© iStock/filrom
© iStock/filrom

The Death Road; from the highlands to the jungle

3 minutes to read

I will tell you about the Death Road, a road that - for decades - was the only human-made connection of the highlands with the jungle of Bolivia. The panorama along the way is the most amazing you can imagine but, when it was in use, it was meant only for the best drivers and brave travelers.

Death Road
Death Road
© Zoomalmapa/vanesazegada
© Zoomalmapa/vanesazegada

The world's most dangerous road

Narrow, winding, non-paved, and along the cliff, this road was only suitable for the most experienced drivers. Even if it was used for a two-way circulation, a big part of it is wide enough for only one car. And just to add a bit more difficulty, with dry terrain, the dust would hinder the driver’s vision, and with a wet one, the soil would become unstable.

After decades of heavy vehicular circulation and countless accidents, suddenly it became popular; it started to be presented on the top of the “World’s most dangerous roads” in a bunch of international magazines, documentaries and television shows, including National Geographic, History Chanel and Top Gear on BBC. That is how it earned the name of "Death Road." Finally, in 1995, the Interamerican Bank of Development located it in the first place, naming it the "World's most dangerous road."

Nowadays, even if there is a two-way paved road for the same route, the Death Road has become one of the main tourist attractions of Bolivia, because of its incredible natural landscape. Though, now a safe way to cross the road is used: bikes!

© iStock/filrom
© iStock/filrom

The journey through the Death Road

In Bolivia, there is a key zone where the highlands and the tropical region meet, and the Death Road accompanies that transition. The way starts in the cold and dry highlands at 4700 meters above the sea level and, only 64 kilometers later, reaches its lower point in a green and tropical environment.

Every morning, several groups provided with the corresponding biking equipment, led by a local guide and accompanied by a minivan, start their journey on this road.

Most of the track goes way down. If you are familiar with cycling and rent a bike with a good suspension to handle the rocky terrain - you will be more than fine. However, traversing the road during the rainy season (December to February) is not recommended, since it is hard to ride in muddy terrain, plus, you might not want the rain covering the scenic views.

Starting near the Andes Mountains, the first and shortest part of the track is paved. As soon as the non-paved road starts, gradually, the temperature rises, the landscape gets green, the air a bit humid, and the panorama cannot get any better.

After crossing a few waterfalls and stopping for some rest in the viewpoints, the journey ends in Yolosa town, 3500 meters below the starting point altitude. Over there, lunch and a refreshing swimming pool await for the groups of adventurers. Those who still want more can experience one of the most scenic ziplines of the country, in the same location.

Finishing the journey, visitors can choose between going back to La Paz, (staying in the paradisiac Yungas region), or keep going north to reach the Madidi National Park.

Madidi National Park
Madidi National Park

The Death Road is a call for adventurous tourists willing to cross the line between the highlands and the tropical lands while enjoying unforgettable views and living the magical experience of a drastic change of climate in a blink of an eye.

© iStock/StreetFlash
© iStock/StreetFlash

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The author

Vanesa Zegada

Vanesa Zegada

I am Vanesa and I am from Bolivia. I am in love with my homeland. It never stops surprising me, even if I am a local. It is a place full of diversity, traditions, interesting spots that I want to share with you through my stories on itinari.

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