These Are the Craziest Roads in the World
There’s nothing like hitting the road, little on the agenda but scoping the sites (and, of course, stopping somewhere for lunch). It’s one of life’s simplest pleasures, and a terrific way to see a location up close. From the dreamy Amalfi coast to Argentina’s mysterious Ruta 40, which runs parallel to the majestic Andes Mountains, there’s a world out there just waiting to be discovered from the comfort of your rental car.
That’s not to say every wild road deserves a visit. Some roads are so hazardous even seasoned pros will try to avoid them, while others demand the practiced patience of a zen master, their paths are so treacherous to drive on. Wherever you decide to venture, be sure to check conditions beforehand and do your best to keep your car and companions safe. A twisting and turning highway may sound enticing, but, as the list below proves, some of the craziest roads in the world can be downright deadly.
Millford Road, New Zealand
Built by workers hard hit by the Great Depression, Milford Road, a New Zealand state highway that connects Southland Gore with Milford Sound, is one of the highest — and most dangerous — roads in the world, with a peak elevation of over 3,000 feet. Avalanche hazards are a constant issue and at times can keep the road closed.
Ruta 40, Argentina
Mythical Route 40, which crosses Argentina longitudinally and runs 3,100 miles, provides an unusual glimpse into the country’s climates and cultures across three regions: Patagonia, Cuyo and Northwest. Traversing the lonely, mostly unpaved route could be the trip of the lifetime, especially in Patagonia, which runs from the Lake District to El Calafate.
Amalfi Drive, Italy
Don’t make the mistake of driving this route at night — you’ll want to absorb every minute of this impossibly beautiful landscape dotted with small coastal towns. Positano is especially dreamy, with its whitewashed houses sloping perilously down to the pebble beach, as is Ravello, which looks like the backdrop for a Slim Aarons photo.
Historic Columbia River Highway, Oregon
The first scenic highway in the U.S. to earn the distinction of National Historic Landmark, this highway, designed in 1913 to take advantage of the area’s waterfalls, represents a great feat of engineering. And it’s quite stunning: From Multnomah Falls to the cliffs above the river, it’s impossible to take a bad photo here.
The Atlantic Roadway, Norway
Voted Norway’s “Engineering Feat of the Century” in 2005, the Atlantic road “connects Averøy with the mainland via a series of small islands and inlets spanned by a total of eight bridges,” according to VisitNorway.com. Blissfully free of tolls, the stretch is loaded with coastal scenery, making it ideal for a warm summer day.
Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia
Operated by the National Park Service, the Blue Ridge Parkway, which runs through the heart of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, offers spectacular views of the mountains. Stretching 469 miles, it’s also a gateway to plenty of outdoor activities such as hiking the Buck Mountain Trail, mountain biking, birding and kayaking.
Cabot Trail, Canada
Located on Cape Breton, one of the world’s most beautiful islands, the Cabot Trail is a spectacular 186-mile long highway that offers incredible climbs and views of canyons, highlands and coastlines. Water lovers can go sailing, fishing or kayaking, while artsy types can check out the galleries in the Highlands.
Route 89, U.S.
Covering 2,000 miles one way from Canada to Mexico, Route 89 is a mountain lover’s dream. Some recommend going between summer and early fall, when the weather is moderate and the parks in Wyoming and Montana are open. Among the many national parks that 89 passes are Zion, Grand Canyon and Saguaro.
The Garden Route, South Africa
You’ll see a variety of wildlife and vegetation on this 186-mile stretch of road, which passes deserted beaches, gorges, bush land, lakes and lagoons. Extremely popular among European tourists, the Route, which starts at Mossel Bay, is ideal for outdoorsy types, especially surfers dreaming of Jeffrey’s Bay and mountain bikers aching to visit Harkerville Trail.
Beartooth Highway, U.S.
Stretching 68 miles through the Beartooth Corridor, the Beartooth Highway was built between 1932 and 1936. Today it holds the distinction of being an All-American Road, which is fitting since it abuts Yellowstone National Park, one of the country’s great wilderness destinations. In the Beartooth Corridor, visitors can go skiing in June and July.
Pacific Coast Highway, California
This storied 123-mile route is just as scenic as everyone tells you — just watch for sharp drop-offs and narrow shoulders when pumping the gas. Here you’ll see the real California, all adobe buildings, art galleries and houses perched on cliffs above the sea. Be sure to hitch a bus ride to Hearst Castle to visit the opulent Neptune Pool.
Grossglockner High-Alpine Road, Austria
You won’t find a mountain in Austria more impressive than Grossglockner, which reaches 12,460 feet. There’s plenty to explore along the road, from meeting the marmots watched by innkeeper Herbert Haslinger to the panoramic views from the access road and the snow-laden Johannisberg. Be sure to drive to the top of the mountain.
North Yungas Road, Bolivia
They don’t call it “Death Road” for nothing. Not only do cars drive on the left in a country where they drive on the right — allowing them to view the edge of the road — drivers are likely to encounter large groups of cyclists, unpaved sections and rains and fog. Did we mention there’s a 2,000-foot drop?
Guoliang Tunnel, China
Carved into the Taihang Mountains in 1972 by more than a dozen locals, the Guoliang Tunnel is one of the steepest roads in the world. Before it existed, a path in the rocks was the only route connecting Guoliang with Huixian, Xinxiang, Henan Province of China — a treacherous set of steps no one wanted to take. Today the tunnel is wide — and high — enough for spectators to marvel at the views from their cars.
Passage du Gois, France
Linking the island of Noirmoutier with the mainland at Beauvoir-sur-Mer, the nearly three-mile causeway is only accessible during low tide, according to its site. A popular spot for beach combers, the region offers plenty of opportunities for hiking, golfing, sunbathing and more. The historic city of Nantes, with churches and museums, is only an hour away.
Khardung La, India
Built in 1976, this mountain pass in the Ladakh region is home to several expeditions, from motorbiking to mountain biking. From October to May, the road is usually closed due to snow, and it’s known for long delays caused by traffic. The road is well kept, but watch out for snow melt, washouts and falling rocks.
Dalton Highway, Alaska
To call this 414-mile dirt road rough would be an understatement — even professional truck drivers don’t like it. Opened in 1995 to the public, it has only one fuel stop at Coldfoot, almost halfway to Deadhorse, Alaska, and local car rental companies would prefer you didn’t take it at all. Fortunately, you’ll get ample moose and caribou sightings — just look out for bears.
“Road of Bones,” Siberia
Named for the poor soul whose bones were buried under the roadbed, this road, which runs from Yakutsk to Magadan, is the epitome of desolation. Aside from motorcycle riders, you’re unlikely to meet anyone here, and even in decent weather, the road is impassable. Unless you’ve got a Land Rover, it’s best to avoid it.
Tuktoyaktuk Winter Road
Linking the town of Inuvik to the small village of Tuktoyaktuk, which sits on the Arctic Ocean, the Dempster Highway, an actual ice road, makes for an epic adventure. It passes through tundra and all kinds of extreme weather, which gives it an otherworldly feel. But be careful: Unpredictable snowstorms and blizzards can turn that snow globe fantasy into a nightmare.
Ranked in 2016 by Value Penguin as the second deadliest road in the U.S., I-45, which runs between Galveston and Dallas, is known for serious gridlock, especially in Houston. That’s not surprising, given H-town’s reliance on cars and reputation for DUI-related crashes, but it’s best to check the conditions before taking this route.