The 10 Scariest Roads in the World

The 10 Scariest Roads in the World

Driving can be a nerve-wracking experience: traffic and poor weather can make even the most mundane of commutes stressful. Even in ideal conditions, fender-benders are often caused by just one wrong move away. On these 10 roads, however, one wrong move could spell certain doom for everyone in the vehicle: sheer plunges, dizzying heights, narrow tracks and tight switchbacks transform these routes from scenic to terrifying. Bad weather only intensifies the fear factor for these roadways and, unfortunately, bad weather is common on most of them, making them 10 of the scariest drives on the face of the earth.

10. Lippincott Mine Road, USA

This 7-mile track out of Death Valley National Park in California doesn’t get much traffic—and for good reason. The road reaches an altitude of 2,000 feet and has some fairly sheer drops. It’s not paved. It’s narrow. It’s got no guardrails. Drivers will need to navigate their 4-wheel drive vehicle around or over large boulders and also contend with the gravel track—which is often no wider than a couple of feet. Losing traction could mean plummeting over the side of the cliff. The road’s also in a place called Death Valley in the middle of a desert. You’d be wise to make sure your vehicle’s in good condition and to be prepared in case you break down. There’s no water and no cell reception out here. Nonetheless, the road is a faster way to the park and it takes you by the famed Racetrack Playa.

9. Trollstigen Mountain Road, Norway

A nine percent incline and 11 hairpin turns combined with poor weather conditions make Trollstigen Mountain Road a fairly nerve-wracking drive. The road winds up one of Norway’s numerous slopes and it is closed in the winter beginning in October through to the month of May due to dangerous conditions. Rain often decreases traction for vehicles and fog can impair visibility. Really, the fog is less scary and more of a shame: the road overlooks the Geirangerfjord in western Norway. The fjord is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which means that lots of tourists brave the twists and turns of the Trollstigen to catch a glimpse of fjords and lush valleys, as well as the Stigfossen waterfall. Between 2005 and 2012, the road underwent repairs and improvements that aimed to make it safer: rockfall guards were added and some sections were widened.

Trollstigen Mountain Road, Norway

8. Dalton Highway, USA

If you’ve ever watched Ice Road Truckers, you’ve heard tell of the Dalton Highway. This 414-mile road stretches through some pretty bleak Alaskan tundra, and it was opened for one reason: transporting oil. There are 3 gas stations along the entire route and for 240 miles of the road, there are no gas stations, restaurants or other services—just empty, icy tundra. That’s the longest unserviced stretch in the whole of North America. Cell reception is spotty at best, so good luck if you get stuck. The road itself is gravelly and laden with potholes, and most of the vehicles traversing it are 18-wheelers slinging ice at each other. The frigid temperatures and winter driving conditions can spell disaster for drivers. Even so, the road does pass through the Arctic circle and, at the right time of year, you could enjoy a spectacular show courtesy of the northern lights.

Dalton Highway, Alaska

7. Road to Hana, USA

The road to Hana, on the Hawaiian island of Maui, is like “driving a roller coaster,” says one driver who’s traveled the route. Blind corners, hairpin turns and big hills are compounded by the fact that the thoroughfare is a narrow coastal road. Drivers often have to pull over to let other cars pass. There are 54 1-lane bridges on Highway 360. The road winds its way 42-miles to Hana, and much of the scenery is a sheer drop over the cliff into the ocean below. Since the region is mountainous, falling rocks are also a hazard and the weather doesn’t always cooperate with frequent rain making the road surface slick and those hairpins—all 600 of them—more difficult to navigate. You’ll be richly rewarded, however, as you can find state parks, black sand beaches, waterfalls and Paia Town, a laid-back pitstop, along the way.

6. Karakorum “Friendship” Highway, China/Pakistan

If this joint-venture between China and Pakistan is anything like their friendship, we might expect to find relations between the two countries a little treacherous. The road was completed in 1979 as a collaboration, which gave the road its nickname, and it stretches for 800 miles along parts of the old Silk Road trade route. At 15,397 feet above sea level, it’s also the highest international paved road in the world. Along Karakorum, you can see K2, the second-highest mountain in the world, the Indus river and Baltoro, a massive glacier. Even today, the trek through this territory remains dangerous. Some 1,000 workers died during the construction and hazards like falling rocks and flash flooding still threaten drivers today. The mountainous road also features some fairly sheer drops and is relatively narrow. On the Pakistani side, the road isn’t paved either, which can make it even more treacherous.

