Free enamel pin when you buy any two Atlas Obscura products. Shop now.

The Riskiest Roads in the World

Do you know that road traffic accidents kill more people across the globe than malaria? According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are more than 1.3 million deaths on the road and over 50 million injuries caused by traffic accidents that occur worldwide every year.

Safe driving is actively promoted. You will commonly see reminders such as “Buckle Up,” “Drive Safely,” “Don’t Text While Driving,” and “Don’t Drink and Drive” posted all over the place especially along major roads. Despite all our driving preparations to avoid getting into an accident, there are some concrete stretches that are just prone to fatalities. Even wearing a seatbelt won’t make you feel safe once you start driving on some of the riskiest roads in the world. 

Yungas Road
Bolivia

article-imageBolivia’s Death Road (photograph by Matthew Straubmuller)

Because of its dangerous twists and turns, the Yungas Road records between 200 and 300 fatalities each year. The Association for Safe International Road Travel reported that this notorious road in Bolivia was named as the World’s Most Dangerous Road. The infamous road has received different nicknames including “Death Road” and “Road of Fate.” The 40-miles that connect La Paz to Coroico also became a popular attraction for thrill-seekers who wanted to test their driving skills. 

Road Hazards: The narrow road, which sometimes measures only to three meters wide, makes it difficult to maneuver a vehicle. Other factors include uneven tracks and a steep drop-off since the road is located 1,000 meters above sea level. 

article-image
Biking Death Road (photograph by Warren F.)

article-image
A sheer cliff along the road (photograph by Alicia Nijdam)

article-image
Aerial view of the road (photograph by Michael Fernando Jauregui Schiffelmann)

article-image
Tipped over truck (photograph by funkz/Flickr user)

article-imageMemorials on Bolivia’s Death Road (photograph by Michael Fernando Jauregui Schiffelmann)

Fairy Meadows Road
Pakistan

article-imageFairy Meadows Road (photograph by Gary Romanuk)

Don’t be fooled by the road’s pretty name, because there aren’t any fairy or meadow sightings on this route. Instead, drivers are faced with unsightly dirt roads and rocky hills. The 16.2 kilometer (roughly 10 mile) unstable Fairy Meadows Road connects the Karakoram Highway to the Tato Village in Pakistan. It was named as the second deadliest highway in the world in 2013 by dangerousroads.org. This route isn’t for the faint of heart as it’s on the base of Nanga Parbat, one of the tallest mountains in the world with a height of 26,660 feet.

Road Hazards: The ascending six miles of unpaved road has no barriers on the side, so there’s always a chance of slipping off course. Heavy snowfalls and avalanches may also block some parts of the road.

Halsema Highway
Philippines

article-imageView from the road to Sagada (photograph by Michael Fitzgerald)

The Philippines is known for its ocean views, so the first thing that many people think of are the seaside roads and beautiful beaches. However, this country is also known for its deadly mountain road called the Halsema Highway. Commuters, locals, and tourists have no choice but to pass through the risky highway since it is the only road going to Sagada, a popular tourist destination in the country. This route is the highest altitude highway in the Philippines with a measurement of 7,400 feet above sea level. The six hour road trip to the top isn’t suited for those with acrophobia. 

Road Hazards: The sharp curves make it more difficult for drivers to overtake other cars, and there are even one-way lanes on this highway. Watch out for buses, trucks, and cars trying to speed ahead of each other. 

Kabul-Jalalabad Road
Afghanistan

article-imageOverturned truck on the Kabul-Jalabad Highway (photograph by Peretz Partensky)

People living near Afghanistan’s killer road are used to seeing fatal crashes every day. According to a report published by Pajhwok Afghan News, nearly 200 people lost their lives to traffic accidents on the Kabul-Jalalabad highway during the outgoing Afghan calendar year. Aside from that alarming number of fatalities, another 5,000 people sustained injuries. Due to the large number of traffic accidents occurring on Afghanistan’s killer road, it got a death rating of 9.5 out of 10 from CNN Travel, making it on top of the list of world’s most dangerous roads. 

Road Hazards: The winding lanes and narrow roads are one of the major causes of casualties. There are also many reckless drivers who try to overtake haulage trucks and other vehicles.

article-image
Kabul-Jalabad Road (photograph by Schuyler Erle)

article-image
Boulder fall on Kabul-Jalabad Road (photograph by Sven Dirks)

article-image
Valley along the road (photograph by Todd Huffman)

article-imageSoviet tank on the side of the road (photograph by Todd Huffman)

James Dalton Highway
Alaska, United States

article-imageBrooks Range on James Dalton Highway (photograph by Scott McMurren)

The 414 mile highway looks like a great place to go on a road trip because it appears flat and spacious. But it actually ranked the third most dangerous highway in the world according to Driving Experiences. The James Dalton Highway starts from Fairbanks and ends on Alaska’s North Slope. The road was opened for delivery trucks back in 1974 — that’s why it was called the “Haul Road.” However, truck drivers aren’t the king of the roads anymore because it was later opened to tourists in 1994.  

Road Hazards: The cold temperature and natural hazards such as flying rocks brought about by strong winds may cause road accidents. Watch out for potholes and slippery roads. Its remoteness often leaves many people with car trouble stranded in the middle of nowhere. 

article-image
Sign on the road (photograph by Malcolm Manners)

article-imageSurvivor (photograph by Oliver Savage)

Remember to drive safely and have a presence of mind when passing by some of the riskiest roads in the world. Better yet, avoid these roads if you don’t want to risk your life. 


Discover more terrifying and fascinating roads to ride on through Atlas Obscura >