The name 'Namib' means 'Vast Dry Plain', and the Namib Desert extends along the Atlantic coast, with vast seas of towering dunes rolling inland towards gravel plains and isolated mountain ranges. This is one of the oldest and driest deserts in the world.
Windhoek, Namibia's capital, is a graceful city set on low hills; the road southwest (C26) crosses lovely countryside and desert hills. South of Solitaire on the C14 a signed road leads south to Sesriem and the Namib Dunes. These are 'dynamic' dunes - they shift and change shape, sculpted by the wind. They are made of quartz sand, and their colours also change, from cream to copper, red to violet. Some of these enormous sandhills are easily accessible, by foot or 4x4.
Sossusvlei, 60 km (37 m) deeper into the desert is the most photographed place in Namibia. It consists of a huge clay pan surrounded by massive red dunes, some as high as 300 m (975 ft). · When the Tsauchab River fills and spills into it, this briefly becomes a turquoise lake, flocked by aquatic birds. The park opens at sunrise and closes at sunset; to experience the glorious technicolour effects it is necessary to stay around Sesriem.
The road northwest towards Swakopmund, the C14, runs along the eastern edge of the dunes then through the Gaub Pass and the Kuiseb Pass, turning west to cross the Namib-Naukluft Park, an area of gravel plains and occasional hills. It reaches the coast at Walvis Bay, a busy harbour town. Swakopmund, 30 km (19 M) north, is an attractive German-colonial seaside resort, and Namibia's most popular holiday destination, with a wide range of adventure sports on offer on land and sea.
WHEN TO GO
May to October
TIME IT TAKES
Two days plus
Sossusvlei - climb one of the dunes and look down over the waves of the Sand Dune Sea.
Escape the crowds at Hidden Vlei, a low landscape surrounded by lonely dunes.
Bird watching at Walvis Bay. Huge numbers of flamingoes visit the surrounding wetlands.
YOU SHOULD KNOW
Visitors to Sossusvlei need a park entry permit.
4x4s can drive up to the Pan; other - vehicles use a car park a long, hot walk. away – take water.