High in the picturesque heart of Bolivia lies the Old Yungas Road, a perilous route often dubbed “Death Road” due to its history of fatalities, claiming an annual average of 200 lives.
Extending for roughly 43 miles (69 kilometres) through the Bolivian Andes, the Old Yungas Road is a narrow, unpaved highway that connects the bustling capital of La Paz to the lush lowlands of Coroico.
Initially constructed during the 1930s, it is notorious for its steep descents, hairpin bends, and precipitous drops.
The road was thrust into the spotlight back in 2009, when it was travelled by Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May on the Top Gear Bolivia Special. In one particularly memorable moment, Clarkson squeezes past another car coming the other way on a very narrow section of road in his Range Rover – nearly falling off the road himself.
A TripAdvisor user wrote: “A breathtaking place. In spite of the terrible statistics, this is one of the most beautiful natural places in Bolivia with green jungle and fantastically beautiful foggy waterfalls.”
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“Indeed, the road’s surroundings are a testament to Bolivia’s remarkable natural beauty.”
Despite its dark reputation, many travellers consider the Old Yungas Road an “unforgettable experience” when visiting Bolivia.
“You won’t regret it,” another user wrote on TripAdvisor. “Can be done with family groups, friends, couples.”
However, the Old Yungas Road bears a haunting history. Another TripAdvisor user wrote: “There is an unsettling number of crosses marking some of the many spots where motorists and cyclists plummeted to their death.”
These crosses, solemnly scattered along the route, serve as poignant reminders of the road’s grim legacy.
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Recognising the severe risks associated with the Old Yungas Road, the Bolivian government took action in 2006, constructing a new, safer route. This alternative features wider lanes, guardrails, and improved safety measures, greatly reducing the risk for travellers.
Today, the Old Yungas Road no longer serves as the primary connection between La Paz and Coroico.
Yet, it has found a new role as a magnet for adventure seekers and mountain biking enthusiasts who come to test their mettle on its challenging terrain and admire its breathtaking scenery.
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