If you’ve ever had the time to overland travel, you’ll know that it’s pretty awesome. There’s something thrilling about an aimless wander in a faraway place. Rather than the express route, overland travel is about watching landscapes evolve from desert to forest. It enables you to experience towns that aren’t really destinations. You’ll eat in ramshackle restaurants and befriend people that had no hope on talking to you either. Maybe your car will breakdown or the train tracks will be blocked by a flock of sheep. But these are the very misadventures that make overland travel so fun. After a couple of packaged tours and overcrowded monuments, embarking on a big, sloppy overland travel route can offer a much-awaited, genuine adventure.
Ready for the real storybook kind of adventure? Buy a car in Australia, grab a train through Europe, or get your ass on the bus in South America to embark on journey based experience. Here are the 5 epic overland travel routes that you really ought to have.
5 Epic Overland Travel Routes
All aboard! The Trans-Mongolian or Trans-Siberian Railway
China, Mongolia, Russia | 16-20 Days
What is it about a train trip that feels so legendary? Make it a train ride aboard the world’s longest rail line through China, Mongolia, and Russia, and the coolness factor goes way up. The Trans-Siberian journey is a bizarre study of contrasts from Beijing’s urban smog to theendless Mongolian plains to the stoic city of Moscow. While the “Trans-Siberian” label is applied generally to any of the trains running in the region, most people are referring to Moscow to Beijing (or the reverse) via Mongolia or Manchuria. The Trans-Siberian route technically takes about 7-8 days non-stop, but we’d recommend 16-21 days for the best experience.
Read more about the Trans-Mongolian Railway experience (Probe Around the Globe)
Wouldn’t trade it! The Silk Road
China, Kyrgystan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Pakistan, etc. | Varies
Spanning a long list of countries between Asia and Europe, the Silk Road is a massive stretch of territory with great historical and commercial significance. Brace yourself for tremendous landscapes, impressive architecture, and a glimpse at a different way of life in some extremely remote towns. The Silk Road is historically a series of trade routes, and there isn’t just one way to go. The most common route is the southern route that includes Turkey, India, Pakistan, and Iran, but the one we’d most like to visit is between Kyrgystan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan. If you have a high tolerance for difficult visas and a fascination with places unexplored by the tourist masses, a journey along the Silk Road may be the trip for you. The journey used to take two years, but you can get from Germany to China in as little as 13 days these days!
Riding the Rails: A Eurail Journey through Europe
Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, etc. | 2 Weeks +
Perhaps the best intro to overland travel is a train journey through Europe. Eurail serves just about every country in the continent from Finland to Bulgaria. You can hardly go wrong by booking a flight into Europe and seeing where the train takes you. With regular departures and super speedy trains, train travel in Europe is often easier than flying. Along the way, you might get a sampling of Austrian Alps, French countrysides, and Serbian towns you would have otherwise skipped. Eurail Passes are available for one-country, neighboring countries, or global access. If you’re planning on moving fast, the pass is an easy way to keep moving.
Visit the Eurail site to check out train routes throughout Europe!
Getting down from Kenya to Cape Town
Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, etc. | Varies
The overland travel route between Kenya and Cape Town is about game drives, splendid nature, and local culture. Stand beneath the massive Victoria Falls and meet people from tiny Tanzanian villages. On a journey down Africa’s eastern coast, you can experience many of the continent’s highlights all in one go. Overland travel in Africa is notoriously unpredictable. The more time you have, the more you’ll enjoy it. More travel days will afford you the chance to experience unique weather patterns and hard-to-catch migrations that make Africa so fascinating. Along the way, you’ll experience sunsets you never knew expected, and witness the transition of cultures from one nation to the next on a journey of cinematic proportions.
On the road again: the Pan-American Highway
US, Canada, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Argentina, etc. | Varies
Make your way from Alaska’s frosted Prudhoe Bay to the chilly Buenos Aires on the symbolic Pan-American Highway. This route spans 48,000 km (30,000 miles), so even just driving part of it is an adventure. The journey is best made by some combination of cars, ferrys, and busses, but a solid grasp on Spanish and English a good sense of direction are recommended. You will choose your own adventure as you travel through US before getting funneled past Central America’s liveliest cities and most celebrated ruins. A ferry across the Panama Canal will carry you through South America until you wind up in beautiful Argentina. The lack of structure is what makes this one such an adventure. Pick your own schedule and stay in the places that inspire you along the way.
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