The World’s Most Dangerous Roads
Just as all roads don’t lead to Rome (sorry, Rome), not all roads are entirely safe. Many, in fact, are the exact opposite – they’re incredibly dangerous! For some, such as the 16,000-foot high Karakoram Highway, that danger is the result of where the road is built. For others, such as the Karnali Highway, the danger results from poor maintenance.
And for others, such as Commonwealth Avenue, the danger comes from crime and other drivers. Regardless of why they’re dangerous, the fact remains that they are. However, alongside being dangerous, some of them are downright gorgeous. Let’s take a look at 15 of them. Which one would you like to drive on?
Bolivia’s North Yungas Road
Bolivia’s North Yungas Road is relatively short at 50 miles or so, but it has a long history of tragedy. Mostly that’s due to the location of the road, the road itself, and the drivers. The road goes through the mountains, it’s not particularly well maintained, and some Bolivian drivers drive crazily.
Over the years, hundreds of people died because bikes, cars, and buses tumbled over the (very tall) sides. That’s why it’s known as the “Road of Death.” Nowadays, luckily, there’s a new highway that’s much safer.
Afghanistan’s Kabul-Jalalabad Highway
Afghanistan’s Kabul-Jalalabad Highway is roughly 89 miles long, making it one of the longest in the country. It’s also one of the most dangerous. That’s because the rocky cliffs lead to rubble piles along nearly every turn.
That, in turn, creates regular traffic jams. So many extra people make for extra danger because guardrails are few and far between and the rock faces are known to drop rocks. Although it’s not a particularly high-elevation road, a tumble off the side can cause serious damage.
India’s Zoji La Pass
India’s Zoji La Pass provides stunning views of the Himalayas mountain range. Well, it provides stunning views if you’re one of the passengers. If you’re the driver, it’s better to keep your eyes on the road because the road is not an easy drive.
The lack of guardrails, narrow roads, and high elevations make for a stressful drive. Taking your eyes off the road for a moment of scenic enjoyment could spell disaster – or death. It also doesn’t help that the road isn’t well maintained.
Greece’s Patiopoulo-Perdikaki Road
Greece’s Patiopoulo-Perdikaki road isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s not even for those with hardy hearts. To be honest, it only seems to be made for goat herds. Regardless, many locals and tourists plow through the narrow roads regularly.
Although they offer a scenic view, they also offer plenty of dangers. Alongside the goat herds described above, there’s also the danger of heavy rainfall making for a slippery drive. Plus, of course, the lack of guardrails to save you from falling off the cliffs.
China’s Sichuan-Tibet Highway
China is no stranger to dangerous roads. Its mountainous landscape pretty much demands a few rough journeys. Take, for example, the Sichuan-Tibet Highway. Alongside its high elevation and all those meandering turns, drivers need to worry and watch out for avalanches and rockslides.
When those dump snow and rock onto the roads, things can turn deadly. It’s estimated that there are 7,500 fatalities per 100,000 drivers/passengers. That very sobering statistic speaks to the fact that it’s in a dangerous spot and needs some renovations.
Italy’s Strada Delle 52 Gallerie
Italy’s Strada Delle 52 Gallerie or “road of 52 tunnels” in English takes a very windy (and dangerous) path from Porte del Pasubio to Bocchetta Campiglia. Although it’s a short road, it comes with a long list of dangers.
Constructed for use by the military during WWI, it has a lot of narrow curves and tight tunnels that require drivers to keep their eyes peeled on the road. Some parts of the road even forbid vehicles, which might be why so many cyclists enjoy the challenging road.
Russia’s Kolyma Highway & Lena Highway
Russia’s Kolyma Highway & Lena Highway are, collectively, known as the “road of bones” (like Bolivia’s “death road,” it’s a name that inspires fear). Both highways go for nearly 2,000 miles through the bitterly cold, muddy, icy, and rural parts of northeastern Siberia.
