The North Yungas Road is by far the most dangerous on the planet, so dangerous that it has earned the epithet of ‘Death Road’. The road covers a 70km stretch between La Paz and Coroico over a decent of 3,600m with ridiculously tight hairpins and narrow passages to navigate, all whilst trying to avoid a sheer 800m drop.
The world’s most dangerous highway is not just a tourist moniker for the route which drops from La Cumbre, above the Bolivian capital of La Paz at an icy 4900m, to Coroico, in the lush subtropical valley 3000m below. In 1995, after some disastrous accidents the Inter American Development Bank christened this route "The Most Dangerous Road in the World". This was based on the macabre ratio of death per mile. On an average, 26 vehicles plummet over the edge each year, claiming more than 100 lives.
Received wisdom is that this is due more to the approach of drunk and/or crazy Bolivian drivers – periodically sending a busload off the precipitous edge – than to the intrinsically terrifying nature of the road. Nevertheless, it has great notoriety, and adventure-minded tourists who make the descent on mountain bikes boast afterwards of their brush with oblivion. Sadly, the dangers of the road actually entice people with adventure seeking in their adrenaline lined hearts. Between, Buses, cars, trucks, and even bicycles, it seems that nobody is deemed safe on this true Death Road. The catastrophic number of auto parts wading at the bottom of the 800m + drops would be in an Auto Parts Geek favor, if it weren't for the devastating truth that the only reason the auto parts exist is because of the extreme fatalities this Death Road produces.
The North Yungas Road (alternatively known as Grove's Road, Coroico Road, Camino de las Yungas, El Camino de la Muerte, Road of Death, Unduavi-Yolosa Highway or Death Road) is a 61-kilometre (38 mi) or 69-kilometre (43 mi) road leading from La Paz to Coroico, 56 kilometres (35 mi) northeast of La Paz in the Yungas region of Bolivia. It is legendary for its extreme danger and in 1995 the Inter-American Development Bank christened it as the "world's most dangerous road". One estimate is that 200 to 300 travellers were killed yearly along the road. The road includes crosses marking many of the spots where vehicles have fallen.
A South Yungas Road (Chulumani Road) exists that connects La Paz to Chulumani, 64 kilometres (40 mi) east of La Paz, and is considered to be nearly as dangerous as the North Road.
The road was built in the 1930s during the Chaco War by Paraguayan prisoners. It is one of the few routes that connects the Amazon rainforest region of northern Bolivia, or Yungas, to its capital city. Upon leaving La Paz, the road first ascends to around 4,650 metres (15,260 ft) at La Cumbre Pass, before descending to 1,200 metres (3,900 ft) at the town of Coroico, transiting quickly from cool Altiplano terrain to rainforest as it winds through very steep hillsides and atop cliffs.
Because of the extreme dropoffs of at least 600 meters (1,830 feet), single-lane width – most of the road no wider than 3.2 metres (10 ft) and lack of guard rails, the road is extremely dangerous. Further still, rain, fog and dust can reduce visibility. In many places the road surface is muddy, and can loosen rocks from the road. One of the local road rules specifies that the downhill driver never has the right of way and must move to the outer edge of the road. This forces fast vehicles to stop so that passing can be negotiated safely. Also, vehicles drive on the left, as opposed to the right like the rest of Bolivia. This gives a left hand drive vehicle's driver a better view over his outside wheel, making passing safer. On 24 July 1983, a bus veered off the Yungas Road and into a canyon, killing more than 100 passengers in what is said to be Bolivia's worst road accident.
The danger of the road ironically made it a popular tourist destination starting in the 1990s, drawing some 25,000 thrillseekers. Mountain biking enthusiasts in particular have made it a favourite destination for downhill biking since there is a 64-kilometre (40 mi) stretch of continuous downhill riding with only one short uphill section. There are now many tour operators catering to this activity, providing information, guides, transport, and equipment. Nevertheless, the Yungas Road remains dangerous. At least 18 cyclists died on the ride since 1998.
The Yungas Road was modernized during a 20 year period ending in 2006. The modernization included enlarging the carriageway from one to two lanes, constructing asphalt pavement, and building a new section between Chusquipata and Yolosa, bypassing to the north one of the most dangerous sections of the old 'Death Road'. This new route features modern construction (bridges, drainage, etc.), multiple lanes, pavement, guardrails, and many other elements that make it considerably safer than the original route. The original North Yungas Road is currently much less used by traffic, although an increasing number of adventure travelers bike it for the thrills. The Death Road got its name after 8 Israeli travelers were killed in a jeep accident on that road in December 1999.
Why it's dangerous:
* The road is only 3 metres wide and is navigated by trucks and buses
* Constant sheer drops of at least 600m without any barriers or guard rails
* Extreme dust clouds from vehicles in the summer and fog all year round often reduce visibility to almost zero
* Rain in the winter months often washes away parts of the road, reduces visibility as well as causing mudslides and the loosening of rocks from the hillsides above.