dangerous roads header

The world's most dangerous roads

We all enjoy a bit of an adrenaline surge.  A quick little awakener that reminds us we’re alive... normally by throwing some danger and threat of injury or death at us.  It’s why adventure tourism is so big in New Zealand. Sure, most of the thrills and spills are fairly safe.  But they do a very good job of making us feel we are at risk.  It’s all about perception.

Only some roads aren’t about perception.  They simply are very, very dangerous.  We’re talking about perilous drops, incoming tides, narrow twists and turns... and no safety nets or annoying people trying to sell you an overpriced photograph of your experience.  Indeed, in most cases there is no-one around you at all.  That’s part of the danger.  You might fall down a mountainside with only a few mountain goats your witness.

So where are these roads?  In what far off and distant lands can you find them?  We’ve put a list together of some of them and first up is one actually rather close to home.

Skippers Canyon, New Zealand

Fear Factor 6/10

Completed in 1890, with many parts of the original road unchanged since then, this is not for the faint hearted.  Or those in a rental vehicle.  As your rental insurance won’t cover you and there’s a good chance you will damage it.  That could be the least of your worries though.  With no safety barrier and sheer drops falling away from the gravel road... which is too narrow to pass other vehicles for the most part... it’ll test your nerves and driving skill.  And we’re not sure who has to reverse when the road is too narrow to pass and one has to head backwards to a passing point.  Does the biggest vehicle win the right of way?  The most expensive?  Paper, rock, scissors?  

Skippers canyon

Karakoram Highway, Pakistan to China

Fear Factor 8/10

Following the route of some of the original Silk Road, don’t let the fact this road is paved lull you into a false sense of security.  You’ll have to contend with possible rockfalls, landslides, avalanches, flooding, snow drifts, terrible storms, really reckless drivers... all whilst suffering from altitude sickness.  You’ll also want to avoid being distracted by the breathtaking views of K2 you get along the way.  It’s probably best to just not bother even starting on this road.  Seriously, if you want to go see K2 then take a helicopter ride.  It must be easier.

Karakoram Highway

BR-116, Brazil

Fear Factor 7/10

When you think of Brazil you’re probably imagining the Iguaçu Falls, sun kissed beaches and a really, really good football team.   And you’ll find all of that in Brazil.  You’ll also find BR-116, which is better known by its nickname.  That nickname?  It’s 'Rodovia de Morta' and if you think it sounds charming and romantic, then think again.  Because translated to English it means 'Road of Death'.  It’s a horrible, poorly maintained highway that has enough curves to confuse and disorientate even the best drivers.  That’s not the worst part of it though.  The risk of attack from gangs of bandits stationed along the way is ever-present and very real.  And remember, Brazil is often cited as one of the most dangerous countries in the world for a reason.


Trollstigen, Norway

Fear Factor 6/10

‘The Troll Ladder’ as it is known by locals, looks like it was planned on an etch-a-sketch by someone with very jittery hands.  Meaning there is an excess of twists and turns as the road descends.  Doesn’t sound that bad huh?  Your car has a steering wheel and you know how to use it.  However, do you know how to use it to control the car as it heads down a gradient on a twisty road that is frequently covered in thick sheets of ice?  This road makes driving over the Crown Range in winter seem as easy as parking a mini in an empty car park.  Even experienced drivers come unstuck on this one. 


Death Road, Bolivia

Fear Factor 8/10

It may have been tamed in recent years but some sections of this road will remind drivers why it used to be known as the most dangerous in the world.  The road connects La Paz, Bolivia’s capital, to the north eastern town of Coroico.  Along the way you’ll encounter sheer drops, possible torrential downpours, fog, altitude sickness... and cyclists.  More than a few cyclists.

death road

Le Passage Du Gois, France

Fear Factor 8/10

Any road that floods under 13 feet of water twice a day has to be dangerous.  Sure, there are plenty of signs and warnings in place.  That doesn't stop dozens of cars becoming submerged every year as drivers underestimate the distance and speed with which they can find themselves submerged.  And just gunning it quick does not always work.  With water on each side at low tide, there’s enough slippery seaweed on the road to mean caution is advised as the water around you rises.  Which all makes for a very scary experience should the tide come in as you drive on.  

le passage du gois

Kolyma Highway, Russia

Fear Factor 9/10

If it’s known as the ‘Road of Bones’ then it has to be bad.  Especially if those bones are from the scores of people who died over the 12 years it took to build the road.  They’re buried by the roadside somewhere.  Just think of that as you drive along it.  You may have plenty of time to think too.  If it rains, the road becomes a muddy swamp that swallows trucks for breakfast and eats utes for a snack.

Kolyma Highway

Nanga Parbat Pass, Pakistan

Fear Factor 9/10

It’s about time one of these roads had a more appealing nickname.  Enter ‘Fairy Meadows Road’.  Just don’t expect a gentle drive through fields of green, with beautiful wild flowers filling the air with the scent of spring.  The only smell is that of fear as you drive along the worse section - 7 miles of unpaved curves in the Himalayas with no barrier.

Nanga Parbat

Fear Factor 8/10

The road ends at a place called Deadhorse.  That should be reason enough to not attempt it.  But in case you need a few more reasons then consider there are only 3 towns (so 3 gas stations) for some 660 kilometres of treacherous ice.  Need more convincing?  Watch an episode of ‘Ice Road Truckers’ and you’ll get an idea of what’s in store for you.  Still want to drive it?  Well, pack some ice skates, thermals... and a pack of sled dogs and a sled.

James Dalton Highway

We’ve saved the best to last.  Or in this case, the worst to last.  You’ll only want to know about it so you know to avoid it (not that you’re likely to come across it by accident).

Kabul-Jalalabad Road, Afghanistan

Fear Factor 10/10

Travel this road and you’re not on a simple road of death.  You’re in an entire ‘Valley of Death’ (as it’s commonly referred to).  This winding two-lane road in Eastern Afghanistan would be a whole lot safer if those using it would slow down and take their time.  Trouble is, it meanders through the heart of Taliban country.  Suicide bombings and kidnappings are all too common.  You’ll be better off just avoiding this road altogether.  

Kabul Jalalabad road

If you do fancy tackling any of these roads you’ll be best placed to do your research and make sure you are fully prepared.  The risk is so very real and whilst the idea of travelling them seems so very exciting, the reality is you may just not make it to the end.  So whilst we take a light-hearted look at them, the truth is you need to proper plan in place if you want to take them on.

As for the best tyres for these roads?  We’re really not sure. We’ve not come across anything that’s bullet proof, can float your car during floods and grip to vertical mountain sides.  Our only recommendation would be to take spares.  Lots and lots of spares.

dangerous roads header v3

There's danger closer to home too.

Check out our post on NZ's dangerous roads.

Release your inner explorer.