Death Road 101
Biking Bolivia’s Death Road, also known as, “The World’s Most Dangerous Road”, is sure to get your adrenaline going. Death Road…really? The thought alone probably makes some of you anxious. Why would anyone even get near a road that has been notorious for claiming hundreds of lives each year? Because that’s what thrill seekers do. And because you get a cool t-shirt saying “I Survived Bolivia’s Death Road” if you make it past the finish line in one piece.
At the peak of its peril, accidents on Death Road (formally known as the Yungas Road) took the lives of an estimated 200 to 300 passengers annually. Fortunately, there is now little automobile traffic (though there still are a few brave, or foolish, souls) and the route is primarily used by cyclists. Lucky for you, biking trips down the Death Road are a popular attraction that can be booked in La Paz, Bolivia.
Choosing a Tour Operator
You’ll have many different tour agencies to choose from in La Paz. But choose wisely, you’re embarking on a journey down The World’s Most Dangerous Road. It’s pretty important that the agency has a relatively new fleet of bikes…with functional brakes. It would be a bummer to be speeding down the Death Road with faulty stoppers. After asking around and conducting my own research, I opted to reserve my bike tour with Altitude Adventures. I had heard mostly good things about the company. And more importantly, I was attracted to their stylish protective jumpsuits that make you look like a member of a NASCAR pit crew member in the 1980s.
Ready, Set, Death Road!
The tour leaves from La Paz in the morning and takes a few hours to get to your destination. Make sure you drink your coca tea, because the altitude at the starting point is sky high – 15,400 feet. Before the day is over, you will descend nearly 12,000 feet! It’s all downhill from here…Foggy, rugged mountains turn into lush high jungle in a half day trip . The views are incredible.
Once you get suited up in that fresh getup, start your engines (AKA, set your gears), and get ready to coast down Bolivia’s high Andes. Unless you have a GoPro, don’t worry about capturing the experience. Altitude Adventures will take pictures for you and share them with the group afterwards.
The first section of the trip is on winding paved road and you will cruise downhill with speed. Beware of other vehicles and cyclists on this section of the trip. The transition from paved road to gravel road marks the beginning of the Death Road. The road is in pretty good condition, but take caution around rocky areas, sharp turns, and wet spots (e.g., under waterfalls). Enjoy the spectacular views, but don’t let them lull you to sleep. Always keep at least one eye on the road or you might not get that t-shirt…
Following the many twists, turns, and close calls flying down Death Road, you will encounter the last stage of the trip. Your tour operator may give you the option to go down the “single track” (more of a dirt road – traditional mountain biking). About half of my group took on the added challenge. It was actually pretty difficult for inexperienced mountain bikers. A few of us flew over the handle bars, but no one went over the side of the mountain.
After several hours of exhilarating downhill mountain biking, you will have finally reached the finish line. You can tell your friends that you biked down The World’s Most Dangerous Road. And you’ll have a fresh t-shirt to prove it ;).