It’s that time again! Our Travel Experts are back and they’re just dying to answer your travel related questions. Have you got a question for our fabulously knowledgeable team of Experts? Just email us, and we’ll ask the team for you. Plus, your question will appear right here on the STA Travel Blog! You’ll be famous…
So, without further ado, let’s hear from this week’s questioner. It comes courtesy of James, who’s getting itchy feet…
I want to go on an overland trip for around 3 months, but I can’t decide where. Is there any destination that you think just has to be explored by road? And what’s the best way to get around? Jamie in London
We feel a ROAD TRIP coming on! ‘Scuse the capitals, it’s just we get so excited about ROAD TRIPS that we can’t help but hit the caps lock. Experts – can you feed our fire of excitement, and give Jamie some inspiration?
Sarah Jones from STA Travel Covent Garden reckons…
Well Jamie, the Silk Road is one of the world’s most ancient overland routes and one of the most mystical and incredible journeys you will ever tread. It’s the ancient trade route connecting Europe, North Africa, the Mediterranean and Asia, and will take you through a combination of different landscapes, from deserts, to mountains, to snowy wonderlands.
The full route is a whopping 4000 miles and began in 206BC transporting and trading silk from China (hence the name). The main cities involved on the Silk route were Ancient Egypt, Persia, Arabia and Ancient Rome.
We can hook you up with some amazing trips through the Silk Road. Check out our 18-day tour of it, The Nomadistan. This epic train journey will take you from Moscow all the way to Beijing, along the Silk Road Railway.
Another tour that would fit nicely into your 3 month plan, is the 110 day Istanbul – Kathmandu Adventure. If you’re looking for a historical trip filled with rich cultures and mysterious civilisations, then this makes one hell of an adventure.
Starting off in buzzing Istanbul, you begin your adventure with the modern sights and sounds of the Turkish city before heading inland to the awesome Cappadoccia desert landscape and the distant east of Turkey.
You’ll travel in a private truck, designed specifically for long overland treks. Working your way east through Turkey, you’ll then cross into beautiful Iran.
The genuine friendliness and hospitality of the Iranian people completely contradicts any preconceptions that might be held and put Iran high up on many a traveller’s lists. See the modern realm of Tehran and the ancient wonders of Esfahan and Persepolis before ‘getting off the beaten track’ (as if Iran wasn’t anyway!) to the desert villages of Yadz and beyond.
The trip then creeps into the ‘Stans, beginning in the relatively unknown Turkmenistan. Once part of the dominant Soviet circle, then isolated for most of the last two decades, it’s now opening up to travellers. Check out the small capital Ashgabat with its Russian influence mixed with ancient desert origins before heading through Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan into China.
The last few weeks are spent exploring the wonders of China including the Terracotta Warriers of Xi’an and the enormous Taklimarkan Desert before heading into Tibet where the trip comes to an end – after crossing the 5000m heights of the Everest and the Himilayas that is!
At around £5,000 in total – accommodation, transport, activities and local guides included – this trip is the monster of all overland trips and will set your travels far apart from the normal paths.
Claire Whittington from STA Travel Brighton suggests…
The list is endless of places you could take an iconic road trip – East Coast Australia, the USA’s Route 66, or around Europe in a campervan would all be amazing, Jamie! However, for the ultimate road trip with a difference, I’d recommend Namibia and South Africa.
Fly into Windhoek to pick up your hire car and head north to Etosha National Park where you can drive around trying to spot lions, elephants, leopards and the elusive black rhinos until your heart’s content.
Namibia is a driver’s dream. As the second least densely populated country in the world, it offers you the chance to drive along completely empty, open roads with only the stunning views laid out before you to provide distraction. And I’m pretty sure the views won’t disappoint: whether it’s the sun setting over the mountains and rock formations of the Damaraland; the world’s highest sand dunes in the Namib desert; or the wonderful coastal towns such as Swakopmund which might make you think you’ve taken a wrong turn and ended up in Germany. Yep, Namibia offers some of the most unique African experiences on the continent.
You may feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere most of time (maybe because most of the time you are!), but Namibia is the country I have the most photos of – the seemingly unlimited variety of landscapes will mean you are never bored on your drives.
After your time in this very empty country, head down to South Africa – it’s made for driving! Start in my favourite city in the world, Cape Town. Stay in the awesome Fire and Ice hotel with views of Table Mountain from your bed and the most luxurious milk shakes you will ever drink.
Cape Town has something for everyone, whether you want to climb up Table Mountain and abseil back down, come face to face with Great Whites Sharks whilst cage diving, or soak up some history at the District 6 museum – seriously, you’ll never be bored.
Once you’re ready to move on (which could take weeks!), why not use the wine regions as a great excuse to take a break from driving and chill out around Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschhoek to try some of the wines South Africa has to offer (I’d always recommend a Chenin Blanc or a Pinotage…).
Once you can’t take any more wine, take time to relax at some of Africa’s holiday hot spots. Driving this route allows you to stay in some of the bigger towns without missing all the smaller places that are just perfect for a lunch stop or bit of a wander around. Storms River Bridge, for example, is a fantastic place to break a journey for a few hours. South Africa’s coast in full of places you could stop at for an hour but end up staying in for a week – and driving this route gives you the freedom to do just that!
Plettenburg Bay would always be my recommendation on the Garden Route to chill out for a few days, so stop off to see Vicky and Matt (and Chongalong, their HUGE but friendly dog) who run Starling Backpackers. They offer a great range of activities or just have Matt take you for sundowners at his favourite spot (make sure you say “hello” for me!).
Further along the coast, once you’ve passed Port Elizabeth, you’ll reach the Wild Coast, which offers a more rugged coastline and some fantastic places to stay. If I had to pick one, I’d choose Coffee Bay and stay at the famous Coffee Bay Backpackers.
Go for a stay in beautiful Coffee Bay | Image by coda
Right on the beach, this hostel is in the heart of a Xhosa community, who even owns 30% of the hostel, so you really will be putting something right back into the community you’re staying in. If anything from surfing to abseiling, Braii to cultural nights or hiking the coast and spotting dolphins take your fancy, Coffee Bay will have something for you.
My final suggestion before you finish your trip by heading up to Johannesburg would be a stop in the Drakensburg Mountains. The amphitheatre hike has been voted one of the best in the world, and when you get to the top you will know why. If you’re there at the right time of year you can have your lunch whilst watching Tugela waterfall cascade into the Royal Natal National Park below. These falls are the highest in Africa and second highest in the world, but if you’re there in dry season you may get more of a trickle than a “cascade”!
If you have some time and Etosha National Park didn’t satisfy your game drive hunger, why not swing by Kruger National Park for one last safari – after all there is nothing more African than driving around the plains just waiting to spot that lion eyeing up a springbok or a herd of wildebeest moving as one across the road in front of you!