1. The Road From Jalalabad to Kabul (Afghanistan)
Where: The Kabul Gorge – Taliban territory
Why So Dangerous? This road would be at the top of any “most dangerous road” list regardless of the fact it snakes through Taliban territory (yes, there are bombings). The narrow, winding lanes climb up to 600 meters through the Kabul gorge and reckless Afghan drivers overtake heavily-burdened haulage trucks. Fatal crashes occur daily.
2. Fairy Meadows Road (Pakistan)
Where? Situated at the base of Pakistan’s 26,660-foot Nanga Parbat, Fairy Meadows is a picturesque destination. Getting there however – not so easy.
Why So Dangerous? Surviving the 6-mile, hour-long drive to Fairy Meadows on an unstable, gravel road hacked out of a mountainside is no easy feat. The “road” is basically a narrow, dirt, steep, path with no guardrails to prevent your Jeep from rolling down into the gorge. You can’t even drive all the way to Fairy Meadows; the last section has to be covered by bicycle or on foot.
Photo: The Bolivian Road of Death
3. The Death Road (Bolivia)
Where: The North Yungas Road or “Death Road” connects La Paz and Coroico. It is a 65 km long and drops 3.5km.
Why So Dangerous? In 1995 the Inter-American Development Bank named it the “world’s most dangerous road. ” One estimate states 200-300 travelers were killed annually before an alternative route was opened in late 2006. It’s since become a playground for adventure cyclists, but the dangers are still real. Local trucks and overcrowded buses still ply, and quite often fly off, the route.
Photo: World Tourism Directory
4. Sichuan-Tibet Highway (China)
Where: The Sichuan-Tibet Highway is a 2,412km long, high-elevation road between Chengdu and Tibet. It traverses 14 high mountains, which average 4,000-5,000m, rises to its highest point at 6,096m, spans dozens of famous rivers (Dadu River, Jinsha River, Lantsang River, Nujiang), crosses primeval forest and numerous dangerous sections.
Why So Dangerous? In 2007 the World Health Oragnization estimated the number of motor vehicle fatalities in China was just over 221,000; the US had 41,000 and double the amount of cars on the road. We bet the Sichuan–Tibet Highway is part of the problem, especially considering the frequency of landslides, falling rocks, and extreme weather conditions. Throw in a few avalanches, lack of road rules and you’ll be lucky to survive.
5. The Halsema Highway (Philippines)
Where: The Halsema Highway runs through the Central Cordillera Valley in Philippines. The road is ~150 miles long and mostly unpaved.
Why So Dangerous? The road is hewn into steep cliff faces with no real guardrails or safety devices installed between you and drop-offs of +1,000ft. The narrow roads and muddy cliff faces make the road almost impassable during the rainy season due to rock and mud slides. Beware of taking a bus, they drive ridiculously fast and often wind up overturned.
Photo: Virgin Media
6. Russian-Georgian “Military” Mountain Roads (Russia/Georgia)
Where: These roads, built in the Caucasus Mountains for the Russian military (explaining their “unofficial” designation), connect Russia and Georgia and have immense strategic importance for both countries.
Why So Dangerous? Unpaved and almost impassable in the winter, locals drive their Lada cars on them regularly. The remote highways can easily swallow a car in mud or snow, assuming one can even stay on the road…
7. Van Zyl’s Pass (Namibia)
Where: Van Zyl’s Pass, or the DR3703, located in Namibia.
Why So Dangerous? Well it’s not exactly a road, more just a route made over the mountain by travelers over time. The outrageously steep pass provides a pure adrenaline rush, but the route that leads up to it is a 10-15km of tough driving where one has to dodge their way through rocks, boulders, badlands and ravines. At the end, the road descends to the ancient glacial Marienfluss valley, which is a welcome sight indeed.
Photo: Kashmir Observer
8. The Zoji La Pass (India)
Where: The Zoji La is a mountain road between Kashmir and Ladakh i.e. a dusty pathway through the western Himalayas. Nevertheless, it’s a lifeline that keeps the people of Ladakh in touch with the rest of the world, despite being cut off by heavy snow in winter.
Why So Dangerous? The nine-kilometer stretch of road meanders over the mountain at 3,528 meters, with no barrier on one side and just the hard rock face on the other. Warning: don’t look down.
9. Patiopoulo – Perdikaki Road (Greece)
Where: In the mountainous Agrafa region of Greece, connecting Patiopoulo and Perdikaki
Why So Dangerous? Potholes, loose gravel, heavy traffic, pedestrians, and livestock – think of the recent economic crisis and that is nothing compared to the chaos on this road. Throw in some steepness, narrow roads, sharp drop-offs on both sides, and no barriers, and you’ll be praying to Zeus in no time.
Photo: John Fenzel
10. Guoliang Tunnel Road (China)
Where: The road in the Taihang Mountains of the Hunan Province was built by local villagers: it took five years to finish the 1,200 metre long tunnel with hand tools. On May 1, 1977, after many deaths the tunnel was opened to traffic.
Why So Dangerous? Four meters wide and five meters high, the tunnel also has open edges over a rocky precipice. It’s nickname, “the road that does not tolerate mistakes,” is quite appropriate.
Photo: Rita Michaels
11. Skippers Road (New Zealand)
Where: In 1862 shepherds discovered gold in the Shotover River near Queenstown, New Zealand. To create an access route, Chinese laborers built the Skippers Road – a 22 year long, 16 ½ mile, deadly endeavor.
Why So Dangerous? The road hasn’t changed much since its completion 140 years ago; in most places it’s too narrow for vehicles to pass each other, there are no guardrails, and drop-offs don’t allow for beginner mistakes. FYI car rental companies won’t allow you to explore Skippers Road. Don’t worry, unlike other roads on this list (e.g. in Afghanistan) you can hire a tour companies to drive you through.
13. El Espinazo Del Diablo (Mexico)
Why So Dangerous? The road is well maintained with cautionary signs (in Spanish), but that doesn’t make it safe most areas too narrow for cars to pass.
14. Trollstigen (Norway)
Where: Trollstigen (The Troll Ladder) is a mountain road in Rauma, Norway, part of Norwegian National Road 63 connecting Åndalsnes in Rauma and Valldal in Norddal.
Why So Dangerous? With an incline of 9% and eleven hairpin bends up the steep mountain side, the road up is so narrow vehicles over 12.4 meters long are prohibited from driving on it.
15. Los Caracoles Pass (Chile)
Where: This road passes though the Andes Mountains connecting Chile and Argentina (passing through Portillo!)
Why So Dangerous: The road has many steep inclines and hairpins without any safety guard rails and is covered with snow for several months each year. The remote location, its elevation of 3,176 meters and the procession of busses, and trucks make the drive exhausting. WIth Portillo and freshies at the top though, it’s worth the drive!