Road of Death - Yungas Road (Stremnaya) - Bolivia

In Bolivia, Yungas Road is nicknamed 'The Road of Death,' and you will take no convincing as to how appropriate that is.

The Yungas Road, as seen from Coroico. The North Yungas Road (also Grove's Road, Coroico Road, Camino de las Yungas, El Camino de la Muerte, Road of Death, and Death Road) is a 38 to 43 mile road (depending on source) leading from La Paz to Coroico, 35 miles (56 km) northeast of La Paz in the Yungas region of Bolivia. It is legendary for its extreme danger and in 1995 the Inter-American Development Bank christened it as the "world's most dangerous road" [1]. One estimate is that 200-300 travelers are killed yearly along the road [2]. The road moreover includes Christian crosses marking many of the spots where such vehicles have fallen. Upon leaving La Paz, the road first ascends up to around 5km, before descending to 1079 ft (330 m), transitioning quickly from cool altiplano terrain to rain forest as it winds through very steep hillsides and atop cliffs.

The road was built in the 1930s during the Chaco War by Paraguayan prisoners. It is one of the few routes that connects the Amazon rainforest region of northern Bolivia, or Yungas, to its capital city. However, an alternative, much safer, road connecting La Paz to Coroico is nearing completion.

Because of the extreme dropoffs, single-lane width, and lack of guardrails, the road is extremely dangerous. Further still, rain and fog can make visibility precarious, the road surface muddy, and loosen rocks from the hillsides above. On July 24, 1983, a bus veered off the Yungas Road and into a canyon, killing more than 100 passengers in what is said to be Bolivia's worst road accident. One of the local road rules specifies that the downhill driver never has the right of way and must move to the outer edge of the road. This forces fast vehicles to stop so that passing can be negotiated safely. The danger of the road ironically though has made it a popular tourist destination starting in the 1990s. Mountain biker enthusiasts, in particular, have made it a favorite destination for downhill biking.

Photographs of China's Guoliang Tunnel are often incorrectly identified as depicting Yungas Road. Yungas Road is also often incorrectly referred to as Stremnaya Road.

A South Yungas Road (also Chulumani Road) exists that connects La Paz to Chulumani, 40 miles (64 km) east of La Paz, and is considered to be nearly as dangerous as the north road.


1 comment:

  1. I took this road several times back in the '60's, including on my honeymoon to Coroico. It IS just what you see, often closed due to landslides. Traveling a road like this puts your mortality in perspective.