Pan-American HighwayThe Pan-American Highway is a collective system of roads, approximately 16,000 miles (25,750 km) long, that nearly links the nations of the Western Hemisphere in a roughly unified stretch of highway. The roots of the Pan-American Highway emerged at the Fifth International Conference of American States in 1923.
The Pan-American Highway system is mostly complete and extends from Alaska in North America to Chile in South America. The notable stretch that keeps the highway from being completely connected is a section of land between the Panama Canal in Panama and northwest Colombia called the Darién Gap, which is a 54 mile (87 km) stretch of harsh, mountainous jungle. Many are opposed to completing the Darién portion of the highway, with reasons as varied as the desire to protect the rain forest, containing the spread of tropical diseases, protecting the livelihood of indigenous peoples in the area, and creating a buffer for potential drug-trafficking from Colombia.
The Pan-American Highway passes through many diverse climates and ecological types, from dense jungles to cold mountain passes. Since the highway passes through many countries, it is far from uniform. Some stretches of the highway are passable only during the dry season, and in many regions driving is occasionally hazardous.
Famous sections of the Pan-American Highway include the Alaska Highway and the Inter-American Highway. The Inter-American Highway is the section between the United States and the Panama Canal, and is quite popular with tourists driving to Mexico. Altogether, the Pan-American Highway travels through the following 12 countries, 5 U.S. states, and 2 Canadian political entities (1 province and 1 territory):
- United States
- Costa Rica