D915 is one of the most challenging roads in the world. Located in the Trabzon province, Turkey, the road is extreme, bordered by a drop of hundreds of meters unprotected by guardrails. It’s definitely not for anyone suffering from vertigo or a fear of landslides. Only the suicidal, the insane, or the paid-to-do-this should ever drive down. This road has humbled many egos. One mistake and it's a free fall to your death.
The road links Of, a town in Trabzon Province in the Black Sea region, and Bayburt, a city in northeast Turkey lying on the Çoruh River. It has a length of 106 km and includes 29 steep hairpins. The road is in dreadful condition and requires strong nerves to negotiate it. It’s certainly breathtaking and it has a fearsome reputation. It still remains an adrenaline-pumping journey and is definitely not for the faint of lungs, heart, or legs. Words can’t describe the road and pictures don’t do it justice.
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This road tests the skill, and courage, of any driver. There is little room for error on this road. Don’t stuff your belly too much. Eventually, you might feel vomiting temptations while climbing circuitous roads at higher altitudes. It’s incredibly disorienting to look over the edge, or even just to see the valleys a couple thousand feet below you. It’s a mind numbing vertical drop of hundreds of meters so you might want to give it a miss on a windy day. Your wheels will be astounded at the wonderful views of the mountains spread out before you! They are terrible for drivers who are prone to vertigo.
There are some narrow sections -scarcely wide enough for two cars- where if two vehicles have to pass each other, one might have to reverse for some kilometers of winding narrow road to get to a place wide enough to pass. The road starts and finishes with asphalt for easy driving, but the main bulk of the road is made up of loose gravel. The road is difficult and a nightmare in the wet or dark (or both) and encompasses miles of stunning views through twisty hair pin corners, high elevations and steep grades.
Pic: Yusuf Ipekci
The road climbs up several mountain passes, including Soganli Geçidi at an elevation of 2.330m (7,644ft) above the sea level. With such a high summit altitude the road can be closed anytime due to snowfalls. The zone is prone to heavy mist and can be dangerous in low visibility conditions. The steep part is simply terrible. Curvy roads descending down the cliffs, often so narrow that you can’t turn the first time… This tortuous route should not be attempted by those who don't know how to reverse or beginner drivers. It’s a real challenging road and a true test of your vehicle and your stamina because the road abounds in twists and turns with wheels sometimes hanging above the precipice.
Do not travel this road in severe weather conditions. Avalanches, heavy snowfalls and landslides can occur anytime, being extremely dangerous due to frequent patches of ice. It has a well-deserved reputation for being dangerous because of unpredictable snowstorms and blizzards, and driving under these conditions, can be extremely challenging. Fog and rain are very common and this track can get very muddy and slippery after rain making it challenging to get through. Bad weather can be a real deterrent to road users. The most dangerous part of the road, in Derebaşı Tesisleri, is often covered by snow and fog.
Parts of the road are routinely closed in wintertime due to snow blizzards and ice. The Bayburt highway is a working road used by locals driving every form of transport - from lorries to motorbikes, so it can be heavily trafficked. Open to all motorized vehicles, however, strongly recommended for high clearance, 4-wheel drive vehicles. The road is very rough--only try driving it in a 2wd car, if you're planning to buy a new car. This extreme gravel road was built in 1916 by Russian soldiers following the Trebizond Campaign (a serie of successful Russian naval and land operations that resulted in the capture of Trabzon).
The road is not for the sissies and shouldn’t be attempted by novice drivers. It’s currently much more dangerous than the famous Death Road, in Bolivia, which has been bypassed by a new highway and is used only by tourists looking for some breathtaking views, while Turkey’s own deadly route is used for everyday travel.
The most famous part of the road is located near the Çaykara town. It’s called Derebaşı Turns. It has 13 incredible hairpins climbing up from 1.712m (5,617ft) above the sea level to 2.035m (6,677 ft) above the sea level in just 5.1km (3.2 mi). The average percentage is 6.3%, with sections up to 10%. The drive is definitely worth it. A drive not to be missed! There are many excellent photo opportunities. Don't forget your camera with lots of film/memory, fully charged batteries and an empty memory card!