For those living the dream at sea (or dreaming of living at sea) - get ready to stretch your sea legs with some good old fashioned land exploration. We have carefully researched some of the greatest overland expedition tours close to popular ports around the world. But first…
Our definition of an overland tour
Overland tours are a form of adventure travel to remote in-land destinations, usually under the guidance of a specialized tour operator or guide. True to the old cliché, they are more about the journey than the destination. This is because overland touring is all about exploration, rather than conquering obstacles (such as climbing Mount Everest). For example, an African safari has no destination; it’s about exploring a national park and its wildlife. They differ from the greatest road trips, because those are self-driven.
5 bucket-list overland expeditions
1. Silk Road tour, Continental Asia
Let’s kick off with the mother of all overland expeditions - The Ancient Silk Road tour. Starting in Vladivostok in Russia's Far East, this mammoth journey takes you through much of Russia including Siberia, as well as Mongolia, Central Asia and Europe with the possibility to travel all the way to London.
Vladivostok has a cruise ship terminal making it a great starting point for the Silk Road expedition for those of us traveling by sea. After spending a few days in Vladivostok, you will find that Russia is a welcoming, friendly and interesting place with excellent food.
There are Silk Road tour groups who will pick you up in a FWD to travel by convoy overland all the way to Europe. On the way, expect to see about every kind of landscape imaginable, amazing scenery, and the rich history and culture of Russia and Mongolia, among several other countries. Such a tour should take around 90 days for this epic journey.
2. The Kimberley, Australia
In one of the most remote and isolated areas of the world is the town and cruise port terminal of Broome in Western Australia. A beautiful little desert-tropic tourist town, Broome is also the gateway to the Kimberley, a vast wilderness region like no other on earth. Comparable with the Great Barrier Reef or the Amazon Rainforest, the Kimberley has some of the largest intact natural areas in the world.
You can travel overland into the Kimberley with special guided tours. Although there are day-tours available, we highly recommend undertaking a multi-day overland trip if you want to experience all this special place has to offer. Experienced guides will take you on a massive loop of the region in a large safari-like FWD which you can stand up in. Camps are set-up and meals provided so you won’t need to plan much except booking the expedition.
On your safari tour of the Kimberley, expect to see such diverse landscapes as wild coastlines, deserts, gorges, mangroves, rainforests, savannas and abundant Aussie wildlife. Just watch out for the massive saltwater crocodiles!
3. Cape to Cairo, Africa
If the Silk Road is the mother of all overland trips, then Cape to Cairo is a close second. Spanning the entire African continent from north to south (or south to north), the epic journey takes you from Cairo, Egypt all the way down to Cape Town, South Africa. Yes, this one is for the more adventurous among us, as it traverses through some wild terrain so it’s probably not one of the best family overland trips.
Is it safe? Yes, if you do it as part of a legitimate and experienced tour group. One such renowned group is Madventure, which has a custom built FWD armored bus to handle the terrain and any potential, um… conflict. They take 172 days to travel through 20 countries, with their route mapped out below.
Please note, Madventure is a budget overland tour operator and involves camping, hostels and generally a younger crowd.
Cape Town and Cairo are both destinations in themselves, with the Cape having its own cruise ship terminal. Port Said is the closest cruise terminal to Cairo, about 124 miles away with transfers available. In between these incredible cities, expect to see all the best that Africa has to offer including mountains, wine regions, savannas, jungles, desert dunes, gigantic waterfalls, beautiful beaches, Masai tribes and all the African wildlife you can imagine. Oh, and not to mention the ancient pyramids of Giza!
If you are looking for a more luxurious experience, check out North South Travel’s 32 day itinerary on board the Rovos Rail leaving from Cape Town. It will set you back $49,999 but it’s a luxurious train journey and the ultimate African overland tour taking in:
- Several safaris
- Victoria Falls
- Premium nature glamping
- Ngorongoro Crater
- Great migration in Serengeti (aka the greatest show on Earth)
- Endangered mountain gorillas
- Ancient rock hewn churches in Ethiopia
- Great pyramids of Giza
- Cruising the Nile in luxury
- And so much more
4. Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan overland tour
Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan make a great trifecta for an overland tour. Especially if you’re interested in Buddhist culture or simply looking for peaceful inspiration from the monk life. Not to mention the mountainous scenery which is like nowhere else on earth.
Typically, tours of the region start from Kathmandu, Nepal. If you are arriving in Asia by ship, then this is a great overland expedition for when you are in a port such as Willingdon Island, India or Phuket, Thailand. Of course, you will need to fly to Kathmandu from there. There are several tour operators, however, we recommend choosing at least a 10 day tour to properly experience these mystical Himalayan Kingdoms.
The overland trips will allow you to see the magnificent beauty of Mount Everest from both sides. Explore and learn about the history of several incredible temples built high into the mountainside. You can also witness the famous debating monks of Sera Monastery.
By immersing yourself in the rich Nepali, Tibetan and Bhutanese cultures, you may come away from this overland expedition a changed person, hopefully more at peace and in touch with your inner self.
5. Patagonia, Chile
Patagonia is another one of the world's natural gems. This is a great family overland trip and there are several tour operators to choose from out of Santiago, Chile. If arriving by sea, the port of Valparaiso is 80 miles from Santiago with transfers available.
There are a range of tours available, varying in length. You can choose to either return to Santiago or travel overland to Buenos Aires in Argentina and even up to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. These are especially good options if you are catching up with a ship in another port.
The Santiago to Buenos Aires overland expedition is a popular choice which takes you through incredibly diverse landscapes over Chile and Argentina. Once in Patagonia, the best tour operators will provide the opportunity to partake in some truly memorable activities, including:
- Hike up to the top of the Villarrica volcano near Pucón.
- Trek glaciers in El Chaltén, the national capital of trekking in Argentina
- Whitewater rafting in the Futaleufu river valley
- Hike the ‘W Trek’ in Torres del Paine National Park, one of the best hikes in Patagonia
- View the Perito Moreno Glacier in Los Glaciares National Park
From Patagonia you will venture to the world’s southernmost city of Ushuiai, known as the city at the end of the world. It’s stunningly beautiful, perched between the dramatic Martial Mountains. The city lays claim to the most southern golf course, ski resort and Irish bar. Come to think of it, they pretty much lay claim to the southernmost everything.
From Ushuiai, you might choose to continue on to Buenos Aires, the Paris of South America. While there, be sure to indulge in arguably the best steak in the world, paired with some delicious Argentinian red wine before your ship comes in at the Terminal de Cruceros Benito Quinquela Martín. Could your ship be MV Narrative?
Storylines is a luxury residential community at sea. Our first ship, MV Narrative circumnavigates the globe every three years: a leisurely pace allowing extended time at port to enable our resident owners an immersive travel experience. As the ship is our home, we hop on and off at our leisure to properly explore destinations via overland tours when desired. We see travel as a lifestyle, not a vacation. To view the remaining residences available please visit our website and reach out if you have any questions.