When the first motor vehicles rolled off the production line in 1908, they ushered in a new era of freedom and exploration for the masses, a new type of adventure: the road trip. Since then, cars and vans have become synonymous with living life on your own terms, breaking down barriers that previously prevented many people from seeing some of the most incredible sights in the world.
And still today, there are few better ways to explore the world than with the independence that four wheels can offer. You can cover huge distances, carry enough supplies for weeks, and with a suitable van, have a home on wheels that you can live in for years.
But although roads exist in some form in just about every country, if you’re planning on doing an overland trip, you need a rugged vehicle. Not only must it deal with poorly surfaced roads and not leave you stranded in the middle of nowhere, but it will also give you the ability to leave the beaten track and explore even more of the world.
That’s why we’ve teamed up with Wildworx to bring you 5 of the best adventurous road trips in the world. And if you’re thinking Route 66, think again. These are truly epic, off-grid adventures that will take you to some of the most remote parts of the world, which is why a vehicle such as Wildworx’s Swamper VW Transporter conversion is perfect. You can find out more about Wildworx and the Swamper at the end of the list, but first, let’s take a look at five of the most adventurous road trips in the world.
1: The Pan-American Highway
Where is it? The length of the Americas
What’s the distance? 19,000 miles
How long will it take me? 6-24 months
Let’s jump right in with the grand-daddy of inter-continental roads, the Pan-American Highway. Running from the top of Alaska to the most southerly tip of Argentina, this multi-continent spanning route is the trip of a lifetime.
The idea of linking the Americas by road first emerged in the 1920s, and the history of the road is a fascinating mix of global politics, private enterprise, domestic policy, military planning, and ideology, which is all the more reason to travel it.
Starting from the northern terminus in Prudhoe Bay, Alsaka, leave the land of polar bears behind and travel down through the spectacular, vast mountain ranges of western Canada before you reach the USA.
While there’s no officially designated route through the States, this means you can choose your own path, whether that’s exploring the Redwood forests and beaches of the West Coast or taking a trip down through the wild west and the stunning Rocky Mountains.
Either way, the official start begins in Laredo, Mexico and continues through cowboy country down to Mexico City, beginning a chain of capital cities that will take you on a journey of discovery through the hugely diverse cultures of the Americas.
There is, of course, one hitch: the impenetrable Darien Gap, a dense stretch of mountainous jungle, which was deemed too difficult and environmentally damaging to build, as well as detrimental to the local indigenous populations. This means your vehicle must be shipped by either air or sea across to Colombia, where the route picks up again.
The South American section of the highway travels along the western seaboard of the continent, exploring the vibrant cities of Medellin, Quito, and Lima before splitting off and heading east across Argentina to Buenos Aires. The final leg travels south through the breath-taking glacial scenery of Patagonia, all the way to the end of the world at Ushuaia, the world’s most southerly city.
It’s a truly epic trip, and not for the faint of heart, but the sights, experiences, and memories you’ll create are those you’ll keep for life.
2: The Karakoram Highway
Where is it? Pakistan-China
What’s the distance? 810 miles
How long will it take? Best driven in 7-14 days
Completed in 1978, the Karakoram Highway extends from northern Pakistan into western China, connecting the two countries across the greatest mountain range in the world – the Himalayas.
This epic road took 16 years to build and over 1,000 workers lost their lives during the construction of it, mainly due to landslides that occurred while constructing the highway along some of the highest mountains in the world.
As a result, it’s one of the world’s highest paved roads, with roads that reach the height of Mont Blanc (over 4,800m).
If you want to drive the Karakoram Highway, it’s highly recommended to travel during the shoulder seasons, as winter sees freezing temperatures and heavy snowfall, while summer brings monsoons and a high risk of landslides and floods.
For this reason, a rugged vehicle is recommended at any time of year – a converted campervan such as the Wildworx Swamper is the perfect tool for the job.
