Trains, planes and automobiles: retrace the world's most famous trails

From the Silk Route to the Trans-Siberia railway, there are a handful of legendary routes around the world that are still navigable.

The Silk Route is one of the oldest trading routes between East and West, running between Xian and Samarkand in China and then on to either Pakistan or Uzbekistan. No road runs the length, but Explore Worldwide (01252 760000; www.exploreworldwide.com) offers an itinerary that follows the Chinese section by coach and rail. The 25-day group tour, departing 3 May 2005, costs £2,175 per person, based on two sharing. The price includes flights to Tashkent - returning from Beijing with Air China and Uzbekistan Airways - transfers, accommodation and some meals.

Crossing the Sahara requires endurance and determination. Few paved roads go through the world's largest desert. The most popular is the Atlantic route from Nouadhibou (Mauritiana) to Tangiers. Guerba (01373 826611; www.guerba.com) offers a 15-day tour across parts of the Sahara in Mali, including a camel safari and a boat trip to Timbuktu. The next departures are on 6 November and 4 December. The cost is £855 each, based on two sharing. That includes eight nights' bed and breakfast, four nights' full board in villages and excursions. Flights and a local operator payment of €285 (£197) are not included.

The world's longest railway, the Trans-Siberian, extends 9,300km through the wastelands of Siberia from Moscow to Vladivostok. Work began on the line in 1891 and it was completed 25 years later. The Russia Experience (020-8566 8846; www.trans-siberian.co.uk) offers seven-day non-stop journeys along the entire network, although a stopover can be arranged. Trains depart every other day; the cost is £639 per person, based on two sharing a cabin. This includes two nights' bed and breakfast accommodation in Moscow and seven days on the train. The price does not include meals on board, however.

Australia's Ghan Railway originally ran between Adelaide and Alice Springs, but an extension to Darwin, opened in 2003, means it now spans the country, stretching 2,979 km. Named after the Afghan camel trains that trekked the route, the train offers sleeper carriages for the 48-hour journey. Freedom Australia (0870-742 4000; www.freedomaustralia.co.uk) organises trips on the Ghan with a stopover in Alice Springs. The first leg takes around 19 hours, the second 24 hours. The Ghan leaves Adelaide for Alice Springs every Sunday and Friday and departs from Alice Springs for Darwin every Monday. The entire journey costs £191 per person for a coach seat if you can bear it, or from £672 in a sleeper. Meals are extra.

The scenic Trans-Canada Railway extends from Toronto to Vancouver. Great Rail Journeys (01904 521915; www.greatrail.com) offers a 17-day itinerary on the 1950s "Canadian" taking in Niagara Falls, the Rockies, prairies, canyons, lakes and mountains. The next departure is on 2 May. The cost is £2,790 per person, based on two sharing. This includes flights on Air Canada from Heathrow to Toronto (returning from Vancouver), transfers, 13 nights' room-only hotel accommodation, selected meals and sleeper accommodation on the train.

How about a legendary drive? For many, the ultimate road trip is on what was once known as Route 66. The highway, which scythes through the United States from Chicago to Los Angeles, was immortalised by Chuck Berry ("Get your kicks on Route 66") and the road movie Easy Rider. Die-hard motorcyclists and film fanatics can trace the tyre tracks of Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda with HC Travel (01256 770775; www.hctravel.co.uk), which organises 14 guided and self-guided bike tours of Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles. The next 14-day guided tour departs on 10 June 2005. It costs £2,475 for a rider and £495 for a passenger. This includes hire of a Harley Davidson, motorcycle insurance and room-only accommodation. Flights are extra.

Closer to home, there is the A5 from London to Holyhead, which follows the route of Watling Street, the Roman road. It starts at Marble Arch and follows Edgware Road out of London to St Albans and thence to Shrewsbury and on to Holyhead on Holy Island. The route, which starts in Dover, was constructed between AD50 and AD400. It may not be the most scenic of drives, and you could hit a few jams, but you can enjoy the fact that you will be driving along a piece of British history.

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