Death Road, Bolivia – Cycling the most dangerous road in the world

by ilive4travel

Published on Aug 29, 2018

Cycling Death Road, Bolivia

The first time I heard of Death Road, Bolivia was when watching the Top Gear Death Road episode, seeing them drive down this crazy narrow road with sheer drops at one side, it looked terrifying.  For those of you that haven’t seen the Bolivia Death Road Top Gear episode or heard of Death Road, well it’s famous for being one the most dangerous roads in the world, the highway of death Bolivia.

It is a gravel road that is 69 kilmotres long and in some places only one bus width wide. It used to be the only road from La Paz to Coroico but a new road was finally built in 2006 and so now the only traffic you see on the road are the tourists, doing the death road cycle or in vans, or the local farmers who live at the bottom of the valley.

It used to claim the lives of 200-300 people a year as the road is very narrow and there were also frequent landslides, this makes it very difficult to pass in places.  There are vertical drops of up to 1,000 metres and buses would go up and down and have to try and pass in narrow spots.  There was an average of 26 vehicles that went over the edge every year.

In 1983 a bus went over the edge killing 100 people on board, but despite the new road being built there is still the danger for the cyclists that go down this road, over 20 have died since 1998.  These include people who have either been in accidents with trucks or have gone too fast and served over the edge to avoid a truck or just gone too close to the edge.  The road has a lot of crosses at the side that you see when you cycle down marking the spots.

During my trip to Peru, I knew that I would be going through La Paz and so I decided I had to cycle Death Road La Paz. Watching the Top Gear most dangerous road in the world episode had made me decide I had to go and see it and try the Death Road Bolivia cycling.

Adventure tourism is becoming very popular in the world as more and more people here about crazy things there are out there to do.  I had met a lot of people doing the route I was doing but the opposite way and it seemed that there were 3 companies with a good reputation for having good bikes with working breaks and safety conscious.

I chose to go with Vertigo, who at the time were the 2nd best company to use.

Gravity were the best company to use when I was there.

We got to our starting point, a pass on the top of the new death road and got out of the van, got our safety gear on, onto our bikes and had a safety briefing.  We were told we were unable to have our cameras out while cycling and that the 2 guides would take all the pictures and we would get a cd at the end of the day with all pictures and that they would be posted to facebook.  This is a great idea, accidents have happened because people have been concentrating more on the picture than on the road, so it’s great that companies are forcing us to be more safety conscious.

The starting point is 4,700 metres at La Cumbre, but despite being sunny it’s not very warm at that altitude.  The views were amazing as we cycled 63km down the new death to road getting used to our bikes.

We then stopped at Unduavi for a break and lunch before getting back in the van so we didn’t have to cycle the 8km up hill to the original death road.  Here the road is gravel and just going down slowly in the van was scary.  I was glad when we stopped and got out our bikes.  I got back on my bike and headed off following the others.  On the first corner I managed to skid and lose control of the bike, but thankfully that corner was huge and so it wasn’t an issue but it did shake my confidence of cycling down the road, just one touch of the brake when you are in the gravel and you could lose control of the bike.

After this I then took my time and for me it meant I got my own personal photographer and for the group a little extra break time at each photograph stop while they waited for me to catch up!!  The views from this road are amazing but looking down at the drops it’s so scary, bad enough cycling down, don’t think I could do it in a car never mind a bus!!

As you are cycling along you can see the markers for places where people have died, it’s sad to see so many of them.  You also have to watch out for trucks coming up and down the road and we were given strict instructions to always go to the mountainside and never near the edge when you hear a vehicle coming.

We carried on cycling down the valley until we got to a point where the temperature had increased considerably and it was off with some of the clothes to cool down.  We encountered quite a few streams running across the road at points and it wasn’t even the wet season when I was doing it.  I can’t imagine how horrible this road must have been to drive up and down with barely any visibility and the rain pouring down.

We finally made it to the town of Yolosa located at 1,200 metres above sea level.  We had descended a total of 3,500 metres that day and you could easily tell, it was a lot warmer and a lot easier to breathe.

