Apart from the necessity of traveling or transporting goods as part of work, their pristine beauty is what pulls people to these roads. They seem like paradise itself, yet they are just as deadly. Untouched by human civilization, excepting the roads and vehicles, of course, the stretches of nature at her extremes almost seem endless here. To many, the combination of these extremes and the danger is almost irresistible. Here are some of the world’s most dangerous roads that are as beautiful as they are deadly.
1. Atlantic Ocean Road
The 8.3-kilometer (5.2-mile) long road was built on several small islands in the Norwegian Sea connected by a series of eight bridges. The road endures harsh weather and is subject to regular European windstorms and hurricanes.
Also known as the “Atlantic Road” or the “Atlanterhavsveien,” the Atlantic Ocean Road was originally proposed as a railway line. Its construction began in 1983 and it faced 12 European windstorms before being opened to the public on July 7, 1989. The road connects the villages of Kårvåg on Averøy and Vevang in Eida via several small islands and skerries connected by causeways, viaducts, as well as eight bridges, the most famous of them being the Storseisundet Bridge.
The road became one of the most visited tourist attractions in Norway and, in 2005, won the title “Norwegian Construction of the Century” awarded by the Norwegian construction industry. It was featured in advertisements by more than ten automobile manufacturers often using the harsh weather conditions to make them more picturesque. (source)
2. Tianmen Mountain Road
The road starts 200 meters below sea level and after a long stretch of serpentine road reaches 1,300 meters above sea level on the mountain of Tianmen. It has a total of 99 hairpin turns, and the temperatures at the top are about 10 degrees lower than that at the bottom.
The 11-kilometer (6.8-mile) road is located in Tianmen Mountain National Park, Zhangjiajie, in the northwestern Hunan Province, China. It took eight years to construct the road and was finished in 2006. The road has 99 turns, representing the nine palaces of heaven, which can be traversed on tourist buses. The turns lead up to Tianmen Cave (“Heaven’s Door”), a naturally formed hole in the mountain located at the height of 131.5 meters (431.4 feet).
The cave also features the “Stairway to Heaven,” a narrow stairway with 999 steps. From there, the road travels to the top of the mountain where Tianmenshan Temple is located. Those susceptible to motion sickness because of the numerous hairpin turns could take the cable car at nearby Zhangjiajie railway station to the top of the mountain. (source)
3. Fairy Meadows Road
The high-altitude, 12-kilometer-long road is located in the Himalayas. It is a treacherous track carved into the mountainside with little to no protection at the edges.
The Fairy Meadows Road is a jeepable trek located in Diamer District, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan. It starts at Raikhot Bridge on Karakoram Highway and ends at the village Tato from where a three- to four-hour trek leads to Fairy Meadows. It was built by Brigadier M. Aslam Khan (M.C, H.J, F.K), First Commander Gilgit Scouts. The gravel road is narrow, often only wide enough for just one vehicle, and it is treacherous!
Also known as “Joot” locally, the Fairy Meadows is located at an altitude of 3,300 meters above sea level. It was named by German climbers and is a grassland surrounded by thick alpine forest. It is also one of the launching points for trekkers who want to climb the Nanga Parbat, the ninth highest mountain in the world and the western anchor of the Himalayas. (source)
4. Yungas Road
The road connects La Paz and Coroico in Yungas, Bolivia and is only wide enough to allow one vehicle at most places. It climbs 4,650 meters (15,260 feet) above sea level before descending to 1,200 meters (3,900 feet) as it reaches Coroico.
The 56-kilometer (35-mile) road was first built by Paraguayan prisoners in the 1930s during the Chaco War and was since developed over a stretch of 20 years until 2006. To avoid any accidents on the mostly single-lane road, vehicles are required to drive on the left side of the road to allow the drivers a better view and the drivers coming downhill do not have the right of way. The visibility of the road is severely decreased during rainy seasons due to fog and the rainwater could make the track slippery.
The Yungas Road was named the “world’s most dangerous road” by the Inter-American Development Bank in 1995. It was featured in Ice Road Truckers on History Channel, World’s Most Dangerous Roads as well as Top Gear: Bolivia Special on BBC, and on a Mitsubishi Outlander commercial. It is a popular destination for thrillseekers with as many as 25,000 visiting annually. Mountain bikers especially love it because of the continuous stretch of downhill road. (source)
5. Leh-Manali Highway
Spanning over a length of 479 kilometers (298 miles) in the Himalayas, the highway reaches its highest elevation at 5,328 meters (17,480 feet) at Tanglang La mountain pass. Oxygen levels are very low at these altitudes and drivers often suffer from altitude sickness.
The Leh-Manali Highway connects the town of Leh in Jammu and Kashmir and the resort town of Manali in Himachal Pradesh in northern India. The road was built and is maintained by the Border Roads Organization and is open only for four and a half months during the summer when the snow clears.
