That notorious distinction belongs to La Carretera de los Yungas (or North Yungas Road), a cliff-hugging serpentine 43-mile road that connects La Paz and Coroico, amidst the Amazon rainforest, in the Yungas region of Bolivia. (The road was built in the 1930s by prisoners who weren’t too concerned with the safety of the people who would actually be driving on it.) The journey from La Paz (elevation 11,975 ft above sea level) to Coroico (elevation: 3,900) takes about 50 minutes. While the road terrifies most mortals, adrenaline junkies willing to risk their lives (numbering more than 25,000 per year!) are drawn to this amazingly dangerous road like moths to a flame. And when locals describe the killer views, they mean that literally; each year, dozens of cars, trucks, buses, and bicycles drive off the edge, succumbing to the forces of gravity. Indeed, the road has earned its nickname, “Death Road” (in Spanish, “Camino de la Muerte”), killing 200-300 intrepid, or foolhardy, travelers each year — enough to make the Geico gecko squeamish.
So what makes the road so dangerous? Let’s start with the obvious: the zig-zagging two-way road is extremely narrow (only 10 feet wide), full of treacherous hairpin turns, many sections are unpaved, unstable ground, loose rocks, continuous sheer drop-offs (as high as 1,830 feet), and a white-knuckle descent of more than 8,000 feet. If that is not nerve-racking enough, add Mother Nature’s ingredients: winds that kick up dust clouds, year-round fog that dramatically reduces visibility, and rain that causes mud and rock slides. Mix in hundreds of bad drivers and thousands of tourists trying to get the ideal selfie or video (for bragging rights) and you now have the ultimate recipe for danger and disaster.
If you are fortunate enough to survive the drive (after a few well-deserved tequilas to calm the nerves), you can hop on the second most dangerous road in the world, the nearby Chulumani Road (also known as the South Yungas Road) that connects La Paz to Chulumani — 40 miles of sheer terror. So whether you take the North or South Yungas Road, make sure your life insurance policy is paid up.
For further reading: dangerousroads.org/south-america/bolivia/44-death-road-bolivia.html