After this we got in the van and went for dinner before the drive up the new death road of Bolivia in the mist and fog (that was terrifying enough) and back to La Paz. Β It was a great day and I really enjoyed it, the experience was amazing. Β If you are ever in La Paz then it is a must do.

This article contains affiliate links. This means that if you make a purchase after clicking on the link, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Where to stay in La Paz

There are many places to stay in La Paz Bolivia, from hostels with dorm beds to luxury hotels.  For less than US $11 you can get a dorm bed in Wild Rover Hostel if you want to splash out a little then for less than US $50 you can get a double room including breakfast at the Qantu Hotel.

Did you enjoy this post, then please pin it.

a pin created by ilive4travel about cycling death road bolivia with a picture of a girl jumping in the air wearing red and black protective clothing on a very narrow road, close to the edge of a cliff

——-Β  About me ——-

girl sat on some wooden stairs wearing a black jumper

Clare from Ilive4travel

Hi my name is Clare and welcome to ilive4travel.Β  I am originally from the UK but spend most of my time in Peru, the country that caught my heart.

I have visited 73 countries and love to share with you everything I have learnt about these countries in my guides.

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54 Comments

  1. Angela

    Omgosh!!! I was literally at the edge of my seat reading as you set the scene for Death Road. You go girl! I couldn’t have done it ( probably not as skilled as you though)

    Reply
    • ilive4travel

      If you can ride a bike then you can do it, just go slow like me, it was an amazing experience πŸ™‚

      Reply
  2. Kelly | A Pair of Passports

    You are so brave! This sounds like an incredible experience, but I don’t think I could work up the courage to do it – I’m so bad when it comes to steep things! I also love that you took your time when you knew you needed to and didn’t feel pressured to keep up with the group. And now you have amazing pictures to prove your adventure@

    Reply
    • ilive4travel

      It wasn’t too steep, only the drops over the edge!! Was a great experience and if you book with a good company there is no pressure to get it done fast, they want you to enjoy it and get to the bottom safely and if that means going slow it’s not a problem πŸ™‚

      Reply
  3. Tania Mukherjee

    I have heard about deadly roads in Latin America so much that now I just have to go to experience them! The Himalayan roads in India are similar to this at many places! Try it out sometimes in future!

    Reply
    • ilive4travel

      I would love to go to India, it’s on my bucket list. Some of the roads in Latin America are scary, I think that’s why a lot of the buses are at night so the passengers can’t see the sheer drops at the side on the road!!

      Reply
  4. Christina

    What an amazing adventure. Funny you mention Top Gear. This is also how I found out about the Death Road for the first time! (Side bar: great show!). I wish I could undertake this adventure but I just don’t have the coordination/skill or the guts. I live vicariously via others like yourself who have done it though.

    Reply
    • ilive4travel

      I wonder how many people have done trips after watching Top Gear!! Honestly if you were going the speed I was, it isn’t dangerous in the slightest πŸ™‚

      Reply
  5. Barry

    Looks like an epic experience. Good on you – would love to do it one day

    Reply
  6. Heather

    That sounds like an incredible adventure! I would maybe try this, but I would feel bad holding everyone up. I am not in the best shape and hate being the last/slowest in the group. Do you really think people wouldn’t be upset if I was slow?

    Reply
    • ilive4travel

      Sometimes the group had to wait 5 minutes for me to catch them up for the photos, but they just got to sit there and enjoy the amazing views. I don’t think that anyone would mind, no one in my group did, all everyone wants is for everyone to get to the bottom safely! It’s nearly all downhill so don’t worry about having to be fit. You should never stop yourself doing something because you are worried that other people will be bothered you are last/slowest as it might stop you having one of the best experiences of your life, go out there live life to the full and see and do everything you want to do πŸ™‚

      Reply
  7. Kristina

    Oh god you’re so brave! I could never do this, I have a fear of falling haha. It’s good ot know that there’s tours though, for those who dare! This was a really interesting read though, I had no idea this was even an option for people to do. xD not that I will be doing it, eep!

    Reply
    • ilive4travel

      Sometimes we just have to get out of our comfort zone, I have been surprised by all the things I said I would never do and have now experienced while travelling!!

