The North Yungas Road (alternatively known as Grove's Road, Coroico Road, Camino de las Yungas, Death Road or Road of fate) is a 61-or-69-kilometre (38 or 43 mi) road leading from La Paz to Coroico, 56 kilometres (35 mi) northeast of La Paz in the Yungas region of Bolivia. It is legendary for its extreme danger and in 1995 the Inter-American Development Bank christened it as the "world's most dangerous road". In 2006 one estimate stated that 200 to 300 travellers were killed yearly along the road. The road includes cross markings on many of the spots where vehicles have fallen.
This is one of the few routes that connects the Amazon rainforest region of northern Bolivia, or Yungas, to its capital city. Upon leaving La Paz, the road first ascends to around 4,650 metres (15,260 ft) at La Cumbre Pass, before descending to 1,200 metres (3,900 ft) at the town of Coroico, transiting quickly from cool Altiplano terrain to rainforest as it winds through very steep hillsides and atop cliffs.
The largely single-lane road has no guard rails and cliffs of up to 600 metres (2,000 feet). Most of the road is the width of a single vehicle, about 3.2 metres (10 ft). During the rainy season from November to March, rain and fog can severely hamper visibility, and water runoff can turn the road into a muddy track, affecting traction. In the summer, rockfalls are common and vehicle dust limits visibility as well.
One of the local road rules specifies that the downhill driver never has the right of way and must move to the outer edge of the road. This forces the faster downhill vehicle to stop so that passing can be negotiated safely. Unlike the rest of Bolivia, vehicles are required to drive on the left side of the road, to give the driver a better view of the vehicle's outside wheel and making passing safer.
The danger of the road made it a popular tourist destination starting in the 1990s, drawing some 25,000 thrillseekers. Mountain biking enthusiasts in particular have made it a favourite destination for downhill biking since there is a 64-kilometre (40 mi) stretch of continuous downhill riding with only one short uphill section. There are now many tour operators catering to this activity, providing information, guides, transport and equipment.
Nevertheless, the Yungas Road remains dangerous. At least 18 cyclists have died on the ride since 1998.
It was featured on the BBC show Top Gear: Bolivia Special (Episode 6 of Top Gear series 14) where the hosts travelled 1,610 kilometres (1,000 mi) from the Bolivian rainforest to the Pacific Ocean. The danger of the road was readily apparent when the road began to crumble under the wheels of Jeremy Clarkson's Range Rover, as he was forced to the edge while passing another vehicle.
The road also featured on the BBC show World's Most Dangerous Roads in series three, episode three. The episode starred Phill Jupitus and Marcus Brigstocke and first aired Wednesday 9 January 2013 on BBC HD.
The Yungas Road was modernized during a 20-year period ending in 2006. The modernization included enlarging the carriageway from one to two lanes, constructing asphalt pavement, and building a new section between Chusquipata and Yolosa, bypassing to the north one of the most dangerous sections of the old 'Death Road'.
This new route features modern construction (bridges, drainage, etc.), multiple lanes, pavement, guardrails and many other elements that make it considerably safer than the original route. The original North Yungas Road is currently much less used by traffic, although an increasing number of adventure travellers bike it for the thrills.
In popular culture
The graphic novel adventure Tintin and The Broken Ear contains a car chase through the Yungas Road, which here is located in the fictional countries of San Theodoros and Las Dopicos. In it Tintin flees the San Theodoros army, driving a purple Rosengart as the soldiers pursue in a green Ford V8; he fools them by dumping his vehicle in a ravine, and then steals the soldiers' car while they are climbing down to investigate the burning wreck. Website List25 placed the road first on their list of the twenty-five most dangerous roads in the world.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Yungas Road.|
- Length varies, depending on source
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- "The Broken Ear".
- BBC News – The world's most dangerous road
- Personal account of a tragedy on Yungas Road
- Photos and videos of Yungas Road
- Driving Bolivia's Road Of Death
- Photos and first-person video taken while driving the Yungas Road, November 2010
- Photos, gps map and info about the Road of Death