Biking the Death Road in Bolivia is the ultimate thrill-seeker’s destination. Many people consider it the “World’s Most Dangerous Road.” I can proudly say that I survived it, despite being naive about riding a mountain bike. And, yes, I fell on my bike – a tough fall. Read more of that later in this post.
Why it’s called the “Death Road”?
When it comes to adrenaline-pumping activities, a few things can compare to hurtling down a mountainside on a bicycle. And when it comes to mountain biking, few places can compare to Death Road in Bolivia.
Death Road, also known as “Camino de la Muerte,” is a 64-kilometer stretch of road that connects the city of La Paz with the town of Coroico. The road got its nickname from the fact that, prior to 2006, it was responsible for an average of 300 deaths per year. In recent years, however, a new, safer highway has been built parallel to Death Road, and as a result, the number of accidents has decreased dramatically. Then, the Death Road was relegated to history – until mountain bikers discovered it. Thus, when you’re in Bolivia, every hostel, hotel, and other accommodation is pimping the Bike Tour to Death Road.
Despite the decrease in accidents, Camino de la Muerte is still considered one of the world’s most dangerous roads. The reason for this is simple: the road is incredibly narrow, with barely enough room for two vehicles to pass each other in some sections. Add to that the fact that much of the road is unpaved and lacks guardrails, and you can see why it’s not for the faint of heart!
Camino de la Muerte Bike Ride Route
From Wild Rover Hostel in La Paz, we left at 7 in the morning. Then, we travel for two hours along the mountainside road with the spectacular landscape of the Amazon. We arrived at a National Park, where we had breakfast and a bathroom break. After filling our tummy, the guides distributed our bike gears and attires. The English-speaking guide then briefed us on what to do with our bikes and brakes. He also told us other tips we all needed to ride safely. You must pay attention to what he says – if you want to survive!
First Leg of the Bike Ride – The One Where I had an Accident
The National Park is about 4,700 meters above sea level. From here, we started our descent on an asphalted highway. Remember, we shared this two-way highway with trucks, motorcycles, cars, and buses.
I was nervous because it was my first time using a mountain bike. I was the third rider in the queue as we went downhill, and I kept my distance from the person in front of me. This route was a 22-km ride down, and I always clutched the break softly. Then, the accident happened! I was trying to avoid a pothole, but it was too late for me to notice. Panicking, I held on to the two brakes simultaneously, and the last thing I heard was a loud crash. For 10 seconds, I felt like my lungs were exploding and gasping for breath, and my brain quickly told me to scream – which I did. The van that followed behind us, with the tour guides, promptly came to my rescue. I lay on the ground for 8 minutes until I felt good enough to stand and walk. Nothing major bad thing happened. No bones broken, I assumed.
They brought me back to the van, and we went downhill for 4 minutes. There, I saw the other riders waiting for me. I was just 3 kilometers shy of the end of the first leg! Everyone got on the van again, and they brought us down to where the dirt road begins, the actual Death Road!
Second Leg of the Bike Ride – The Dirt Road
With my accident, everyone thought I wouldn’t ride the bike again. Of course, I did! I was already feeling good, but I told them that I’d be the last person in the queue this time. My biking skills are basic, and I can’t go down the dirt road as fast as they are!
The dirt road is 32 kilometers. As we descended, we passed through streams and waterfalls. The thick Amazon forest greeted us with chirping faunas and unique floras. The landscape was amazing, and the low clouds played hide and seek.
During this whole leg, we stopped three times to rest and nibble on snacks. I was glad my group was so patient to wait for me – even when we had group photos taken. The van was always behind me, the last person to always arrive at rest stops.
After 5 hours, we arrived at our final stop, a small village 1,200 meters above sea level. We drank our beers while our guides washed our attires and cleaned up our bikes in a stream nearby.
Lunch, Rest, and Back to La Paz
From the village of Corioco, they whisked us off to Dos Rios Hotel for a lunch buffet and relaxation in a hammock or pool. We rested for two hours, and then we left for La Paz. This time, we snaked uphill through the new and concrete road. Everyone was quiet and asleep in the van. We arrived at our hostel/hotel before 6 in the evening.
If you are up for the challenge
Despite its dangers, Death Road remains a popular destination for thrill-seekers from all over the world. If you’re considering making the journey yourself, there are a few things you should keep in mind.
First, it’s essential to go with a reputable tour company with experience leading groups on Death Road. This will minimize your risk of having an accident.
Secondly, give yourself plenty of time to complete the journey. It may only be 64 kilometers (we only biked 54kms) long, but due to the road conditions, it can take up to 5-6 hours to complete. The van following you will carry a first aid kit, food, and drink. Also, one tour guide is in charge of photography – using a mobile phone. The quality might not be good but it’s still a memory you can keep, evidence that you did it!
But despite all of these challenges, biking down Bolivia’s Death Road is an incredibly exhilarating experience. There’s nothing quite like hurtling through the jungle at high speeds with nothing but fresh air and stunning scenery all around you. Trust me; it’s an experience that you’ll never forget!
Where to Stay in La Paz
I stayed in two places in La Paz, Bolivia. My first 3 days were spent at Wild Rover La Paz. It’s a hostel with an Irish resto bar and travel agent where you can book tours in La Paz and Salar de Uyuni. It’s also within walking distance to all the historical places you want to visit in La Paz.
When I went back from my 3-day trip to Salar de Uyuni (aka Salt Flats), I stayed in a very nice boutique hotel – Las Brisas. It’s a few steps to the Witch Market and other historical attractions. The hotel is surrounded by local restaurants and shops.