In a nutshell, the best time to head to Sossusvlei, in southern Namibia, is in autumn or spring. Go for clearer skies and ideal photography conditions and the temperatures are milder both day and night.
While autumn and spring may be the best times to visit Sossusvlei, the difference between the seasons in the Namib Desert is less pronounced than in the rest of the region. The area receives almost no rainfall for a start, the days are always clear and dry and the desert scenery, wildlife and activities retain their appeal all year round.
With less dramatic seasonal changes, the decision of when to visit Sossusvlei is often settled by deciding what else you want to do in Namibia or southern Africa. If you want to combine your Sossusvlei holiday with a safari in Etosha for example, you can safely choose the best time to visit Etosha and still get the most out of your Sossusvlei holiday.
The trick to making the most of Sossusvlei regardless of season is an early morning. Rising early to get to the dunes gives you the clearest light, fewer visitors and the rest of the day to relax or enjoy other activities in the Namib like walking, nature drives, scenic sundowner outings or hot air ballooning.
If the desert has had rain the year you visit and Sossusvlei is your priority for your Namibia tour, then March and April are the best months. Even a brief spell of rain can transform the desert from a multitude of browns to a multitude of browns and greens. The result is something really spectacular.
While rain is unlikely to affect your Sossusvlei and Namib Desert experience, high temperatures in summer and hot dusty winds in winter might.
Winter in the Namib from May to August brings cool to cold nights with temperatures reaching 0°C (32°F) so if you are camping be sure to pack some warm clothes and make sure you've got a warm bed to curl up in. Days are warm, dry and clear: perfect for being outdoors.
The only potential threat to your holiday happiness in winter is the locally dreaded east wind. The prevailing wind along the Skeleton Coast brings cool air in over the cold Atlantic Ocean. But in winter, the interior occasionally becomes cooler than the coast reversing this happy state causing hot powerful winds, laden with coarse sand and dust picked up from the desert en route to the coast. The pressure system stabilises in a few days but often a few days is all you have in Sossusvlei and if you're unlucky enough to get east wind during this time, your activities will be restricted to the early morning before the wind picks up and late afternoon when it dies down again.
The east wind is unpredictable but generally arises in the dead of winter so travelling at the beginning or end of winter is recommended. And as an extra plus the nights are not quite so cold either.
Beginning with spring in September, summer in the Namib Desert and Sossusvlei is still a great time to visit. The beginning of summer, from October to November, before the inland rains arrive can get uncomfortably hot with temperatures reaching the high 30s (upwards of 95°F) often and occasionally pushing 40°C (104°F plus). The extreme heat often leads to strong gusty winds but the evenings are generally warm and still.
Late summer rain in the interior of Namibia cools the desert down a bit from December to February. The southwester picks up in the late afternoon until dark and the evenings are clear, warm and still.
Sossusvlei can lay a genuine claim to being an all-year destination. With less dramatic changes between the seasons you are going to have a similar experience no matter what time of year you travel. That makes it easier to slot Sossusvlei into your itinerary to make the most of other destinations in southern Africa.
But if Sossusvlei is to be the highlight of your Namibia tour, and for many it is, then we recommend March, April and May as the best time to visit.
We arrange all accommodation, transfers, activities and your full holiday itinerary along with add-on safaris and destinations. Whatever you want to do, we can arrange it for you at the most competitive rates and reliable travel advice. Have a look at some of our popular Sossusvlei tours or contact us right now for a free quote.