Can You Drive From North America To South America?

Do you ever think about leaving everything behind and going on a road trip across multiple countries? Maybe going all the way down to Argentina or Colombia while visiting all the beautiful and colorful towns that are on the way there in Mexico, Costa Rica, and Panama?

Well, you are not alone.

Thinking about taking such a big road trip is something many people have wanted to do. Going across the United States or Canada is fun, but a trip to South America is full of so many different kinds of experiences and cultures.

In Europe, it is common for travelers to pack up their things, start their cars and drive all the way from Portugal to the Netherlands or even Russia.

Is it even possible to do that on this side of the world?

In this article we’ll answer the question once and for all.

Can you drive from North America to South America?

It is possible to drive all the way from North America to South America. But it is not recommended at all. The reason why is – assuming that you are ok with the safety concerns of traveling through some dangerous places – is because there is no road that connects Central America to South America. This is called the Darien Gap.

The Darien Gap is a region in the southern end of Panama. It is a natural border with Colombia that is formed by the Atrato and the Tirandú rivers and the impassable mountain range of the Darién province.

In the Darien gap, there´s little to no civilization. All you will find are the dangers of the jungle, swamps, roadless mountains, poisonous insects, wildlife that wants to eat you, and that´s not it. It is also sort of inhabited by guerrillas looking to smuggle their products from Colombia to the North.

I would not recommend you to go there.

The Darien Gap is the only interruption of the Pan-American highway that otherwise could take you all the way from the North of Alaska to the southern tip of Argentina.

But wait! There is a way

If you don’t mind cheating a little bit to skip the Darien Gap, then driving from North to South America is definitely possible.

And a lot of people do it every year.

Depending on your starting point, destination, and how much you want to explore the different cities and countries on your way to South America, the trip can take between 4 weeks to a year.

Route From North America to South America

Optimal route from North America to South America
Optimal route from North America to South America

People that do it for the challenge of going from the northern tip to the southern tip of the continent generally drive all the way to Alaska to get started. Specifically to Prudhoe Bay, in Alaska where the Pan-American Highway starts.

The Pan-American Highway is an unofficial network of roads that connects the poles of North America and South America. It has the Guinness world record for the longest “motorable road” and goes through all the countries that have a coast to the Pacific Ocean. It is only interrupted by the 60 miles of the Darien Gap.

In Canada, the route will usually take you to the Trans-Canada Highway, and then you get to options to go south to the US, one to the East through Calgary, and one to the West through Winnipeg. Both should take about the same time.

If you are starting the trip in the US then the goal is to get to Texas, specifically to Laredo where you will cross to Mexico.

The path from Mexico to Panama is pretty straightforward. It goes through Mexico City and most of the big capitals in Central America. This is the part where you will need to start taking extra precautions in regard to safety. I’d recommend only driving by daylight and sticking to the main highways.

In Panama, you will need to find a way to ship your vehicle to Colombia. There are multiple ways to do this but the cheapest one is going to be by boat (and it is still not going to be that cheap). I’d recommend contacting freight services and making a deal before you even start your trip so you don’t run into any surprises once you are there.

You will need to take a plane from Panama to Colombia and receive your vehicle on the other end.

From that point forward there are no more interruptions. The Pan-American highway takes you through the Pacific side which includes Ecuador, Peru, Chile, and Argentina. Some people really want to look for alternative routes that go through Brasil, but that is not optimal as there are places in the Amazon forest where there are no roads.

How long does it take to drive from North America to South America?

It depends on your starting point and how much you want to explore the different cities you pass by.

The Pan-American Highway starting from Alaska and going to the south of Argentina is almost 11,000 miles (17,700 km) long. That is five times the driving distance from Los Angeles to New York.

Driving 6 to 8 hours per day, it would take between 20 and 30 days to complete.

If you count from the Mexico-Texas border, the distance is still a bit over 7,000 miles (11,200 km) and would take between 16 and 26 days to complete at the same 6-8 hours pace.

Most people that go on this journey take a lot longer to complete it though as part of the experience is visiting all the different cities and towns on the road. On average, people that take on this driving from North to South America adventure take between 6 months and 1 year to complete it.


  • It is not possible to drive uninterrupted from North America to South America due to the Darien Gap in Panama/Colombia
  • However, it is possible to ship your vehicle from Panama to Colombia to continue the trip there
  • The driving trip from North America to South America takes between 16 days and a year depending on how fast you want to make it and your starting point.