Karakorum Highway, Pakistan

5. Skippers Canyon Road, New Zealand

This 1-lane road twists its way through some of New Zealand’s most mountainous territory—which makes for some pretty hazardous driving conditions. The road is considered bad enough that rental car insurance companies won’t cover you if you happen to take a tour down it, only 1 other New Zealand road has that honor. Cut into the side of the mountain, the road is considered one of the country’s most scenic routes. The Shotover River runs through the valley below, offering up great photo-ops. The road itself was constructed by miners who clearly had expediency in mind, rather than the safety of future tourists: the road is narrow, unpaved, and features some wicked twists and sheer drops which make it dangerous to navigate on foot. If you must travel this 16.5-mile road, you might consider taking a tour bus and letting someone else do the driving for you.

Skippers Canyon Road

4. Fairy Meadows Road, Pakistan

This frightening road takes us to Pakistan and the base of Nanga Parbat, the ninth-highest peak in the world. If you want to attempt the climb, you’ll first need to brave Fairy Meadows Road. The road is a gravel track that stretches six miles to Fairy Meadows at the base of Nanga Parbat. If you can survive the road, you might stand a chance at taking on the mountain. The road is entirely unmaintained and features no guardrails to protect the adventurous from the sheer drops. The area is also prone to heavy snowfall and avalanches, so much so that the road itself is closed during the winter. To top things off, the road narrows as you approach Fairy Meadows. The final section of the road is too narrow for vehicles, so you’ll have to hike or ride a bike. Worth it to climb the notorious eight-thousander? You decide.

3. Los Caracoles Pass, Chile

Los Caracoles Pass connects Santiago, the capital of Chile, with Mendoza, Argentina. The road is a nightmare of twisting hairpin turns spiralling down the steep inclines of the Andes. The serpentine path reaches an altitude of nearly 10,500 feet, where the road passes through the Cristo Redentor tunnel. The tunnel, which opened in 1980, actually shortened the route by six miles, lowered the maximum altitude by 600 meters and eliminated 65 switchbacks. Los Caracoles is notorious for receiving some fairly heavy snowfall. One recent incident, in 2013, left approximately 15,000 people stranded when the road was closed after snowfall of 40 to 50 centimeters. Rockfall is also a threat. The Chilean side is worse than the Argentine, with the steepest switchback turns as the road descends at a higher grade. Tire chains and patience are recommended!

2. Bayburt Of Yolu-D915, Turkey

This road connects the Turkish cities of Bayburt and Of, winding 66 miles toward the Black Sea through some pretty dangerous terrain. This is not a road for the faint of heart. Some sections of the road are only 1-lane and others are unpaved. Poor weather often plays a role in making this drive more hazardous than it usually is—and that’s saying something. There are 29 switchbacks and the elevation at some points exceeds 6,500 feet. Did we mention there are no guardrails to prevent you from rolling over one of these sheer drops? One section in particular is really bad: in Caykara, the narrow road has 13 hairpin turns and climbs from 5,616 feet to 6,767 feet in a span of about 3 miles. That’s a pretty twisty, steep road, which definitely earns it a spot on this list as one of the world’s most terrifying drives.

1. The Road of Death, Bolivia

With a moniker like that, you know traveling this road has got to be a bit of a risk. The Road of Death, which connects the Bolivian capital of La Paz with Coroico, has been named the most dangerous road in the world and the estimated death toll is between 200 and 300 people per year. During the 38-mile drive, the elevation drops from over 15,000 feet in La Paz to just 3,900 feet at the other end. Like most of the other roads on this list, it’s a narrow one, barely one lane, and there are no guardrails to protect you on the way. That means a 2,000-foot drop over the side of the cliff is a distinct possibility. Rain can reduce visibility and turn the road surface into mud. Fog is also a culprit in reduced visibility. Nonetheless, the track offers some astounding views of the Amazon rainforest.

Road to Death, Bolivia
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