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The Longest Drive On Earth!
July 23, 2011 12:36 PM   Subscribe

What is the longest drive, in a car, that a person could take anywhere on earth?

According to Google Maps you can drive from Juneau Alaska to Cancun Mexico (5314 mi). It can't calculate the drive from Cape Town to Cairo, let alone up into Europe or to Siberia.

So, my question is: How far could a person drive on earth with these obvious conditions:

- You can't just drive in circles
- You can't drive up and down or side to side unnecessarily
- You are taking the most direct route between point A and point B.
- Actual roads have to exist. This isn't about the distance between places, but actual driving miles.

Anyone?
posted by crapples to Travel & Transportation (29 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
 
For the purposes of this question, do things like national borders and laws/regulations matter? Or just infrastructure?
posted by DestinationUnknown at 12:46 PM on July 23, 2011


These people drove from China to South Africa - with a ferry across the Caspian, which might as well be the road. That's got to be close.
posted by mdonley at 12:46 PM on July 23, 2011


Where do you set the bar for 'actual roads'? Is gravel okay? Dirt?
posted by box at 12:46 PM on July 23, 2011


Top of Alaska to the bottom of Chile would be my guess
posted by kenchie at 12:50 PM on July 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Pan American Highway is interrupted at the Darién Gap for 54mi so you have to find a boat. If you're not allowing boats, the route from Juneau to Panama or from Colombia to Chile will be pretty, pretty long.

Google Maps pretty much stops at the Mexico/Guatemala border so getting a driving mileage would be difficult.
posted by birdherder at 12:53 PM on July 23, 2011


Playing around with Google Maps: 14,458 km (about 9,000 miles) from Cape Town to Casablanca. It doesn't seem too hard to extend this into Europe.
posted by madcaptenor at 12:53 PM on July 23, 2011


I have a friend that drove around the world. From the east coast of China to the west coast of Africa was their longest leg I think. That's a long way.
posted by txmon at 12:55 PM on July 23, 2011


An acquaintance of mine set a world record for riding a motorcycle from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to Ushuaia, Argentina a few years ago, although that was interrupted by a short plane trip over the Darien Gap, which is essentially impassable.
posted by deadmessenger at 12:57 PM on July 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think the trip from Juneau to Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego Province, Argentina would be longer than to the tip of Chile. I'm pretty sure that I went to the end of southern-most road in South America while visiting Ushuaia en route to Antarctica.
posted by carmicha at 12:58 PM on July 23, 2011


On the xkcd forums there is a discussion about the longest journeys that Google Maps seems capable of routing. This is not a direct answer to your question - but an interesting tangent. For example here is a 59 day journey of about 30,000km from Quebec to Tasmania. Why Google is able to route this - but not, say, Seoul to Cape Town I am not sure.
posted by rongorongo at 12:58 PM on July 23, 2011


Also, Cadiz, Spain to Tallinn, Estonia: 4,424 km by land (avoiding the Baltic ferry crossing); the Trans-Siberian Highway (St. Petersburg to Vladivostok, Russia) is "over 11,000 km". Presumably there's a road route from Tallinn to St. Petersburg (a couple hundred miles) so this would seem to be an Atlantic-to-Pacific crossing of Eurasia of somewhere above 15,000 km. Might be a little bit north of the "most direct route", though. (And certainly this doesn't combine with the north-to-south crossing of Africa I already gave; the most direct route from Cape Town to Vladivostok surely goes around the eastern end of the Mediterranean, not the western end.)
posted by madcaptenor at 1:00 PM on July 23, 2011


Ewan McGregor and Charlie Bowman rode from Scotland to Cape Town (crossed the Channel via the Chunnel, so that counts as a road) on motorcycles. They did cross the Med on a ferry, but there are roads around the Sea if national borders aren't an issue. Despite all this, I did not see a mileage estimate on Wikipedia.

You might also be interested in their trip from London to New York. Of course they feel from Russia to Alaska, but otherwise the Europe and Asia portions were on roads.

(Sorry if this is a derail. I don't know if you are simply interested in mileage or actually might want to hear about people who have done such things.)
posted by bluedaisy at 1:01 PM on July 23, 2011


I asked my son about boats, ferries, and planes. He is taking a pretty strict approach: Only cars on roads of any kind (dirt, or whatever is OK).
posted by crapples at 1:01 PM on July 23, 2011


^ Just noticed that step #245 in the journey I linked to above journey reads "kayak across the pacific ocean" for about 6,000km. You better have a pretty small car.
posted by rongorongo at 1:03 PM on July 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Cape Town to Islamabad:8740 mi.
Islamabad to Busan, South Korea: 4399 mi.

total: 13,139 miles, no obvious ferries or the like.

(all according to bing)
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:06 PM on July 23, 2011


I think you'd have to go from South Africa to China to Singapore. That seems like you're maxing out Eurasia on all possible roads - I don't think one can just drive across Burma, but if so, then you can skip China and go from India to Burma to Thailand.
posted by mdonley at 1:16 PM on July 23, 2011


Do Visa's matter? Cause you probably aren't driving through No Korea. Same with Myanmar's borders with India.

My guess is Capetown to the southern tip of Malaysia - but as I said you'd have to detour through china via Pakistan rather than take the more direct route through India and Myanmar

You would probably also go up through Syria into Turkey then dip back back down through Iran into Pakistan (I've been told this is the scary part)

A better path is probably through Iran then the 'stans then over the Torugart pass, then down into southeastern china, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia.
posted by JPD at 1:21 PM on July 23, 2011


Wouldn't it be Cape Town to Vladivostok? There are certainly roads all along the way, though some of them go through North Korea.
posted by musofire at 2:02 PM on July 23, 2011


Via Bing Maps:
First leg: Capetown SA to Baghdad Iraq, 6767.8 miles
Second leg: Baghdad to Fuyuan, Heilongjiang, China, 5950 miles..
Total 12,717.8 miles. There's a lot of Siberian territory beyond this, but neither Google nor Bing can calculate anything. There seems to be no bridge over the Amur river along that border.

