Plunging from high-altitude La Paz to the lush forest of the Yungas region, the North Yungas Road—often called Death Road—is a dramatic downhill route through constantly changing scenery. Popular as a bike tour, the road has an elevation loss of more than 11,800 feet (3,600 meters) between La Cumbre Pass and the lowland town of Coroico.
Bike tours of Death Road start at La Cumbre Pass, saving riders the long uphill climb from La Paz into the surrounding mountains. From there, you’ll pass streaming waterfalls, big views, and nearly vertical slopes as you follow the road through a series of hairpin curves. The 40-mile (64-kilometer) ride is almost entirely downhill, and most tours conclude with a stop to eat, relax, and shower at a hotel in the Yungas before the return trip by vehicle to La Paz.
Things to Know Before You Go
- You don’t need to be an expert cyclist to ride Death Road, but it’s important to feel confident on a bike.
- Temperatures can vary dramatically from the beginning to the end of the ride, so bring layered clothing that you can shed while descending.
- While the first part of the road is paved, it turns to dirt as you approach the Yungas, so many tour operators offer bicycles with front suspension that can absorb shocks.
How to Get There
Flanked by snowy mountains, the starting point of La Cumbre Pass is about one hour from La Paz by car. Tours of Death Road provide return transport to La Paz, but if you’re hoping to spend time in the warm, low-altitude climate of the Yungas, it may be possible to request drop-off at hotels in Coroico instead.
When to Get There
Bolivia’s winter, which is also the dry season, runs from May through October; a trip to La Paz during these months often means clear, cold weather. November through March brings rain and warmer temperatures, and roads can be muddy, particularly in December, January, and February. Tours of Death Road are held year-round.
Is Death Road Dangerous?
Once notorious for tragic traffic accidents, Death Road became considerably safer when a paved highway detour opened in 2007, diverting most trucks and buses from the old road. That said, it’s a steep road with no guard rails, and serious bicycle accidents happen almost every year. For a safe, fun experience, double-check your equipment before departure and ride with caution.