The Alaska to Argentina bike ride is one of the world's great long distance bike touring routes. Here's my experiences after 18 months cycling the Pan-Am Highway.
Panamerican Highway Bike Tour
Back in July 2009, I began cycling from Alaska to Argentina along the Panamerican Highway. This was a bicycle touring journey which would take me 18 months to complete, finishing in the February of 2011.
It was a cycling adventure which would cover two continents. Climates ranged from frozen tundras to humid rain forests. Terrain varied from the salt pans near Uyuni to cactus strewn sands. Punctures would be balanced by acts of kindness, cracked rims by generosity.
It was a true journey in every sense of the word.Although you may be reading these bike touring blogs about the Alaska to Argentina bike ride some years later, you might still find it helpful if you're planning on biking the Pan American Highway.
It includes my diary entries for each day of the PanAm Highway cycle tour, insights, as well as little snippets of travel information you might find useful.
What is the Pan American Highway?
A Pan-American route was first conceived in 1923. The idea was that it would stretch from the very north to the very south. There is no official route as such, but generally speaking it follows the main roads and highways of each country north to south predominantly on the western side.
How long is the Pan American highway?
The Pan American highway distance from the top of Alaska to the bottom of Argentina is approximately 30,000kms or 18,600 miles. Note: The distance varies depending on the exact overland route taken.
Where does the Pan American Highway begin and end?
The northern point of the Pan-American highway route is Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. The southernmost point is Ushuaia in Argentina.
Cycling from Alaska to Argentina on the Trans American Highway
I kept a travel blog when I was cycling from Alaska to Argentina along the Panamerican Highway.
By posting every day, I hoped to document my bicycle tour in a way which would be useful for others.
It also acts as a nice little reminder to myself of where I have been, and what I have done!
Below, I have summarised each month and included links which will take you straight there.
I have also recently written a blog post answering some FAQ on cycling from Alaska to Argentina. Please have a look around, and if you would like to get in touch, leave a comment below. Enjoy!
Cycling the Panamerican Highway
Here's some quick links to the bike tour across the Americas country by country. Like many people, I decided to go north-south when bikepacking the Inter-American Highway.
- Bike touring in Alaska
- Bike touring in Canada
- Biking The Pacific Coast Highway (USA)
- Bike touring in Mexico
- Bicycle touring in Guatemala
- Bike touring in El Salvador
- Bike touring in Honduras
- Bicycle touring in Nicaragua
- Bike touring in Costa Rica
- Bike Touring in Panama
- Bicycle touring in Colombia
- Bike touring in Ecuador
- Bike touring in Peru
- Bicycle touring in Bolivia
- Bike touring in Argentina
And now a more linear breakdown of the bike tour with more in-depth descriptions.
Cycling in Alaska
This was the start point of my cycling from Alaska to Argentina bike ride, and also the start of the Pan-American Highway.
The first section from Deadhorse back to Fairbanks is known as the Dalton Highway or Haul Road, and is a notoriously difficult section. I also cycled part of the Alaska Highway, and the odd gravel road or two!
For in-depth information and my day to day bike touring blogs, click the link below.
Cycling in Canada
After resting up in Fairbanks for a few days in order to give my knee a chance to recover, I hit the road once more.
There were some cold, wet days ahead before I crossed into Canada. Then there were some more, cold, wet days!
Along the way I met some other people cycling the Pan-American Highway, some going the whole way, and others doing sections of it.
Cycling in the USA
September 2009 – I carried on cycling the Trans American Highway through Canada, where I stayed with some wonderfully hospitable people. I found a couple of days work on an organic farm sorting out potatoes. Towards the end of the month, I crossed over into the USA, and then started cycling through Washington State and into Oregon.
October 2009 – The Golden Gate Bridge, 5 dollar campsites, 2 dollar wine, and plenty of friendly cyclists all made this month of cycling from Alaska to Argentina a pleasure. Special mention to Anne of Guadelupe who was a great Warmshowers host. We kept in touch, and we met up a few years later on a sailing trip.
