We all know driving around the holidays can be dangerous, what with people rushing and getting behind the wheel after making too much merry. In fact, we’re just weeks away from the third-deadliest day to be on the road in the U.S., December 23, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. But some roads are just risky bets year-round. Check out five of the world’s most hazardous highways below.
North Yungas Road, Bolivia
The undisputed Dangerous Road Champion, North Yungas Road in Bolivia has more than earned its better known nickname “Death Road.” Descending 1,830 feet over just 50 miles, North Yungas snakes through steep mountainous terrain with nary a guard rail in sight. Little wonder the road claims 200 to 300 people a year.
Large spans of North Yungas Road are unpaved, which can quickly become a muddy mess in the rainforest. Image by WikiCommons
In some areas, North Yungas Road narrows to just 10 feet wide, making it especially difficult for vehicles to safely share the road. Image by M+M Photographers
Trollstigen Road, Norway
Trollstigen translates to “Troll’s Footpath” in English, although you’d think a real troll would take a more direct route. Eleven hairpin turns, a nine percent grade, and a near 2,300-foot change in elevation greet visitors who motor this mountainous maze.
At the height of tourist season in summer, around 2,500 vehicles a day pass along Trollstigen Road, hopefully very carefully. Image by Cristiano Corsini
Troll Crossing signs dot Trollstigen Road, and presumably work, as no troll-related accidents have been reported. Image by Andreas Levers
Guoliang Tunnel, China
Photos of Guoliang Tunnel in north central China are often misidentified as the “Death Road” of Bolivian infamy. It’s not hard to see why. A dirt road hewn around and through a sheer rock wall would seem like a death road in most people’s minds. The road connects the previously isolated village of Guoliang with the outside world. The tunnel portion of the road is 0.75 miles long, 13-feet wide, with a 16-foot-high ceiling.
Guoliang Tunnel replaced an even more difficult path that was carved into the mountainside. One wonders what that must have been like for this tunnel to be the safer alternative. Image by Universal Photography
More than 30 windows are carved into the tunnel, offering light and stunning views over the edge. Image by RenaltRu
Stelvio Pass, Italy
At 9,045 feet, Stelvio Pass is the highest paved road in the Eastern Alps. It’s a magnet for drivers, who challenge themselves and their rides on 48 hairpin turns. Cyclists also clamor for the challenge. For one day in August each year, Stelvio closes to motorists and 8,000 extremophiles take over for one amazing display of stamina.
Stelvio’s zigzag covers an elevation change of 1.16 miles, with an average grade of more than seven percent. Image by Dodge Challenger
Winter is not a wise, safe, or even possible time to take on Stelvio. It is an excellent time to ski there, though, as winter sports are extremely popular throughout the region. Image by Absolute Czech
Fairy Meadows, Pakistan
Could there be a more innocuous name for a very scary road? To be fair, Fairy Meadows Road is named for the Fairy Meadows plateau, a thriving, green refuge that deserves its moniker. Fairy Meadows Road will take you to the plateau, after a couple hours of guard-rail-free, stomach dropping turns over slippery gravel.
Fairy Meadows Road will only take you so far. As you near the plateau, the passable road becomes impossible and the rest of the journey must be made on foot. Image by Aamir Choudhry
In some areas of Fairy Meadows Road, the drop-off exceeds 3,000 feet with no protective rail, or protocol if you happen to meet a vehicle heading the other way. Image by Scott Christian