      Reply
  8. Diana

    Your photos are absolutely amazing! I’m not sure if I’ve got the guts to do this, but it is reassuring to hear that the tour companies have certain rules in place to keep people safe. I’ll let you know if I ever muster up the courage to do this…

    Reply
  9. Nicki

    Dang that’s intense!!! And now I want to do it! Growing up I would tell my mom that I “laugh in the face of danger.” Unfortunately that’s still true

    Reply
  10. Karla at GlobalETA

    I had never heard of this. It sounds so scary but exhilarating! Good for you for taking the risk and having such an amazing time. I will pin this one for when I get through La Paz!

    Reply
    • ilive4travel

      Yeah it’s great fun and something you should do if you are in La Paz πŸ™‚

      Reply
  11. Star Lengas

    You had me saying “nope” at ‘Death’… even the photos are scary. You’re super brave to do this (and jump!). Sounds like an intense adventure. Good on you, I’ll just stick to reading about it. πŸ™‚

    Reply
  12. Victoria

    WOW, GIRL! You are a little bit freaky and so brave. I probably will never do this but it was a pleasure for me to read about it. Good on you!

    Reply
  13. Hide In My Suitcase

    Not sure if I would ever try it, but that was very brave of you!
    Well done!
    πŸ™‚

    Reply
  14. Amy

    What an amazing experience! Peru is at the top of our list, and This would be such a rush! That said, I’m not sure I’d be brave enough to do it….so maybe I’ll just way h the episode of top gear πŸ˜‰

    Reply
  15. Ashley

    OMG. I’d be terrified! πŸ™‚

    Reply
  16. danik the explorer

    So wanna cycle this road now! You are giving me ideas

    Reply
    • ilive4travel

      It’s a great road to cycle, amazing views too πŸ™‚

      Reply
  17. Vyjay

    This is a really amazing and thrilling experience and needs real guts. It is really commendable and brave on your part to embark on this adventure.

    Reply
  18. jarrod

    Reading this brings back memories of when I did this a little while a go. It was fun, but it gave me the sorest ass ever! haha Nice post!

    Reply
    • ilive4travel

      Haha, I did quite a bit of cycling in Peru so luckily was ok!! Am guessing you were racing down that road!!

      Reply
  19. Jem

    Oh my word! You’re such a brave girl. I don’t think I will ever do that. Not that I can’t ride a bike. LOL! But hey, I’m jealous. The exhilaration you get from this kind of activities can’t be found anywhere else.

    Reply
    • ilive4travel

      It’s worth doing, if you go slow it’s really not that dangerous!!

      Reply
  20. Kerri

    What an incredible tale and ride. Good for you that you have the guts to be able to do this. I know I couldn’t. What an experience!

    Reply
  21. Paul

    I found out about this road a few months ago and it has interested me ever since, we would love to feel the thrill of riding down the most dangerous road in the world! Looks like you had an amazing time!

    Reply
  22. elisa

    You were lucky with the weather. When I started it was so cold and raining so hard that we could barely see anything! Can you imagine riding the first leg without seeing anything? lol

    Reply
    • ilive4travel

      The weather was terrible when we were coming back up the new death road, the van was steamed up and the driver could not see anything, I was so scared!! Imagine if that had been on the old death road!! It was freezing when we started the cycling, but thankfully not raining, it’s a pity as the views are amazing πŸ™‚

      Reply
  23. Lara Dunning

    Wow! I don’t think I could ever do this. Just reading your story and looking at the photos made me nervous.

    Reply
    • ilive4travel

      It was great fun, just go slow and you will be fine πŸ™‚

      Reply
  24. Rashmi and Chalukya

    Your adventure through the Death Road reminded us of our biking trip through Ladakh in India. We believe the risk of riding these dangerous roads are rewarding with memorable and scenic experiences. Isn’t it?

    Reply
    • ilive4travel

      Yes the scenery makes up for how dangerous the roads are, you can always go slow too then it’s not quite as dangerous!!