November 2009 – I carried on cycling along the Pan-American Highway through the USA, and then crossed into Mexico. I took the Baja route, which meant plenty of dust, sand and cactus, and ended the month in Mulege with Bill, another Warmshowers and Couchsurfing host.
December 2009 – After taking two weeks off in Mulege where stayed at Bill’s place and worked on my websites, it was time to carry on my journey of cycling from Alaska to Argentina. I had a few days in Mazatlan where I then caught a ferry over to the mainland of Mexico, and carried on down it’s west coast.
January 2010 – After an extended stay in San Blas, Mexico over Christmas and the New Year where I was also recovering from flu, the journey continued ever southwards. I had ongoing problems changing gear on the bike due to a mechanical fault, and stayed in a mix of campsites, hotels and even brothels (yes, really).
February 2010 – There were some hot days involved in cycling through Mexico along the Trans American Highway, so it was always nice to have a cold coconut or two along the way! Heading away from the coast, I stayed in San Cristobal de las Casas for a while, and then cycled to the Mayan ruins of Palenque where I met Oliver along the way.
Cycling in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras
March 2010 – Leaving Mexico behind, I cycled with Oliver for a few days into Guatemala where we visited Tikal.
Parting company, I then did a border crossing or two as I rode through El Salvador and into Honduras in this central American stage of my trip. Corrupt officials? – I didn’t see a single one!
Cycling in Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama
April 2010 – Central America is quite a compact region, and during this month I managed to cycle through Honduras and carried on through Nicaragua, Costa Rica and into Panama. No, I did not buy a Panama hat!
It was not possible to cycle through the infamous Darién Gap when I was there. Instead, I would spend a few days in Panama City and then leap on a sailing boat for Colombia!
Cycling in Colombia
May 2010 – After sailing from Panama to Colombia, I cycled through this amazing country which I wish I had spent more time in. The people were incredibly friendly and welcoming, and I would go back there in an instant!
June 2010 – After cycling through Colombia, it was on to Ecuador. Think hills, mountains, big plates of food, irritating heel snapping dogs, and stunning scenery.
July 2010 – Ecuador gave a taste of things to come when I crossed the border into Peru. I have to say, that Peru is one of my favourite countries for bicycle touring.
Views and vistas defy imagination, there is a sense of true freedom and remoteness and the landscape is dotted with the ruins of lost civilisations. The cycling itself is tough but hugely rewarding. Again, I would go back to Peru in a heartbeat.
August 2010 – Day after day, Peru never failed to impress me. Of all the countries I passed through when cycling from Alaska to Argentina on the Trans American Highway, this was by far the best.
Rough roads and tough climbs were rewarded by great views and huge plates of food. When wild camping I saw some amazing sunsets. Have a look at some Travel Tips on Cycling in Peru.
September 2010 – I teamed up with Spanish cyclist Augusti for a while when I was cycling in Peru, and we shared many memorable experiences. Leaving Peru behind, it was on to Bolivia, which gives Peru a close run for its money in terms of being a favourite country to cycle through.
October 2010 – My money had started to quite drastically run out at this point, and I took several extended stays in places in order to do a little freelance writing work. I also met President Evo Morales (well, he walked by whilst his bodyguards kept a close eye on me!)
I also cycled across a salt pan – Check the YouTube video!
November 2010 – Not a lot happened in November in terms of cycling from Alaska to Argentina, as I took some weeks off in Tupiza in order to do some writing and improve my bank balance. I won’t leave it so late next time!
December 2010 – I finally left Bolivia, and cycled into Argentina. It was at the stage I realised that it was unlikely that I would reach my final goal of Tierra del Fuego as I was completely broke. Still, I had a good time In Salta for Christmas and the New Year!
January 2011 – After finishing off some freelance writing work, I began my cycle ride through Argentina. Wild camping along the way, I realised that I had to end my trip the following month. As an incentive, I had a job waiting for me back in the UK though.
February 2011 – My trip of cycling from Alaska to Argentina ended in Mendoza with a mix of feelings. I never made my goal of the Tierra del Fuego some 3000 more kilometres away, but I took away with me experiences and memories I will never forget.