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10 Most Spectacular and Dangerous Roads in the World

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Stelvio Pass Road, Italy

The country of exciting, curve-hugging cars also boasts the world’s greatest curve-hugging roads.  In Italy’s north, where the Alps invite drivers to accelerate through head-spinning hairpins, the famous Stelvio Pass Road is the global gold standard for testing automotive turn handling and human stomach G-force handling.  Whether you’re in a Ferrari, Maseratti, Lamborghini or more affordable Fiat, take your next Italian car journey down the Stelvio Pass to get the most out of your ride.

Skippers Road, New Zealand

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Defy death for yourself on the same New Zealand road where Arwen defied the Nazgul and saved Frodo’s life.  Skipper’s Road near Queenstown on the South Island of New Zealand is a narrow track of soft dirt road carved from a sheer cliff face 100 meters above the rushing Shotover River.  Over 26 kilometers long with few points to pass or turn around, it takes practice and training just to manage the narrow track all the way to its end.  But that effort is well worth it, with the endpoint rewarding drivers with a gold-filled beach to pan for gold in the historic “richest river in the world,” the same beach where Arwen barely saved Frodo–and Middle Earth–so many eons ago.

Guoliang Tunnel Road, China

When drivers pushed the new Cadillac ATS luxury car to its limits during the famous “Cadillac ATS v. The World” tv ad in 2012, one road ad stood out above the rest for sending the commercial’s stunt drivers through the biggest blind curves and mountain cliffs of all: the unbelievable Guoliang Tunnel inside the Taihang Mountains of Henan, China.

“Death road” Yungas Road, Bolivia

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Whether by bike, car or (most terrifyingly) bus, the deep drops beside the one-lane, 50-mile “Death Road” in the Yungas mountains near La Paz, Bolivia must be seen to be believed.  The road’s history has been bloody and tragic since the beginning: built by hand by Paraguayan prisoners of war during the bloody Cacho War of the 1930’s, it was left for much of the 20th Century unaltered as a dangerous, crumbling dirt path which thousands used for traveling daily into the capital.  Some improvements in the 1990’s reduced deaths a bit, but adventure seekers still find an intensely terrifying experience for much of the way down from its top in the snowcaps to its distant bottom in the jungle.

Atlantic Ocean Road, Norway

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Workers were hit by 12 hurricanes during the six years that it took to build the short Atlantic Ocean Road through the chain of islands along Norway’s storm-ravaged North Atlantic coast.  This stretch of road passes through the wildest coastline in Scandinavia and is constantly battered by huge, open ocean waves.  With those dangers, it’s no surprise that the ocean waves slamming across the road’s safety barriers make the road one of Norway’s top thrill-seeker destinations.

James Dalton Highway

Ice Road Truckers made Alaska’s Dalton Highway famous, but even with the worldwide popularity, one word still captures this dirt track through northern Alaska more than any other: isolation.  240 miles separate towns and there are only three, tiny settlements in total along its entire 400-mile journey.  The road is unpaved and studded with potholes, twisted by winding turns and blasted with fierce high mountain winds.  In summer, massive grizzly bears and herds of caribou populate the roadside.  But winter is when the real challenge occurs: amid 24-hour total darkness and raging Arctic snowstorms, drivers make their way through the Brooks Range mountain pass in a true test of survival for those willing to attempt it.

Karakoram Highway, Pakistan

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The Karakoram Highway in Pakistan can take your breath away–literally.  This highest highway in the world is a journey of extremes: breathtaking beauty amid breath-robbing heat and altitude.  During the summer when the road is open (intense snowstorms and monsoons make the road impenetrable the rest of the year), cyclists pass through this highest navigable valley in the world amid desert heat and thin air which steal every bit of energy from their bodies.  But with massive glaciers and famous peaks staring down from around turn, the time spent on the Karakoram quickly becomes worth the effort.

Million Dollar Highway

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Traveling from blazing summer heat in the valleys to chilly mountain winds and avalanches at the peak defines the extremes of driving Colorado’s Million Dollar Highway.  Its plunging cliffs and narrow lanes (without any guardrails) stress drivers’ nerves to the limit as large buses and RV’s race by in the other lane.  But as with all narrow mountain highways, the views turn out to be well worth overcoming your few; however, it is best to the leave most of the sightseeing to passenger and let the driver focus on the traffic.

Furka Pass

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Feel like Sean Connery in Goldfinger and relive James Bond’s famous car chase through the Swiss Alps against Tilly Masterson behind the wheel of your own Aston Martin, followed by a refreshing drink at the scenic Swiss chalet which forms the backdrop of that famous scene.  If you left you sportscar at home, you can also ride a tour bus or train up to the top of Furka Pass and hike through its beautiful glacier field.

Pan-American Highway, Alaska to Argentina

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For the ultimate road adventure (and an off-road journey through the jungles of Panama), travel overland from the barren Arctic tundra of Alaska all the way to the Antarctic penguins of Tierra del Fuego.  The beautiful section beside the Peruvian and Chilean Andes was made famous by Che Guevara’s Motorcycle Diaries.  At the other end of the road, the Arctic Dalton Highway is famous for testing the limits of the world’s toughest drivers, as shown on Ice Road Truckers.  But nowhere on the Pan-American Highway is more memorable than the one section with no road at all: the Darien Gap, which pure jungle lies between North America and South America.

Matt Hofacker

Author Matt Hofacker

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