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11 Inspirational Overland Routes for Your Bucket List

There is something to be said about the sense of freedom and adventure that a good, old-fashioned road trip provides. Far too often these days, we pick a place to visit, arrange a place to stay, buy airfare and fly there. Yeah, flying around is quick and sometimes convenient, but we sometimes miss the “in-between” when flying from point A to point B. Small towns or villages, grand vistas, wonderful stories, and more are to be had when hitting the open road. With that in mind, we have updated our “famous” infographic showing the best overland routes around the world in hope of inspiring more travelers to take that once-in-a-lifetime, epic overland adventure.

An infographic showing 11 of the most famous overland routes from around the world. MCWTravel.com

Route 66

Route 66 is a historic highway in the United States that was established in 1926. It was one of the first highways to connect the east and west coasts of the country, stretching over 2,400 miles from Chicago, Illinois to Santa Monica, California. The highway was a symbol of the American spirit, offering a sense of adventure and freedom to travelers as they made their way across the country.

Route 66 was a major thoroughfare for those looking to escape the Dust Bowl of the Great Plains in the 1930s, as well as soldiers returning home after World War II. It was also a popular road trip destination for families during the 1950s and 60s. The highway was eventually replaced by more modern highways and was officially decommissioned in 1985.

Today, Route 66 is remembered as a nostalgic and romantic symbol of Americana. Many of the roadside attractions and restaurants that once flourished along the highway still stand, and the road itself is a popular tourist destination for those looking to experience the history and charm of the old road.

Driving the length of Route 66 is a popular road trip for those looking to explore the American heartland and experience the classic American road trip. The route takes drivers through small towns, rolling hills, and iconic American landscapes, providing a unique and intimate look at the country’s history, culture, and spirit. Whether you’re a history buff, a road trip enthusiast, or just looking for a fun and unique travel experience, Route 66 is definitely worth a visit.

Trans-Canada Highway

The Trans-Canada Highway is the world’s second-longest national highway and the longest in Canada, stretching over 7,821 km (4,860 miles) from Victoria, British Columbia to St. John’s, Newfoundland, and Labrador. It is the primary highway that connects all ten provinces of Canada, making it a major transportation route for commerce, tourism, and travel.

Constructed in the 1950s, the Trans-Canada Highway is a vital piece of infrastructure that connects the country from coast to coast. It passes through some of Canada’s most stunning natural landscapes, including the Rocky Mountains, prairies, and the Atlantic coast. The highway provides scenic views of rivers, lakes, and forests, and offers a unique opportunity for travelers to experience the diversity of Canada’s geography.

Along the highway, there are many historic sites, national parks, and cultural attractions, including Jasper National Park, Banff National Park, the Confederation Bridge, and the French-speaking province of Quebec. There are also numerous small towns and cities that offer travelers a chance to experience local culture and history.

For travelers looking to experience the beauty and diversity of Canada, the Trans-Canada Highway is an essential destination. With its stunning landscapes, historic sites, and cultural attractions, it is a must-visit for anyone who loves to explore new places and experience new things.

Pan-American Highway

The Pan-American Highway is a vast network of roads that spans the entire length of the American continents, from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, in the north to Ushuaia, Argentina, in the south. It is considered to be the longest “motorable road” in the world, stretching for about 19,000 miles.

The highway passes through diverse landscapes and regions, from the Arctic tundra of Canada and Alaska, through the deserts and mountains of the western United States, Mexico, and Central America, and down to the tropical jungles of South America.

However, despite its length, the highway is not a continuous road and there is an approximately 100-mile (160 km) gap known as the “Darien Gap” that separates Panama and Colombia. This section is impassable due to dense jungles, swamps, and rivers, and travelers must take a ferry or a plane to cross this section.

The Pan-American Highway offers a unique opportunity for travelers to experience the rich diversity of the Americas and explore some of the most remote and beautiful regions of the world.

Gringo Trail

The Gringo Trail is a term used to describe the popular tourist route taken by travelers from North America and Europe through several countries in South America. The route typically starts in Mexico and goes through Central America, ending in South America, typically in either Ecuador or Peru.

The Gringo Trail is known for its scenic beauty, cultural diversity, and unique travel experiences. It offers visitors the opportunity to explore diverse landscapes, from the pristine beaches of Central America to the majestic Andes Mountains in South America. The route is also known for its vibrant culture, including ancient ruins, colonial cities, and vibrant local markets.

The Gringo Trail is a popular destination for backpackers and budget travelers who are seeking adventure, cultural immersion, and a chance to experience the beauty and diversity of South America.

Trans-Siberian Railway

The Trans-Siberian Railway is a legendary network of railways that spans across Russia, connecting Moscow with the Russian Far East and the Sea of Japan. It covers a distance of over 9,000 km, making it the longest railway line in the world. The railway was built between 1891 and 1916 and has since become an iconic symbol of Russia and its history.

The Trans-Siberian Railway is not just a mode of transportation, it is also a cultural and historical experience that attracts many travelers from all over the world. The journey offers a glimpse into the vast, stunning landscapes of Russia, including rolling hills, pristine lakes, dense forests, and majestic mountains. The railway passes through several important cities and towns along the way, including Kazan, Yekaterinburg, and Irkutsk, each with its own unique cultural and historical heritage.

