Italy's Stelvio Pass offers 60 hairpins turns for audacious drivers
Looking for a little thrill with your road trip? Then put these mountain passes on your bucket list
Whether you drive, motorbike, cycle or hike, the following incredible mountain passes – ordered from most to least dangerous – are best experienced in person, where you can smell the fresh mountain air, see the stunning panoramic views and feel the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.
1. Yungas Road, aka “The Death Road,” Bolivia
The most dangerous road in the world is located in the Andean Mountains of South America. The North Yungas Road, leading from Bolivia’s legislative capital of La Paz to the scenic town Coroico, was nicknamed “The Death Road” because it has “more deaths per mile than any other road in the world,” according to travel-bolivia.com. With no guardrails, huge vertical drops (which you get a feel for in this video) and a narrow muddy lane only able to accommodate a single vehicle in many places, El Camino de la Muerte (The Death Road in Spanish) has certainly earned its reputation.
2. Patiopoulo-Perdikaki Road, Greece
Not too far from the whitewashed buildings and vibrant blue waters of the coast lies the Agrafa Mountain range in central Greece. On the steep and treacherous dirt road that leads from the villages of Patiopoulo to Perdikaki, you’re just as likely to pass a herd of sheep or cattle as you are another vehicle. The unkempt road has many potholes and no guardrails, which makes the sheer drop and narrow passage that much more frightening.
3. Guoliang Tunnel Road, China
In the early 1970s a group of citizens from the village of Guoliang, in the Henan Province of China, began carving a tunnel into the side of the Taihang Mountains. Many lost their lives during the perilous construction, but the Guoliang Tunnel, as it became known, allowed the remaining villagers outside access from what had previously been a very isolated area. Known as "the road that does not tolerate any mistakes," the compressed tunnel is sandwiched between a sheer cliff above and sharp drop below that can be seen through the "windows" carved through the rock.
4. Stelvio Pass, Italy
The Italian Alps are world renowned for ski resorts and the Stelvio Pass. On Google Maps, it looks as though someone has made tight scribbles across the screen where the Stelvio Pass lies – that’s because you’re looking at 60 hazardous hairpin turns. Although it’s paved and has guardrails, the staggering scenery can detract from the keen concentration required to navigate the repetitive twists and turns. Thrill-seeking speedsters also up the element of danger on this road, especially after the BBC television series Top Gear increased its popularity by calling it the "greatest driving road in the world."
5. Col de Turini, France
In the south of France near Nice is a dramatic and daring stretch of road that has been part of the Tour de France three times, has been a long-time stage of the Monte Carlo Rally and has been featured in Top Gear’s “World’s best road” episode. The Col De Turini is a steep paved road in the French Alps with nearly three dozen hairpin turns, and in sections the guardrails switch to low stone walls that appear to be crumbling. This road is especially dangerous during the winter when snow and ice increase the chances of going over the steep rock walls.
6. Trollstigen, Norway
The Trollstigen, meaning troll ladder, is a stretch of the Norwegian National Road 63 between the town of Åndalsnes on the shores of the Rauma River and the village of Valldal, home to Europe’s northernmost orchards. The road is a popular tourist attraction, with both motorbikes and motorhomes making their way up the menacing “ladder” – presumably the motorbikes for the incredibly steep incline and adrenaline-inducing 11 hairpin turns, and the motorhomes for the breathtaking view of the Stigfossen waterfall from the viewing balcony at the top.
7. Sea to Sky Highway, Canada
Relatively speaking, Canadian roads are among the safer and better maintained in the world, but danger can lurk even here. Dubbed the “killer highway,” the Sea to Sky Highway, which passes through the magnificent Coast Mountains, claimed 1,500 crashes over a two-year period, as well as a massive rock slide in July 2008 that closed the road for four days. Highway 99, known as the Sea to Sky Highway from Vancouver to Pemberton, and the Duffy Lake Road beyond that, is a great source of pride for British Columbians, and the spectacular scenery makes it one of the most breathtaking drives in the world. And thanks to the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, recent upgrades have reduced some of the blind corners and narrow climbs.
Catherine Roscoe Barr, is a Vancouver-based freelance writer and editor. Before settling on the West Coast she lived in Sydney, Toronto, Oregon, Montana, and practically everywhere in Alberta. She can be found jogging with her adorable dog, dining with her fabulous husband or voraciously reading anywhere comfy.