Make 2015 the year of the epic journey, whether you take the Trans Siberian from Moscow to China or rumble from the top to the bottom of Africa on an overlanding adventure. These five routes are some of the most classic and most convenient, to either draw inspiration from or complete for yourself as you venture around the globe.
Trans Siberian Railway: Moscow to China
The Trans Siberian is the longest railway in the world and the collective name for the three rail routes that cross Siberia from Moscow. The routes consist of the Trans-Monglolian, which starts in Moscow and ends in China via Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia, the Trans-Manchurian which travels through Siberia to Beijing, and the Trans-Siberian itself which ends up in Vladivostok, a city in the far east of Russia. It’s pretty epic.
Along the way expect to see onion-domed churches, mud streets and gentle hills in Russia, as well as Lake Baikal, the deepest in the world. The scenery across Mongolia and the Gobi Desert is fascinating: think nomadic herdsmen, felt tents and camels. Once the train has crossed the Great Wall it heads south to China’s mightiest city, Beijing.
Be warned that popular trains can be sold out well in advance, especially in peak season. You’ll also need your passport when you pay, as all tickets are personal with your name and passport number printed on them. This is especially important if you are planning on buying tickets for others. Lots of tour companies include a trip on the Trans Siberian railway in their itinerary as well.
The Hippy Trail
Named after the journeys taken by those free-lovin’, tree-huggin’ hippies in the 1960s and 70s, this route was all about ‘finding yourself’. The trail starts in Europe and passes either through Istanbul, Tehran, Goa and Kathmandu, or Turkey via Jordan on the way to India, Sri Lanka and various other easterly points. The original trail also goes through Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, but due to ongoing conflicts in these areas, they’re obviously best avoided.
Hippies are well-known for paving the way for today’s backpackers, with most of them choosing to hitchike the majority of this trail. Nowadays there are lots of companies that will enable you to follow in their footsteps.
Overlanding Africa: Casablanca to Cape Town
Africa is an amazingly diverse continent and what better way to appreciate its diversity than travelling top to bottom? Voyaging from Casablanca to Cape Town in a huge truck, stopping at all the highlights along the way is what overlanding is all about. This African trail offers plenty of striking sights along the way: the busy markets of Marrakech, pyramids at Giza, driving for hours in the Sahara desert, voodoo festish marks in Togo, spotting mountain gorillas in Uganda, climbing Mount Cameroon, canoeing down the Okavango Delta, and surfing down the biggest sand dunes in the world in Namibia.
This amazing trip is made possible by a number of overlanding companies that will take you from the tip to the tail of Africa over a period of around seven months. You could rent a car yourself but unfortunately car hijacking is common, especially on the borders, so it is best to go with a tour company.
The Silk Road: Europe to China
The Silk Road crosses Asia, from China to Europe. Starting in the capital of Xian and ending up in Istanbul, Turkey, this trail goes through Uzbekistan, Turkemenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan before reaching China.
Highlights along the way include the Great Wall of China, the Ming Tombs, Qinghai Lake, Kyrgyzstan’s numerous mountain ranges and the ancient city of Jiaohe. If you are up for a challenge, this route could be for you.
Indian Pacific Railroad: Australia
As the name implies, the Indian Pacific railroad gives travellers two oceans on one of the world’s longest and greatest train journeys: 478km of track stretching across Australia from Perth to Sydney. The journey end-to-end takes three days, but there are plenty of interesting stop offs along the way. No sooner does the train roll out of the suburbs of Perth do you hit endless landscapes of red earth, otherwise known as the Nullarbor Plain.
To break up the hours staring at the incredible scenery, you can visit the small outback hamlet of Cook, the capital of South Australia, Adelaide, gold-rich Kalgoorlie and the stunning Blue Mountains.