The grimly known as death road, Bolivia - a.k.a. Yungas road - was built in the 1930s, cut into the side of the Cordillera Oriental Mountain chain by Paraguayan prisoners during the Chaco War in order to connect La Paz with the steamy Amazon rainforest region - Yungas.
The 64 km Yungas road climbs from Bolivia's capital to around 4,650 meters (15,260 ft) at La Cumbre pass, before descending to 1,200 meters (3,900 ft) at the town of Coroico. Breathtaking scenery though, but not enjoyable if you're the one behind the wheel, as you'll surely be more concerned about more pressing matters, such as survival for instance.
Not in vane this one-lane dirt road was classified by the Inter-American Development Bank as the "world's most dangerous road".
To the left, there is an unobstructed 600m drop off a cliff while on the right, a vertical rock-face. Furthermore, on its upper reaches, the clouds cover the cliff edge, obscuring the abyss below. Certainly not the kind of road to be taken lightly by any means, the number of casualties over the years has proven that many times over, as many as three hundred times a year.
And it continues to do so, although, for different reasons and lesser casualty numbers, fortunately. The new Yungas road was inaugurated around 2006, replacing the need to go literally over the edge to reach Coroico, while the old one is still used by locals and a horde of thrill-seeking cyclists from all over the world willing to test themselves and, hopefully, live to tell the tale.
It entices over 25,000 mountain bike riders annually and continues to be one of the biggest tourist attractions in Bolivia at present time. According to one bike tour operator, bike traffic on Death Road jumps by about 5% every year, it has become an extreme sport like bungee jumping and skydiving. The difference here is that there is no expert guide controlling your propulsion, you are on your own.
Before moving on, you might want to have a look at Bolivia's death road through the following photo gallery and perhaps get a better perspective about what we're talking about...
Bike riding Death Road began in the late 90s with Gravity Bolivia, provably the most famous and internationally known of around twenty or so bike tour operators based in La Paz at present time.
According to Gravity, the 4-5 hours bike ride is suitable for confident beginners to experts, average fitness and above, and in particular, those looking for a long, world-class, downhill mountain bike ride. It's important to note that eighteen mountain bikers have found their death trying the descent so far.
During rainy season - December to March - the ride isn't particularly encouraged as they consider risks are slightly higher and the ride not as enjoyable due to thick clouds, rain for most of the day, snow at the top and tons of mud. However, they do offer a rainy-season package if you must absolutely do it.
At present time, if you decide to ride with Gravity, the price is 750.00 BOB (just over one hundred US dollars). Please note that the Municipality of Coroico recently introduced a small charge (currently 25.00 bs.) for bikers riding The World's Most Dangerous Road.
Instead of returning to La Paz, you may opt to stay overnight in Coroico and get the bus to Rurrenabaque, in the Bolivian Amazon. The journey takes around 15 hours.
If you dare, bike riding Death Road is undeniably the most memorable ride you will have in your life, truly a once in a lifetime type of deal or, as we'd like to put it, a very, very unique South America travel experience like no other.
Just make sure you live to tell the tale.