The 11 Most Dangerous Roads in the World
Many People Die While Challenging These Deadly Highways
This list includes some, if not all, of the most dangerous roads in the world. Videos are provided for each road, many of which show travel over some of the roughest terrain on the planet. So, if you don’t get frightened easily, fasten your seatbelt and take a virtual ride. And, if you’ve actually traveled on any of these awesome avenues, please let the author know.
Now let’s begin the countdown.
11. Karakoram Highway (Pakistan to China)
Sometimes considered the Eighth Wonder of the World, because it was built as high as 15,000 feet above sea level and under very rough conditions, construction on the Karakoram Highway began in 1966 and was completed in 1979, although it wasn’t open to the public until 1986. This dangerous road covers more than 1,300 kilometers and, at least in some places, follows the old Silk Road. Cutting through the most mountainous region in the world, the Karakoram Highway is beset with hazards: rock falls, landslides, avalanches, flooding, snow drifts, reckless drivers, herds of animals, precipitous cliffs and terrible storms. Interestingly, the road meanders though the Hunza Valley, the scene of James Hilton’s Lost Horizon, a novel about the mythical Shangri-La, a harmonious place where people live for centuries.
10. Logging Road (Europe)
The author doesn’t know where this road is located, perhaps somewhere in Europe; nevertheless, it must be one of the most dangerous roads in existence. Of course, there are many other logging roads throughout the world, many of which are not paved, while others are little more than animal trails. At any rate, if traveling on this road is any indication of what this work entails, then men and women who drive logging trucks deserve pay for hazardous work – that’s for certain!
9. Road to Heaven (China)
In a land of glass bridges extending thousands of feet above a canyon floor and rickety wooden walkways hung around precipitous cliffs, China also has its share of dangerous roads. Located in the southwestern part of China, the Road to Heaven features overpasses constructed hundreds of feet in the air. If you went off the road in such places, you’d surely die in a fiery crash. In bad weather the road must be incredibly treacherous, and it would be truly terrifying driving on this road when a landslide, avalanche or earthquake strikes the area. How many hapless folks must have died while constructing this highway in the sky?
8. Pan American Highway (Alaska to Chile)
The Pan American Highway (PAH) is not entirely dangerous, that is, it’s probably no worse than your average American highway. But in some places, you risk your freedom and even your life by using the PAH as a means of travel. Certainly a dangerous section of the PAH winds through Mexico and Central America, where drug cartel terrorists roam.
And in the Panamanian section of the road, you could encounter FARC rebels, who often take captives and hold them for ransom, sometimes for years, while others never escape their makeshift jungle prisons. Anyway, the PAH is 30,000 miles long and the only broken section of the road is the 60-mile Darién Gap, between Panama and Colombia, where the FARC are even worse. Let’s hope they never complete the highway through there!
7. Sichaun-Tibet Highway (China)
This very long highway – 2,028 kilometers in length – connects Chengdu in Sichaun with Lhasa in Tibet, through an area known as Kham. Continuously beset with rockslides and avalanches, the Sichaun-Tibet Highway is a treacherous, switchback-laden highway that winds among towering peaks, some of which over 6,000 meters in elevation, often causing vomit-spewing altitude sickness in travelers.
Along the way, numerous Buddhist monasteries, red-robed Buddhists and herds of yaks can be seen. The road was built between 1950 and 1954 and since then many thousands of people per year have died while traveling on the Sichaun-Tibet Highway.
6. James Dalton Highway (Alaska)
Also known as the North Slope Hall Road, the James Dalton Highway is a road used by truckers, especially those who travel to and from the Prudhoe Bay oil fields on the north slope of Alaska. In fact, the road supports the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System.
The Highway is 414 miles long, paved in places, but about three-fourths of it is not. There are no medical facilities along the road, though three towns exist along the way. It’s advised that anyone traveling the road should bring survival gear. Interestingly, the TV reality show, Ice Road Truckers, has many episodes dramatizing the rigors of traveling on this deadly, primitive road.
5. Siberian Road to Yakutsk (Russia)
Travel through Siberia is always a challenge. Nicknamed the “Road of Bones,” the Siberian Road to Yakutsk meanders its way through one of the coldest regions in the world. (The town of Yakutsk is constructed on permafrost.) The road is mostly unpaved (particularly in the north) and is about 760 miles long.
The preferred time to travel on the road is winter, when the ground and water are frozen, making travel somewhat easier. But during July and August, when it tends to rain a lot, the road becomes a monstrous quagmire, leading to traffic jams miles long. Only the most rugged 4X4 vehicles can manage this muddy beast. To make matters even worse, people get so bored during these traffic jams, they’ve been known to rob each other!
4. Guoliang Tunnel Road (China)
When the Chinese government decided it wasn’t worth the trouble and expense to make a road that would be used by only 300 villagers, 13 of those villagers decided to build a .8-mile tunnel through the solid rock of a vertical cliff. Located in the Taihang Mountains in the province of Henan, the villagers used explosives to blow their way through this vertiginous cliff. Lacking road-building experience, some villagers died in accidents.
The tunnel is 15 feet high and 12 feet wide, barely wide enough for two cars. Taking five years to build, the road was opened to traffic in 1977. Beware: This road is particularly dangerous when it rains! Interestingly, at least two other cliff tunnel roads have been constructed in this area of China.
3. Zoji Pass (India)
Just about any road that winds through the highest mountain range in the world would probably be at least somewhat dangerous for travel. The Zoji Pass certainly qualifies in this regard, since it’s a dirt road with no guardrails or traffic signs and where landslides are a continual problem. Moreover, the road zigzags among craggy peaks at over 11,000 feet at its highest elevation.
Connecting the towns of Srinagar and Leh in the western Himalayan mountain range (Indian Kashmir), Zoji Pass is generally closed during the winter, when 50-foot snowdrifts make it impassable. Mercifully for drivers on the road, Zoji Pass is only about 9 kilometers long. By the way, it was originally built in 1947 and first used for military purposes.
2. North Yungas Road (Bolivia)
You wouldn’t want to travel on any road nicknamed “The Road of Death,” so stay away from this one! Leading from La Paz to Coroico, the Road of Death is 40 miles of one-lane road, featuring vertical drops of as much as 3,000 feet into the Amazon rainforest below. Astonishingly, the road has over 200 hairpin turns.
As of 2006, 200 to 300 travelers per year died on the road. Along the way, numerous makeshift memorials can be seen in places where hapless folks plunged over a precipice and went crashing down into a jungle ravine. Fortunately, the worst part of the road has been bypassed by a two-lane paved road, so vehicle traffic on the road has diminished. But cyclists still challenge the Road of Death, some dying in the process. Incidentally, the South Yungas Road to Cochabamba is considered almost as dangerous.
1. Fairy Meadows Road (Pakistan)
The Fairy Meadows Road is only for people who love to drive in the mountains and have nerves of steel. Open only during the summer months, this rocky, gravelly road is about 16 kilometers long. A six-mile stretch of it is particularly hazardous. The road was built hundreds of years ago by villagers on Nanga Parbat Mountain and has not been repaired over the decades.
Only wide enough for one jeep at a time and having no guardrails, the road is terrifyingly unstable in places. One false move by a driver could send a vehicle down a vertical cliff for hundreds of meters. This road is so frightening, it’s hard to watch videos of people driving over it. If your bucket list has this one on it, make sure it’s your last challenge!
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© 2015 Kelley Marks