Route Review

I’m now back home in Bermuda after a fantastic travel experience. The trip lasted 24.5 weeks (5.5 months) and took me to 23 countries. I drove a total of 22,334 miles (34,943 km) in my Land Rover Defender.  I thought it would be useful to review the route, documenting the places I visited in a single post and offering my thoughts on the route for others who may be considering a similar trip.

The final route included the following countries and cities:

30th March: Departed Bermuda on British Airways flight to London.

ENGLAND

Spent time visiting friends/family and receiving training in off-road driving, recovery techniques and vehicle maintenance.

7th April: Depart Bridgwater and overnight in Dover

FRANCE, BELGIUM, NETHERLANDS, GERMANY

8th April: Ferry from Dover to Dunkirk followed by a drive through Belgium and Netherlands into Germany (slept inside vehicle in autobahn rest-stop area)

9th April: Continue to Berlin (2 nights).

POLAND

11th April: Cross border and drive to Krakow, Poland.

SLOVAKIA

12th April: Cross border and drive to Vklolinec, Slovakia

13th April: Drive to Poprad.

UKRAINE

14th April: Cross border and drive to Lviv (2 nights).

16th April: Drive to Kiev (3 nights).

The route to Ukraine
The route to Ukraine

RUSSIA

19th April: Cross border and drive to Kursk, Russia.

20th April: Drive towards Saratov (wild-camping overnight).

21st April: Arrive in Saratov.

22nd April: Drive to Samara (2 nights).

24th April: Drive to Kazan (2 nights).

26th April: Drive towards Perm (slept inside vehicle – stuck in mud)

27th April: Drive to Izhevsk.

28th April: Drive to Perm.

29th April: Drive to Yekaterinburg

30th April: Drove towards Omsk (slept inside vehicle).

1st May: Continued drive towards Omsk (wild-camping overnight).

2nd May: Drove to Omsk.

3rd May: Drive towards Novosibirsk (wild-camping overnight).

4th May: Drive to Novosibirsk.

5th May: Drive towards Krasnoyarsk (wild-camping overnight).

6th May: Drive to Krasnoyarsk (2 nights).

8th May: Drive to BAM Road at Taishet (wild-camping)

9th May: Began to drive the BAM Road but detoured due to muddy conditions (wild-camping).

10th May: Drive to Irkutsk (2 nights).

12th May: Drive past Lake Baikal, in snowy weather, to Ulan Ude (2 nights).

The route across Russia to Mongolia
The route across Russia to Mongolia

MONGOLIA

14th May: Cross border to Mongolia (wild camping next to Amarbayasgalant Khiid monastery).

15th May: Drive to Ulaanbaatar (4 nights).

19th May: Drive to Kharkarin (wild-camping).

20th May: Drive to Tsetserleg.

21st May: Drive to Tsagaar Nuur  – White Lake (wild-camping).

22nd May: Drive to Tosontsengel.

23rd May: Drive to Uliastai.

24th May: Drove to area near Erdene Kirkhan, looking for the small Khar Nuur – Black Lake (wild-camping).

25th May: Drove to the large Khar Nuur – Black Lake – and then past the town of Dorgon (wild-camping).

26th May: Drove to Khovd.

27th May: Drive to Tolbo Nuur (wild-camping next to the lake).

28th May: Drive to Olgii.

The route through Mongolia
The route through Mongolia

RUSSIA

29th May: Cross border into Russian Altai region (wild-camping on river bank).

30th May: Drive to Biysk.

31st may: Drive to Rubtovsk (wild-camping between the town and the Kazakh border).

The route through the Russian Altai and into Kazakhstan
The route through the Russian Altai and into Kazakhstan

KAZAKHSTAN

1st June: Cross border into Kazakhstan and drive towards Ayagoz (wild-camping).

2nd June: Visited Ayagoz an then drove to Taldykorgan.

3rd June: Drive to Almaty (3 nights).

6th June: Drive to Charyn Canyon (wild-camping beside river in the canyon).

The route south through Kazakhstan
The route south through Kazakhstan

KYRGYZSTAN

7th June: Crossed border into Kyrgyzstan and drove to Karakol (2 nights).

9th June: Drive to Tamga (wild-camping on beach next to Issyk Kul lake).

10th June: Drive to Bishkek (5 nights).

15th June: Drive over the Too Asuu Pass to Kyzl-Oi (wild-camping).

