Pack the jerky, a few friends, and maybe a few extra hundreds for those hefty gas prices. ‘Tis the season for summer road trips! In the spirit of all things cruise control, here are just a few of the world’s craziest roads to either try out or actively avoid for your next bus/car/bike/trike/motorcycle adventure. Happy trails!
1. North Yungas Road
Image credit: Dowson Designer
Earning its nickname “The Death Road,” this 40-mile stretch of terrifying highway from La Paz, Bolivia, to a town called Coroico in the Amazon jungle used to claim more than two hundred lives per year. In 2006, a safer route was built nearby, but adventure road-trippers on mountain bikes and motorcycles still brave the North Yungas’ murderous curves.
2. Khardung La Pass
Image credit: Flickr user Marc_P98
Winding through the Himalayas from the Indian city of Leh to the Chinese city of Kashdar, this pass soars above Asia at 17,582 feet—roughly 3,000 feet higher than the summit of Mt. Whitney, the highest mountain in the contiguous United States.
Image credit: English Russia
This unpaved Russian highway runs straight through Siberia, where temperatures get so low you can’t wear glasses—the metal will freeze to your face. In the summer, this icy track turns to mud, creating an unspeakable mess so deep in places that hundreds of cars often get marooned in the muck for days.
This occasionally interrupted trans-continental roadway unfurls down the eastern flank of Africa, and isn’t your average Sunday afternoon drive. Hazards include unfriendly borders, potholes the size of VWs, sandstorms, carjackers, herds of wandering camels (not to mention your more run-of-the-mill livestock), nearly impassable gravel pits, and armed bandits in Kenya.
Image credit: Bureau of Land Management
With 414 miles of gravel and only three towns along the way, you might want to pack a snack before hitting one of the most isolated roads in North America. The James Dalton Highway stretches from just north of Fairbanks, Alaska, to the Arctic Ocean. This northern passage was built for oil truckers traversing from the Prudhoe Bay oilfields, and won a bit of fame in 2009 in a television series, Ice Road Truckers, and in an episode of America’s Toughest Jobs.
Image credit: Wormke-Grutman
The highest paved mountain pass in the Alps boasts 12% grades—that’s twice as steep as any U.S. interstate, for those of you keeping track—and reaches over 9,000 feet. It has been used as a segment in the Tour d’France multiple times, with cyclists racing up 3,000 feet in just over nine miles.
This last road isn't crazy like the others, but it is crazy straight. The eastern portion of this Australian highway ribbons through the flat, treeless and aptly named Nullarbor Plain, and boasts the longest turn-less stretch of highway in the world: from Balladonia to Caiguna, the road unfolds for 91.1 miles without so much as a curve.