Casual driving shouldn’t really require any valor, but not every road is a nicely paved 4-lane highway. Across the globe, drivers take their lives in their hands cruising across unstable, unkempt, and unbelievably unsafe roadways. Join us for this palm-sweating installment as we travel 10 of the scariest roads around the world.
10. Stelvio Pass, Italy
9. Lippincott Mine Road
8. Kolyma Highway, Russia
7. Guoliang Tunnel Road, China
6. Skippers Canyon Road, New Zealand
5. Taroko Gorge Road, Taiwan
4. The Himalayan Roads
3. North Yungas Road, Bolivia
2. Bayburt Of Yolu-D915, Turkey
1. BR-116, Brazil
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From child prostitution operations to a high number of deaths per year (roughly 254 in 2012 alone), Brazil’s BR-116 is often considered the world’s most dangerous road – though it may not look like it on the surface. Earning the titles of “Highway of Death” and “Highway to Hell”, much of BR-116’s 2,7000-miles or 4,345-kilometers may look like a normal pathway across the country’s coast, but it is plagued with hazards including steep cliffs, a high population of big rigs, inconsistent terrain, and fatigued drivers. As if the dangers of BR-116 weren’t enough to make it a pretty miserable and scary drive, the lengthy highway has been pegged as a popular spot for sex trade, often involving minors and children. BR-116’s most dangerous section is within Sao Paulo, a literal lifeline for freight transport to the rest of Brazil.
Bayburt Of Yolu-D915, Turkey
There are some roads out there that shouldn’t be attempted, even by the most confident drivers. This 65-mile or 106 kilometer nightmare connecting the towns of Of, Trabzon and Bayburt in Turkey is one such scenario, climbing up to an elevation of 6,677 feet or 2,035 meters without the safety of guardrails and comfort of a fully paved path. The lengthy path features a series of 29 step turns, most of which provide no visibility as to what’s on the other side of the bend. On clear days, the view is magnificent, but the more common foggy days only aid in making the northern end of state road D915 a deadly and terrifyingly blind drive. D915’s most dangerous stretch features 13 hairpin turns and drops almost 1,000 feet or 304 meters in 3.2 miles or 5.1 kilometers.
North Yungas Road, Bolivia
A road some 12-feet 3.5 meters wide isn’t all that terrible. Place it next to a drop of about 2,000 feet or 609 meters, and you have yourself a road known to the world as “Death Road.” The colorful title was given to Bolivia’s North Yungas Road for its incredibly hazardous driving conditions, including mudslides and tumbling rocks, and complete lack of guardrail around its tightest and highest, turns. An estimated 300 people succumb to many of the road’s dangers, as indicated by small, handmade memorials placed along the 43-mile or 69-kilometer path. As you travel from 15,260 feet or 4,650 meters high to around 3,900 feet or 1,200 meters, you’re left white knuckled, hoping you don’t wind up as a crafted memorial, left to get washed away in the rain.
The Himalayan Roads
Though the scenery can easily be described as breathtaking, there’s no denying the adrenaline rush of fear that driving along the Himalayan Roads in India and Tibet can bring. Specifically, the stretch of a paved path that tops what is currently the highest motorable point in the world at 18,300 feet or 5,600 meters. The roadway, which runs for 295 miles or 475 kilometers, is carved right into the mountain’s face, and though it is equipped with guards to keep one from careening to their death, the narrow roadway becomes treacherous around bends, especially during any sort of weather event. Possible rockslides add an additional layer of discomfort to the long and arduous drive along this high-atmosphere roadway.
Taroko Gorge Road, Taiwan
When you’re thousands of feet above jagged rock, some things you don’t want to be faced with include narrow paths, sharp turns, and blind curves. Taroko Gorge Road in Taiwan is ripe with all three of these. Driving along the narrowed roadway becomes a fight for space as traffic moves in opposite directions, turning blind corners into a terrifying approach. As if driving conditions weren’t rough enough, heavy rainfall can cause debris from the mountain to dislodge and block the roadway and any sort of seismic activity can cause the highway to crack and break apart, making it completely non-functional or, for anyone caught on it, extremely life threatening.
Skippers Canyon Road, New Zealand
Strange as it may seem, some of the most scenic routes in the world also tend to be some of the scariest. Skippers Canyon Road in New Zealand’s South Island is an odd combination of both, providing thrill seekers with a view and casual drivers with a heart attack. The 13-mile or 22-kilometer road was constructed during the gold rush and has been left mostly untouched to this day, meaning the same narrow, unpaved path is exactly what drivers get to experience. Steep drops beside extremely narrow turns should be enough to warrant nothing but the most careful of driving, but the road’s poor conditions accentuate the need for careful driving – and, essentially, using nothing short of a off-road vehicles.
Guoliang Tunnel Road, China
The one caveat of driving over China’s Guoliang Tunnel Road in the Taihang Mountains is that you don’t always get a view of the deadly drop that awaits. The road was chiseled into the mountain in the 1970’s by villagers looking for access to the outside world, and though they completed the project and opened up their world, they didn’t do so with the safest and most appealing of roads. The 13-foot or 4-meter wide trail stretches 3/4 of a mile or about 1.2 kilometers long and only has a clearance of 16 feet or 5 meters. Though the views down the mountainside are beautiful, there’s not much between you and the deadly tumble, and there’s very little visibility around the tight bends.
Kolyma Highway, Russia
When a road earns itself the nickname the “Road of Bones,” it undoubtedly earns itself a spot on any Top 10 Scariest Roads list. This Russian highway, built by prisoners in the 1930s, connects the regions of Sakha Republic and Magadan Oblast. Kolyma Highway is not entirely scary in the traditional sense of being winding, twisting, and at dangerous heights, but instead, when you drive the 1,200-mile or 1,931 kilometer route, you’re doing so over the remains of thousands of the inmates that died while building it. The highway also stretches some of the coldest places on Earth, leading to incredibly miserable driving conditions.
Lippincott Mine Road
If you’re cruising down Lippincott Mine Road in Eastern California, chances are you aren’t joyriding in your new Honda Civic. This 8.2 mile or 1.6 kilometer dirt trail drops from an elevation of 3,876 to 2,256 feet or 1,181 to 687 meters, but it’s no easy ride down. A single lane of uneven dirt and large rocks “paves” the way for 4-Wheel Drive vehicles as driver’s clench the wheel tight, doing everything they can to avoid slipping off the road and rolling down the deadly drop... made possible due to a complete lack of guardrails to prevent such a tragedy. A myriad of additional issues, like no cell service and the possibility of overheating make this road one you may want to bypass.
Stelvio Pass, Italy
Acrophobics may want to do everything they can to avoid driving down Italy’s Stelvio Pass. Not only is it at an elevation of 9,045 feet or 2,756 meters high, making it the highest paved road in the Eastern Alps, but its twisting corners do a poor job of hiding every inch of the 6,138-foot or 1,871-meter trek down. Sixty hairpin turns add a true challenge to this stretch of road, and though it is far from some of the world’s most dangerous roads, every winding curve down the steep decline will have average drivers pumping the brakes a bit more frequently than normal.