16th June: Drive to Son-Kol lake (wild-camping on lake shore).

17th June: Drive through Ak-Tal and Baetov and then over the Kulack-Asuu Pass to Tash Rabat (overnight at yurt camp).

18th June: Drive through Naryn River Valley to Kazarman (wild-camping overlooking river past the town).

19th June: Drive over the Kaldama Pass and through the Fergana Valley to Jalal-Abad (2 nights).

The route through Kyrgyzstan
The route through Kyrgyzstan

UZBEKISTAN

21st June: Cross border into Uzbekistan and drive to Tashkent.

22nd June: Drive to Samarkand (3 nights).

25th June: Drive to Bukhara (3 nights).

28th June: Drive to Khiva (2 nights).

The route through Uzbekistan
The route through Uzbekistan

KAZAKHSTAN

30th June: Long drive to border and into Kazakhstan (slept inside vehicle a few km past the border).

1st July: Drive to Atyrau (2 nights).

3rd July: Drive to Oral/Uralsk.

The route north through Kazakhstan
The route north through Kazakhstan

RUSSIA

4th July: Drive to Saratov (wild-camping beside a lake, beyond Saratov).

5th July: Drove through Kursk and continued towards border. Stayed in motel near to border.

UKRAINE

6th July: Crossed border into Ukraine and drive to Kiev (5 nights).

10th July: Day-trip to Chernobyl.

11th July: Drive to Klevan, then south towards border (slept inside vehicle).

The route west through Russia and Ukraine
The route west through Russia and Ukraine

ROMANIA

12th July: Crossed border into Romania and drove to Sighisoara (2 nights).

14th July: Drove to campsite near to Bran (2 nights).

16th July: Drove to Saliste (5 nights)

17th July: Day-trip to Hunedoara and Sarmizegutsa

18th July: Day-trip to Sibiu.

19th July: Day-trip in Cindrel Mountains.

21st July: Drove Transfagaras Highway to Calafat.

Then route south through Romania
Then route south through Romania

BULGARIA

22nd July: Crossed border into Bulgaria and drove to Sofia (2 nights).

GREECE

24th July: Crossed border into Greece and drove to Thessaloniki (2 nights).

26th July: Drove to Kastraki – Meteora Monasteries (2 nights).

MACEDONIA

28th July: Crossed border into Macedonia and drove to Skopje (2 nights).

30th July: Drive to Ohrid (2 nights).

ALBANIA

31st July: Crossed border into Albania. Drove to Berat.

1st August: Drove to Ulcinj.

MONTENEGRO

2nd August: Cross border into Montenegro and drove to Dobrota on the Bay of Kotor (2 nights)

3rd August: Day-trip to Perast.

CROATIA

4th August: Cross border into Croatia and drive to Dubrovnik

BOSNIA-HERCEGOVINA

5th August: Cross border into Bosnia and drive through Mostar to Sarajevo (2 nights).

7th August: Drive to Jajce and Travnik.

The route from Bulgaria to Sarjevo
The route from Bulgaria to Sarjevo

CROATIA

8th August: Cross back into Croatia and drive to Korana Campsite near the Plitvice Lakes National Park (2 nights).

10th August: Drive to Pula (campsite for 2 nights)

SLOVENIA

12th August: Cross border into Slovenia and drive to Ljubljana (3 nights).

14th August: Day-trip to Bled Castle and Vintgar Gorge.

The route from Sarajevo to Ljubljana
The route from Sarajevo to Ljubljana

ITALY

15th August: Crossed into Italy and drove to hotel in Marghera (3 nights). Day-trip into Venice.

16th August: Day-trip to Venice.

17th August: Day-trip to Venice and Burano.

18th August: Drive to Verona (3 nights).

21st August: Drive to Ferrara and then to Bologna (4 nights).

25th August: Drive to Parma (2 nights).

27th August: Drive to Genoa (3 nights).

The route from Ljubljana to Genoa
The route from Ljubljana to Genoa

FRANCE

30th August: Cross into France and drive to apartment in Eze Bord de Mer (7 nights).

1st September: Day-trip to Eze Village.

2nd September: Day-trip to Nice.

3rd September: Day-trip to Monte-Carlo in MONACO.

5th September: Day-trip to Cannes.

6th September: Drive to Lyon (2 nights).

8th September: Drive to B&B near to Montlucon in the Auvergne region (3 nights).

9th September: Day-trip to Chateu Rocher and Clermont-Ferrand.

