Heavy traffic, bad weather, poorly-designed roads, unfriendly drivers… all of these can contribute to a pulse-raising driving experience. But what about having a 600-foot cliff a few inches from your wheel?
All over the world, there are roads that, because of their unique setting and conditions, are more frightening—and sometimes dangerous—than most. At the same time, they may be home to breathtaking natural beauty and fascinating history. Read on to learn more about the world’s scariest roads!
7. Trollstigen, Norway (above)
The name of this mountain road translates to “troll’s footpath,” and it’s easy to see why. With a total of eleven hairpin bends on a steep incline, one can hardly believe that it was designed for the use of cars. Nonetheless, it’s been in use since 1936, with an average of 7,000 vehicles traversing it during its busiest season. From the top of Trollstigen, you can walk to a viewing platform where you can see all of the bends of the road, so that you can prepare yourself before driving back down!
Photo Credit: Vironevaeh
6. Skippers Road, New Zealand
Skippers Road was built in 1890, so that gold miners could bring heavy machinery into Skippers Canyon. Today, the road is hardly changed from how it was back then: the rock that the road is built upon is so soft that maintaining the road is a losing battle. The road tends to turn into dust as soon as it’s dry, and greasy mud the moment it rains. Closer to the canyon, you can (carefully) drive across a one-lane suspension bridge, and imagine what it would have been like traveling through the area on foot or with a horse.
5. Guoliang Tunnel Road, China
The Guoliang Tunnel Road is carved into the side of China’s steep Taihang Mountains. It weaves in and out of the rock face, interspersed with occasional open curves where only a low rock barrier separates you from a staggering drop. Even more amazing than its honeycombed appearance is the story of its construction: after the Chinese government refused to build a road to the isolated village of Guoliang, the villagers carved the tunnel road themselves. It took them five years, and several villagers died in the process, but when it was finally completed in 1977, it was a boon to the continued survival of the village. Thirty years later, the road has become a tourist attraction, bringing only the most adventurous travelers to the tiny community.
Photo Credit: FANG Chen
4. Paso Internacional Los Libertadores, Chile
As the main link between Mendoza in Argentina and Santiago in Chile, Paso Internacional Los Libertadores is a common route for double-decker buses and commercial trucks. To get between the two cities, one must cross the Andes Mountains, which this road achieves through a series of looped switchbacks. Add that to the fact that it usually gets plenty of snow in winter, and you have quite the intimidating road. (Luckily, it is well-maintained, so the accident rate is low.)
Photo Credit: Tehhen
3. Stelvio Pass, Italy
The Stelvio Pass is one of the highest paved roads in the Alps, with a grand total of 60 hairpin turns (48 of which are marked). Due to its extreme winding, it’s a popular spots for drivers and cyclists alike; the bicycle race Giro d’Italia commonly crosses it. It has an elevation of 9045 feet, so be sure to wrap up warm! (Here’s a view of its full length, taken from a nearby mountain.)
2. M56 Lena Highway, Russia
The M56 Lena Highway, which connects the towns of Skovorodino and Yakitsk in eastern Siberia, is nicknamed “the Highway from Hell.” Although it is a federal road, its surface is dirt, not asphalt—so while it performs excellently in winter, when the surface is frozen over, the rains of summer turn it into an impassable mud pit. Motorists may be bogged down for days, waiting for the surface to dry enough for them to continue on their way.
Photo Credit: Pasik
1. North Yungas Road, Bolivia
The North Yungas Road, or “the Road of Death,” is often described as the most dangerous road in the entire world, claiming the lives of an estimated 200 to 300 unlucky travelers every year. This is due to a combination of its narrowness (an average of 10 feet wide at any given point), its lack of guard rails, the extreme dropoffs alongside the road, and its road surface, which is often muddy and rocky. The road leads from La Paz to the Amazon Rainforest, and the temperature difference often contributes to vision-obscuring rain and fog. The road was partially modernized in 2006, adding better drainage, multiple lanes, and guardrails to many places, but it is nonetheless a road that should be approached only with great caution.
Photo Credit: .GilCahana at he.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons