Alaska to Panama – A Road Trip to Remember

A photography essay of my overland journey from Alaska to Panama.

In the summer of 2014 I embarked on a 105 day trip along the Pan American Highway from Anchorage, Alaska to Panama City, Panama. On this tour I covered 9 countries and a whole lot of miles!

I was lucky enough to re-visit these places on future trips, but this was the only occasion where I covered the ground on one trip. This overland adventure took place in a converted American school bus who was called Betsy.

In this post I share a photo from every country that brings back fond memories of that place. It transports me to a happy moment in time, captured with the simple click of camera.

Here I share a photo journey from Alaska to Panama – my Pan American Adventure!

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A photo journey from Alaska to Panama to inspire your very own Pan American Adventure

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Alaska To Panama Road Trip


Alaska - the first country on our Alaska to Panama Road trip
Picking a favourite place in Alaska is very hard to do! There are so many epic places to choose from including Wrangell St Ellias, the Kenai Fjords and Denali. But my fond memories come from a place that is much lesser known.

At mile 42 on the Denali Highway there is a beautiful place called the Maclaren River Lodge. From this lodge we undertake an unforgettable side trip. Travelling 10 miles up the river we reach a remote wilderness camp where we spend the night.

From here it’s a 5 mile hike to reach the Maclaren Glacier, which you can see in this photo. Then after a night spent camping in true Alaskan wilderness, we jump in our canoes and paddle all the way back to the lodge. I was lucky enough to visit here 5 times and I’d go back in a heartbeat 🙂


Ah the beautiful Canadian Rockies. A place I once called home. On my final visit to Maligne lake in Jasper National Park, I made the last minute decision to jump on a boat trip with some members of the group.

We debated about doing the trip as the weather was very cloudy. However, as we reached the end of the lake the clouds lifted and I finally caught a glimpse of the majestic, Spirit Island. What a great decision it turned out to be!


Monument valley
To truly capture the magic of Monument Valley you need to drive into the valley and spend a night sleeping under the stars. Then in the morning, deep within the park, sunrise greets you from behind the iconic totem pole. What a way to start the day!

To learn about the tours available in Monument Valley, take a look at this post, or for more photos from my Monument Valley Trips click here.

Note: There are two photos from the USA since we have two visits to the country on this trip.

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Mexico is a big country when you drive from one end to the other, so there were many memories to choose from. There are also many Mayan ruins I could’ve chosen and each are special in their own way. But Chichen Itza was the first Mayan site that really blew my mind.

Rather than just hearing about dates and names we learned about their in-depth knowledge of astronomy and mathematics. It really is incredible how much they knew back then. And if you’ve had a guide take you around Chichen Itza, you will know about the clapping phenomenon – that made me smile for days!


Belize, Caye Caulker
Beautiful little Belize. Sure, I once spent 8 hours at the border fighting local bureaucracy to get in, but that is soon forgotten with a few nights spent on the island of Caye Caulker.

Time slows down as it tends to do on many a Caribbean island and days are spent snorkelling or hanging out at the “split”. What’s not to love?


Guatemala, Lake Atitlan
It was a close call between Rio Dulce and this place for my Guatemalan selection, but Lake Atitlan holds a special place for me. Nestled in the Guatemalan highlands, I’m not sure I have one specific memory for this place, more just nice feeling when I think about the time I spent there.

El Salvador

El Salvador
El Salvador, the small Central American country that everyone forgets about. On my first visit we arrived just in time to see these Olive Ridley turtles being released into the ocean. We watched as they edged their way towards the big blue expanse and hoped that in years to come, some might also make it back here to lay eggs of their own.

The town of Suchitoto in El Salvador is home to one of the most unique waterfalls in the world. Read more about this waterfall and others in this guide.


Honduras, Roatan
Our time in Honduras was mostly spent on the island of Roatan. The plane we took to reach the island could only hold 19 people, which was just enough for the group and the tour leader.

Once on the island and with the group all settled in, it was time to kick back and enjoy some Caribbean cocktails at sunset.


Nicaragua, Leon
There aren’t many places where you can hike to the top of a volcano to see molten hot magma bubbling away in the crater. (Although I have tried in Ethiopia!) However, not far from Leon in Nicaragua is Telica volcano, where you can do exactly that.

We spent a couple of hours hiking up from the base of the volcano before we stopped to enjoy this sunset. Then we hiked just a little more to the edge of the crater where, between waves of toxic gas, we could peer in to see the bright orange lava. An incredible and slightly nauseous memory.

When I’m hiking I always carry my trusty backpack filled with everything I need for a day in the mountains. Have a look at what’s in my bag!

Costa Rica

Here I am abseiling down a waterfall in Costa Rica
Pura Vida! If you’ve been to Costa Rica you would’ve heard this phrase a lot. Simply translated it means pure life but Costa Ricans use it for hello, goodbye and everything else in between. Costa Rica is probably the easiest and most popular country to visit in Central America and it’s easy to see why.

Whether you want to enjoy nature or partake in some adventurous activities, there’s something for everyone here. This is the place where I first saw sloths and where I did the longest zip line in the world. This is also the first place where I abseiled down a waterfall – a cold but memorable experience.


Panama, Bocas del Toro. A well earned rest after a massive road trip from Alaska to Panama.
Reaching Panama City was huge relief for me. It was the end of almost 1 year without an official day off (obviously some days were harder than others!) After waving goodbye to the group I headed off for a two week vacation and the first stop was here, Bocas del Toro.

Bocas del Toro is an archipelago on the Caribbean coast of Northern Panama. I spent a week relaxing at my stilted bungalow, reflecting on a year that had taken me from the very tip of South America to the very top of North America.

I also slept….a lot!
The Alaska to Panama trip with Dragoman takes place in a converted American school bus called Betsy! Here’s Betsy and me enjoying the views in the Canadian Rockies.

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A photo journey from Alaska to Panama to inspire your very own Pan American Adventure

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Louise is a Mountain Leader and Snowboard Instructor from South Wales. As a former Adventure Tour Leader she has spent the last 15 years travelling Asia, Africa and the Americas. Louise is a published photographer and is currently based in the UK.

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