When you’re out of ideas to travel the world, check this out. I have gathered 12 route ideas that will surely make for some kick-ass adventures!
1. Cairo to Cape
A difficult and slow overland route using public transport, yet surprisingly popular among long-term travellers. Cairo to Cape follows a somewhat arbitrary path from Egypt to South Africa (or vice versa), spanning a minimum of eight countries over 10,000 kilometres.
The idea of the route originates from the 19th century, during which attempts were made to build a rail network following the Cape to Cairo red line of British colonies. That was never completed though, neither was a Pan-African highway following a somewhat similar path.
I met several travellers who travelled from Cairo to Cape Town. Most decided the exact route as they went, with occasional detours to for example Uganda, Malawi or Namibia. Travelling this route would ideally take between 4-6 months.
2. Pan-American Highway
Arguably the most popular overland route in the world, the Pan-American Highway offers a 30,000-kilometre road trip down the western side of the American continents. It starts in Prudhoe Bay in north Alaska and through the unofficial route ends 12 countries later in Ushuaia, Argentina.
Often wrongly claimed to be ‘just a road’, in fact the Pan-American is a network of roads. Rather incomplete and not entirely connected, it’s rather the idea of Pan-Americanism that attracts.
If you drive the shortest route possible the length is about 25,000 kilometres. Petrol costs for an average car, assuming $1 per litre and 15L/100km, will turn out at $3,750. The best approach to make this route a real adventure is to venture out as much as you can, for example by adding extra countries like Belize, Bolivia and Paraguay. Also you can consider to travel exclusively by public transport. Reserve almost a year to do it all.
3. The Stans
Welcome to the (former) visa jungle! Once notorious for its bureaucracy and corruption, the Stans are five states in Central Asia, a forgotten corner of the world. Still not too popular among the general crowd, but for many adventure travellers and cyclists Central Asia is an absolute top destination.
Planning a trip around Central Asia is challenging, especially when adding the two additional ‘stans’ (which almost no one ever does!): Pakistan and Afghanistan. To make sense of it all, a great source of information can be found at Caravanistan – The Silk Road Travel Guide. Luckily over recent years the general visa situation has improved a lot. Countries are now slowly opening up, offering several possibilities to apply for visas online and/or get them on arrival.
The best way to travel the Stans, in my opinion, is to start in Kyrgyzstan. It’s the most open to foreign visitors, with a visa free regime to most nationals and the perfect place to arrange the other necessary documents. Visiting Central Asia is best during spring time. I would suggest to stay between 1-3 months in the region. If you are on a holiday, just fly to Kyrgyzstan and try to visit one country extra.
4. UK to PNG
I have come across a whole range of Brits inventing routes originating in their home country. The most common ones are London to Sydney, London to Beijing and London to Cape Town. Yet there is another one, which is perhaps the most adventurous of all: UK to PNG. PNG? Yes, Papua New Guinea. Notorious for its head hunting tribes, it’s one of the most remote countries in the world.
Adventurer Will Hatton decided to take two to four years to complete this overland journey by not using any flights. Have a look at his website to check it all out, highly recommended!
5. Longest Overland Route in a Straight Line
Meet the mother of all overland routes. In an earlier article I explored the possibility to travel the world along the longest overland route in a straight line. Running from Liberia to China without crossing any ocean or any major water bodies, it spans 18 countries and territories at a length of 13,589 kilometres.
According to my knowledge no one has ever attempted to travel this route. I identified several obstacles mostly related to safety to argue that at the moment it’s not possible to complete this challenge. Perhaps one day, when the wars and conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq end, you could be the first to give it a try!
6. Soviet bus stops
Travelling 29,000 miles across 14 countries to photograph 150 Soviet bus stops. It took Christopher Herwig twelve years, after which he published a book about it.
From the shores of the Black Sea to the endless Kazakh steppe, Christoph travelled by car, bus, bike and taxi to hunt them down. He called it to be ‘really fun’ and it enabled him to look at history in another way.
I am not sure about the exact routes he travelled, but I reckon it’s possible to do it all in one trip. Your biggest challenge would be to get the visas for Belarus, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
7. North Cape to Punta de Tarifa
Travelling Europe from the extreme north to the extreme south, all by road. The North Cape is the northernmost point to be reachable by the European road network and lies in Norway. Its counterpart, Punta de Tarifa, is situated in Spain.
