Adventure lovers in Bolivia have their fair share of extreme activities to choose from. From hiking one of the many trails in the impressive Andes Mountain range to white water rafting down rapid jungle rivers, Bolivia is an adventurer’s playground. One of the most popular of the many possible active pursuits is a bike down the notorious World’s Most Dangerous Road.
Connecting La Paz with Coroico and the Yungas region, locals know the road as the “Yungas Road”, but most tourists prefer the more exciting moniker, Death Road. The once-in-a-lifetime adventure begins at about 7:00 am with local hotel pickups in La Paz. Located under an hour outside La Paz to the northeast of the city, the 64 kilometer mountain bike plunge starts at the summit of La Cumbre, a pass at 4,725 meters. The daylong trips end in the lush Yungas cities of Coroico or Yolosa, usually with a pretty solid and well earned buffet lunch amidst a jungle retreat.
The actual riding path is a windy one, carved dangerously close to the side of a steep mountain cliff. Just over 3 meters wide, those who try their luck at the 3600 meter vertical decent are forced to cling close to the jagged mountain edge. Additionally the road is largely unpaved, leaving little reprieve from the bumpy trail the whole constricted downhill way. With 600 meter drops around incredibly tight turns and few safety guards in place, the ride down Death Road is not for those who are scared of heights or faint of heart!
Along the way simple roadside crosses act as some of the only apparent warning signs, marking the solemn spots where riders and drivers over the years have met a tragic fate. The death-defying path takes nearly five thrilling hours for cyclists to complete.
One of the most exciting experiences in Bolivia is white-knuckle cycling down the infamous Death Road.
While La Paz is a hectic South American metropolis, the road to the Yungas is incredibly serene. A few years back, a paved fast road connecting La Paz and the Yungas was built, leaving Death Road to be the cyclist’s domain. The ride down consists of sweeping views of the wild mountain terrain, changing in vegetation along with the descent in elevation. More than for just its scenic qualities, a bike ride down Death Road is the ultimate adventurous escape. As cyclists make their way down the wobbly path, the mounting intensity of abundant fresh mountain air pushing against the saddle is a sensation that is hard to beat.
The ride down the World’s Most Dangerous Road is one of freedom, and cyclists are able to complete the track at their own soul-searching speed. With the focus being solely on the downhill road, cyclists are able to step away from it all and lose themselves in the journey between only the rider and the ground beneath the wheel.
Many tour operators in La Paz and the vicinity offer cycling trips down the World’s Most Dangerous Road. However, it is recommended to chose your cycling agency carefully. As with the rest of Bolivia, some operators chose profit over security and pay little attention to safety standards and operating practices. Luckily for those who want to ride, the practice of hiring expert guides and providing up-to-date cycling equipment is becoming more commonplace. Whichever agency you go with, be sure to get a bilingual guide as well as a bike with hydraulic disc brakes and a support vehicle that will be with you throughout the day. As long as you chose a quality operator, the Death Road moniker is more an illusion than the reality.
If you think biking the Death Road is bad, imagine doing it behind the wheel!