The Pan-American Highway

Contributor: Meghan Vestal. Lesson ID: 12546

What's the longest road in your town? Have you ever taken a cross-country road trip? How about a trip across 14 countries on one road? Travel the world's longest road; take a warm coat and sunscreen!


United States

learning style
personality style
Lion, Beaver
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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If you could take a road trip anywhere in the world, where would you start and end your journey? Where would stop along the way?

For many, the ultimate road trip would be the Pan-American Highway.

At 29,800 miles, the Pan-American Highway is considered the longest drivable road in the world! The highway stretches from one end of the world to the other, giving riders the opportunity to experience North, South, and Central America.

Beginning in the late 1800s, American countries began meeting to discuss building a land route that stretched from one end of the Americas to the other. Initially, there was talk of constructing a railroad line, but that plan never became a reality.

In 1925, the first conference took place regarding the construction of a highway that stretched across the Americas. In 1950, Mexico became the first country to complete its portion of the highway. Initially, the highway only went through Central and South America, starting in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, and ending in Buenos Aires, Brazil.

Eventually, new sections of the road were added so that the road begins in Deadhorse, Alaska, near the Arctic Circle. The extensions have also stretched the road farther south, so that it now ends in Ushuaia, Argentina, which is considered to be the world’s most southerly city.

Take a look at the map below. Make a list of all the countries the Pan-American Highway spans, then look at the answer below:

Pan-American Highway

Image via Wikimedia Commons and released to public domain by copyright holder

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Even though the Pan-American Highway is considered the world’s longest motorable road, there is one section that cannot be traveled by automobile. The Darien Gap, which is shown inside the yellow box on the map above, can be found along the border of Panama and Columbia. Construction workers say it is impossible to construct a road on this area of land due to swampland, rainforests, and indigenous tribes that call the region home. Most people traveling the road choose to take a ferry to cross this section.

  • So, exactly how long do you think it takes to travel the entire length of the Pan-American Highway?

The answer to that question depends on the traveler. The highway travels through every type of climate zone and gives travelers a unique opportunity to see and experience a variety of landscapes, wildlife, and famous cities. Most travelers make stops along the way to see different regions and take excursions.

The fastest trip on record took place over 23 days, 22 hours, and 43 minutes, although most people take months to travel the entire highway. It is estimated that it would take a person traveling eight hours per day about three months to travel the entire highway. Travelers also spend thousands of dollars to travel the Pan-American Highway. Costs include car maintenance and gas, food, accommodations, and excursions.

Traveling the entirety of the Pan-American Highway is long and expensive.

  • Why do you think so many people choose to do it?
  • Would you want to take a road trip along the Pan-American Highway?

Write your responses to these questions on a separate piece of paper.

Then, travel on to the Got It? section to learn more about the sites and sights and cities one can see by traveling this famous road.

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