This Road In Bolivia Is One Of The Most Dangerous Places On Earth

In the mountains of Bolivia, a lonely, two-lane highway clings to the sheer cliffs between the city of La Paz and the frontier town of Coroico. This road, only 43 miles long (or 69 kilometers), is formally called the Yungas Road. But since the 1930s it has earned another, more thrilling name: the Death Road (per Discovery). In 1995, the Inter American Development Bank named the Yungas Road "the most dangerous road in the world," according to the BBC, and with good reason. Until 1994, an estimated 300 people died on the road every year.

Mountain roads are often dangerous, with their hairpin turns and long, fatal drops. But the Yungas Road has more than its share of unique driving challenges. Huge rocks spike out of the mountain face and into the road, unexpectedly, according to Culture Trip. Thick fogs envelop the road like wool. Cars, trucks, and bicycles all share the left-hand side of the road, which is said to make passing safer. There are no guardrails.

A history of sweaty palms

The Yungas Road was built in the 1930s by Paraguayan prisoners of war following the Chaco War. It's unclear how many of those men perished digging the highway from the steep cliffsides of the Cordilleras. Originally, the road was a one-lane path that had to accommodate all kinds of traffic; in 2006, the Bolivian government built Route 3, a paved alternative to the Yungas Road. But people keep using the old road.

It's partly the danger that draws them. Tens of thousands of cyclists brave the murderous mountain path every year, often just for the bragging rights (via BBC). There has always been an air of danger and glory about Bolivia, the country where romantic icons like Che Guevara and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid met their gruesome fates. Something about that country turns mortal danger irresistible. But maybe that's because the danger is somewhat less mortal than it was: In the past decade, the road only claimed about a dozen cyclists.