For many people, driving is a therapeutic experience, with the open road offering time to drink in one’s surroundings and reflect on life.
These people might want to stay away from the following places, known for their fiendish difficulty and high risk of danger, and perhaps even death.
1. Yungas Road, Bolivia
This route is a popular tourist destination, connecting Bolivia’s northern Yungas region with the capital La Paz. At its highest point intrepid motorists will find themselves over 4,500 metres (15,000 feet) above sea level, with steep drops, narrow lanes and precious few guard rails. Crucifixes line the route as memorials to the dead and a warning to the living. The road was famously featured on a special episode of Top Gear.
2. Canning Stock Route, Australia
This road traverses 1,850km (1,150 miles) of desolate Australian outback. It’s not the road itself that’s out to get you, but the oppressive heat and the daunting distance. Drivers are advised to have a knowledge of how to perform car repairs and are advised to travel in a four-wheel drive vehicle with plenty of space for food, water and spare parts. The trek can take up to three weeks to complete and there are only two small settlements along the entire length of it.
3. Zoji La, India
This Himalayan mountain pass is at a formidable 3,528m (11,575 ft) elevation. It was the site of military operations during the Indo-Pakistan War of 1947 that saw the then highest altitude at which tanks had operated in combat in the world. In winter, heavy snow and wind makes the pass completely unusable and it is closed. Even when open, there are precipitous drops and no protection for drivers.
4. Trans-Sahara Highway
Recent World Health Organisation (WHO) data showed Africa as the most dangerous continent for road travel, so if you’re not too confident behind the wheel, you can do worse than to steer clear of this 4,500km (2,800 miles) route through the barren Sahara Desert. Similarly to the Canning Stock Route, you need to make sure you’re adequately stocked up on supplies and resistant to high temperature and sandstorms. However, on this road there is a likelihood of kidnapping by terrorists on the border with Niger and away from population centres, so check with the Foreign Office before travelling.
5. Sichuan-Tibet Highway
Known administratively by its less glamourous title of China National Highway 318, this road is the Middle Kingdom’s longest national highway, spanning 5,476km (3,403 miles) from Shanghai to Lhasa. Most of that is perfectly serviceable motorway, but it’s once you get past Chengdu that both the difficulty and the scenery ramps up significantly. This 2,412km (1,498 miles) stretch involves more than 12 mountains if you want to get to the end, but the views are said to be immense.
6. Stelvio Pass, Italy
This Alpine route connects Italy with Austria, is well-maintained, has ample guard rails and beautiful mountain scenery. What ups the ante are the 48 hairpin turns you have to make to get to the end of it. What’s more, the road is deceptively narrow, so motorists must keep their eyes open for who they’re sharing the road with.
7. Dalton Highway, Alaska
This Alaskan road cuts through wild forest stands at an ominous 666km long (414 miles). It was originally built as a supply route to support oil pipelines. There are just three towns on the way, whose combined population barely reaches triple figures. Of course, travelling in the Alaskan winter is risky, and that’s without contending with the big rigs that use the route, and the large pot holes. Even in summer the trucks kick up dust clouds – if you’re going to travel this route, travel in a vehicle that means business.