Do it by bike or by hitchhiking when days are still long. Expect more than 2 months for the first option, but just a summer to go by the thumb. What a way to spend your holiday!
8. Around 7 continents
If all that cycling in Europe isn’t enough for you, have a look at South African cyclist De Bruyn. Over the course of five years, De Bruyn Joubert is attempting to cycle coast to coast through all seven continents and 70 countries. Two-and-a-half years later he already finished Australia, Europe, Asia and North America. The map above shows those countries already visited and his plans for South America and Africa.
Such a challenge doesn’t come cheap. De Bruyn originally budgeted $15,000 per year and after numerous of repairs on his first bicycle he decided to replace it with brand new one. I am confident though that he will finish this epic challenge. Follow his adventures on Facebook, and live track his exact route here.
9. The Equator
Circling the world in a straight line seems like a plausible route. Living proof is Simon Reeve, who in a BBC series travelled the equator. It did pose ‘unique challenges’ as nothing went according to plan. Due to an Ebola outbreak he was not able to enter the Republic of Congo. Also Somalia was off limits as conflicts kept worsening.
To travel this route, expect some difficulties finding direct flights to those countries in Africa. The best connections between Brazil and Africa are with Ethiopian airways. A bonus: this way you can also tackle the problem of visiting war-torn Somalia. Just go from Ethiopia to Somaliland, which is officially still part of Somalia and much safer to visit.
10. The world’s 10 least visited countries
Let’s get original and really avoid the tourist hordes. Why not visit the countries at the wrong end of the visitors list? This way you will surely be on your own!
Above you can find the 10 least visited countries in the world. Only few people in the world ever visited all of them, with one example being Norwegian globetrotter Gunnar Garfors.
In terms of the route, no easy solutions exist. Fly to Australia, catch a flight to Fiji and move on from there could be an option. Visas for South-Sudan and Turkmenistan are hard to get by. Consider applying for transit visas like most people do. Visit Somaliland to stay safe, don’t try Mogadishu.
11. Countries that don’t exist
There is a whole secret and fascinating world out there of countries that don’t officially exist. Lacking diplomatic recognition or UN membership, these unrecognised countries often lie on the margins of legitimacy. Having been in various ones myself, I can safely say that visiting (partially) unrecognised states is one of the most fascinating things you can do as a traveller.
Some examples of troubled states:
- Kosovo – a disputed territory and only partially recognised state in the Balkans
- Transnistria – a frozen-conflict Soviet separatist breakaway state of Moldova not recognised by any country in the world
- Christiania – a self-proclaimed micronation in the heart of Copenhagen
- Barotseland – an African kingdom with 3.5 million inhabitants seeking to leave Zambia
In a 5-part BBC travel documentary Simon Reeve visited Somaliland (i.e. Somalia), Transnistria (i.e. Moldova), Taiwan (i.e. Republic of China), South Ossetia and Abkhazia (i.e. Georgia) and Nagorno-Karabakh (Armenia/Azerbaijan). I highly recommend to watch his series (find episode 1 here).
READ MORE: Transnistria – Trans…what???
If you want to visit Abkhazia, best is to go from Russia. I never managed to get in from the Georgian side (despite having permits). There are very mixed experiences though, check the comments in this article for the latest. Think twice before visiting the Republics of Luhansk and Donetsk. In Transnistria watch out for the KGB, I almost faced accusations of being a spy.
12. All countries and territories in the world
If visiting all countries in the world just isn’t enough for you, why not try to visit all 325 countries and territories in the world? The Travelers’ Century Club lists just 21 people who have ever reached this epic milestone.
READ MORE: Start counting countries like a pro with this awesome Excel spreadsheet
Still in the race is Henrik, a 27-year old Dane who aims to become the club’s youngest member to ever receive the revolving crystal globe. Go check out his website to see how airlines sponsor his trips all around the world, often while staying in luxury hotels for free!
Why not use travel to get yourself listed by Guinness World Records?
- Celebrate the longest birthday in the world by travelling across time zones (current record: 46 hours)
- Visit the most countries within 24 hours (current record: 19 countries)
- Most continents visited in one calendar day (current record: 5 continents)
- The longest road trip (current record: 708,050 km, still on-going!)
There are undoubtedly more great ideas you can think of to travel the world. Feel free to add yours in the comments below!
The maps in this article were created with Photoshop, using the awesome and free custom map generator by Minas Giannekas as a starting point.