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Not for the feint-hearted, our top five epic overland journeys span entire continents and traverse thousands of miles. In fact, they're so epic, that's why they have to be on your do-before-you-die list...

Trans-Siberian Railway

There’s nothing more epic than the world’s longest railway line – at 9,258km, the longest route between Moscow and Vladivostok takes a lengthy seven days and passes through seven different time zones. The journey is very flexible; you can tailor your journey depending on where you want to stop. Some of the most popular stops include Kazan, to see the Tatar fortress, and Irkutsk, once known as the Paris of Siberia. Though the time between stops can also be quite long, the best part about the journey is sitting back in your favourite joggers and watching the beautiful Russian landscapes pass by. It also serves as a great opportunity to read that book that you’ve been meaning to read for years (we all have one).

How? If you want to go it alone, check out seat61.com for tips. The Russia Experience (0845 521 2910; trans-siberian.co.uk) and On The Go Tours (020 7371 1113; onthegotours.com) offer a variety of Trans-Siberian trips. Also, Intrepid Travel(0800 781 1660; intrepidtravel.com) offer a 21-day Trans-Mongolian Experience.

Cairo to Cape Town

Vast deserts, mountainous terrain, iconic wildlife and plenty of sunshine await you on this epic journey across Africa. Travel through Egypt, Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Namibia, South Africa and many more as you literally cover the length of the continent. Not a trip for the faint-hearted, travellers can marvel at the wonders of Ancient Egypt, see elephants in Serengeti National Park and get splashed by Victoria Falls.

Tour operators include Oasis Overland (01963 363 400; oasisoverland.co.uk), who provide a 16-week expedition and Intrepid Travel (0800 781 1660; intrepidtravel.com), who offers a 121-day jam-packed adventure. If that’s not enough, Dragoman (01728 888206; dragoman.com) offers a 142-day trip from Cape Town to Cairo.  

Route 66

America’s Mother Road might be disused now, but it’s still one of the most famous highways in the world, and luckily, still drivable on most parts via other interstate highways. Over 3,900km long, the original route was opened in 1926, and carried travellers west through eight states, from Chicago to LA. Nowhere else could you find old Americana – the route is decorated by classic 60s diners, drive-in cinemas and, of course, the iconic white-emblem painted on its surface. Along the way, don’t miss the meteor crater in Arizona, the Grand Canyon or Oklahoma’s National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. Hungry? Head to The Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo for a 72lb steak – free if you can demolish it in under an hour.

Driving the route independently requires a lot of planning – parts of Route 66 are no longer shown on maps. drivingroute66.com offers some great general advice, whilst historic66.com provides you with a turn-by-turn guide of the route. Alternatively, tour operators include Virgin Holidays (0844 557 4321; virginholidays.co.uk), who offer a 16-night tour and Grand American Adventures (0844 576 1370; grandamericanadventures.com) who offer a 14-night Historic Route 66 adventure. 

The Silk Road

Probably one of the oldest epic-journeys known to man, the route, spanning roughly 8000km from Istanbul to Beijing, gets its name from the lucrative Chinese silk trade that once travelled it. Rather than one direct route however, the highway spreads out over a network of paths through Turkey, Syria, Iran, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan and China to name a few. Follow in the footsteps of Marco Polo and stay in centuries-old caravanserai (traditional inns with stables for the horses), see ruins partially destroyed by Alexander the Great and walk the Great Wall of China. Travel by car, bus, cycle or walk on this epic adventure.

As with Route 66, travelling the Silk Road requires a lot of pre-planning. Wild Frontiers (020 7736 3968; wildfrontierstravel.com) offers a short 23-day Silk Road expedition, but if you fancy going the whole hog, Oasis Overland (01963 363400; oasisoverland.co.uk) offers a 15-week odyssey from Istanbul to Beijing.

The Outback

Taking on the Aussie Outback is no easy feat – it consists of a vast landscape of national parks, historic landmarks and giant gorges. Sleep under the stars, look out for wildlife and explore local indigenous cultures and visit popular hotspots, including Ayer’s Rock and Kakadu National Park. Though most visitors travel with organised tours, it is possible to drive through the Outback ('The Track' or Stuart Highway, which travels north to south) with a rented car or your own personal transport. 

STA Travel (0333 321 0094; statravel.co.uk) offers a range of tours, including an 11-day trip Outback Adventure Trip from Darwin to Alice Springs. Alternatively, Intrepid Travel (0800 781 1660; intrepidtravel.com) offers an Outback tour through South Australia and the Northern Territory. For advice on planning your own drive, see australiasgoldenoutback.com.

Images via Thinkstock



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