The road less taken is always avoided for a reason. Even if you are the adrenaline junkie of the year, the death tolls on some of these roads will just scare you to death. More than 1 million people die in traffic accidents every year, especially on bad roads. The greatest cause of accidents is human error and negligence, but not all the time, some roads are simply the definition of death traps. From roads winding up mountains with extremely sharp bends to routes patched on mountainsides with 1000ft drops on each side. These roads are still the only route available, especially for the locals, making them the most perilous routes on earth.
The Goulian Tunnel Road, China
This road is famously known in china as “The road that doesn’t tolerate mistakes.” It is both impressive and perilous, causing hundreds of deaths every year, but there is nothing much the government can do because it is the only way to reach the remote village of Goujiang. The locals did a great job creating accessibility to the rest of the world, but they were not master architects, so you can imagine what they did.
The road is literally carved into the Taihang mountains connecting Goujiang to the rest of the world. It is only 5 by 4 meters wide and 1.2km long, sneaking through the mountainside. It is literally impossible to overtake or overlap because the only room available is freefall into oblivion. The road has no guard rails at many spots meaning the slightest mistake is also a death sentence. It also meanders through the rocks with poor visibility, tight bends and little room for manoeuvre. The drop on the mountainside is also so steep that the driver won’t even imagine to “enjoy the view.”
Skippers Canyon Road, New Zealand
When you travel to New Zealand’s South Island, your rental car insurance just doesn’t cover this road. It can’t be travelled on by the faint-hearted or people that are afraid of heights because you will probably scream throughout the 16 miles. It always appears on the lists of the most dangerous roads in the world because of its narrow precarious nature plus steep cliffs on the sides dropping several hundred meters. It was built in 1800 by miners who needed a way to access the Skippers township during the gold rush. They didn’t account for future travellers or any luxury.
You still get to enjoy the scenic landscape through the valley, but you have to be super cautious if you are to arrive safely on the other side. It is also very narrow if you meet an oncoming vehicle, one of you will have to reverse on the narrow winding lanes for several kilometres before you find an opening. It was the cause of New Zealand’s worst car accidents through the 90s until recently when the government installed guard rails, and drivers got a lot more careful. The government has also tarmacked the road and added markings, but it is not any less scary.
The Sichuan Tibet Highway, China
This is famously known as one of the most scenic drives in the world, featuring several mountains and lakes, as well as a chance to enjoy lots of local events, including horse racing in Kangding. Formerly known as the Kangding-Tibet highway, this road has been listed for decades as the most dangerous road in the world. It stretches 2000 kilometres from Chengdu to Lhasa, being part of the China 318 highway connecting the Sichuan region to Tibet.
As the road snakes through the mountains and forests, you meet the scare of your life as rockfalls and landslides happen frequently. Some parts of the road are also hazardous because of huge potholes and stretches of mud patches that get buses stuck. The roads get slippery at some spots, especially around the winter, sending vehicles skidding. If you happen to survive this ghostly road, you should probably bring a camera along to keep the record of your drive on the road of death.
The North Yungas Road, Bolivia
Driving on this road is like taking a road trip through a graveyard with a very high likelihood of being buried on the mountainside as well if you make one wrong turn. When travelling from La Paz, the Bolivian capital to the cool mountainous town of Coroico, you will really try to avoid this particular perilous road. The number of perils here is totally uncountable, from foggy forest lanes and landslides to rocky cliff faces that can come tumbling onto the road without warning. The road was the only route from the town to La Paz, which saw many trucks and buses use it to connect the people with the city, but not all manage to complete the 43-mile ride alive.
As you drive from La Paz, the road becomes extremely steep, climbing over 15,000 feet. The roadside is simply the face of a cliff with a fall over 200 meters. Up until 1994, this road claimed up to 300 lives a year. Every bend on the road is covered in crosses erected in memory of the thousands of victims of the road of death as the road is called today. It was improved from the single lane to two lanes but not much safer because the government can’t move the mountain. The road is no more than 10ft wide at its widest, the rest is just a narrow lane with hairpin bends.
