“You always have two choices, your commitment versus your fear”

Yes, this is what I felt the moment I decided to plunge down the world’s most dangerous road – The Death Road, where 200-300 people die every year as packed busses, trucks and cyclists have gone over the edge of the 2000 feet cliff, never to be seen again.

Mountain biking down the 64 km stretch of continuous downhill riding with only one short uphill section of Yungas Road known to many as The Death Road or Camino El Muerte is a prominent attraction on the gringo trail in La Paz, Bolivia.

death road bolivia

About The Road:

The road was constructed in the 1930’s during the Chaco War between Bolivia and Paraguay. This is one of the few routes that connects the Yungas region of northern Bolivia to its capital city. Yungas road (The Death Road) was built by the bare hands of over 1000’s of war prisoners. Sadly, those prisoners who built this road died, either by natural cause or an accident. It is said that some workers were pushed off the edge for disobeying instructions. Locals believe that the road is still cursed

death road bolivia

Choosing The Operator:

Choosing a quality operator will have a major impact on your experience. There are over a dozen of operators running the tour. Yes, some offer cheap prices too, but your life is worth all the money in the world and things like this aren’t worth saving a few quid. The last thing you want is an inexperienced person guiding you along the world’s most dangerous road or your brakes failing in mid-corner.

I browsed inquisitively for an agency that not just has good safety records but is also affordable and reliable. After a thorough research, I decided to overcome my fear with Barracuda Biking.

death road bolivia

Why Barracuda Biking?

The next morning I was in their office, after strolling through the witches market. The booking process was simple, they measured the size of my helmet, jacket and gloves before I signed my life away. (I am just kidding, Barracuda Biking are among the few safest agencies offering tour down the death road).

They are known for their top-notch safety standards as their guides have over six years of experience guiding on Death Road and are certified in first aid and rope rescue. Their bikes were legit, they are among the few agencies to operate using Kona bikes with full suspension and hydraulic disc brakes. Equipment was sturdy and the instructions were very thorough. Barracuda caters to a budgetconscious audience, without sacrificing safetyWe had a really fun group to ride with which made the tour little bit more enjoyable.

death road bolivia

The Day Of The Tour:

We met near the Cathedral in the main square at 7 am, where a minibus was waiting for us, a group of eight thrill seekers.

Just as we were leaving La Paz, a voice came out on the radio and said “there’s a strike broken out and the roads were blocked with stones” it seemed impossible to continue the journey, we felt shattered, the excitement began to drop. Our guide was determined to get us to Yungas. Shortly we found our bus driving off the road through some terrains. It wasn’t surprising to see that we were followed by buses from other agencies too.

The ride itself was nerve-racking, with a steep cliff on one side of the narrow road, too narrow for a vehicle to pass comfortably.

Driving through the dusty, winding paths we finally overcame the obstacle and were on our way to bike down the perilous road. As we started approaching, we felt the adrenaline rushing through our bodies. We reached La Cumbre where we were given our bikes, helmets, gloves, pants and windbreaker jackets. Each bike was adjusted to our size and our preferred break i.e. left or right front brake.

death road bolivia

Death Road death road bolivia Death Road


The Route:

The ride is broken into two parts, a warm-up ride along 22 km of paved road and then the terrifying ride along 33 km of narrow gravel roads.

We took a sip of alcohol, after offering a drop to “Pachamama” (Mother Earth) and poured some on our front wheel to get us to our destination, alive, where we would be awarded a Death Road Survivor T-Shirt.

Part One (Along The Paved Road):

This is the part of the ride where you will have time to warm up and get a feel for the bike. As we started pedalling down the gradually winding smooth road, a guide rode behind us and another in front to make sure everyone was under control. We stopped at every 5-8 km to make sure that everyone is faring well.

Once we reached a checkpoint we paid 50 Bolivianos to the local community who gave us the access to the world’s most dangerous road. We then got back on the bus for 30 minutes up-hill ride to The Death Road.

death road bolivia
Paved Road

Part Two (The Death Road):

The 33 kilometres long Death Road starts at La Cumbre Pass at 4,650 meters and finishes in the jungle town of Coroico at 1,200 meters.

