All of us have been on roads at one time or another that scared us. Maybe it was the steep drop-off along the road side, or perhaps it was all those signs warning you that a rockslide was possible at any moment. Perhaps it was a lot of sharp twists and turns, low visibility, a steep grade, or bad weather. Maybe it was just the other drivers who scared you. But it probably got you to wonder—were you driving on one of the world’s most dangerous roads? Or are there others that can make your experiences with challenging driving conditions look feel like a walk in the park?
Let’s go on a virtual drive on the most dangerous roads in the world. All of these roads are dangerous for different reasons. Many of them are quite beautiful and offer some of the most breathtaking views on the planet. But each of them carries a large element of risk, and will test any driver’s abilities, patience, and courage.
10. Stelvio Pass Road Trollstigen, Italy
This road is the second-highest drive you can take in the Alps, following the Col de l’Iseran. It is not the most dangerous road on our list (which is why it only comes in at spot number 10), but it does feature 48 hairpin turns at high altitude. If you lose control at one of these corners, you’ll take quite a tumble.
9. The James Dalton Highway, AlaskaThis road is dangerous largely because of its remoteness. Stretching 414 miles between the Arctic Sea oil fields and the nearest markers of civilized life, it offers the only route accessible during the intense Alaskan winters. Add 12% grades to the mix along with the terrible weather, and you have a recipe for scary driving.
8. The Karakoram Highway, PakistanThis highway runs between China and Pakistan and climbs over top of the Khunjerab Pass at 15,400 feet. The views are incredible, but the road is in really poor shape. Once you get into Pakistan, it isn’t paved at all. The reason for this isn’t laziness. They certainly tried, but flash floods and landslides cost 900 workers their lives in the attempt.
7. Trollstigen, NorwayTrollstigen, which translates to “The Troll Ladder,” is a road in Norway which features eleven hairpin turns and a 9% grade. The road is very narrow in many spots, but despite its drawbacks, it is a very popular drive for tourists. At the top you can walk to an overlook which provides a spectacular view of the Stigfossen waterfall.
6. Patiopoulo-Perdikaki, Greece
This is a dirt road which has been poorly maintained over the years in Greece. It has numerous potholes posing hazards to vehicles, and moreover, there is a steep drop-off to either side. There are no rails and the dirt blends with the sides of the road, so at night time it is particularly hard for drivers to see whether they are on the road or have wandered off of it—until of course they start tumbling through space and the answer becomes obvious.
5. Sichuan-Tibet Highway, ChinaThis highway begins at Chengdu of Schuan and winds west to Lhasa of Tibet, traversing 14 mountains on the way. As with most of these roads, the views are amazing, but the ride is terrifying. Landslides and falling rocks are very common along the road, and the narrow switchbacks that cling to the etches of very steep slopes are pretty frightening too.
4. Siberian Road to Yakutsk
Yakutsk is an incredibly cold place. In fact, the city itself is built on concrete piles because there is no way to secure the foundations in the ground, which is permanently frozen. You’d think that this means that the harsh weather conditions during winter pose the worst hazards for drivers on this road, but it is actually the summertime that is a nightmare. The road is totally unpaved, and during the warmer months, it turns into pure mud. It is not unusual for thousands of cars to get stuck in the mud. During that time, bored travelers often assault other drivers. There’s even a colloquial name for them, “mud pirates.” Talk about road rage.
3. Luxor-al-Hurghada RoadThis is another road to drive on if you feel like getting assaulted by crazy drivers. The highway along the Red Sea looks innocuous enough, but for whatever reason, it is a hot spot for terrorists and other criminals. A lot of drivers keep their lights off at night so as not to advertise their presence. This just adds to the danger. Authorities here ask tourists to drive as part of armed convoys.
2. Guoliang Tunnel Road, ChinaThis is certainly a striking road. The village of Guoliang was only accessible in the past by way of a steep staircase which was known as the Sky Ladder. The villagers begged the government for a real road, and received no response. So they carved out this one, which includes a tunnel that is nearly a mile long. As you might expect from nonprofessional building, it is rather rough and ragged, and takes some unpredictable twists and drops. It is very narrow, making passing dangerous.
1. The Death Road, BoliviaThere is a good chance you are familiar with this road and have seen it featured in documentaries. The North Yungas Road in Bolivia is so well known that it is often called The Death Road. It leads from La Paz to Coroico, and was called the “world’s most dangerous road” in 1995 by the Inter-American Development Bank. The road is very narrow and the drop-off is very far.
So the next time you are driving on your least favorite local road, grumbling about the potholes and the aggressive drivers, just think back to this list and imagine driving on one of these extremely dangerous roads. Plagued by mud, potholes, falling rocks, and even mud pirates, the world’s most dangerous roads will make the worst roads in your area look like a driver’s ed course by comparison.