Roads are an under-appreciated system of public infrastructure that make everything we take for granted in modern society possible. But as much as we rely on our roads, not all are created equal. Here are some of the world’s most dangerous roads.
At 2,725 miles (4385 km), BR-116 is Brazil‘s second longest highway and an essential thoroughfare that connects some 15 major cities. The highway is actually in pretty good shape—flat, straight, and relatively well-maintained. However, it’s also known as the “Highway to Hell,” and has a bit of a reputation for passing through some of Brazil’s worst neighborhoods rife with drugs, prostitution, and criminal gangs. BR-116, Brazil
Right in the middle of the Andes at around 10,500 feet (3,200 meters), this notorious Andean mountain pass receives plenty of traffic as the main connection between Chile and Argentina. Lines of trucks and double-decker tourist buses slowly ply the countless switchbacks of this steep and windy incline every day. To make matters worse, ice and snow can effect the pass year round, often shutting it down completely during the winter months. A giant Jesus statue was erected on a nearby hill in 1904 to provide motorists with divine guidance.
This one looks a little worse than it actually is. Thanks to first world infrastructure funding and quality Italian engineering, the 1.2 mile (2 km) vertical climb of the Stevlio Pass can usually be completed without incident. Still, approach any one of the 60-plus hairpin turns with too much bravado and you’ll likely fly over a low railing and into a fiery death.
Carved out of the side of a mountain, the open precipices alone make “the road that does not tolerate mistakes” worthy of a mention in this list. But what really makes this route incredible is its history. Cut off from the rest of the world, 13 locals from the village of Guoliang decided to carve the road themselves in 1972. Without access to heavy machinery, they slowly chipped away at the cliff with hammers and chisels, progressing just one foot (0.33 cm) each day. Five years later, they accomplished the incredible feat, creating what is now an international tourist attraction.
Definitely not for the faint of heart, this 5.5 mile (9 km) stretch through the Himalayas of northern India traverses along treacherous sheer drops offs almost the entire way. The dusty, unpaved road reaches heights of 11,574 feet (3,528 meters) and is only wide enough to accommodate small cars. But that doesn’t stop huge buses and trucks from winding their way along the only passage between Kashmir and Ladekh. If you can afford it, fly.
Remember that TV show Ice Road Truckers? Well, James Dalton is exactly the kind of Alaskan highway they were talking about. It looks harmless enough in the photo, but heavy winds, plenty of potholes, and a slippery icy surface makes this one of the toughest trucking routes on Earth. What’s more, the place is so isolated that a crash victim would likely freeze to death long before help arrived. We’ll leave this one to the professionals. Dalton Hwy, Alaska, U.S.A
Landslides and floods are the big danger here, with almost a thousand workers losing their lives during construction in the 1960s and 70s. As the highest-paved international roadway in the world, the Pakistan-China Friendship Highway reaches a whopping 15,396 feet (4,693 meters) at its summit. Much of the 800 mile (1,300 km) route cuts through deadly mountainous terrain.
It’s not the road itself that is the issue here. It’s a complete lack of compliance with road safety laws combined with chaotic overcrowding. Despite stretching as wide as 18 lanes at points, this long flat highway sees thousands of fatalities per year thanks to a hectic mix of cars, motorbikes, and pedestrians aggressively fighting for limited space.
Connecting the Afghani capital with the eastern city of Jalabad, this highway runs right through Taliban territory. Kidnapping and ambushes are not unheard of, but what makes this place really dangerous are the narrow roads, deadly precipices, and reckless Afghani drivers. Fatalities occur daily in this terrifying region which has been dubbed “The Valley of Death.” Kabul – Jalalabad Hwy, Afghanistan
This epic 1,240 mile (2,000 km) highway was built in the 1950s to connect China and Tibet. The scenery throughout is absolutely breathtaking, as is the thin, high-altitude air. But unsurprisingly, it’s also extremely dangerous. Landslides, avalanches, poor visibility, and slippery surfaces are just some of the challenges to contend with. In case that weren’t enough, there are plenty of razor-sharp mountainside hairpins in there too. Sichuan-Tibet Highway, China
Officially known as the North Yungas Road, in the 1990s the Inter-American Development Bank declared this treacherous highway through the Bolivian Yungas region to be the most dangerous in the world. In those days, an estimated 300 people per year met their maker on the notorious stretch, most falling hundreds of feet off a sheer cliff edge into the valley below. Nowadays, a new bypass is in place, so locals avoid it like the plague. But that doesn’t stop thousands of foolhardy tourists from tackling the descent on their mountain bikes each year. North Yungas Road, Los Yungas, Bolivia