Located in the foothills of the Andes Mountain Range, in Chile, at an elevation of 9,843 feet (3,000 meters) above the sea level, Embalse El Yeso is a reservoir in the Santiago Metropolitan Region. It’s one of the scariest roads in the world. Your wheels will be astounded at the wonderful views of the lake spread out before you! The road is bordered by a drop of several meters, unprotected by guardrails, directly to the water.
This hazardous stretch of mountain road is called Camino Embalse El Yeso. Starting from San Gabriel the road is 28.3 km long, but expect more than 1.30 hours driving. It’s terrible for drivers who are prone to vertigo. It’s gravel and a 4x4 is recommended, especially in bad weather. This dirt road with dicey bends and a high drop off has humbled many egos. It’s not for the sissies and shouldn’t be attempted by novice drivers. 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.
There are some narrow sections –not 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. It shouldn’t be attempted by those who don't know how to reverse. The reservoir was created by the damming of the YesoRiver. At this altitude, there is no smog or pollution so the skies are a crystal clear and a deep blue color as well. Its turquoise waters are suitable for fishing and windsurfing. The road is difficult and it’s a nightmare in the wet or dark (or both).
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 amount of snowfall dictates the reservoir's accessibility. Although you may need a 4x4 during the winter months, it is still possible to get fairly close to the reservoir's western edge if there is little snow. In the event of heavier snowfall, it can be totally impassable.
Similar to the Himalayan roads, it’s incredibly disorienting to look over the edge, or even just to see the lake several 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. This very narrow road with little vehicular traffic is meandering along the edge of the hills and along a path which was won at the mountain. The dicey nature of the road really becomes apparent when you drive around a bend and come head to head with a car that is trying to share what is really a one lane road.
Do not travel this pass in severe weather conditions. Avalanches, heavy snowfalls and landslides can occur anytime, being extremely dangerous due to frequent patches of ice. Don't drive this road alone and/or in bad weather. Remember that the weather can change dramatically and rapidly, especially in Autumn, Winter and Spring. Rain, fog or the feared "White Wind" (a strong storm of wind, ice and snow), can put your life in serious danger so check out the weather forecast for the time you intend to stay.
This road tests the skill, and courage, of any driver. 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. The narrow, winding mountain road frequently verges on ‘nerve-wracking’, as the dramatic drops to the canyon floor a few hundred meters below will cause your heart to jump to your mouth a few times.Visibility can be quite low at times so always drive slowly and watch out for cars coming in the opposite direction, making their way back down the mountain. The terrain is like something out of Star Wars.