Many travelers opt for the Trans-Siberian Railway as a way to experience the country’s vastness and diversity, from the bustling cities of Moscow and Vladivostok to the remote, rugged landscapes of Siberia. The railway offers several classes of service, ranging from basic, hard-seater cars to luxury compartments with private bathrooms and comfortable beds.

The Trans-Siberian Railway is a journey of a lifetime, and a must-visit for anyone looking to explore Russia’s history, culture, and natural beauty. With careful planning and preparation, travelers can embark on a journey that they will never forget.

Gibraltar – North Cape

The Gibraltar-North Cape route is a long-distance travel itinerary that covers over 11,000 km (6,800 miles) and takes travelers through Europe, starting from the southern tip of Gibraltar, a British Overseas Territory located at the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula in southern Europe, to the northernmost point of mainland Europe, the North Cape in Norway.

This journey takes travelers through many countries, including Spain, France, Germany, Poland, and the Nordic countries, giving them the opportunity to experience the rich cultural, historical, and natural heritage of Europe.

The Gibraltar-North Cape route is popular among road-trippers, motorhome enthusiasts, and long-distance cyclists and is considered one of the most scenic and diverse drives in the world.

The Hippie Trail

The Hippie Trail was a popular overland route for young Western travelers, mostly from the 1960s to the late 1970s. The trail started in Europe and went through Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, and Southeast Asia, before ending in either Australia or New Zealand.

It was a low-cost and low-tech way of travel that allowed young travelers to experience different cultures and lifestyles, as well as meet fellow travelers from around the world. Many of them would stay in cheap hostels, take local transportation such as buses, trains, and trucks, and immerse themselves in local communities along the way. The trail was not just about the journey, but also the cultural exchange and exploration that took place.

The hippie movement, with its focus on peace, love, and freedom, had a significant influence on the route and the experiences of those who traveled it. Today, while much of the route has changed, parts of it are still well-traveled and provide opportunities for adventure and cultural exchange.

Banana Pancake Trail

The Banana Pancake Trail is a popular backpacker route that spans several Southeast Asian countries including Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Indonesia. The trail gets its name from the ubiquitous street food dish, banana pancakes, which is a staple food for budget travelers. The route is renowned for its lush scenery, beautiful beaches, cultural diversity, and rich history, making it an attractive destination for adventurous travelers.

Backpackers typically start their journey in either Bangkok or Hanoi and work their way through the countries, often by using local buses, trains, or boats. Some of the most popular destinations along the trail include the backpacker hub of Chiang Mai in Thailand, the ancient city of Luang Prabang in Laos, the picturesque Halong Bay in Vietnam, and the iconic Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

Apart from exploring the cultural and natural attractions of the region, backpackers also enjoy a range of activities such as yoga and meditation, scuba diving, and trekking. The Banana Pancake Trail is not just a physical journey, but also an opportunity for travelers to experience new cultures, meet new people, and embrace a more laid-back lifestyle.

The Banana Pancake Trail remains one of the most popular backpacking routes in the world and is a must-visit for those seeking adventure and a true taste of Southeast Asian culture.

Trans-Sahara Highway

The Trans-Saharan Highway is a network of roads that runs through the Sahara Desert in North Africa, connecting several countries including Senegal, Mali, Niger, Chad, and Sudan. It is approximately 7,000 km long and is considered one of the most challenging and difficult roadways in the world due to its harsh climate, lack of infrastructure, and difficult terrain.

The highway is considered a crucial trade route for the region, connecting West Africa with North Africa, and providing access to the Mediterranean coast. Despite its difficulties, the Trans-Saharan Highway remains a popular destination for adventure-seekers, overlanders, and travelers who are looking for an authentic and unique travel experience.

Cairo – Cape Town Highway

The Cairo-Cape Town Highway is a road route that spans over 10,000 km, connecting the two cities of Cairo in Egypt and Cape Town in South Africa. It passes through several African countries including Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania. The route offers a unique opportunity for travelers to experience the diverse landscapes, cultures, and wildlife of Africa.

The road is mostly paved, but some sections can be rough and remote, requiring a 4-wheel drive vehicle and adequate preparation. The journey is popular among adventure travelers and can take several weeks to complete. Some highlights of the route include the pyramids in Cairo, the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, and the famous Table Mountain in Cape Town. Travelers should be aware of the potential safety and security risks associated with road travel in some parts of Africa and plan accordingly.

Highway 1 Australia

Highway 1 is a national highway in Australia that encircles the country and is approximately 14,500 km long. It is the longest national highway in the world and connects all of Australia’s major cities, including Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, and Brisbane. The highway passes through various landscapes, including coastal areas, mountain ranges, and rural farmland.

It is a popular road trip destination for travelers who want to experience the diverse beauty of Australia and visit attractions such as the Great Ocean Road, the Nullarbor Plain, and the Snowy Mountains. Additionally, Highway 1 also provides access to national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, and other natural wonders along the way.

Do you have a favorite overland route? Let us know in the comments below!

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