Yungas Road from Bolivia, connecting La Paz to Coroico has a length of only 70 km (43 miles), but it’s one of the most famous road in the world.
High altitudes (above 4000 m/13000 ft) and steep cliffs create a 3600 m(11800 ft) of abysm. Sharp curves, constant fog and the narrow parts of the road, require the drivers’ attention more than other roads. It’s surnamed the Death Road because of the high number of accidents. El Camino de la muerte in Bolivia claims a death toll as high as 300 people a year. But the reason of the high number of victims is not only due to the that.
But how do you do that in a country where there is no working limit and faster you drive, more kilometers you drive in a shorter period of time, more you earn? So the Bolivian drivers were pushed to drive faster and rest less in order to feed their families. Some were telling me they were driving even 24 hours continuously. In these conditions it was easy for the drivers to fall asleep and less than a second is enough to fall into 3600 m(11800 ft) of abysm. Tiredness is one of the main reasons for the high number of deaths.
Due to the high number of accidents and the international attention the road has gotten, nowadays the things changed: the drivers have a better salary, they can drive maximum 8 hours a day, then need to rest a certain time, the parts of the road where there were accidents have been enlarged and steel protection bars have been placed.
Some interesting fact about the road is that you have to drive on the left side of the road. In Bolivia they drive on the right side of the road, but on the Death Road you have to drive on the left side. This has helped to decrease the number of accidents, because the one coming down has more visibility and is now on the precipice side (on the left side), protecting the car coming uphill which has less visibility and is next to the mountain (on the right side).
Another good news is that since 2006 there is a new road connecting La Paz to Coroico which is actually a great mountain road which you should take to enjoy the Bolivian breathtaking landscapes. The old road is now used mostly for adventure sports – mountain bike, drive small cars and many other things.
As scary as it can be, riding a bike on the Death Road is a must do thing while in Bolivia. There are almost no cars, you have a guide with you, a car is watching out behind you so you are safe all the time, no matter if you fall (on the road, not outside it) you are safe, the landscapes is just amazing! The race has 2 parts – on the new road which even though is a smooth nice road, there are big cars and buses passing you. Usually they are quite considered with the tourist, but some honk you. The second part is the part I enjoyed the most. It’s on the old and the real Death Road, it’s bumpy, with sharp curves, but with almost no cars on it.
Any hotel/hostel/guesthouse will have at least one recommendation for you. They are all pretty good and they all will give you a full hurt proof equipment, so you have to worry only to have fun and of course, watch out while the precipice.
Ride safe and have fun while on the world’s most dangerous road – the Death Road, Bolivia!