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The Pan-American Highway is a network of roads that a determined driver could take from Alaska to Argentina, a 19,000-mile (30,578-km) trek that’s been called the longest road on Earth. This collection of highways is rarely traveled in its entirety, and in a couple of instances, you’d need to find your way around some significant obstacles.
Although the route officially runs from Laredo, Mexico, to Buenos Aires, Argentina, many other roads are considered part of the Pan-American Highway, allowing you to travel from the Arctic to the southern end of South America. If you want to cover the full distance, the route begins near Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay and comes to an unofficial end in Ushuaia, the capital of Tierra del Fuego in Argentina. Intrepid travelers who undertake the trek will find gorgeous scenery but may also encounter landslides, perilous drop-offs from the road, and some impassable areas during the rainy season. Also, you’ll want to steer clear of wild animals and cartel criminals. Other than that, the ride through 14 countries could be a once-in-a-lifetime item to cross off your bucket list.
The trip of a lifetime:
- The Pan-American Highway unofficially begins with the Alaska Highway through Alaska and Canada. After some easy going on the Interstate Highway System in the contiguous United States (numerous route options are available), you'll take the Inter-American Highway through Mexico and Central America.
- Once you reach Panama, the route is interrupted twice, first by the Panama Canal (a ferry will get you across) and then by the Darién Gap, a 60-mile (97-km) stretch of swampy, mountainous land that straddles the border of Panama and Colombia. There are no roads there because construction has been deemed too expensive, dangerous, and ecologically damaging.
- If you make it as far as Argentina, you can take a ferry across the Strait of Magellan to Tierra del Fuego, or you could continue by boat to Uruguay and then up the coast to Brazil.
- The northern part of the road goes through Canada, United States, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. The southern part crosses Suriname, Guyana, Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay.