We’re all pretty familiar with hairy driving situations. According to The World Health Organization, about 1.3 million people die in traffic accidents every year. While many of those deaths could be prevented by better driving, there are some roads that test the skill, and courage, of any driver. In some cases, though, it’s more that just topography that makes a road dangerous. Some of the roads listed here pass through war-torn countries, while others are plagued by bandits. Whether it’s hairpin bends, sheer mountain drops or roads through war zones, here are some of the world’s most dangerous roads.
1. Guoliang Tunnel, China
The Guoliang Tunnel which stretches 1.2 km (0.75 mi) was carved into China’s Taihang Mountains, entirely by the village locals. The tunnel is used by foot passengers as well as transport and links Guoliang with the outside world. Before 1972, the tunnel was merely a path chiselled into the rock used to be the only access linking the village to the rest of the Huixian, Xinxiang, Henan Province of China. The journey was a gruelling, almost vertical set of 720 mountain steps. Today, apart from the driving risks, the tunnel is one of the most visited parts of the world.
2. Maeklong Railway Market, Thailand
The Maeklong Railway is only 3 feet wide, but it has 5-10 feet of clearance on both sides, giving merchants a tight but workable space in which to set up their tented displays. A warning bell lets buyers and sellers alike know that its time to clear the tracks for an approaching train. Awnings are folded up and goods displayed near the tracks are either rolled back on wheeled tables or arranged low enough so that the train can pass right over them.
3. Yungas Road, Bolivia
Yungas Road, Bolivia, is a road which consists of solid rock on one side and a 2,000-foot abyss on the other. 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 1930’s. The roads are unpaved and does not consist of guardrails. There are numerous mudslides and tumbling rocks, and small waterfalls occasionally rain down the cliff sides. According to the annual death report, the road is responsible for the deaths of an estimated 200 to 300 every year.
4. Eyre Highway, Australia
Imagine a drive, a thousand miles long with no turns or bends, across a vast featureless plain with repetitive landscape, and hundreds of miles between towns and service stations. Eyre Highway in Australia connects Western Australia to Southern Australia via the Nullarbor Plain, a flat and treeless, giant bed of limestone 200,000 square kilometres in area. The asphalted highway in Australia, with a length of 1,675 km (1041 mi) includes what is said to be the longest straight stretch of road in the country. The loneliness, remoteness and driver fatigue cause a high incidence of fatalities and accidents every year.
5. The Death Road, Bolivia
The Death Road in Bolivia begins at 15,400 feet and for an estimated 300 people a year ends in the loss of their life. Known among locals as El Camino de la Muerte, the location is among the nation’s biggest draw cards for thrill-seeking tourists. For the locals, the ‘Death Road’ is an important transport route which they brave in cars and trucks, teetering on the edge and risking their lives with every trip. For companies such as Gravity Bolivia, it’s big business since they offer riders the opportunity to experience the once in a lifetime journey through clouds and waterfalls.
6. Pamban Railway Bridge, India
The Pamban bridge is a railway bridge over the sea which ‘opens up’ to allow ferry and boat movement. What makes this bridge even more wonderful is the fact that it was built 100 years ago. Until 1988, the Pamban bridge was the only surface transport that connected Tamil Nadu’s island of Rameswaram to the mainland.
7. Karakoram Highway, Pakistan — China
The Karakoram Highway (known informally as the KKH) is said to be the highest paved international road in the world but at its peak at the China-Pakistan border it is only paved on the Chinese side. It’s the road to paradise – if you like exploring the mountains, that is. It’s regarded as one of the world’s hardest alpine climbs. The Karakorum Highway connects China and Pakistan across the Karakoram mountain range, through the Khunjerab Pass, at an elevation of 4,693 metres (15,397 ft) above the sea level. The road is one of the scariest and hair raising jeep trip in the world. 810 Pakistani and 82 Chinese workers lost their lives, mostly in landslides and falls, while building the highway.
8. Passage du Gois, France
Passage du Gois is a natural passage with a length of 4.3km (2.58-miles), located in the Atlantic coast of France in the Vendée department. This stretch of the D948 road is periodically flooded leading to the island of Noirmoutier in France. It is flooded twice a day by the high tide. Pack an inflatable boat for driving this 4.3km road because just say for some crazy reason you mix up the tide times, then – like vehicles in the past – you might disappear beneath the salty brine. Located on France’s Atlantic coast, the road floods twice daily with incoming tides and as the tides go out slippery seaweed is left all over it.
9. Leh-Manali Highway, India
The Leh-Manali Highway is a high mountain road situated in India. It spans over a length of 479 km (298 mi) among the Himalaya mountain range. It passes through some of the world’s highest mountain passes in the world, with an altitude between 2 to 3 miles above sea level. Uncertain weather, high altitude, no roads, extreme cold and no civilization for miles make this a very treacherous track.
10. Tianmen Mountain Road, China
The Tianmen Mountain Road knows how to pack a punch. At just under 6.2 miles in length, the route boasts a total of 99 turns and 3,937 feet in elevation gain. The road, which is also called “Heaven-Linking Avenue”, leads to the summit of Tianmen Mountain and to Tianmen Cave. Most people travel through this road to visit Zhangjiajie National Park, where the landscape served as the inspiration for the movie “Avatar”.
11. Road through Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
Bolivia’s blissfully beautiful salt flat sits at a lofty 11,995 feet and blankets an amazing area of 4,086 square miles. A prehistoric salt lake has turned into a traveler’s heaven by offering up the beauty that is South America’s most awe-inspiring landmark. During rainy season (January – April), a few inches of water lie on the ground, creating unbelievable reflection photos. Call it the world’s biggest mirror, call it heaven, call it beyond dreamy. Whatever it is, it’s pure magic. Local landscapes are so unusual that it’s easy to get lost in them and cell phones here are mostly useless. Even though it’s safe to go here with a tour group, it’s better to avoid going on your own, especially since at night the temperature falls to −30°C (-22°F).
12. The James W. Dalton Highway, Alaska, USA
Alaska has some of the coldest roads in the planet but there’s one more extreme than the rest: The Dalton highway is one of the most isolated roads in the world. If you can drive this road you can pretty much drive anything: a trip to America’s last remain of wilderness. It’s said to be the loneliest road on the planet. The James W. Dalton Highway is a gravel highway running for 414 miles between the Elliot Highway just north of the city of Fairbanks and Deadhorse near the Prudhoe Bay oil fields and the Arctic Ocean. The road, usually referred to as the Dalton Highway (and signed as Alaska Route 11), was initially built in 1974 as a supply route for the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System and is named after James Dalton, the Alaska-born engineer who directed and supervised its construction.