      Reply
  25. Lydia@LifeUntraveled

    What a once in a lifetime experience! I’m not sure I would do it though I do like cycling but on Death Road? I would need to think long and hard about it…lol! Congrats on doing it unharmed!

    Reply
  26. Allison

    Oh my Clare!!!! You are way braver than I am. There is no way in a million years that I would be able to the death road. I actually remember that episode of Top Gear (The Hubs is a fan!). I can only barely just ride a push bike as I never learned as a kid (I know! How?) so I am nervous riding on perfectly good roads! So glad you made it safe and sound!

    Reply
  27. Mimi

    We did it too! It was such a rush. We went with gravity and drove all the way up the road by bus, did your tour did that as well?

    Reply
    • ilive4travel

      Thankfully we went up the new road, which due to the mist and the windscreen freezing over constantly made visibility zero!! Not sure we would of survived death road if we had driven up it in those conditions!!

      Reply
  28. Faith Coates

    I don’t bike at the best of times and scenes like this put my teeth on edge…lol…I can barely stand on a chair due to a height fear, but this was absolutely amazing and I stand in awe of you managing to do this experience – what a trip indeed.

    Reply
  29. Fray

    I love how casually you describe the imminent threat of tumbling off the edge.

    You say you “put your safety gear on” at the top… I can’t see any safety gear protecting you (except maybe a parachute), but I suppose it gave peace of mind πŸ™‚

    Brilliant description, and the photos are incredible too. I’m not sure how confident I’d feel jumping up for a photo that close to the edge.

    Reply
  30. Jimmy and Tina

    Oh my gosh, Just looking at the road and seeing bikes made my legs ache πŸ™‚ Only because I have a bad knee and biking has always been a problem for me, But wow, what a great experience! I love the photo of your group by the edge of the mountain jumping up in the air! It sounds pretty scary, but somehow reminds me of a drive I took along highway 1 in California along the coast with drops along the road. These roads are a bit different in many ways but the one that sticks out to me is that they don’t appear to be paved making your venture even more challenging! Nice Work!

    Reply
  31. Deni

    I’ve heard about Death Road! It seems like such a cool experience, although I don’t know if I would have the guts to do it! And yeah braking on gravel is terrifying- especially going downhill. Definitely have fallen into a tree a couple of times doing some trail biking growing up. It helps to put your inside foot down to steer into the skid a bit more.

    Reply
  32. Sarah

    Now that’s what I’d call exhilarating!! A few people I know have been here already and they wouldn’t stop raving about it! I will probably do this someday once I’ve gathered enough guts! πŸ˜‰

    Reply
  33. Sonia

    I just got back from Bolivia and didn’t have the guts to go on the death road. The name is so scary … I will never be able to do something like this. Hats off to your daring spirit! Wish you many more safe adventures!

    Reply
  34. Only By Land

    I’ve heard of Death Road but I didn’t know Clarkson had been down it, I’ll check that episode out. I like the picture of everyone tucked into the mountain when the truck was coming, you all followed instructions. The statistics on the road are scary, they’re probably under estimated as well. Glad to see you survived to tell the tale.

    Reply
  35. Bhushavali

    OMG! This is sheer, pure craziness!! Sitting on the cliff and jumping on the cliff!!! But just for the adrenaline rush, I think, I’d go too!

    Reply
  36. Sarah

    I remember people from my group doing this when I went to Bolivia. I decided to skip it as it was my first time travelling alone and I think my mum was pretty worried. I didn’t want to make her feel any worse!! But if I went back I’d definitely go for it! Looks awesome

    Reply
  37. RJ

    OMG I was getting nervous just reading this! I’ve been teetering on the verge of putting cycling down Death Road on my bucket list, and I think I’m finally going to do it! I like that the company you went with took pictures for you so people didn’t have to worry about getting that “perfect” shot, you know?

    Reply
    • ilive4travel

      You have to put it on your list, it’s a great experience. I loved it and am sure you will too πŸ™‚

      Reply
  38. Agness of aTukTuk

    Challenging yet worthwhile experience! I admire your bravery!

    Reply
  39. John

    Seeing how much fun you guys had I want to gather my folks and head there. Looks like a blast.

    Reply

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