The bus pulled over next to a giant yellow board, with a sign “Bienvenido a Camino Muerte” (Welcome To The Death Road). Our guide went over all the ins and outs of the road, the do’s and don’t and the rules with a few scary stories!

We then braved ourselves and started skittering down the road following each other in single file. As on the paved road, we had a guide behind us and another in front. We stopped regularly to make sure the bikes were working and to click some pictures along the way.

As we started becoming more confident and comfortable with the ride, we reached a stretch of the road, rimmed with cross markings and memorials of the people who have fallen.

Over time we dropped an incredible 3450 meters. We reached a restaurant with a swimming pool where we wore the pride ” Death Road Survivor’s T-Shirt” and relished on a lavish meal before driving back to La Paz.

death road bolivia

death road bolivia

How safe is the ride?

Most of the rock-filled, pot-holed road is not wider than 3 meters and the hazards include constant fog, tropical rain, the occasional waterfall, loose gravel at times, limited visibility and extreme drop-offs. At least, 18 cyclists have died since 1998, but the ride is safe with a good operator. Choose gears that fit you right and most importantly, follow the instructions of the tour leader. As the saying goes, “It’s better to be safe than sorry”.

death road bolivia
Cross Markings Along The Death Road

Survival Tips:

  • Go at your own speed, it isn’t a race.
  • Don’t wear a heavy backpack, it can put you off-balance around corners.
  • Carry sunglasses, it could be quite windy during the ride.
  • They do provide some snacks but bring some of your own too.
  • Always pass on the right side and vocalise when you are doing so.

death road bolivia



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15 comments on “The Death Road Experience.

  1. Oh God, this is really risky. It reminds me of certain dangerous high altitude passes in India. But no matter how much risky these paths are, they always find takers. Being an adventurous traveler, I would love to try it too.

  2. This is one challenging and scary experience alright. And kudos to you for having done this. I would be following your Travel Tips to the T for this one . I definitely do not want to risk not listening to people on this one

  3. What an incredible experience! I was amazed at your adventure. That’s The Death Road. My heart will be in my mouth as I ride on that road. Thanks for your post and beautiful photos. They are wonderful.

  4. Wow, good for you, what an experience! I can imagine that going at your own pace and staying within your own comfort zone is the important for staying safe on the ride.

  5. Omg! That sounds like a great experience and a big achievement too. The trail looks risky but with the proper gear, guidance and going at your own pace, one can do it. Your post has motivated me to start back cycling. Thanks.

  6. The ride and the read are thrilling. Of course I only experienced the read. Knowing that the trail is risky and people have died adds that bit of extra thrill. However ensuring all safety measures have been taken nullifies the risks to some extent. At the end of the day it sounds like an enjoyable experience.

  7. Wow! Looks incredible! What an adventure. I’d love to do that! Great post! The photos look incredible.

  8. That is quite an adventure! Looking at the photos of this trail, I can tell why it is called The Death Road. Just glad to know you survived it though!

  9. Wow..great job there. You must have a lot of stamina to be able to cycle through such a terrain. And I can clearly see why it’s called the death road. Thumbs up to you for taking the ride.

  10. Wow, what an experience, the views look amazing. I don’t think I’d have the courage to do this, I am not a fan of that kind of risk-driven adrenalin, but I can totally see why you would want to do this and why so many do it. Good advice to pick a reputable operator.

  11. OMG sounds so great! You guys must be so brave cuz that road seems to be rough and has many slopes. Btw It’ll be interesting if we follow the rules and find a trustworthy operator like Barracuda Biking right? Love adventures so much and hope I’ll have chance to experience this!

  12. Eek! I’m not sure if I could do this or not. I feel like I’ve passed the point in my life of traveling on really risky roads, but maybe if I went slowly on a bike…? I don’t know. It’s interesting to get your first person perspective on this experience though. I’m sure it will help people decide. As for me, if I find myself in Bolivia, then I’ll be sure to come back and revisit your post! 🙂

  13. Hi Sreeram,

    I always enjoy reading your posts. They take me to the places that I always wanted to visit but ….

    The Death Road Experience was gripping. I felt like I was there too, fighting my vertigo.

    All the best,


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