5 Classic Overland Journeys

Overlanding is a style of adventure travel that tends to put the emphasis of the trip on the journey, rather than the destination. This type of travel usually takes place in a motorized vehicle such as a 4x4 or a train, and often involves visiting remote places that are far off the regular tourist track. Because it has a self-reliant aspect to it, overlanding has grown in popularity in recent years, particularly amongst the more adventurous crowd. There is something romantic about hitting the road, traveling at your own pace, and discovering your own magical experiences along the way.

With that in mind, here are five classic overlanding routes that should be on just about anyone's bucket list. 

  • 01 of 05

    Australia: Melbourne to Darwin

    Australian Outback
    ••• Overland across the Australian Outback. Kraig Becker

    Overlanding can trace its roots back to Australia, which is where the term and style of travel first originated. That massive country has a number of great overland routes to explore of course, with most going through the vast, remote, and wild Outback along the way. One of the most popular trips is a drive from Melbourne in the south to Darwin in the north, passing through the famed "Red Center" in the process. Highlights include a visit to the sacred site of Uluru and Kakadu National Park.

    If done right, with plenty of stops in scenic places, this trip will take about three weeks to complete, covering approximately 2300 miles in the process.  

  • 02 of 05

    The Silk Road: Kashgar to Istanbul

    Central Asia
    ••• The open steppe of Central Asia. Kraig Becker

     The historic Silk Road was once an important trading route that linked Asia and Europe, stopping in numerous cities and outposts along the way. At its height, the Road stretched for more than 4000 miles, passing through China, Central Asia, Turkey, and into the heart of Europe itself. Today, it is still possible to follow this ancient path and it makes for quite a cultural and historical journey. 

    Start in Kashgar, the westernmost city in China, and travel by car and/or train across Kyrgyzstan,Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, and Turkey to reach Istanbul, one of the traditional main market places for the Silk Road. Culturally and historically, this is a tough trip to top. 

  • 03 of 05

    Across Africa: Cairo to Cape Town

    Overland across Africa
    ••• Cairo to Cape Town: Overland Across Africa. Kraig Becker

     One of the more classic overland routes begins in Cairo, Egypt and ends in Cape Town, South Africa. This journey covers some 6250 miles, crossing through the very wild heart of Africa in the process. Most travelers head south through Egypt, then cross over the border into Sudan, turn east to Ethiopia, and continue south to Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and finally South Africa. Along the way they can experience Africa's spectacular wildlife, interact with villagers who continue to live much the way they have for centuries, and experience an adventure unlike any other. 

    How long you take completing the route is entirely up to you, but considering the state of the roads and the sometimes challenging terrain, this is a trip that could take weeks, if not months to finish.

  • 04 of 05

    Trans-Siberian Railway: Moscow to Vladivostok

    Trans Siberian Railway
    ••• The Trans-Siberian Railway is overlanding by train. Public Domain

    One of the longest overland journeys an adventure traveler can make isn't by car at all. Instead, take the famed Trans-Siberian Railway from Moscow to Vladivostok in Siberia, passing through remote Russia, Mongolia, and China along the way. 

    The train makes numerous stops while en route, but still manages to cover the entire 6152-mile journey in just 7 days. Want to stretch it out longer? Why not hop off at a destination that peaks your interest, spend a few days, then hit the road again. After all, one of the joys of overlanding is traveling at your own pace, and that includes traveling by train. 

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    The Pan-American Highway

    Cotopaxi in Ecuador
    ••• The Pan-American Highway stretches the length of two continents. Kraig Becker

     For the truly adventurous, the Pan-American Highway is possibly the Holy Grail of overlanding. Stretching for more than 30,000 miles, the road begins in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska and ends in Ushuaia, Argentina, crossing through nearly the entire lengths of both North and South America in the process. The road, which is actually a network of different routes, serves more than 20 countries, and is considered the longest "motorable" road in the world. 

    There is one break in the route however. The legendary Darién Gap along the border of Panama and Columbia is nearly impassable, even with a 4x4. Most travelers avoid it and take a ferry around instead, skipping about 60 miles of road. If you have the nerve however, the Gap is one of the last truly unexplored and wild places on Earth. Be warned however, it consists of incredibly thick jungles that is populated by wild animals, disease carrying insects, gun runners, and drug smugglers. In other words, not the nicest place for tourists.