The Himalayan Road, The Himalayas
Ever imagined what it feels like to drive on top of the world? The Himalayan road connecting Indian Kashmir to Tibet is the second highest road in the world traversed only by the bravest of drivers and, of course, adrenaline junkies. The road is not accessible in the winter because of the snow. It is not any safer in the spring either as melting icebergs cause flooding, rockfall, and landslides. The road itself is a total scare as you stare down at the plains below, imagining you could roll over to your death with the slightest mistake.
Some sections of the road are dug right into the mountainside, leaving huge chunks of rock hanging overhead like this giant scary roof with no pillars which could come crushing into your car any moment. The road is frequented by thrill-seekers, especially bikers and accidents, are very common here, so you really need to be careful. You still get to breathe the sweet Himalayan air and enjoy the ice-capped peaks throughout the 475-kilometre drive, not so bad after all, right?
The James Dalton Road, Alaska
Alaska is always a dangerous place to drive in the winter, but the James Dalton road is just dangerous every season. This road is famously referred to as both the loneliest and the most dangerous road in America. It was constructed as the main connection between Livengood Alaska and Prudhoe Bay. It was primarily intended for trucks and heavy vehicles, but tourists became more frequent over the years.
The entire road is full of potholes and gravel, sometimes large stones. Winds and the chill are treacherous but not as bad as the winter storms, which make the road totally invisible. The whole 600-kilometre road has only three small towns of Deadhorse, Coldfoot, and Wiseman. Before you reach the Yukon river, you have to manoeuvre dangerously sharp bends and deadly climbs. There are no gas stations nor cellular service on the two-day drive road, so a breakdown or the smallest accident on that freeway may be your ticket to glory land.
The Stelvio Pass, Italy
The Stelvio pass is one of Europe’s greatest works of engineering, one of the world’s most scenic drives but also the most dangerous road in Italy. It is a winding road rising over 9000ft onto the Ortler Alps. It is frequented by bikers and thrill-seekers from Tyrol to Bormio as they cheat death every day to enjoy the scenic view down the Alps. The sharp bends get dangerously narrow at some points putting the driver just inches away from the deadly drop on the sides.
Overtaking is really not an option, nor speeding for that matter. The only form of safety on the road is a low-lying concrete barrier that might not deliver much protection if a driver is out of road. Some twists and turns, narrow as they are simply unsecured, causing multiple accidents every year.
The Passage Di Gois Road, France
Ever heard of the road that disappears and appears with the tide? This is a 4.3km road on the Atlantic coast of France connecting the mainland to the Island of Noirmoutier. It is a national monument and famous tourist attraction as people flock in every twice a day to witness the miracle of the tides.
If you happen to be on the road at the wrong time, then meet the tide, you will really wish you had a boat instead. The high tide also comes with lots of seaweed and gravel, making the road very slippery. As the steam rises. The whole road suddenly becomes foggy, making visibility nearly impossible. The road is still great to drive on as you enjoy the greatest beach drive of a lifetime.
The Taroko Gorge Road, Taiwan
The Taroko national park in Taiwan is one of the greatest tourist attractions in Taiwan, but the road there is a total scare. The road is carved through a mountain snaking past the Taroko Gorge famous for its marbles and falling rocks. The scenic view of the gorge and surrounding mountains is in itself breathtaking, but you need to be a steady hand at the wheel to stay alive on this road.
Most of the trouble comes during the monsoon season as strong winds, and heavy downpour makes the road very slippery. Seismic activity is also common in the gorge; you could easily find all sections of the road cut off if you have not been buried under the rubble yourself. The road is also poorly maintained since there is little the government can do to improve the scary landscape.
This is the highest tarmacked international road in the world elevated at over 15,000ft above the sea level. The scare of this road precedes it as its very existence is a tribute to the 900 workers that died during its construction. It is the main road connecting China to Pakistan over the Karakoram mountains featuring deadly hairpin bends. The road is over 13,000km long, well tarmacked, and maintained on the Chinese side but the exact opposite on the Pakistan side.
It is only 10 meters wide featuring a high rock face on one side and a scary drop on the other side. It is really not a trip to take if you are afraid of heights. During the rainy season, flash floods are very common, sweeping away sections of the road, including bridges. Landslides sometimes cut off sections of the road, making it totally inaccessible.
Author Bio – Billy Oduory is an author and editor with a vast experience in creating interesting entertainment reads. He has an eye for the fine interesting details that mainstream media ignores. Learn more about me and get in touch on Twitter