Embarking on the Ultimate Odyssey: Conquering the World’s Longest Motorable Road on the 19,000-Mile Pan-American Highway Journey

The idea of a road trip often conjures images of short jaunts to nearby towns, coastal drives, or maybe even a multi-state journey. But what if you could elevate that concept to a life-changing, continent-crossing adventure? Welcome to the Pan-American Highway, the world’s longest “motorable road,” stretching approximately 19,000 miles from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, in the United States down to Ushuaia in Argentina. The Pan-American Highway offers a dizzying array of landscapes—endless tundras, jungles, modern cities, ancient ruins, and more.

Choosing the best time to embark on this trip depends on your weather preferences and the regions you’re most excited about. Northern regions are best traversed in the summer months to avoid snow and icy conditions, while Central and South American countries have various wet and dry seasons that may affect your travel. In general, April through November offers a good balance.

As for food, each region brings its own culinary delights, from Alaskan king crab to Argentine asado. And don’t worry about parking; most cities and tourist spots have accommodations for travelers. Just make sure to research parking laws in each country to avoid any complications. In chronological order, you’ll be covering the United States, Canada, and then entering Latin America via Mexico, journeying through Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, and finally Argentina.

What to Bring/Necessities

  • Passport with necessary visas (It’s crucial to consult the embassy websites of each country for the most up-to-date visa information. Laws and regulations can change frequently, so stay informed.)
  • International driving permit
  • Spare tire and jack
  • Basic first-aid kit
  • Local currency and credit/debit cards
  • GPS and physical maps
  • A mobile Wi-Fi device
  • Clothing for various climates

For this trip, bring your own vehicle, ideally a 4×4, as rental drop-off between countries can be complicated. Expect to spend around 6 months for the entire trip, allowing time to explore key spots.

The Journey: Destination by Destination

Day 1-7: United States (Alaska and Beyond)

Begin your journey at Prudhoe Bay in Alaska. Experience the rugged beauty of Alaska’s Arctic plains. The Dalton Highway is the main route you’ll be taking. Watch out for moose and remember, it’s a remote area, so have enough fuel and supplies. Apps to install: Weather Underground for weather updates and GasBuddy for fuel.


  • Arctic Ocean Access Road for a dip in the Arctic Ocean
  • Fairbanks for a chance to see the Northern Lights
  • Denali National Park for North America’s highest peak, Mt. McKinley

Day 8-14: Canada – The Great North

Your first border crossing is into Yukon, Canada. Explore the wilderness, immerse yourself in native culture, and perhaps see the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. Apps: WeatherCAN for weather updates and iOverlander for campsites.


Day 15-30: United States – Lower 48

You’re back in the U.S., this time to explore Washington State, Oregon, and California. Don’t miss the vibrant cities and diverse ecosystems. Apps: Yelp for food and Roadtrippers for attractions.


Day 31-45: Mexico – The Land of Fiesta and Siesta

The land of tequila and mariachi welcomes you warmly! Be prepared for some border paperwork. Once you’re through, the kaleidoscopic culture and history of Mexico unfold. Start in Tijuana and work your way down the scenic Baja California peninsula. Apps to install include Waze for traffic and Google Translate for language assistance.


Day 46-60: Guatemala – The Heart of the Mayan World

As you make your way into Guatemala, note that some roads can be quite challenging. Antigua Guatemala is a great place to explore colonial architecture, and Lake Atitlán is simply breathtaking. Apps: AccuWeather for weather and Maps.me for offline maps.


Day 61-70: El Salvador – The Land of Volcanoes

El Salvador is small but densely packed with natural beauty. Watch out for speed bumps known as “túmulos.” San Salvador offers an urban experience, but don’t miss the volcanoes and beaches. Apps: El Salvador Travel for tourism and Moovit for public transportation.


Day 71-80: Honduras – The Depth of the Mayan Civilization

Cross into Honduras and find your way to Copán to explore more Mayan ruins. The Bay Islands offer excellent diving opportunities. Apps: WeatherBug for weather and XE Currency for currency conversion.


Day 81-90: Nicaragua – The Land of Lakes and Volcanoes

Nicaragua offers a mix of beautiful landscapes and colonial architecture. Keep an eye out for local toll booths, known as “peajes,” that only accept local currency. Apps: Nicaragua Travel Guide for tourism and Maps.me for offline maps.


  • Ometepe Island for a unique freshwater island experience
  • The colonial city of Granada

Day 91-100: Costa Rica – Pura Vida!

The “Rich Coast” lives up to its name with lush jungles, pristine beaches, and incredible biodiversity. Roads are generally good, but watch for sudden weather changes. Apps: CRMaps for detailed maps and Surfline for surf conditions.


Day 101-110: Panama – The Crossroads of the Americas

The last stop before South America, Panama is more than just its famous canal. Explore Panama City’s modern skyline and venture into the San Blas Islands. Apps: Visit Panama for general tourism and My Currency Converter for currency updates.


Day 111-120: Colombia – Coffee, Culture, and Cities

Upon reaching South America, you’ll start with Colombia. Note: You’ll have to ship your vehicle around the Darien Gap. Medellin, the city of eternal spring, and the coffee regions are not to be missed. Apps: Colombia Travel for tourism info and Currency for currency conversion.


Day 121-135: Ecuador – Middle of the Earth

The equator runs through this small but diverse country. Visit Quito, drive through the Andes, and explore the Amazon basin. Apps: Ecuador Travel Guide for general info and Quakes for real-time earthquake alerts.


Day 136-155: Peru – Land of the Incas

Land of the Incas and culinary hub of South America, Peru is rich in history and flavor. Take your time driving as high-altitude roads can be tricky. Apps: Peru Guide for tourism and iPeru for travel advice.


Day 156-170: Chile – The Long Stretch

This thin country offers a diverse climate: from the Atacama Desert to Patagonian glaciers. Note the long driving stretches here. Apps: Chile Travel and Yr for weather.


Day 171-180: Argentina – The Finale!

You’re almost at the finish line! From the vineyards of Mendoza to the bustling life of Buenos Aires, and finally to Ushuaia, the world’s southernmost city. Apps: Argentina Travel Guide for general info and AccuWeather for weather updates.


Traversing the Pan-American Highway isn’t just a road trip; it’s an odyssey, a true life-altering journey that exposes you to cultures, cuisines, and landscapes you’ve only ever dreamed of. From the glaciers of Alaska to the tip of Argentina, each destination offers its unique charm, natural beauty, and historic significance. Whether you’re captivated by the ancient ruins of the Mayan and Incan civilizations or drawn to the modern bustle of the world’s greatest cities, the Pan-American Highway has something for everyone. While you’re journeying, don’t forget the nearby attractions like the Amazon in Brazil or the mesmerizing Iguazu Falls on the border between Argentina and Brazil. Life is short, and the world is wide. Why not see as much of it as you can?

Happy and safe travels!