D13 is the name of a very challenging road located in the Pyrénées-Orientales department of the Occitanie Region, in France. It’s one of the French balcony roads.
Tucked away on the southern part of the country, the curvy mountainous road is totally paved, but narrow and steep, with drop offs. It’s 22.6km (14.04 miles) long running south-north from Las Illas (les Illes), near the Spanish border to Llauro.
The D13 is a beautiful roundtrip through a valley. The road deserves the name “balcony road” especially at the beginning and at the end. Be careful when driving it because there are a lot of chalets (houses just used at the weekend by French owners) and this road is the only way to reach them. Traffic is rare but you have to drive slowly because the road is extremely winding and the next car contrary to you can come surprisingly after the next bend. Generally: There is nowhere on this road a distance of more than 200m without a bend. You will be driving through a cork oak forest which is obviously used and partly harvested.
During the typical “balcony road” sections, there is mostly a (also typical) stone wall to protect you from falling down. But be careful: When driving with a car an accident this will of course damage your car. When driving with a motorbike there is a relevant chance that your bike stays on the road and you go on riding alone – for some seconds because the stone wall is rather low. Motorbikes can easily pass by cars on nearly every place on this road. If 2 cars meet especially on the “balcony road” section, one of them has to go into reverse until they can pass by. Don’t forget your camera – on a sunny day you will find a lot of postcard motives. Because of the dense wood you are not always able to have a look at the small river at the bottom of the gorges. Take some food with you, park your vehicle on a secure place and have a picnic you will never forget. The road is bumpy with some potholes but always paved. The D13 is the start of some dead end roads which also have the number D13 – together with a letter e.g. D13C. Like everywhere in French mountains: Take care that you have enough fuel with you. Sometimes fuel stations are hard to find and on the D13 there is none.
Road suggested by: Michael Spannlang
Pic: Toni Hernandez