welcome break from the searing desert heat and the rooms comfortable – Check prices here!

Click here for the best Solitaire hotels

Posing in the car graveyard at Solitaire

3 | The Tropic of Capricorn

Passing through the Tropic of Capricorn, one of the five major circles of latitude, is another highlight of the drive an is marked by a sign on either side of the C14 road between Solitaire and Walvis Bay. The Tropic of Capricorn marks the southernmost latitude where the sun can be directly overhead and is so called because the Capricorn constellation rises above it on the summer solstice. It passes through Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, Namibia, Botswana, South Africa, Mozambique, Madagascar, Australia and French Polynesia, New Caledonia, Fiji, Tonga, the Cook Islands and Pitcairn. with the first landfall on the Sandwich Harbour in Namibia.

Passing through the Tropic of Capricorn!
Latitude poses!

4 | Namib-Naukluft National Park

The drive from Sossusvlei to Swakopmund meanders in and out of Africa’s largest conservation area, the Namib-Naukluft National Park. It encompasses desert and mountains and is Namibia’s greatest natural wonder.

The moon or Namib-Naukluft?!

5 | Walvis Bay

The waterfront town of Walvis Bay is famous for huge population of pink flamingos and pelicans which line the lagoon in the late afternoon. Dune 7, the highest sand dune in Namibia, is located on the outskirts of the towns and is well worth the challenging climb!

Where to stay in Walvis Bay:

  • We stayed in the modern Protea Pelican Bay located on the waterfront. It’s only a short walk to the Raft Restaurant which is a dining highlight – Check prices here!
  • The Flamingo Villas Boutique Hotel is two minutes walk from the beach and boasts some of the best views in Walvis Bay – Check prices here!

Click here to book the best Walvis Bay hotels

The flamingos of Walvis Bay
Giant sand dunes surround the town

6 | Swakopmund

A Namibian town with heavy German influences, Swakopmund is the largest coastal town in the country and the perfect stopover between the desert and the Skeleton Coast. The palm tree lined streets and busy seaside promenade are a world away from the isolated desert life of Sossusvlei. It’s a fun stopover and a magnet for Namibian’s on vacation making it the perfect stop to eat, drink and relax while stocking up on supplies! For a real eye-opener, check out Peter’s Antiques which sells genuine artifacts from the 19th century: politically incorrect can’t even begin to describe the German paraphernalia on the shelves.

Where to stay in Swakopmund:

  • Swakopmund has lots of accommodation options. We opted for the Strand Hotel Swakopmund and loved the hotel, its promenade location and sea views – Check prices here!
  •  The Beach Hotel Swakopmund, just one minute from the beach is also a great option – Check prices here!

Click here for the best Swakopmund hotels

The lighthouse in Swakopmund

If you are planning a trip to Namibia then check out the rest of our Namibia itinerary – click here to read more!

9 thoughts on “Sossusvlei to Swakopmund: a drive through the Namibian desert”

  1. Thank you so much for this. We are doing this drive next month and you have given some wonderful places to stop and look at along the way.

  2. Thank you so much for the desciptive travelogue. We are based at Long Beach and would like to travel to Sossuvlei. Do you think we could cover that distance in a day or does it require staying there overnight?

  3. Hi. we are planning to drive to Sossusvlei from swakopmund with a sedan car (BMW 318), are the roads conditions okay to drive with a sedan car?

    • We saw a few sedans making the journey (the smallest I saw was a Ford Fiesta) but I can guess it would be a bumpier ride. I’ve heard it’s possible as long as you take it easy and stick to the bigger roads.


  4. Hi! Great post! We’re flying into Windhoek and want to do this drive. We’re scheduling 5 days. Should we drive to Sossusvlei first and then drive up to Swakopmund and then back to Windhoek. Anything in particular we should consider with that routing – or a better route to take?

  5. Hi, we’re just starting out with our research and planning for a long awaited return trip to Southern Africa – your blogs are fabulous – a huge source of information, so thank you very much. Did you book everything yourself direct or through travel companies/tour operators?

    • Hi Tracy

      We booked everything ourselves with the exception of our trip into the Okavango Delta (we used Wilderness Safaris who were excellent). We have a ton of articles on Southern Africa (you can check out South Africa, Namibia, Botswana.. by clicking the countries – the itineraries should help with self planning!



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