Living On The Edge: Cycling The Death Road In Bolivia
Living On The Edge: Cycling The Death Road In Bolivia was originally published in July 2020
Being two adrenaline junkies that are bound by our love the mildly terrifying sports that originally brought us together, my friend Tay and I knew that we had to cycle the Death Road in Bolivia on our trip to South America. El Camino de la Muerte as locals refer to it, or simply the Yungas Road is a death-defying road that links the capital of La Paz with the Yungas region of Bolivia. The Death Road earned its name from the countless sheer cliffs the 64 kilometer long road hugs on its way down to the rainforest from 4,650 meters La Cumbre Pass, that on average was resulting in 300 deaths per year up until 2006, when a near and safer road was constructed. Now the Yungus Road sees roughly 25,000 tourists per year on average taking on the adrenaline-fueled adventure it takes to get down it.
Starting your trip in the capital? Check out my La Paz Travel Guide
Facts About The Death Road
Start: El Cumbre Pass
Highest point: 4,650 meters
Lowest point: 1,200 meters
Width: 3.5 meters
Length: 64 kilometers
Road condition: Mostly unpaved
Years the road was active: 1998-2006
Cycling The Death Road
Starting The Death Road Day Trip
You’ll meet your company providing your trip for the Death Road usually in the early morning in La Paz, Bolivia (usually around 7 am). From there, you’ll be loaded up in a van or small bus and taken up to the summit of La Cumbre Pass (La Cumbre Mirador), about 1 hour and 15 minutes outside of La Paz. Once to the beginning of the Death Road, you’ll be fitted for gear, shown how to use your bicycle, and given a safety briefing.
The First Section
The first section of the Death Road is quite easy as it’s paved, so this gives you a good place to test out the bike and your gear. Don’t be surprised if there’s iced over puddles along this stretch or for it to be snowing! Eventually, the pavement will give way to dirt road where the real adventure begins.
Now On To The Unpaved Start
At this point, you’ll have another safety briefing- this time explaining some of the hazards found on the remainder of the unpaved Death Road. You’ll be dodging potholes, “baby heads” (round rocks that can seriously mess up your day), and general advice on how not to go hurtling off the side of a cliff to your death.
Once back on your bikes you’ll be winding down the real Death Road with sweeping views down into insane valleys with winding twists and turns. You’ll ride for about an hour before reaching the San Juan Waterfall.
From The Waterfall To The Jungle
After taking a nice break here at the San Juan Waterfall, you’ll continue down into the rainforest. You’ll probably already have lost a couple of layers by this point as things start to warm up by this point in the ride. In roughly two hours you’ll be in the rainforest.
Looking for inspiration? Check out some photos that will make you wanna book a ticket to Bolivia
The Last Section
The last chunk of the cycling trip down the Death Road is all in the rainforest. At this point in the ride, we were in tank tops and sweating everywhere. The last section will take about an hour with the last bit being at an incline.
Once you reach the end in Coroico, you’ll have a giant buffet lunch.
Is Cycling The Death Road For You?
This is an important question you’ll want to ask yourself, it’s not for everyone, and that’s okay. You need to be comfortable riding a mountain bike downhill on an unpaved road with hazards and cliffs. Not to worry, if you decide not to take on the Death Road. There are plenty more great things to do and see in Bolivia, grab a copy of Bradt’s Bolivia handbook to start planning!
Where to next? See why you should visit Salar de Uyuni on your Bolivia trip
Death Road Cycling Tours
The vast majority of people who take on the trip cycling the Death Road will do so by booking a day trip through a local agency. First and foremost- Book with a reputable company! As this is can be a potentially deadly activity you don’t wanna mess around with janky gear or a team who doesn’t know what they’re doing. We booked our trip directly with Barracuda Biking (who we 100% recommend), but Gravity Bolivia also comes highly recommended.
Have any questions about cycling the Death Road?
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