10th September: Green-laning trip in Auvergne.

11th September: Drive to Vauxbuin.

12th September: Drive to Dunkerque.

ENGLAND

13th September: Drive to mother’s home near Blackpool (3 nights).

16th September: Drive to vicinity of Bridgwater in Somerset (2 nights).

18th September: Drive rental car to Gatwick Airport and flight to Bermuda.

The route through France and England
The route through France and England
The complete route
The complete route

 

REVIEW

Generally, the planned route worked out very well. Whilst for the most part I stuck to the planned route, I did deviate from it a few times along the way, either to skip a city or to include a new location. My route planning had suggested a total mileage of 20,000 miles, so an actual total of 22,334 was quite close, considering the additional driving that was done on day-trips.

My two favourite countries in the primary ‘Russia and Central Asia’ segment were Mongolia and Kyrgyzstan, with Uzbekistan coming in third place. I really enjoyed the open spaces of Mongolia and the ability to drive anywhere and camp anywhere. Kyrgyzstan’s mountainous landscape made a big impression on me, with the drive over the Kaldama Pass from Kazarman to Jalal-Abad being an outstanding day. The amazing buildings on Uzbekistan’s Silk Road kept my camera clicking furiously! Kazakhstan was a bit of a disappointment. I enjoyed Almaty and the Charyn Canyon but much of the rest of the country was nondescript and boring. I understand that the route across the northern part of Kazakhstan is much more scenic, but my route choice was necessary to get into Kyrgyzstan and out of Uzbekistan. Russia was a bit of a mixed bag. I enjoyed certain parts, such as the Altai region and the city of Kazan, but other parts were rather boring. Much of Siberia consisted of very long drives on a highway with views often being limited to the rows of birch trees running along both sides of the road. Rather than driving so far west in Russia (to Lake Baikal), I now believe that it would be better to enter Mongolia at it’s western border crossing and then drive a loop to Ulaanbaatar and back to the western border crossing, thereby cutting out much of the driving through Siberia whilst increasing the places visited in Mongolia.

Despite the ongoing armed conflict in Ukraine, I didn’t encounter any problems. I used the Ukraine-Russia border crossing to the east of Kiev (north of the conflict zone), thereby avoiding the problem areas. I extended my stay in Kiev on the return leg so that I could visit Chernobyl. So glad that I did!

After completing the Russia and Central Asia segment, I felt a little deflated, thinking that the most interesting part of the trip was over. As it turned out, the European countries in the latter segment offered plenty of exciting and interesting moments. There were so many historical sites and buildings to see that there was never a dull moment. Romania was particularly interesting as it is jam-packed with historical sites. The route that I took from Romania to France worked out very well, with some shorter driving distances between each of the cities, particularly when compared to the 10-12 hour drives in Russia and Central Asia.

I thoroughly enjoyed the trip and could have happily continued for a few more months. It was a fantastic way to celebrate my temporary retirement. Everywhere that I went, I met friendly people who were interested in either the vehicle or in my journey (or both). I can heartily recommend this route for anyone who is considering a similar trip.

In my next post, I’ll reflect on the performance of my Land Rover over the duration of the trip.

 

5 Comments

  1. Hi,
    I have been glued to your posts from your first time in the Ukraine until now, it was very interesting following you, my wife and I have just completed our trip from UK to Thailand and are now ready to fly back to the UK for 5 or 6 weeks before returning for the winter to Thailand.
    We may drive back to the UK via a route through many of the countries that you returned to Europe through, can you tell me did you need 4 wheel drive, I ask because our Mercedes 814D hasn’t got 4 wheel drive, is there a route that in you experience we could take without needing 4 wheel drive.

    Dave

    1. Hi Dave:

      Glad you’ve been enjoying the blog. No four-wheel drive is required from the point in the route where I entered Uzbekistan (after crossing the Kaldama Pass to Jalal-Abad). From that point it is all paved highway.

      The Kaldama Pass has some tight/narrow sections and some parts are very muddy, so I wouldn’t want to drive it in your vehicle. Otherwise, Russia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan can all be crossed without four-wheel drive if you stick to the paved roads. And there are paved-road options to get into Uzbekistan without using the Kaldama Pass. Mongolia is getting more paved roads but there are areas where dirt roads prevail – but they are generally pretty good and are used by all vehicle types. However, some of the roads have to cross water so it depends how you feel about that.

      Craig

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