While this road may seem dangerous, it sees plenty of traffic, and by the time you reach the end of the highway (where it joins the ancient route of the Silk Road), you’ll have travelled through some of the most epic scenery you can drive through anywhere in the world, and discovered a melting pot of culture and history.
3: The Big Lap
Where is it? A circumnavigation of the Australian continent
What’s the distance? At least 9,000 miles
How long will it take me? 12-plus months
Australia is unlike anywhere else in the world with its unique combination of developed infrastructure and wild, untamed land, and it’s the perfect place to get your adventure kicks whichever way you want. With wild tropical jungles, vast red deserts, epic gorges, stunning mountain ranges, and white beaches as far as the eye can see, it’s a classic road trip destination for a reason.
Highway 1 is the national route that circumnavigates the island, linking all mainland state capitals in what is the longest national highway in the world. But to get the complete Australian experience, you’ll want to venture off the highway and explore the untouched jungle in Far North Queensland, the ancient land of Kakadu, and the arid expanse of the Red Centre.
But because you’ll be entering a land where roads are scarce and fuel scarcer, you’ll want a vehicle capable of sustaining you off-grid for days at a time. A quality solar panel and leisure battery setup, like that found in the Wildworx Swamper, is worth its weight in gold out here (which, if you’re lucky, you could find on your journeys). Come prepared and enjoy the freedom of the open road.
Best of all, if you time it right, you can enjoy perpetual summer as you travel around in glorious sunshine and make the most of the pristine beaches along the way.
4: Ruta 40
Where is it? Western Argentina
What’s the distance? 3,100 miles
How long will it take me? 2-4 weeks
Argentina is the second-largest country in South America after Brazil, and this legendary route is one of the best ways to experience it. Known in Argentina as ‘La Cuarenta’, or the Forty, the highway crosses 20 national parks, 18 major rivers, and 27 passes in the Andes, topping out at an elevation of around 5,000 metres.
The road is deeply ingrained in the national conscience, and by driving it, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of the fascinating history and mix of cultures that makes up modern day Argentina.
Along the way, you’ll also discover just how diverse Argentina’s landscape is, with incredible sights such as volcanic lava fields, crystalline salt flats, pristine woodland, turquoise lakes, and truly epic glaciers around every corner.
While the roads are mostly paved nowadays, there’s still many gravel roads, along with plenty of opportunities to leave the highway and explore the backcountry (providing you’ve got the right vehicle).
So, a rugged overlanding van is the perfect choice to explore the Ruta 40, allowing you to explore the remote roads of Argentina and camp underneath the star-filled sky with only the mountains for company.
5: Wild Atlantic Way
Where is it? Ireland
How long is it? 1,600 miles
How long will it take me? 1-3 weeks
Winding its way along the Irish west coast, the Wild Atlantic Way combines dramatic, bleak coastline with gorgeous green rolling hills, picturesque villages, and sapphire bays. One of the great coastal road trips in the world, you’ll discover Ireland at its best: the merry sound of folk music inside a cosy pub, incredible seafood, quirky villages, and a windswept landscape that’s constantly being carved by the full force of the Atlantic.
Driving the Wild Atlantic Way, you’ll experience a country that’s at once both fiercely wild and wildly welcoming. While the landscape and weather is sometimes unforgiving, the people are anything but, and you’ll experience the full warmth of Irish hospitality.
Best of all, it’s only a short ferry ride away from the UK, so you can easily take your van and make Ireland your home as you explore the beauty and magic of the Emerald Isle.
Hit the road with the right overland vehicle
So, if you’re itching to hit the road now and need the right vehicle to do it, we’d suggest a Wildworx VW Swamper conversion. By taking a Volkswagen Transporter and turning it into a rugged overlander, it’s capable of taking you on journeys across the globe.
With everything you need to live off-grid, including an excellent high-voltage battery and solar power system, extra ground clearance, storage, and all-terrain capability, they’re the perfect choice if you want to move your home on wheels and explore the world.
To find out more about what goes into making the ultimate off-grid overland vehicle, head over to Wildworx website here.