7 of the most dangerous roads in the world

North Yungas Road Stock ConnectionBlue/Alamy

  • The world's most dangerous roads are often carved into the sides of mountains at high altitudes.
  • Others, like the Atlantic Road in Norway, are so close to the ocean that drivers can be washed away by a storm.
  • Despite their life-threatening terrain, plenty of people drive on these roads, including tourists looking to take advantage of beautiful scenery.

Many of the world's roads are plagued by unsafe speed limits and poor design, but few present the kind of perilous conditions that send drivers sliding across icy lanes or plummeting thousands of miles to their death.

In places like China, Bolivia, and Alaska, drivers can encounter narrow, unpaved highways that are vulnerable to landslides, avalanches, and steep mountain terrain. These roads are often branded as the world's most dangerous, and a few even have the word "death" in their moniker.

Read more: The 10 most dangerous roads in America

Despite their reputation for fatal accidents, roads like the Guoliang Tunnel in China or the Atlantic Road in Norway remain popular among tourists who come for the scenic views or to try their hand at the treacherous inclines.

These seven roads are some of the riskiest to traverse.

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The Karakoram Highway, which runs between Pakistan and China, is prone to fatal landslides.

The Karakoram Highway, which runs between Pakistan and China, is prone to fatal landslides.

The 800-mile Karakoram Highway is plagued by a terrifying ensemble of natural disasters, including landslides, avalanches, flooding, and heavy snow.

Though it's a popular tourist destination (some have referred to it as the "eighth world wonder"), the highway sees frequent fatalities. In October, 17 people were killed when a bus tumbled into a gorge after the driver took a sharp turn along the highway. A month earlier, a tourist was killed in a landslide that hit her van.

Incidents like these have occurred since the road was first built in 1959. Roughly 1,000 workers were killed during the highway's construction due to blasts or landslides.

Around 200 to 300 people die on Bolivia's North Yungas Road every year.

Around 200 to 300 people die on Bolivia's North Yungas Road every year.

The North Yungas Road, nicknamed "Death Road," frequently earns the title of the world's most dangerous highway. At just 12 feet wide, the road carves a narrow stretch into the Cordillera Oriental Mountain in Bolivia, which is often shrouded in rain and fog. One wrong turn could send travelers plummeting anywhere from 4,000 to 15,000 feet to the ground.

Many of the sections are unpaved and lack guardrails, creating an added danger for both vehicles and cyclists. An estimated 200 to 300 people are killed on the highway every year.

A curvy portion of the Atlantic Road in Norway can become flooded during a storm.

A curvy portion of the Atlantic Road in Norway can become flooded during a storm.

Norway's Atlantic Road runs through a small group of scenic islands, but one stretch of the highway is far from idyllic. As storms begin to pick up, a curvy portion of the road is pummeled with wind and water, creating a hazard for drivers. The road was hit by a dozen windstorms during its construction in the 1980s.

Even ice road truckers fear the slippery conditions of Alaska's Dalton Highway.

Even ice road truckers fear the slippery conditions of Alaska's Dalton Highway.

Drivers on the Dalton Highway are advised to bring their safety gear. There are no medical facilities along the 414-mile road, and no gas stations, restaurants, or hotels for a 240-mile stretch.

Much of the road is unpaved and made of gravel, making it difficult for drivers even in good weather conditions. In the winter, the road becomes so slippery and icy that even ice road truckers refuse to cross it. The surrounding tundra is also prone to avalanches.

Drivers on the Zoji Pass in India can plummet 11,500 feet to their death.

Drivers on the Zoji Pass in India can plummet 11,500 feet to their death.

The Zoji Pass is often closed during the winter as heavy snowfall forms thick walls of ice along either side of the road. Under normal weather conditions, the narrow dirt path lacks protective barriers, putting drivers at risk of plummeting some 11,500 feet to the ground.

Like many of the world's most dangerous roads, the Zoji Pass is also vulnerable to avalanches and landslides, leaving many tourists stranded at high elevations.

China's Guoliang Tunnel is carved into the side of a steep mountain.

China's Guoliang Tunnel is carved into the side of a steep mountain.

The Guoliang Tunnel credits its existence to thirteen villagers who chiseled the 4,000-foot path into China's Taihang Mountains in the 1970s.

Though the area has become popular among tourists, the tunnel still lacks barriers and street lamps, so drivers must enter at their own risk. Locals now refer to it as "the road that does not tolerate mistakes."

Afghanistan's Kabul-Jalalabad Road is prone to suicide bombings, kidnappings, and car crashes.

Afghanistan's Kabul-Jalalabad Road is prone to suicide bombings, kidnappings, and car crashes.

The death toll along the Kabul-Jalalabad Road in Afghanistan is so high, locals have lost count.

Although the winding two-lane road offers barely enough room for cars to pass, drivers continue to whiz by at death-defying speeds, while heavy trucks have trouble climbing the steep incline.

The road is also plagued by Taliban-led suicide bombings and kidnappings — a peril that drivers have come to accept as they make their way along the major trade route. The surrounding area, including the road, is often referred to as "The Valley of Death."

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