Cycling down the Yungas Road, commonly known as the “Death Road”, has become one of the most sought experiences by adventure lovers in Bolivia. This gravel road just outside La Paz winds through the Cordillera Oriental mountain rage, taking its visitors through fantastic landscapes, shifting from the highland mountains to the rainforests, as they descend.
Let us tell you a bit more about this Death Road, why tourists keep flocking to it in search of a life-changing experience and how to safely experience this popular bucket-list adventure.
About the road
Featuring over 60kms of adrenaline pumping turns and drops, this road is also known to be (one of) “the world’s most dangerous road”. This fame was gained in the days where trucks used to go through the road, as it claimed many lives each year. However, now trucks have been redirected to a different route and the jaw-dropping Death Road is now much safer and an extraordinary road to cycle on.
The road connects the Bolivian capital of La Paz, up in the highlands, with Coroico, down at the Amazonian Rainforest. The impressive descent takes riders from over 4,600 meters (about 15,200 ft.) above sea level winding down to about 1,200 meters (around 4,000 ft.) of altitude. The road is as wide as a single car lane and there are dramatic drop offs on the side during most of the ride, adding tons of thrill to the adventure.
About the Route
Riders are generally driven up to La Cumbre Pass, a high altitude pass where the adventure starts. After a safety talk, the ride begins along a first stretch of paved road, as a nice warm up. Being still at such high altitude, riders get to enjoy outstanding landscapes, surrounded by forests and mountains at pretty much cloud-level.
But it’s the second part where the fun really begins! Riders can either face the climb that takes you to the start of the “Old Road” or get back on the bus to save the energy for the next bit, which is the most thrilling one. From there on, the ride along the 30-something kilometers of narrow dirt road can be both exciting and frightening. With drops of up to 600 meters on the side, the adrenaline sure gets going. The first part is still within the cloud forest area, but then the road goes down a fair bit, clouds begin to fade and riders get treated to a stunning diversity of scenery as they descend to the Bolivian rainforest. The lavish jungle featuring tall waterfalls, streams and an endless number of green shades offers a truly unique environment to be cycling through.
The diversity of scenery comes along with significant changes in weather and temperature. While in the higher areas weather can get really chilly, as riders move down to the jungle, they need to be ready to take every extra layer off to endure the ride as the temperature and humidity rise.
This ride really has everything… stunning landscapes, a whole lot of adrenaline rushes along the way, diversity of ecosystems, mountains, jungle, breathtaking cliffs, pavement, gravel, turns and lots of other thrilling surprises. It is one of the world’s signature cycling routes after all!!
The memorials along the way remind riders of how truly deathful the road can be. But, having diverted trucks to a different route, this adventure can be enjoyed in safety. The most important thing is to be sure to take an organized tour with a professional mountain biking operator with all the proper gear and expert guides. Travellers should pay close attention to the safety instructions provided by their operator and comply to all requirements.
It is not necessary to be a professional cycler to go on the Death Road. Some biking experience, awareness of one’s capabilities, along with proper gear and guidance, can turn the world’s most dangerous road into the world’s ultimate cycling adventure!