Really, all roads are dangerous. Throw some booze on top of some sleep deprivation, add a little bit of rain, and you might as well be driving along a winding mountain road that’s barely wide enough to accommodate four wheels. But also, as risky as it is to drive on our relatively well-manicured highways and byways, we have nothing on some of the roads in remote parts of the world. All the roads on this list will make you want to grip your wheel until your knuckles turn white, even if you’re not driving.
This famous Bolivian road kills hundreds of people every year. It climbs along steep, tree-choked mountainsides for forty three miles. Mudslides are common, and there are many stretches that are barely wide enough for vehicles to pass each other. In some spots, it’s impossible. One wrong move and you’ll find yourself falling three thousand feet to your death.
10. Himalayan Roads
There are many roads that snake up to the base of the Himalayan mountains, and they’re all dangerous. For the most part, they are narrow, poorly or not-at-all-maintained, unpaved and exposed to extreme weather and icy conditions. Their routes are punctuated with the husks of crashed buses and cars.
9. Halsema Highway
This 93-mile road in the Philippines used to be a lot worse. It was paved fairly recently, reducing the danger, but it’s still hairy. It connects Bontoc and Baguio, and passes through high mountain cloud forests where falling rocks are common. Thankfully, the road is now well-enough maintained that fog is the worst hazard.
8. Commonwealth Avenue
Like many other roads on this list, this one has a nasty nickname. It’s called the “Killer Highway” by the people who travel on it, and for good reason. It runs through Quezon City, Philippines, and carries a huge traffic load with basically zero regulation or rule of law. It’s a choked, chaotic highway that claims lives at a regular clip.
7. Guoliang Tunnel Road
This rural Chinese road was carved into the side of a steep mountain face by the residents of the nearby town Guoliang. Although unlike other mountain pass roads on this list, Guoliang Tunnel road was dug literally into the cliff. Guoliang dug the road to make the town more accessible to the outside world.
6. Skippers Canyon Road
Skippers Road in New Zealand was built by miners about 140 years ago, and it reflects the safety ethic of men who spent their entire lives hacking at rocks by candlelight. It’s so perilous that rental car companies refuse to honor insurance contracts if you drive their cars on it. If you run into a car driving the other direction, one of you will be forced to reverse along the barrier-free road until you find somewhere to pull to the side. Chances are, you’ll have to reverse for a mile.
5. James Dalton Highway
The James Dalton Highway runs through 414 desolate miles of the Alaskan wilderness, connecting Fairbanks (ish) with Deadhorse, a place as frigid as it sounds. The road sees lots of truck traffic. It’s relatively safe for trucks, compared to personal vehicles, but it still comes freighted with lots of risk. On top of the weather, there’s basically no access to medical care whatsoever.
4. Taroko Gorge Road
Taroko Gorge Road winds through the 12-mile-long Taroko Gorge valley on Taiwan’s east coast. The road is in poor condition, and subject to environmental hazards like landslides, falling rocks and heavy rain. It also tends to get clogged with traffic, as tourists and cargo vehicles jockey for space. A few additional tunnels were recently dug to try to diminish some of the risk.
3. Fairy Meadows Road
This road in Pakistan is the stuff of nightmares. In contrast to its whimsical name, Fairy Meadows Road is a ten-mile highwire act that’s so perilous it really begs the question why it was built in the first place. It was carved into the sides of mountains hundreds of years ago and it is maintained exactly never. It’s a necessary journey for anyone who wants to climb Nanga Parabat, the 9th largest mountain in the world. Which again begs the question, “Why?”
This Brazilian highway, the second-longest road in the country, has the ignominious honor of being nicknamed “The Highway of Death.” It claims literally thousands of lives on a yearly basis. It’s poorly maintained, beset by marauding gangs, and at certain points along its 2,725 miles, beleaguered by dangerous weather.
1. Strada Delle 52 Gallerie
This road in Pasubio, Italy translates to “Road With 52 Galleries.” It was built during WWI and hasn’t changed much since. Because of a few fatal automobile accidents, the road is now closed to cars. But you can still hike or bike it, and it’s considered one of the most beautiful scenic journeys in Europe.