One of the most popular tourist attractions in La Paz is to ride mountain bikes down the “World’s Most Dangerous Road”. This might sound crazy, but it has been attracting adrenaline junkies since the 90’s. This high octane adventure takes you by bus from La Paz to the summit of La Cumbre, which is 4600-meters above sea level. From here, its all downhill, as you ride down to 1200-meters to Coroico over a 60-km stretch. The views are breathtaking, and there are times you have to hold the handlebars pretty tight.
Officially, it is known as the North Yungas Road, but most people refer to it as the “Death Road”. It is amazing to think that this road used to be the main route between La Paz and the Yungas region to the North-East. It had been estimated that 200-300 people a year used to die on these roads, which is how the road got its name, and its fame. The road is carved into the mountainside, with drops over 2000-meters, and waterfalls which cross the road.
Fortunately, in 2006, a new and better-engineered road was finally built, and most of the traffic has diverted along this new route. It is paved and has modern irrigation not found on the old dirt road. The “Death Road” was once used by passenger buses and cargo trucks, but today sees mostly mountain bikers and a limited supply of locals.
We got a little unlucky with the weather the day we did the Death Road. We had clear skies in the morning, but once we hit the dirt part of the road we were attacked by rain and fog until the afternoon when the rain finally let up. We got pretty soaked and didn’t get to see a lot of the “epic” views that we should have. In retrospect, this might have also been a positive thing; maybe not seeing how close you were to a 1000-meter drop might have made the day easier.
The morning we did the bike ride, less than 10 minutes into our ride downhill, on the “safer” paved portion, we witnessed the aftermath of an accident. There was a car that had rolled over an edge, and firefighters and paramedics were on the scene.
Despite seeing this accident, the road is much safer today than it once was, and therefore it is a lot more attractive as a tourist destination. While there are still deaths on this road – at least 18 cyclists have died here since 1998 – it is much safer and a lot of fun. It’s possible to rent fairly new bikes in La Paz, and take a guided tour down the route.
Once you get a feel for your bike, the ride is pretty nice. We had problems with our GoPro at the beginning of the ride, so most of our footage from the top is pretty shaky. I was worried more about the road and not the camera, which was good. In the end, we had enough to put together a fun clip to share.
One of the scariest parts about going down the road is that you always pass on the left. Drivers on this road going downhill have to be on the “outside” edge to the left of the road when they pass, so that when they look out of the driver’s side window they can see how close to the edge they are. Since there are still cars and trucks that drive this road, we also had to stay on the left at all times, especially when passing.
Whatever you want to call it – World’s Most Dangerous Road, Death Road or Road of Fate – we rode mountain bikes down it. This winding mountain road into the Yungas of Bolivia was one of the most exciting moments of our trip, and we’re excited to share with the world!
Bolivia’s Death Road:
We decided to do something crazy while visiting La Paz, and decided to ride mountain bikes down the “World’s Most Dangerous Road”. The North Yungas Road – sometimes known as the Death Road – connects La Paz to the jungle of the North East. From the summit at La Cumbre (4600-meters) along a treacherous mountain road that travels 60-km to Coroico (1200-meters), this road is famous for all the wrong reasons.
Despite a new route which makes the old road more or less obsolete, we witnessed how dangerous it could be when we saw a car off the road within 10-minutes of our ride. At least 18 mountain bikers have died on this road since 1998. We lived to tell the story, and are excited to share it with you.
Bonus Video: Telefrico ride from La Paz to El Alto
La Paz has invested into a unique mass transit system in order to try and eliminate some of their traffic problems. La Paz is built into a narrow valley, and a large portion live on the high plains above, in the city of El Alto. This is where the Telefrico comes in, a series of Gondolas that get people from point A to point B. We took a ride from the bottom of the valley to the top at El Alto during sunset and got to see one of the best views of the city, and made a short video for the world to see.