Cerro Uturuncu

Cerro Uturuncu, one of the world's highest roads

Cerro Uturuncu, (also known as Uturunku or Uturunco) is a stratovolcano in southwestern Bolivia, located in the Potosí Department, Sur Lípez Province, San Pablo de Lípez Municipality. At an elevation of 6.008m (19,711ft) it's one of the highest motorable road passes of the world. The biggest problem is the extremely low oxygen for engine combustion.

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. Until mid of the 1990s there was a sulphur mine on the lower peak at an altitude of some 5,900m which could be accessed via that road. Nowadays the runway is only maintained for touristic purposes by few local guides. However, travelogues report very different information about the trafficability of that runway. To drive this trail, you must have supreme confidence in your vehicle and your driving skills. The ride provides a gorgeous adventure in gigantic scenery of the Bolivian Altiplano with active volcanoes and colorful lagoons. It's one of the highest mountain roads of Bolivia. All reports agree that the road is only rideable to a few hundred altitude meters below the summit. Respective information varies from 5,200 meters to 5,900 meters. As the old mine is no longer in operation the road ismeanwhile blocked up by landslides. The road is blocked to motor vehicles from about 5550 m by a landslide that occurred a few years ago, and although there is a 5,760m "pass" between Uturunco's two summits, it is a cul-de-sac that leads only to a mine. Still, a French team evidently managed to cycle and/or push their bicycles to Uturunco's 6020m summit. The roadway is very sandy in its lower part and in an altitude of more than 5,000 meters the lack of oxygen becomes a very severe problem. While the road gets a little narrow in a couple of spots and there is a steep drop to your left, you should be able to drive up in a car as long as the engine doesn't give up due to a lack of oxygen.

Make sure you get your vehicle and yourself well-prepared before driving this road. The road bad conditions, with extremely large pot holes could potentially pop a tire, crack a rim, or screw up your cars allignment. Satellite pictures clearly show the interrupted runway leading to an elevation of some 5,700 meters. Never underestimate this track! Average gradient on the first five kilometers is some 8%, increases to more than 10% between 5,100 and 5,600 meters and finally lowers in the upper part of the road. It’s one of the highest roads of South America.


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