Many of these epic and cultural routes have shaped the world as we know it. Whether you’re exploring the ghost towns of Route 66 or rolling along the tracks from Russia to China on the Trans-Siberian Express, embark on one of the world’s most interesting journeys for the overland adventure of a lifetime.
1. Find out what happened to Route 66
In the history of the United States, no road symbolises the American dream quite like Route 66. In the 1920s, entrepreneurs Cyrus Avery and John Woodruff envisioned a highway that would connect America from the east to the west socially and economically. The highway would create opportunities for industry and business, as well as connect small rural and urban towns to a major road.
Route 66, also known as the Mother Road and the Main Street of America, spanned 3940 kilometres (2448 miles) from Chicago to Los Angeles and passed through eight states and three different time zones. Even though the 1950s were a prime time for this famous route, as Americans bought up cars and hit the road dreaming of an adventure, in 1956, the Interstate Highway Act was signed, marking the beginning of Route 66’s decline as other more direct routes were built by planners. By the mid-1980s, Route 66 was decommissioned, and even as the locally run outlets along the famous road began to disappear, the legend of the highway persisted.
Over the decades, American novels, films, songs and other popular culture have added to this historic highway’s legend. Portions of what’s left of America’s Mother Road through Illinois, Missouri, New Mexico, and Arizona are acknowledged as the Historic Route 66 by National Scenic Byway, allowing for it to be returned to some maps and live on.
Today, you can drive through most of the original route and learn about what happened to it. Discover the tiny towns, motels and attractions scattered along the way, many of them frozen in time, as though they were waiting for someone to wake them again.
2. Discover the modern Hippie Trail
Once upon a time, before conflict threw the Middle East and parts of South Asia into turmoil, the voyagers who shaped so much of modern tourism, travelled across the region from the west to the east in a bid to enlighten themselves, immerse in cultures, score some marijuana and have a good time!
The Hippie Trail is a famous overland adventure from the mid-1950s to 1970s where spirited individuals took the cheapest forms of transportation across Europe and Asia. They would hop on board buses and trains or hitchhike from London or Amsterdam and head off for destinations like Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal.
During its heyday from the 1950s-1970s, important hubs along the Hippie Trail would have hotels and restaurants crammed with visitors from other parts of the world revelling in the lifestyle associated with this journey, spirituality and a good time. It was seen as an alternative form of tourism and allowed travellers to connect with locals instead of just sightseeing.
In the 1970s, political tension and security issues led to a decline of the route. It may not be possible to travel the entire 5500-kilometre (3420-mile) Hippie Trail today, but there’s been somewhat of a revival of certain parts of the route, there are some commercial trips through Europe and Asia which bypass conflict zones. Many iconic spots from the Hippie Trail are still around today, for example, Yener’s Café or Istanbul’s Pudding Shop, Amir Kabir Hotel in Tehran, and Freak Street in Kathmandu.
3. Drive the Silk Road
To say the Silk Route is woven into the fabric of our world would be an understatement, this complex network of highways and roads, of at least 6437 kilometres (4000 miles) spans across more than 40 countries. Its namesake comes from traders who would carry Chinese silk along with other goods across seemingly countless roads that make up the Silk Route.
Its role in the development of our world is immeasurable, historically, socially and culturally, the Silk Route is, without a doubt, one of the most incredible and interesting journeys any modern day explorer can go on.