Where To Go Backpacking: A Map Of Every Major Route

November 3, 2014

If you want to travel the world, the sheer scale of things can be a little intimidating. For example, I remember when I first seriously looked at a map of South America to figure out where I wanted to go—I was so overwhelmed by the sheer size of this contintent that I wanted to curl up into fetal position.

You have to break things down a bit.

This map below is incredible as it shows all the major overland backpacking routes around the world. I can’t take credit for it as it was created by TravelIndependent.info. Nor would I attempt to create a different version of it as they have really done a thorough job: anyone who’s backpacked a lot will probably look at this and go “yep”.

  • If you want to travel long term, this map will show you all the popular overland backpacking journeys at a glance
  • If you are planning a shorter trip, this map can help direct you to invididual countries to research; regions with a route running through them are more of a sure bet than others


Click the image for the full version. Source: TravelIndependent.info

The key thing to look at are the red lines. These are the most popular backpacker routes around the world. Whether it’s the so-called Banana Pancake trail through Southeast Asia, the India backpacker trail, or the South America backpacking route known as the Gringo Trail, these all have a well-established backpacker infrastructure and attract large volumes of travellers. Consider these the great backpacker journeys of the world.

Another very useful feature of this map are the pink lines. Most backpackers—especially those on a longer trip—prefer to travel overland as this is much less costly than flying (and there’s also just the romantic idea of doing it all overland). Unfortunately it’s not always possible or easy to get from one place to another without flying, which the pink lines indicate.

For example: the Darién Gap between Central and South America is effectively closed off, and can only be crossed by sailing around it or flying. The Sahara creates natural bariers all around northern Africa. Sea routes between the Philippines and Indonesia are practically non-existent, as I discovered myself when I naively thought I’d simply take a ferry from Palawan to Borneo (nope!).

I can vouch for this map being awesome, and in fact right now it’s helping me figure out some future trips I’m planning.

See Also: my destinations page with backpacking info for many countries

You should visit this guy’s website

This map was created by a guy named Giles who runs TravelIndependent.info. One of the reasons I wanted to highlight it here is that it’s one of the site’s hidden gems.

I’ve had Travel Independent linked on my Start Here page forever, but I want to give it the proper kudos it deserves. TravelIndependent.info is simply an incredible resource for backpackers. I been using it myself for two years now, and I have found myself agreeing in broad strokes with almost everything it says. It’s partly thanks to this site that I discovered many countries that I might have otherwise never gone to, and that I can now tell other people about.

It’s a slightly eccentric website though. Giles doesn’t like images, and uses almost none. He seems thoroughly unimpressed by travel blogs and goes out of his way to disassociate himself from them. Selflessly and without any profit motive he maintains the site just as a hobby, which makes me picture him as some kind of backpacker Yoda quietly sharing wisdom from his swamp on Dagobah. Seriously: this guy really knows his stuff, so be sure to give his site a visit.

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1 comment

  1. John @ Pretravels Reply May 24, 2016 at 5:58 pm

    This looks great! I love backpacking but I also try to stay away from crowded routes. Knowing which routes are the most popular can help one like me avoid meeting too many tourists on the way.
    John @ Pretravels recently posted…How to Travel in the Galapagos IndependentlyMy Profile

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