A Terrifying Tour of the World's Most Dangerous Road

Atlas Obscura
Your Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders
Oct. 24 2013 9:17 AM

A Terrifying Tour of the World's Most Dangerous Road

Atlas Obscura on Slate is a new travel blog. Like us on Facebook, Tumblr, or follow us on Twitter @atlasobscura.

To one side is solid rock. To the other, a 2,000-foot abyss. In between is a two-way, 12-foot-wide path known as "Death Road."

Regularly named as the world's most dangerous route, North Yungas Road was cut into the side of the Cordillera Oriental Mountain chain in the 1930s. Many sections are unpaved and lack guardrails. Warm and humid winds from the Amazon bring heavy rains and fog. There are numerous mudslides and tumbling rocks, and small waterfalls occasionally rain down the cliff sides. These conditions explain why an estimated 200 to 300 people are killed on the road every year.

Advertisement

Special rules apply at North Yungas Road. While the rest of Bolivia drives on the right side, here vehicles drive on the left. A driver on the left has a better view of the edge of the road. Furthermore, descending vehicles never have 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.

Drivers will likely encounter groups of cyclists during the treacherous journey—tour operators lead rides along the road, marketing the experience as an extreme-sports challenge.

Perilous paths:

  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Dec. 19 2014 4:15 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? Staff writer Lily Hay Newman shares what stories intrigued her at the magazine this week.