The Death Road in Bolivia
One of the best known roads in Bolivia is the so-called Death Road, or Carretera de La Muerte in Spanish. It is actually a road to the tropical Yungas region of La Paz department, ideal for mountain bikes.
There is a strong interest among tourists to experience a trip on this road, despite its notoriety. The surrounding landscapes are truly beautiful and the mountain-bike enthusiast can enjoy the scenery while getting the adenaline rush of their lives.
From the engineering point of view one could ask how such a road could be built in the 1930s. The road hangs between the sky and a deep abyss. In some places the precipice is nearly 900 meters deep, while the mountain towers above you with frightening verticality. This feeiling is made worse by the frequent fogs that hide the peaks.
This is an adventure to be treated with extreme respect and precaution. The annual death tolls do justice to the name "Road of Death".
One turn is called "Devil's curve" (Curva del Diablo), where many deaths have occured, thanks to the deep abyss. The vehicles that fall are not recovered for a considerable time.
The road is about 80 kms long, connecting La Paz city with the Yungas, located to the north. By bus, the journey takes 3 to 4 hours - it seems a lot longer as you constantly fear for you life...
One might ask who came up with the brilliant idea of building a road here. It is actually am important trade route used for the transport of coca, coffee and tropical fruits. There is even a new road being built.
Another point of interest for the bicycle enthusiasts is the total cumulative change in altitude if you do the complete trip: about 5000 meters. Starting from La Paz at 3600 meters above sea level, you go up to La Cumbre (The Peak) at 4700 meters only to descend to the Yungas at just a bit over 1000.
If you are brave enough to try this by bike, you will experience one of the greatest natural spectacles Bolivia has to offer. Let loose your accumulated adrenaline and be prepared to listen to countless tales of locals and travellers (some more macabres than others) about the history of this road.
- Paraguayan prisoners from the Chaco war between Paraguay and Bolivia in the 1930s built part of the road.
- The worst accident happened in 1983, when a bus fell off the cliff. Almost 100 people died.
- Local legend says that all these deaths are the revenge of the paraguayan prisoners who worked on the construction of the road.