Increasing elevation slowly and gradually by no more than 300 meters per day would help avoid altitude sickness which is one of the reasons traversing the road takes more than two days despite the small length of the highway. Other reasons are the weather, snow, meltwater from glaciers, and sometimes landslides which make the highway difficult to navigate. Drivers are often advised not to sleep on the high mountain passes. (source)
6. Paso Internacional Los Libertadores
This mountain pass located in the Andes connects Argentina and Chile and has a long series of switchbacks on a steep incline that leads up to the 3-kilometer-long Tunnel of Christ the Redeemer at an elevation of 3,200 meters (10,500 feet). The road experiences rockfall and heavy snowfall during winter.
The Paso Internacional Los Libertadores is the main land transport route from Santiago, the capital city of Chile, and the Argentinian city Mendoza. The Tunnel of Christ the Redeemer was opened in 1980 and was so named because of the four-ton, Christ the Redeemer of Andes statue placed in 1904 at an elevation of 3,832 meters (12,572 feet) near the Uspallata pass.
Though on the Argentinian side, the slope is gentle, it is very steep on the Chilean side with a number of switchbacks. During winters, the pass experiences heavy snowfall, and on September 19, 2013, almost 15,000 people were stranded for 10 hours due to extremely low temperatures and almost 50 centimeters of snowfall. To decrease the dependence on the tunnel and lessen exposure to harsh weather, two other tunnels at a lower altitude were proposed. (source)
7. Karakoram Highway
The highway is one of the highest paved roads in the world connecting China and Pakistan through the Karakoram mountain range which reaches a maximum height of 4,714 meters (15,466 feet) at Khunjerab Pass. Heavy snows, monsoon rains, and landslides often shut down the road for long periods.
Also known as the “KKH,” the “China-Pakistan Friendship Highway,” or the “N-35,” the highway crosses the collision zone of the Eurasian and Indian plates. It is also where Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and China are just within 250 kilometers (160 miles) of each other, making it strategically important. Its construction began in 1959. With great difficulty and loss of workforce due to landslides and falls, it was finished and opened in 1979. The road traces one of the routes of the Silk Road.
On January 4, 2010, a massive landslide in Hunza Valley closed the highway and created an entirely new 22-kilometer (14-mile)-long, 100-meter (350-feet)-deep lake called Attabad Lake. Instead of getting drained, the lake increased to 27 kilometers (17 miles) in length by 2011 forcing authorities to construct a revised route around the lake. The lake, now a tourist attraction, is fed by meltwater from surrounding glaciers and is of a brilliant turquoise color during summer and spring. (source)
8. Moki Dugway
The 3-mile road is a steep, unpaved track with 11%-grade switchbacks that were carved into the face of Cedar Mesa, Utah. The road traverses 1,200 feet (366 meters) from the cliff top to the bottom of the Valley of Gods.
The word “moki” or “mokee” comes from the Spanish word “moqui” which was a term used by the 18th-century Spanish settlers to refer to the Pueblo Indians and their extinct culture or their ruins that they found. The Moki Dugway was built in the 1950s to transport ore from the Happy Jack Mine to Halchita near Mexican Hat. Since it’s an 11%-grade road, using vehicles that weigh less than 10,000 pounds and measure less than 28 feet long is recommended. (source)
9. Passo dello Stelvio
At 2,757 meters (9,045 feet) above sea level, Stelvio Pass is the highest, paved mountain pass in the Eastern Alps and the second highest in the Alps. It has a total of 75 hairpin turns, 48 of which are on the northern side.
Located in the Ortler Apls, Italy, the pass was originally built between 1820 and 1825 by the Austrian Empire to connect Lombardy, formerly an Austrian province, with the rest of Austria. The road is around 200 meters from the Swiss border and around 75 kilometers from Bolzano the capital city of South Tyrol in northern Italy.
The numerous hairpin turns on the road pose a challenge to motorists, however, they also make for a great racetrack. The road was one of the picks for the “greatest driving road in the world” by Top Gear, the British automotive show. Every last Saturday of August or first Saturday of September, the road is closed to motor traffic to host Stelvio Bike Day when an average 12,000 cyclists ride. (source)
10. Passage du Gois
A natural passage between Beauvoir-sur-Mer and the island of Noirmoutier in France, the 4.125-kilometer long road is flooded twice a day during the high tide making the road dangerous to take.
Also known as “Gôa,” the Passage du Gois is an uneven stone paved causeway that was first used in the 16th century. It is located over the waters of Baie de Bourgneuf or Bay of Bourgneuf, which is part of the Bay of Biscay in the northeast Atlantic Ocean. The passage was built as the Bay of Bourgneuf began silting up during the Middle Ages.
When it’s high tide, the road gets submerged under 1.30 to four meters of seawater, and as the water recedes leaving seaweed here and there, the road becomes slippery. An hour and a half before, as well as after the lowest tide, is the only time when the road is safe to travel. (source)