(Photo: Dowson Designer)
‘Tis the season for summer road trips! Here are just a few of the world’s craziest roads to either try out or actively avoid on your next adventure. Happy trails!
1. NORTH YUNGAS ROAD, BOLIVIA
Earning its nickname “The Death Road,” this 40-mile stretch of terrifying highway from La Paz, Bolivia, to a town called Coroico in the Amazon jungle used to claim more than two hundred lives per year. In 2006, a safer route was built nearby, but adventure road-trippers on mountain bikes and motorcycles still brave the North Yungas’ murderous curves.
2. TRANSFĂGĂRĂȘAN, ROMANIA
It‘s difficult to pronounce and hard to drive, but boy is it fun. The former military route through Transylvania features 55 miles of twists, hairpin turns, and a drive by Count Dracula’s castle, Poenari Fortress.
3. KHARDUNG LA PASS, CHINA
(Photo: Flickr user Marc_P98)
Winding through the Himalayas from the Indian city of Leh to the Chinese city of Kashdar, this pass soars above Asia at 17,582 feet—roughly 3,000 feet higher than the summit of Mt. Whitney, the highest mountain in the contiguous United States.
Related: The RV Road Trip from Hell
4. YAKUTSK ROAD, RUSSIA
(Photo: English Russia)
This unpaved Russian highway runs straight through Siberia, where temperatures get so low you can’t wear glasses—the metal will freeze to your face. In the summer, this icy track turns to mud, creating an unspeakable mess so deep in places that hundreds of cars often get marooned in the muck for days.
5. CAIRO-CAPE TOWN ROAD
This occasionally interrupted trans-continental roadway unfurls down the eastern flank of Africa, and isn’t your average Sunday afternoon drive. Hazards include unfriendly borders, potholes the size of VWs, sandstorms, carjackers, herds of wandering camels (not to mention your more run-of-the-mill livestock), nearly impassable gravel pits, and armed bandits in Kenya.
6. JAMES DALTON HIGHWAY, ALASKA
(Photo: Bureau of Land Management)
With 414 miles of gravel and only three towns along the way, you might want to pack a snack before hitting one of the most isolated roads in North America. The James Dalton Highway stretches from just north of Fairbanks, Alaska, to the Arctic Ocean. This northern passage was built for oil truckers traversing from the Prudhoe Bay oilfields, and won a bit of fame in 2009 in a television series, Ice Road Truckers, and in an episode of America’s Toughest Jobs.
7. COL DE L’ISERAN, FRANCE
The highest paved mountain pass in the Alps boasts 12% grades—that’s twice as steep as any U.S. interstate, for those of you keeping track—and reaches over 9,000 feet. It has been used as a segment in the Tour d’France multiple times, with cyclists racing up 3,000 feet in just over nine miles.
8. STELVIO PASS, ITALY
Peaking at 9045 feet, the Italian road in the Eastern Alps boasts 75 hairpin turns and has been called the “best road in the world” by more than a few gearheads.
9. NURBURGRING NORDSCHLEIFE, GERMANY
By day, it’s a grand prix racetrack. By night? A toll road. As long as you’ve got 24 euros in your pocket, you can navigate the track’s 154 turns whenever you want.
10. KARAKORAM HIGHWAY, CHINA AND PAKISTAN
The highest paved international road, Karakoram weaves through Khunjerab Pass—sometimes topping 15,000 feet. It’s home to the highest concentration of tall peaks in the world. Bring a camera!
11. TROLLSTIGEN (“TROLL LADDER”), NORWAY
The bends are tight and the gradient is steep—nine percent—but the view at the end is so rewarding. The Stigfossen waterfall puts how far you’ve climbed into perspective.
12. COL DE TURINI, FRANCE
If not from the driver’s seat, you’ve probably seen this road from your couch. It’s been televised the world over. Its hairpins were made famous by the Monte Carlo Rally and, for a time, a stage of the Tour de France.
13. MOUNT FUJI TOUGE ROADS, JAPAN
The mountain passes are insanely windy, but also insanely beautiful. Some of the pavement leading to and from Fuji’s caldera is lined with budding pink cherry trees.
14. EYRE HIGHWAY, AUSTRALIA
This last road isn’t crazy like the others, but it is crazy straight. The eastern portion of this Australian highway ribbons through the flat, treeless and aptly named Nullarbor Plain, and boasts the longest turn-less stretch of highway in the world: from Balladonia to Caiguna, the road unfolds for 91.1 miles without so much as a curve.
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