The hippie trail was the journey taken by hippies and others in the 1960s and 1970s from Europe overland to and from southern Asia, mainly India and Nepal. One of the key elements was traveling as cheaply as possible, mainly to extend the length of time away from home. As such, journeys were carried out by thumbing (hitchhiking), or cheap, private buses that travelled the route. There were also trains that traveled part of the way, particularly across Eastern Europe through Turkey (with a ferry connection across Lake Van) and to Tehran or east to Mashhad, Iran. From these cities, public or private transportation could then be obtained for the rest of the trip. These journeys evoked the 17th and 18th-century tradition of the Grand Tour.
Such journeys would typically start from countries in western Europe, often London or Amsterdam. Many from the US took Icelandic Airlines to Luxembourg. Most journeys passed through Istanbul, from where routes divided. The usual northern route passed through Tehran, Herat, Kandahar, Kabul, Peshawar and Lahore to India. An alternative route was from Turkey via Syria, Jordan, and Iraq to Iran and Pakistan. All travellers had to cross the Pakistan-India border at Ganda Singh Wala (or later at Wagah). Delhi, Varanasi (then called Benares), Goa, Kathmandu, or Bangkok were the usual destinations in the east. Kathmandu still has a road, Jochen Tole, nicknamed Freak Street in memory of the many thousands of hippies who passed through. Further travel to southern India, Kovalam beach in Trivandrum (Kerala) and some to Sri Lanka (then called Ceylon), and points east and south to Australia was sometimes also undertaken.
The bulk of travelers comprised Western Europeans, North Americans, Australians, and Japanese. Ideas and experiences were exchanged in well known hostels and hotels along the way, such as the Pudding Shop in Istanbul, Sigi's on Chicken Street in Kabul or the Amir Kabir in Teheran. Many carried a backpack and, while the majority were young, older people and families occasionally travelled the route. A number drove the entire distance.
In the mid-1970s, a number of operators attempted to commercialise the route. Some of the more successful at taking paying passengers included Transit Travel, AutoTours, Sundowners and Top Deck.
The overland trail suffered from political changes at the end of the 1970s. The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and the Shah was deposed by an Islamic revolution in Iran. Still, the travel organizers "Sundowners" and "Topdeck" pioneered a route through Baluchistan. Topdeck continued its trips throughout the Iran-Iraq war and later conflicts, but took its last trip in 1998.
In September 2007, a new bus service, Ozbus, started between London and Sydney over the route of the hippie trail. In 2008 the Odyssey Overland Company began a series of 6 month drives along the old Silk Road north of Iran, across Tibet to Kathmandu and with a termination in Darwin, Australia, and also run 3-month expeditions along the northern Silk Road between Beijing and Istanbul and Kathmandu and Istanbul .
With a loosening of immigration in Iran the route has again become somewhat feasible, although continuing conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan make the route difficult to negotiate.
Guides and travelogues 
The BIT Guide, recounting collective experiences and reproduced at a fairly low-cost, produced the early duplicated stapled-together "foolscap bundle" with a pink cover providing information for travellers and updated by those already on the road, warned of pitfalls and places to see and stay. The BIT information was often reproduced, without credit, by the later well-known commercial guides. The first BIT Guide was produced by the BIT Information & Help Service in London in 1970. The BIT guide reached its peak under the control of Geoff Crowther, who arrived at BIT in 1972, which continued on to 1980 when the last BIT guide was published with a finishing quote "Unlike all the previous editions which have been dragged screaming from various seedy West London basements on the crest of eviction orders, this one was put together in a semi-derelict, Morning Glory-covered, former banana shed in the depths of the rainforest in New South Wales, Australia. This time it's taken three months to put together but then its twice the size and, there's no electricity here and half of everyday is spent keeping lantana, groundsel, leeches, land mullets and 6ft-plus pythons at bay, it's not altogether surprising".
The 1971 edition of The Whole Earth Catalog (The Last Whole Earth Catalog) devoted page 302 to the Overland Guide to Nepal. The guidebook company Lonely Planet got its birth when its founders published writings from their overland trip, driving from the UK to Australia. Tony Wheeler, the creator of the Lonely Planet guidebooks made in his early days a publication on the hippie trail called "Across Asia On The Cheap" (1973). He made this 94-page pamphlet of travel experiences gained by crossing Western Europe, the Balkans, Turkey and Iran from London in an Austin minivan they bought for $130. After having travelled through these regions, they sold the van in Afghanistan and continued on a succession of chicken buses, third-class trains and long-distance trucks. They crossed Pakistan, India, Nepal, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia and arrived nine months later in Sydney with a combined 27 cents in their pockets. (Prior to the publication of Across Asia on the Cheap many travelers used the 375-page Student Guide to Asia by David Jenkins, which covered 24 countries.)
Paul Theroux wrote a classic account of the route in The Great Railway Bazaar (1975). Two more recent travel books — The Wrong Way Home (1999) by Peter Moore and Magic Bus (2008) by Rory Maclean — also retrace the original hippie trail.
New trails 
In recent years, due to the increase of budget airlines and low-cost flights, new hippie trails have been formed and have accompanied the original hippie trail of the 1960s and 1970s. Examples include hippie trails that are being formed towards North Africa (Morocco, Tunisia, etc.) and other destinations that are reachable by low-cost airlines. In addition, there is the Banana Pancake Trail to Asia.
See also 
- Association of Special Fares Agents
- Grand Tour - 17th-19th century Continental tour undertaken by young European aristocrats, partly as leisure and partly educational.
Further reading 
- MacLean, Rory (2008), Magic Bus: On the Hippie Trail from Istanbul to India, London, New York: Penguin Books, Ig Publishing.
- Dring, Simon (1995) On the Road Again BBC Books ISBN 0-563-37172-2
- A Season in Heaven: True Tales from the Road to Kathmandu (ISBN 0864426291; compiled by David Tomory) - accounts by people who made the trip, mostly in search of enlightenment.
- Hall, Michael (2007) Remembering the Hippie Trail: travelling across Asia 1976-1978, Island Publications ISBN 978-1-899510-77-1
- Dan Silberman (2012) In the Footsteps of Iskander: Going to India ISBN 978-0-9880145-0-3
- Magic Bus - Asia Overland hippie trail website and photo gallery
- "The Hippie Trail - The Road to Paradise"
- Steve Abrams' Diary of trip from 1967
- "Beyond the Beach - An Ethnography of Modern Travellers in Asia"
- "On the Hippie Trail" - an impression from 1968
- "Road to Goa - pics and stories from a 70s 'trail' bus driver"
- Brief History of the Hippie Trail
- Overland from London to Kathmandu in a Double Decker bus 1980-1981
- Alternative Society 1970s: BIT Travel Guide
- Cheltenham to Delhi: Overland in a van 2007-2008
- Video footage of Hippie Kathmandu from 1975