What Is the Bolivian Death Road?


Quick Answer

Today it's not as deadly as it sounds, but the journey down the 40-mile Yungas Road in Bolivia once claimed nearly 200 to 300 lives per year due to its treacherous terrain. For years it was one of the only major routes between Bolivia's capital, La Paz, and the Amazonian city of Coroico. It was mostly single-laned, had no guardrails and clung to cliffs of up to 2,000 feet.

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What Is the Bolivian Death Road?
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Full Answer

Built in the 1930s by Paraguayan prisoners of war, the Yungas Road became a major byway for commercial and civilian traffic between the city and the rainforest. Despite being heavily trafficked, it was only the width of a single car in many places. This made it extremely dangerous for two cars - let alone two trucks - to try to pass each other, especially around corners.

During Bolivia's rainy season, fog can reduce visibility and landslides can wash out sections of the road. Add to this thousand-foot deep ravines and no guardrails, and you have what Bolivians refer to as the "The Road of Fate."

In 2006, Bolivia finished a twenty-year modernization effort, adding guardrails, pavement, an extra lane and redirecting traffic around the most dangerous portion. This helped reduce the death toll, but the old section is now used as a tourist attraction for adventure seekers, especially mountain bikers.

Despite the increased safety, the "Death Road" name persists, thanks to its deadly reputation and its new status as an adventure destination. To this day, both cars and trucks still use Yungas Road at their own risk, but it is not nearly as busy as it once was.

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