Our top 10 overland tour routes

An overland holiday is an exciting, sociable and often cost effective way to see a large part of a continent over an extended length of time. There is potential for a phenomenal variation of landscapes, but also an enthralling mix of cultures and experiences. You could be wine tasting in the vineyards of Cape Town on Monday, and by Wednesday hiking and canoeing the stark Fish River Canyon over the border in Namibia. This kind of trip is all about recognising that a continent is no greater than the sum of its parts, and letting loose your adventurous spirit. Be that in trekking to the top of an Andean mountain peak, whitewater rafting at Victoria Falls, or accepting a first glass of vodka on the Trans Siberian. Here are our top 10 overland tours.

1. The Baltics

Because Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia are so compact, it's easy to see a great deal of each within a couple of weeks on a fast moving itinerary. A typical route might take in the historic capitals Riga, Tallinn and Vilnius, stretches of wild Baltic coastline, and picturesque scenery such as that of the UNESCO-rated Curonian Spit National Park. More active travellers can see the Baltics from the saddle with a small group cycling trip.

When to depart: April to September
Our top selling trip: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania holiday
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2. Cape Town to Victoria Falls

This trip blends truly jaw dropping scenery, ancient and recent history, four countries (South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Botswana) and the immense Okavango Delta – as well as some of the continent's best wildlife watching opportunities. It's definitely a route suited to the hardy traveller; you cover around 5,000km over around three weeks. A hugely satisfying African odyssey.

When to depart: All year-round
Our top selling trip: Cape Town to Victoria Falls holiday
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3. Central America overland

The great joy of overlanding isn’t simply being able to see several countries in one go, but the eclectic mix of culture, nature and history that you’ll discover as you go. In Central America you can expect spectacular Mayan archaeological sites, swathes of paradise coast, and colourful wildlife. You can potentially travel all the way from Mexico to Panama, but there are many trips that cover shorter segments of this route.

When to depart: August to April
Our top selling trip: Central America small group tour
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4. India

Given how mind blowingly massive India is, and how richly diverse its different states, from the mountainous north to the tropical south, a longer overland tour is the best way to really appreciate the contrasts. A typical route might involve a round trip from Delhi to Jodphur, Jaipur and Varanasi, then a flight south to explore the Kerala coast, Mysore and Goa. Another fab aspect is the way cuisine varies from state to state.

When to depart: All year round
Our top selling trip: India adventure tour
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5. Indochina

Chaotic and crumbling, modern and ancient – an overland tour in Indochina fulfils childhood fantasies of what travel should be. Thailand is an exceptionally hospitable land of hidden beaches, sacred temples and hill tribes; its neighbour Laos is enchanting and unspoiled. Vietnam’s cities are mesmerising sprawls; and then there’s Cambodia, home to the vast complex of Angkor Wat and the welcoming Khmer people.

When to depart: All year-round
Our top selling trip: Indochina tailor made holiday
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6. Silk Road

The Silk Road’s spidering tributaries, for centuries used by traders to peddle their wares between East and West, can lead intrepid travellers to some of the most fascinating sites across Asia. This route can easily be broken down into manageable chunks, such as traversing the ‘Stans. Ancient archaeological sites, dazzling floodlit cities, heavily-scented bustling bazaars, and evocative swathes of desert – tempting, no?

When to depart: August to December
Our top selling trip: Silk Road holidays, Central Asia
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7. South America coast-to-coast

It’s easy to think of South America as one immense, Spanish-and-Portuguese-speaking mass, but an overland tour will quickly dispel that illusion. Chile’s modern, European-style cities contrast with its inhospitable Atacama Desert. Bolivia’s harsh highlands are the realm of the Aymara – but heat and wildlife await in the Amazon. Argentina and Brazil share the mighty Iguazu Falls, and then there’s Machu Picchu, and Patagonia…

When to depart: August to December
Our top selling trip: South America tour, coast to coast
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8. Trans Siberian Railway

The jump on/jump off nature of an overland holiday on the Trans Siberian or the Trans Mongolian Railway allows you to experience constantly moving scenery with overnight stays in Mongolian ger camps and guesthouses. Lake Baikal is a highlight but for many travellers the most memorable moments occur while playing play cards and drinking vodka with fellow passengers – even those that don’t speak a word of English!

When to depart: April to October
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Read more: Trans Siberian Express travel guide

9. Balkans

Travelling by rail as part of a guided small group tour allows you to visit no fewer than seven beguiling Balkan countries over 16 days, with all the logistics taken care of so you can simply enjoy the journey. From Slovenia to Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro Serbia, North Macedonia and finally Kosovo, you’ll discover the torrid history and enthralling culture of this region, taking in key landmarks and of course exploring the sometimes subtle differences in their cuisine and wine.

When to depart: May to September
Our top selling trip: Balkans rail holiday
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10. Around the world, without flying

Taking slightly longer than Phileas Fogg (but where’s the sense in rushing?), this is a truly epic overland adventure. Over 11 weeks you’ll travel by comfortable long distance trains and modern cargo ships, on a trip that can be broadly broken down into three sections. London to Central Asia takes you through the legendary cities of the Silk Road; China, taking in the Terracotta Army, the Forbidden City and the gleaming skyscrapers of Shanghai, and on to America via a Pacific crossing, and a memorable journey through the Rockies.

When to depart: All year-round
Our top selling trip: Around the world holiday without flying
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Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: Phil Whitehouse] [Intro: Ken Treloar] [Baltics: Richard] [Cairo to Cape Town: Amstrong White] [Cape Town to Victoria Falls: Mario Micklisch] [Central America overland: Prayitno] [India: Juan Antonio Segal] [Indochina: xiquinhosilva] [Patagonia: Dirk Spijkers] [Silk Road: Francisco Anzola] [South America coast-to-coast: Sahitya Kakarla] [Trans Siberian Railway: Boccaccio1]