The Death Road The Death Road

The Death Road

The Death Road officially known as The North Yungas Road is the most dangerous road in the whole world - not just a vivid description, but simply its deserved reputation. Despite its reputation, the road is visited daily by a lot of tourists taunting death; not because they have to be there or they happened to pass by, but because they choose to be there. The road lures tourists with its spectacular scenery, lush vegetation, breathtaking waterfalls and large doses of adrenaline!
The Death Road runs in the Bolivian Andes, 70 km from La Paz to Coroico, and plunges down almost 3,600 meters in an orgy of extremely narrow hairpin curves and 800-meter abyss near-misses; it is around 3 to 3,5 meters wide, has uncountable blind curves and no guardrails. Because of the extreme drop-offs of at least 600 meters, single-lane width, the road is extremely dangerous. Further still, rain, fog and dust can reduce visibility. In many places the road surface is muddy, and can loosen rocks from the road. One of the local road rules specifies that the downhill driver never has the right of way and must move to the outer edge of the road. Also, vehicles drive on the left, as opposed to the right like the rest of Bolivia. This gives a left hand drive vehicle's driver a better view over his outside wheel, making passing safer.
The North Yungas Road was build in the 1930s during the Chaco War by Paraguayan prisoners and until 2006 when a new road was constructed, this narrow unpaved highway – the single artery linking the capital city with the north of Bolivia – was responsible for 200-300 deaths per year, with buses and cars falling over the sheer cliff sides. When the new road was completed on the other side of the valley (this new route features modern construction like bridges and drainage, multiple lanes, pavement, guardrails, and many other elements that make it considerably safer than the original route), the Death Road was abandoned; nevertheless it demands its toll. In 1990 this road was discovered by tourists and it became a mountain biking adrenaline junky attraction; mountain biking enthusiasts in particular have made it a favorite destination for downhill biking since there is a 64-kilometre stretch of continuous downhill riding with only one short uphill section. In the last 10 years 18 of them died in the saddle. It’s hard to imagine that even a simple thing as a flat tire or an overlooked stone can be the beginning of a fatal incident. Despite all this, the Death Road is one of La Paz’s most popular attractions, and nearly every traveler that visits this region joins a tour from one of the dozens of agencies on Sagarnaga Street offering this activity. The efforts are rewarded with amazing views which are well marked by small crosses. That means it’s better to first stop before you enjoy the view.
The road starts in La Paz, capital of Bolivia. Following Prado - La Paz's main street - you begin to climb; looking back you may catch some spectacular panoramas of La Paz. The higher you climb, the colder it gets, this is why it recommended to wear warm clothes. The first view into the valley that has taken so many lives can be enjoyed at 4,700 meters. It doesn’t seem so harmful, actually kind of peaceful. A few kilometers downhill there is a junction. To play it safe you can go straight, but the death road lies on your right hand. Immediately the road changes and a line with crosses appears - memories of the unfortunate. The views on the valley below are absolutely breathtaking and it is hard to imagine this road as a place of horror. Passing scenic waterfalls that cross the road, lush vegetation and the occasional bird you tend to forget reality.
The road is a ribbon of dust. Every vehicle passing along it churns up a sandstorm in its wake. So, if you see a dust cloud ahead you can expect a truck coming from the opposite direction. In this situation it’s recommended to slow down and look for a suitable place where he can pass you. As mentioned above, the downhill driver never has the right of way and must move to the outer edge of the road.
Just a few hours away later there is Coroico - a little, beautiful town at 1,200 meters. This means that you’ve descended 3,500 meters. Here the weather's warm and humid while the surroundings are friendly and breathtaking. The village has a plenty of hotels with comfortable hammocks in the garden and even swimming pools.
From here you can continue down into the Amazon basin and Rurrennabaque, turn around and head back to La Paz on the new road or drive the death road in the other direction.
Bookmark and Share