By the way in ROU_Xenophobe's route above from Capetown to Busan, South Korea, picking Islamabad as the intermediate point (since Bing won't calc the full distance in one pass) is a detour. If you calculate Capetown to Baghdad and then Baghdad to Busan, it routes you north of Pakistan and comes to 12,714.2 miles. So the above route from Capetown to Fuyuan is 3 miles longer, with possible extension into Siberia.
posted by beagle at 2:08 PM on July 23, 2011


Musofire: Vladivostok is south of Fuyuan so that would be shorter than the route I linked above.
posted by beagle at 2:10 PM on July 23, 2011


Johor is farther if you look at a map. I don't believe you could drive East of Vladivostok. Vladivostok is "only" 3127 km further east than Johor, but if you look at the longitude measured from the torugart pass (Where you clear the Tien Shan) its 275 km south of Vladivostok vs 4622 north of Johor.

(BTW I think someone like Dragomon would sell you a route pretty close to this today.)
posted by JPD at 2:12 PM on July 23, 2011


I asked my son about boats, ferries, and planes. He is taking a pretty strict approach: Only cars on roads of any kind (dirt, or whatever is OK).

Huh. As a result of this thread (and Wikipedia) I just learned that the automobile tunnel under the Suez Canal opened only in 1983; the new bridge at the north end of the Canal opened in 2001. So it IS now possible to drive from Africa to Eurasia without a ferry ride.

(Still waiting for the Straits of Gibraltar Bridge....)
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 2:38 PM on July 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


JDP is right, except Singapore is abit farther than Johor; there's a causeway. Total Capetown to Singapore is 14,015 miles as follows:

So, in several legs:
Capetown to Baghdad (as above) 6767.8 miles
Baghdad to Honghe, China, 4996.4 miles
Honghe to Lao Cai, Vietnam: no map directions available, but estimated 75 miles. There are bridges.
Lao Cai, Viet Nam to Singapore, 2176.7 miles

If there's a route through India, Thailand etc that would shave off the whole Chinese detour, but the routing calculators are not helpful on that option.
posted by beagle at 3:10 PM on July 23, 2011


Unless something's changed recently, Google Maps is wrong. You can't drive to Juneau. I think what Google Maps means is that you can put your car on the ferry for transportation to/from Juneau.

The farthest you can probably practically drive in Alaska would be either Fairbanks (north) or Homer (south).

- aj
posted by Alaska Jack at 4:47 PM on July 23, 2011


Alaska: According to this map, you could actually start at Prudhoe Bay way up north on the Arctic Ocean, then drive 475 miles south to Fairbanks and on from there.
posted by exphysicist345 at 7:03 PM on July 23, 2011


My brother drove from London, England to Ulaanbataar, Mongolia. They drove through the Chunnel. It ended up being about 8739 miles. I know others have cited longer routes, but this is one that I know has actually been done.
posted by KathrynT at 12:29 AM on July 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


JDP is right, except Singapore is abit farther than Johor; there's a causeway. Total Capetown to Singapore is 14,015 miles as follows:

So, in several legs:
Capetown to Baghdad (as above) 6767.8 miles
Baghdad to Honghe, China, 4996.4 miles
Honghe to Lao Cai, Vietnam: no map directions available, but estimated 75 miles. There are bridges.
Lao Cai, Viet Nam to Singapore, 2176.7 miles

If there's a route through India, Thailand etc that would shave off the whole Chinese detour, but the routing calculators are not helpful on that option.


I think the problem Bing is having is with the Pakistan/India border. It won't give me a route from Islamabad (or even Lahore) to Delhi, but that's definitely possible with the right papers.

Re India to Thailand - at least on paper, Moreh, India to Wan Mè-kin, Myanmar. Then there appears to be a road running south to the Thai border. But even if you were lucky enough to find the road actually there, and all the bridges intact, there's no way in the world it'd be open to foreigners.

The "Trilateral Highway" connecting Moreh via Bagan in Myanmar to Mae Sot in Thailand is under construction, but stalled due to funding disputes. Burma wants India and Thailand to pay for it. I think it might already be good all the way from Moreh to Bagan but I'm not at all sure of that.

There's The Ledo Road from India across Burma to China, but it's hard to tell whether it's passable or not. Again, it's almost certainly not open to foreigners.

Finally, you can do a southern route from Iraq to China, via Iran, Pakistan, India, Nepal, and Tibet. Or you could 14 years ago. These days you wouldn't exactly be safe in western Pakistan, but I'm pretty sure the roads are still there.
posted by Ahab at 8:54 AM on July 24, 2011


If you start driving north of Fairbanks, you'll likely need to carry extra fuel. I'm sure there are other portions of such a trip where you'd need to make similar accommodations.

(There's one road on the outskirts of Fairbanks that has a sign saying "LAST GAS FOR 350MI," which I'd imagine that drivers on that road must take very seriously)
posted by schmod at 11:29 AM on July 24, 2011


Alaska: According to this map, you could actually start at Prudhoe Bay way up north on the Arctic Ocean, then drive 475 miles south to Fairbanks and on from there.

exphysicist345: Oh, I know. That's why I said "practically." The Dalton Highway is not something you'd want to tackle lightly, and is almost unused by what we would call "normal" traffic. It's pretty much entirely professional truckers bringing supplies to the Prudhoe Bay oilfields. But it's definitely doable. - aj
posted by Alaska Jack at 4:46 PM on July 27, 2011


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