Surviving the World’s Most Dangerous Road in Bolivia


To be fair, it’s technically not considered the “World’s Most Dangerous Road” anymore. Due to the construction of a new highway close by, which directs most traffic away from its path, they’ve recently upgraded the trails nickname to a much more simple, passive and inviting moniker… “The Death Road”

Mountain Biking Death Road Tour in Bolivia
Was this a good idea?

Okay, so the name and mortality figures didn’t sit well at first, but how could I pass up the opportunity to test out its narelyness first hand? Besides, most of the people who’ve died have done so because of truck, bus and motorcycle accidents… right?

Kiersten, my partner in crime for this adventure, was a lot more skeptical about the whole thing. It took some convincing to get her to stop looking at mishap reports and death road death stories, but she eventually, although reluctantly, agreed.

The day started at the crack of dawn at the Madness office in La Paz, where we met the rest of thrill-seeking lunatics who’d be biking with us. We suited up in rain pants, jackets, helmets, gloves and killer bright orange construction vests as we tested the brakes on some pretty solid mountain bikes.

Mountain Biking the Death Road Tour in Bolivia
The Entire Mountain Biking Crew

After a nerve-testing drive outside La Paz and into the mountains we arrive at our launch point in La Cumbre along the banks of a quiet and eerie lake. We unloaded our gear, tested the brakes again and got a pep talk from the three guides who’d be corralling us for the day.

From there it was up to us not to die. And so commenced our cycle down the Death Road, which we were able so survive in stages.

STAGE 1: A relaxing warm-up (just watch out for trucks)

Mountain Biking the Death Road Tour in Bolivia
The view of the death road ahead!

The first leg of the cycle was entirely downhill and on reasonably well kept, widely paved roads. The only real way you could die here is if a passing bus or truck sideswiped when the incredible views distracted you. Otherwise, the survival rate was pretty high and passed this stage with relative ease.

STAGE 2: Off-roading with a nice mix of rocks, rain and danger

Mountain Biking the Death Road Tour in Bolivia
“Oh what, this little ledge here?”

We turned off the main highway and onto what was obviously the beginning of the true Death Road. While the roads were still manageably wide, we swapped early morning fog for consistent rain, and smooth roads for sketchy dirt and gravel paths. We also lost the majority of guide rails as the cliffs moved closer and our cycling quickly turned serious.

At this stage you won’t die as long as you created your own space away from other bikers. We had one Asian kid who was clearly out of control and was breaking comfort zones all day. At one point he actually did crash and took out a nice Australian guy in the process. Luckily for both of them it wasn’t during a tight spot and they both survived stage 2, as did we.

STAGE 3: The most beautiful place to pee your pants

Mountain Biking the Death Road Tour in Bolivia
“Passing On Your Left!”

Gut check time! The rain continued, the roads got narrower and brakes became the life support. Tight, blind turns along ridiculously narrow cliffs made you focus on your bike, the road and nothing else. Memorial crosses become a common sight as the journey elevated in danger and beauty.

For you not to die here, you had to pay attention, absolute attention. If you wanted to admire the incredible surroundings it was best to stop during a wide section where you could see bikers and vehicles coming from a good distance. This was the stage where you understand how the road got its nickname.

STAGE 4: Flying down the home stretch

Mountain Biking the Death Road Tour in Bolivia
“If I can just get by these waterfalls I’m home free!”

The clouds scattered and rain subsided as we left cliffs and blind turns behind us. The roads opened up and we gave our squealing brakes a rest for final stage to our meeting point. We managed to pick up some good speed on the home stretch trying to catch one of the guides, but this still wasn’t to be taken lightly.

The way you die on this part is getting ahead of yourself about what just happened and loose focus on finishing strong. The steep cliffs here are still very much a factor.

Thankfully Kiersten and I stayed within our means, avoided trucks, cliffs and Asians, and managed to survive the Death Road without incident. As we reflected on the tour from poolside at the post-ride hot springs, we both agreed that we’d much rather bike the Death Road than do it by a Bolivian bus.

Moral of the story is you should exercise more… it could save your life!

Mountain Biking the Death Road Tour in Bolivia
The perfect place to end the day, calm your nerves and dry you underwear!

Thank you to Brendan for the recommendation on Madness Tours.

My name is Gareth Leonard, a Marketing Director turned World Traveler with a passion for slow, meaningful travel. I have been traveling the world full-time for the past 9+ years and document it all on Instagram and YouTube. Come join me!


    1. I’m surprised you haven’t been yet Marcello, seems like something you would absolutely love! In due time I’m sure.

    1. No, Kiersten actually had to change bikes a few times because her brakes were in bad shape… we made it out alive though!

  1. OK, on the scale from 1 to 10, how scary and dangerous is this? I know its quite relative, and may vary from person to person, but still.

  2. Fantastic! This will surely be a big challenge for me but I’d like to try it too. How long did it take you from start to finish? Thanks for sharing this nice experience.

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  3. Am totally shocked no one got close to mentioning the word ‘stunt’ in this whole thing. Loads of it people!! I would have choked at those gaping and yawning valleys, ugh.

  4. the view is just amazing . . . the waterfalls i m dying for,, love it.. Feel jealous from the video you make,, that just superb and wonderful

  5. Its scaryyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy…..!
    How yu guys did? Superb Video
    i will show a location called Munnar in Kerala which has the roads narrower with more traffics…!
    i think you can do this..!
    If you guys are planning to visit in Kerala, check out the website
    Have a nice day..!

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