Luís Simões, travel sketcher around the world
Namibia Pt. 2 – Sossusvlei to Swakopmund
Namibia by bicycle part 2 – Sossusvlei to Swakopmund is a 6-8 day bike touring route across Namib-Naukluft National Park that takes in a variety of terrain and landscapes. The route offers a unique barren road, with its burnished orange bedrock, valleys, and a long ragging path.
One bike touring course that is a must-do in Namibia undoubtedly is Sossuvlei to Swakopmund (or vice versa). It’s a 6-8 day bike touring route across Namib-Naukluft National Park that takes in a variety of terrain and landscapes. Together with the Namibia part 1 – Windhoek to Sossusvlei, it creates a 681 km (423 miles), 10-14 days of the venture.
Namibia by Bicycles
Sossusvlei is an enchanting playground that you won’t regret visiting. The forever shift in shape and hue of the dunes. Forms and reforms their contours by the wind, while their color changes from ochre to burnished orange to fiery red over the course of the day. The constant cobalt blue sky is in contrast to the blazing tones of the sand. The centerpiece is the shriveled weird white pan of Deadvlei where skeletal trees – some hundreds of years old, dot the cracked clay floor. The scene is nothing short of otherworldly.
The route will take you from Sesriem, the gate to Sossusvlei, to Swakopmund, the second biggest town in Namibia. It’s a mixed-terrain adventure made of rough corrugated roads, a short paved section through the valley of Namib-Naukluft National Park, and smooth tared along the Atlantic Ocean that connects Walvis Bay and Swakopmund.
Water & Food
Whenever you are doing this route, it’s recommended to start the day on the first light. Not only because the heat after 10 AM is a no joke, but to immerse yourself in the wildlife. Say hi to curious Zebras, or get a chance to race with Oryxes.
After Sesriem, the only place to stock up is Solitaire before you reach Walvis Bay. This section is 280 km away of nothing. Therefore, at least, prepare yourself with 3-4 days of food at this point.
Keep in mind that you are cycling through an arid region, yet touristy. You can see the tourists as a benefit or the other way around, it’s all up to you. If you consider them as a blessing, you don’t need to worry about getting a lack of water through the course. And if you are lucky, you will get an extra boost from them.
Once you reach the first valley, you will start to climb 280 meters up in 9 km before you roll down again to the second valley. In this section and a bit further up, you will ride through the hilly row that appears to be the wave on the ocean. A group of constant ragging roads that will demand your determination.
Note that although the valley seems like a good place to stay a night, we highly recommend you avoid staying overnight. You don’t want a big cat to be your company at night. Keep pushing your bike to a higher place or stop and find a spot before you went down to the valley. However, as this area is Namib-Naukluft National Park, it’s illegal to do wild camp. There are official campsites that you can check on our map.
When you reach Vogelfederberg, means you are a day before the city! Well done! Vogelfederberg is a small facility that offers a convenient overnight camp before you arrive in Walvis Bay. During the day, this place is popular for picnics or short walks. If you are lucky, you can dip yourself into intermittent pools – filled with rainwater – on the summit.
Unlike Swakopmund that quite a touristy town, Walvis Bay is actually the area where tourist spends their time enjoying the area. Such as observing a colony of an elegant wading bird on the lagoon, going to the pink beach, riding the fat bike or sandboarding on dune 8, or even riding the 4×4 on the sandwich beach.
However, if you want to skip Walvis Bay and go straight to Swakopmund, you can turn right into D1984 after Walvis Bay Internation Airport. You will ride with a huge pile of ochre sand on the left side, Dune 7, and Swartkoppies on the right side.
Once you arrive in Swakopmund, you will understand why most of the tourists prefer to stay in this town rather than in Walvis Bay. The violent Atlantic ocean to one side, the towering dunes of the Namib to the other, the German colonial town feels like an outpost time forgot. Enjoy the comfortable fresh weather and have a break of bike touring from the hot desert sun.
How to use this map: Click the tab in the top left corner of the map to see the points of interest. You can click on the selection folders to hide or show the folders. If you click the icons on the map, you can get more information about each point of interest.
If you click the star next to the map title, the map will be added to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu button, go to “My Places”, click Maps, and you will see this map in your list.
- Sossusvlei: Salt pan
- Solitaire: A small settlement, yet an oasis for a traveler
- Namib-Naukluft National Park
- Dune 7
- Flamingo Lagoon
- Pink Lake
We did this route in September 2019 when we were doing World Sketching Tour. The route isn’t a loop route, yet it can be done perfectly in reverse way.
- Bike: The route was designed to be rideable on pretty much any bike. However, Plus tires are likely the best option. Expect to push through the sandy stretch if you have less than 2.4 inch tire.
- Logistic: Bring lots of food because there is nothing in between the town. The average distance between the town/villages usually is 150 km (93 miles). Water is important but since this route also the tourist route, you don’t need to worry. Lots of tourists will kindly share their water whenever we ask. We should point out that Namibia is a desert country and as such has very limited water resources. Try to be water conscious and conserve wherever you can. Check on the map for the places where you can stock up.
- Danger or annoyances: As it’s also a touristy route, there will be cars passing that will bring up the dust.
- Internet: Network is limited throughout most of the country. So, it’s recommended to stocked up the phone with offline maps of the route.
- When to go: Consider the season you’ll be cycling through Namibia. May to October has better temperature. Generally it’s more comfortable.
- The desert gets cold at night, where temperates can drop below freezing in the winter. Don’t let the heat during the day deceived you and think to skimp on your layers.
Wildcamp: Namibia is home for its wildlife. As mush as wild camp is fun, ask the local people to camp overnight in their property is recommended. Not only safety reason, it’s also for get the water easier.
Campsite: Usually the campsite along this route has European price. Yet, people tend to be adaptable when it comes two wheelers with the human power.
Hotel/Hostel: There are not many hostels in this route besides in Walvis Bay and Swakopmund. Hotel usually called as lodge which usually are costly.
Food: There some points where you can stock up. Sesriem, Solitaire, Walvis Bay and Swakopmund. There are a little shop in Sesriem and Solitaire with limited options.
Water: As it’s dessert, always try to refill when you can. Although, the tourists that pass by will (mostly) kindly share their water whenever you ask, keep it mind you have 4-6 liters of water before the sunset. But since Namibia is a desert country and as such has very limited water resources. Try to be water conscious and conserve wherever you can.
Luís and decided to give 8 rate for this tour. The terrain and environment are indeed demanding yet rideable most of the time. However, since there were a plenty of tourist in 4×4 and truck pass along the route, it become less stressful. Also, with the right bike, there are few technical challenges – the latter dependent on yourself (ask local, and carry extra water to allow for slow progress). As you ride in the desert, keep yourself hydrated and away from heatstroke.