12 of the Craziest Roads You've Ever Seen

Peter Watson

We take a look at some of the world's most hair-raising roads from Bolivia's "Death Road" to a Kashmiri dirt track in the high Himalayas.

Tianmen Mountain Road, China

Also known as ‘Heaven-Linking Avenue’ or the ‘Big Gate Road’, Tianmen Mountain Road is said to be one of the most dangerous roads in China.

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Built between 1998 and 2006, the road ascends from 200m (656ft) to 1,300m (4,265ft) in the space of 11km (6.8mi) and includes an incredible 99 hairpin turns.

Stelvio Pass, Italy

The Stelvio Pass in northern Italy rises to an elevation of 2,757m (9,045ft) making it the second-highest mountain pass in the alps.

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Its 48 tightly-coiled turns make for a beautiful if nauseating drive to the summit past rocky outcroppings and an overhanging glacier.

Zoji La Pass, Kashmir

At a (literally) breath-taking elevation of 3,528m (11,575ft), Zoji La provides a vital link between Ladakh and Kashmir in the Himalayas.

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(Image: Yogeshgupta26/Public Domain)

With steep drops, inclement weather and the occasional stampede, traversing Zoji La requires steady hands and sturdy nerves.

Los Caracoles Pass, Chile

With its long series of switchbacks, Los Caracoles (Snail’s Pass) is a nerve-wracking experience en route to the Argentinian city of Mendoza from Chile’s capital of Santiago.

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Covered in snow for much of the year, the steep switchbacks of Los Caracoles require extreme patience and skill.

This doesn’t, however, put off the many cargo trucks and even double-decker tourist buses that navigate the road on a daily basis.

Millau Viaduct, France

This wonder of engineering is one of the tallest bridges in the world with a mast summit of 343m (1,125ft) above the base.

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Spanning the valley of the River Tarn in southern France, the vertigo-inducing structure cost €400 million to build and has been named one of the greatest engineering feats of our time.

Atlantic Ocean Road, Norway

Repeatedly named as one of the world's most scenic roads, the Atlantic Ocean Road runs between the Norwegian towns of Kristiansund and Molde with several bridges linking the islands in between.

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Storseisundet Bridge is the tallest and most dramatic, offering a stomach-churning thrill in bad weather and a chance to spot seals and whales in good weather.

Trollstigen, Norway

Norway has a second entry on the list with Trollstigen, or ‘Troll’s Ladder’. This dramatic mountain road was opened in 1936 after eight years of construction and has become a popular tourist attraction.

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Its steep incline and 11 hairpin bends make for a hair-raising ride, but only in the spring and summer months. It’s closed in autumn and winter because of weather conditions.

Guoliang Tunnel Road, China

High in the Taihang Mountains of China, the village of Guoliang sat isolated from the rest of the world, accessible only by a set of treacherous steps carved into the mountainside.

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In 1972, a group of villagers decided to change matters by digging a tunnel road through the mountain, working only with hand tools and limited experience. The tunnel took five years and one life to build and opened to traffic in 1977.

Today, it has become an attraction for thrill-seekers who prefer to ignore the fact that it’s a do-it-yourself tunnel dug through a mountain by hand…

Royal Gorge Bridge, USA

If heart palpitations are your sort of thing, then Royal Gorge Bridge will be right up your street. Located in Colorado’s Royal Gorge Park, this bridge lies 291m (955ft) above the Arkansas River.

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Automobiles can drive across the main span, but the bridge is primarily used by pedestrians.

Eshima Ohashi Bridge, Japan

While we’ll admit that some of Eshima’s impact lies in clever photo angles, the fact remains that it’s crazily steep. Constructed in 2004, the bridge was built so high to accommodate the passage of ships as large as 500 tonnes below.

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Drivers have likened it to riding a rollercoaster, the steep decline sending stomachs into somersaults.

Siduhe River Bridge, China

Deep breaths. Siduhe is a 1,222m long (4,009ft) suspension bridge crossing the valley of the Sidu River in China. Currently the highest bridge in the world, it hangs a heart-stopping 488m (1,600ft) above the canyon floor.

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(Image: Eric Sakowski/Creative Commons)

It’s reported that the bridge is so far across, builders had to use a rocket to string the first pilot line across the gap. Gulp.

North Yungas Road, Bolivia

Nicknamed ‘Death Road’, Yungas has been named the most dangerous road in the world. In fact, in 2006, it was reported that the road claimed between 200 to 300 lives annually. Most of the road is only 3.5m wide, meaning that one wrong manoeuvre sends vehicles hurtling into the abyss.

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(Image: Gilcahana/Public Domain)

Despite the unpaved sections, lack of guardrails, potential mudslides and falling rocks, the road has become a top attraction for thrill-seeking cyclists, at least 18 of whom have died on the road since 1998.

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Peter Watson is a writer, photographer and adventurer. A keen trekker and climber he can usually be found on the trails of the Greater Ranges. He’s visited over 80 countries and is currently focused on climbing the seven summits – the highest mountain on every continent. Four down, three to go... He has also travelled extensively around the US developing a penchant for American backcountry, abandoned buildings and natural wonders en route.

Phoenix, AZ
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