The Longest Road in the World: Driving the Pan-American Highway

A scenic adventure that allows explorers to travel the longest road in the world, stretching around 15,000 miles from Alaska in North America down to Argentina in South America. This is the journey of a lifetime, not only for the overall experience but for the amount of time you will need to take out of day-to-day life to enjoy this excursion. This is nothing like Route 66 or a Safari around Africa; this is so so so different.

History Of The Route

In 1889 at the First International Conference of American States, the USA proposed closer links to its neighbours via a continent-spanning railroad. Nothing came of this to begin with; however, at the Fifth International Conference held in Chile in 1923, a Pan-American Highway was proposed. This time the idea received a more enthusiastic response from the participating nations, though it wasn’t until the sixth conference in Cuba in 1928 that the proposal was approved. This is where the PAH was devised and developed.
Creating the PAH was a slow process, with war, money and lack of governmental cooperation providing constant issues, but it’s now possible to travel the length of the Americas (more or less) by car.
Dirt road on the Pan American Highway

Route & Map 🗺️

The Pan-American Highway is a network of roads that start in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska and travel south through North America and South America until its ending point in Ushuaia, Argentina. It’s the longest road in the world because it connects two continents, north to south. Passing through 14 countries along the 15,000 miles, you are in for a real treat when looking at different sites and exploring the world.
North American destinations include; the US, Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. In the South, the Pan-American Highway passes through: Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile and Argentina. This trip is excellent for ticking off those bucket list destinations!
Despite the route being mapped out to be 15,000 miles, no adventurer sticks directly to the suggested route. Most tend to take detours and venture out to these destinations to enjoy some time to explore and enjoy the culture, location and all they have to offer. On average, most people end up driving around 30,000 miles during their Pan-American road trip. Despite the trip stating to start in Alaska, most start in Canada due to the remoteness and distance to travel for Alaska.
(See the bottom of the page for the Map itself!)
Road section of the Pan-American Highway

How Long Does It Take? ⏰ 📅

A trip across the Pan-American highway can really take as long as you have time (or money) for it. Most people that we met travelling along the Pan-American route do it anywhere from 9 months to 2 years. It all depends on your travelling style as an individual, and whether you want to stop and enjoy particular countries and their sites.

How Much Does It Cost? 💰

Just like the duration of the trip, the cost of travelling the Pan-American Highway is completely dependent on the person and their style of travel. It depends on what you want to splurge your cash on e.g. fine dining meals when travelling, the finest hotels, or tickets to every tourist site.
The biggest one-off expense of the Pan-American highway for most is shipping your car/van across the Darien Gap which can cost over $1000.

Crossing The Darien Gap 🛥️

Although the Pan-American highway is known as the longest road in the world, there is a section between Panama and Colombia that is not drivable. This section is called The Darien Gap. Visitors are not allowed to travel into this section due to political and environmental reasons. The only way to get your car across the Darien Gap is on a ship. This ship typically takes a few days to get your car across from Panama into Colombia (or vice versa) and costs anywhere from $1000 to a few thousand, depending on your car size.

Places Of Interest Along The Way 👀

Lake Atitlan, Guatemala - With breathtaking scenery, looming volcanoes, the long list of things to do, traditional culture and intriguing villages all make this a very unique place to visit. What better than to snap a shot for your memory book than a clear lake, surrounded by volcanos and the most scenic sunsets in all of Central America. You can hop on boat taxis from his dock to visit the other towns around the lake. Check out our guide to visiting Guatemala for more inspo.
Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
San Ignacio Bay, Mexico - When travelling for days on end, whether that being in a car or van, you are going to want to stretch your legs and burn some of that energy inside of you! At San Ignacio, visitors can partake in the oceanside activities of this top Mexican resort destination. Whether you want to go swimming, boating, kayaking, snorkeling, sport fishing, or scuba diving, there is something for everyone here. One top tourist attraction here, is the opportunity to go whale spotting. A large number of whales migrate here each year meaning tourists can experience a surreal and once in a lifetime experience. Plus, you can't go wrong with food in Mexico can you?
Whale Watching at San Ignacio Bay, Mexico
Whale Watching, San Ignacio bay, Mexico
Ostional Beach, Costa Rica - Known as a top surf and relax location, this beach is starting to gain some popularity due to the fact that it is a Turtle Sanctuary! For the past 60 years or so, tens of thousands of sea turtles have been coming to this 7km long beach to lay their eggs and, if you're lucky enough to be there at the right time, you can watch the babies hatch!
Turtles Laying Their Eggs, Costa Rica
Turtles Laying Their Eggs, Costa Rica
The Monarch Butterfly Migration, Michoacan State, Mexico - After migrating from Canada, to a small catholic town high up in the mountains of this Michoacan state in Mexico, tourists who are willing to take on the 2 hour hike to the village, are able to watch the flight of hundreds of beautiful butterflies. At midday when the sun is at its warmest they lift up into the sky and swirl all around you in an incredible dance. Orange wings against a bright blue sky. A ONCE in a lifetime experience!
Monarch Butterfly Migration in Michoacan State, Mexico
The Monarch Butterfly Migration, Michoacan State, Mexico
Pan-American Highway map

Starting from Skratch? Here are a Few Tips to Get you Started:

Tips For A Road Trip

💤 Get plenty of sleep before your drive. Think about exhaustion before you begin your journey, not after.
🍌 Bring healthy road trip snacks - avoid feeling sluggish.
💧Stay hydrated.
✋ Plan your rest stops.
🎼 Keep passengers entertained.

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Imogen Kemp
August 30, 2023

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