Perhaps the most legendary historic route in the world, the Silk Road is actually a series of connecting routes that stretch 5,000 miles (over land and sea) from the Mediterranean to China. Though the term was coined in 1877 by a German geographer, the route has been used for thousands of years. Pictured above—a majestic view of China's West Lake.
This 220-mile journey, best done by car, traces the route the ancient Greeks took on their way to the site of the original Olympic Games. The road twists and turns through gentle rolling hills dotted with olive trees. Tony Perrottet, author of The Naked Olympics, which is about the origins of the games, says, “It’s hard to beat passing by villages and medieval monasteries that look like they haven’t changed for centuries.”
This nearly 6,000-mile, eight-time-zone-spanning railway is the world’s most popular historic train route. Traversing the sometimes severe landscapes of Russia, Siberia, Mongolia, and China, the Trans-Siberian is like “one big party” says Mary Morris, who made the journey for her travelogue Wall to Wall. Pictured above, the Trans Siberian Express traveling through a fall landscape.
First the Romans came and conquered the Nile River, cruising southward into Africa armed mainly with curiosity for what was beyond the known world. They’d stop to gawk at monuments and mummies. A couple millennia later, the Victorian British were back at it, navigating the Nile for the same reasons their traveling predecessors had. Pictured above, Ramses Temple and the Nile shoreline at Abu Simbel.
The Mississippi, the ultimate American river, is arguably the heart of America, says Mary Morris, whose recent travelogue traces her journey down the waterway. The 2,320 mile-long river stretches from the Land of 10,000 Lakes to the Big Easy, but Morris suggests boating the section between LaCrosse, Wisconsin and Dubuque, Iowa, where the lush beauty resembles other, exotic parts of the world.
The most famous Roman road was built in 312 B.C. and connected Rome to the south of Italy. Today it’s a great place for travelers to escape the chaos of the Italian capital. Writer Tony Perrottet says you can start in the Roman Forum and follow Via Appia Antica out of the city, passing by the famed catacombs, as well as ancient mausoleums. Today the millennia-old structures along the Appia share space with the modern-day mansions of Rome’s cultural and political elite.
You don’t have to be a Buddhist to enjoy this 800-mile-long pilgrimage route on the Japanese island of Shikoku. The lush natural beauty, jaw-dropping coast, and historic temples might be enough to lure the curious traveler, but as Don George says, “Walking the temple route is a pathway to the scenic and spiritual heart of Japan.” Pictured above, a stone gateway in Jinja, Shikoku.
This 51-mile rail line feels like a train ride to the top of the earth. And it almost is. With 550 bridges, 909 hairpin curves, and not a single tunnel, the route taken by the “Toy Train,” as it’s nicknamed, goes from Silijuri to Darjeeling in the Indian state of West Bengal. At times reaching elevations of 2,200 meters, the train line is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This 95-mile trek, made up of old military routes, reveals Scotland at its best. Beginning in Glasgow, Scotland’s biggest city, and ending on the top of the 1,300-meter-high Ben Nevis, the West Highland Way is an ideal tapestry of nature and culture wrapped up in a series of well-marked hiking trails. Pictured above, a team of hikers scales the heights of Ben Nevis.