The hippie trail was a 6,000-mile route through Europe and the Middle East into Central and Southern Asia.
Inspired by Kerouac, Ginsberg and The Beatles, hordes of members of the 60s counterculture movement took the road east seeking freedom and enlightenment. Few could afford to fly, most went overland, crossing Asia alone or in small groups, by whichever mode of transport suited their budget.
The most likely place the hippie trail would begin was either London or Amsterdam. Istanbul would be the next stop. Moving next to Teheran, the capital of Iran, you would travel through Turkey and northern Iran. Then to Herat, Afghanistan, and journey to Kabul where you find the famous Chicken Street! As you leave Afghanistan you would find yourself traveling through the Khyber Pass, connecting Afghanistan and Pakistan to Peshawar and Lahore. The hippie trail continued to India where you would most likely jump on a train to Delhi and continue to Kashmir and Goa. If you didn’t want the journey to end, then, Kathmandu was the ultimate destination.
Rural Turquey tea house photographed by Deena Atlas. He took the overland trip from London to New Delhi in October 1975.
Those who went on the hippie trail often referred to it as “going to India”, a short way of describing the trip. They did not call themselves “hippies” anyway, preferring the term “freaks”, and in Kathmandu, everyone knew where “Freak Street” was, though the official name was Jochen Tole street.
Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan were dynamited and destroyed in March 2001 by the Taliban.
While other travelers, those who were not “freaks”, quite reasonably refer to the route as “the overland”, there really was a distinct hippie trail. In every major stop along the way, there were hotels, restaurants, and cafes that catered to the long-haired westerners, who networked with each other as they traveled east.
The hippie trail was brought to an abrupt end in 1979 by general political turmoil; in Iran, there was the Islamic revolution; Lebanon fell into an era of civil war, and Russia invaded Afghanistan. Of course, places like Goa remained popular destinations, but no longer could they travel there overland.
Photography credits, when available: Rory MacLean, Lou Wilson, Wendy Tanner, Jack Garofalo.
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