It was treacherous travel back in the day and it’s treacherous travel now. If you go in the summer, you risk falling through some of the thin ice. If you go in the winter, you risk getting stuck in the middle of nowhere when it’s freezing out.
Ecuador’s Cotopaxi Volcano Road
Ecuador’s Cotopaxi Volcano Road – as you may have guessed from the name – runs right by an active volcano. The key word there is “active” volcano. That means you might get covered in ash or risk getting subsumed in a vat of liquid hot lava
Despite the risk, many local Ecuadorians depend on the road to take them to and from work and home. Alongside all the natural dangers, you have to watch out for potholes resulting from poor road maintenance.
Nepal’s Karnali Highway
Nepal’s Karnali Highway goes along the Karnali River in the western part of the country. As you can see from the picture below, it’s not easy traveling. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. The one-lane road is known to be dangerous in the best of conditions.
In the worst of conditions, well, you shouldn’t go anywhere near it. That kind of advice comes from the Nepalese government itself, which recommends that local people don’t venture there during the night. The bumpy hills will have you holding your breath the entire time.
Pakistan/China’s Karakoram Highway
Pakistan/China’s joint Karakoram Highway features the highest border crossing on earth at about 16,000 feet! To put it in context, the highest mountain in the lower 48 states is about 14,500 feet. So, altitude sickness is something to worry about, alongside avalanches and landslides.
The 800-mile road was a joint effort between China and Pakistan. Over its 27-year construction, hundreds of Pakistani and Chinese workers died in harsh working conditions. Although driving on it isn’t as hard as building it, it still has its fair share of dangers.
Brazil’s BR-116 is known colloquially as “The Highway of Death” – which is a little troubling, to be honest. The highway goes for thousands of miles through forests and mountains and cities. As you can see below, it’s not in a rough landscape, so what’s the deal with the name?
The name refers mostly to the people you may meet while driving along the road. In particular, the organized gangs that spot out and take advantage of naive travelers – or the corrupt police who do the same. On top of that, there are maintenance issues.
Philippines’ Commonwealth Avenue
Philippines’ Commonwealth Avenue sounds like a relatively picturesque or even boring street, but it has a pretty rugged reputation. That’s not because it’s in a dangerous part of the country or that it’s filled with corrupt police.
Its danger mostly comes from the fact that it’s a massive road that’s insanely busy. Trying to navigate the 18 lanes of this behemoth leads to far too many accidents – roughly five per day, every day. Some are minor fender benders, but others could be fatal.
Alaska’s James Dalton Highway
Alaska’s James Dalton Highway is similar, in many ways, to Russia’s Kolyma Highway. Both stretch through brutally cold regions of the earth. The James Dalton Highway goes for 414 miles, passing through towns such as Coldfoot that have, at most, a few dozen people.
So, although the scenery is staggering, it’s also incredibly isolating. If your car or truck breaks down, there’s very little in terms of nearby towing companies or gas stations. So, it’s best to go with a plan and avoid the coldest parts of the year.
China’s Guoliang Tunnel Road
China’s Guoliang Tunnel Road definitely goes through a tunnel, but that’s not what you have to worry about when driving on it. What’s more troubling (and scenic, to be fair) is the 2,000-foot drop at the peak.
To add to the danger of the 2,000-foot drop, the road doesn’t have any guardrails in place at the spot. So, drive very very carefully. That’s especially wise advice if the way is covered in fog or the road is filled with mud – both things that happen far too often.
New Zealand’s Skippers Canyon Road
New Zealand’s Skippers Canyon Road is, as most parts of New Zealand are, incredibly scenic. Alongside all those stunning views worthy of Lord of the Rings comes a bit of danger. Specifically, the danger of driving along a very narrow road with few guardrails and plenty of steep cliffs.
So, if you find yourself in a Landcruiser cruising along the mountainside, make sure to keep your eyes on the road rather than the gorgeous views ahead. Also, be sure to slow down around those winding curves.