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)