Facing the Infamous Death Road: La Paz
Probably the best thing I have done so far in my travels across South America. The infamous Death Road, or as the locals call it “Camino de la Muerte”, was an unforgettable adrenaline rush from start to finish, showcasing some of the most spectacular scenery in all of Bolivia. It is something that I would highly recommend to everyone who is visiting La Paz.
I had first heard about Death Road, La Paz from a fellow backpacker who was staying in the same hostel as myself. He was proudly wearing a t-shirt that boasted the words “Death Road Survivor” on it. He informed me of his Death Road experience, explaining every detail of the tour in an excited manner.
After speaking with him I knew it was something that I just had to do while I was in La Paz. To save myself the hassle of going to the operator I booked my tour with FindLocalTrips.com on my mobile while sipping a Bolivian beer – Pacena (Delicious…who knew?) at the bar in my hostel. As the Aussies say tooooo easy!
We were picked up from our hostel bright and early at half seven in the morning, buzzing with excitement for the adventure that lay ahead on “The World’s Most Dangerous Road”.
We drove in a van with our bikes on top to the starting point of La Cumbre at 4,700 m. We had a quick bite to eat and a hot drink to warm ourselves up as it was freezing at the top!
I couldn’t wait to put on my biking gear to provide some protection against the bitter cold. We were given a quick safety talk before we set off to ensure that everyone made it down safely to the end and before we knew it we were on our way, cycling down the world’s most dangerous road!
The first part of the tour is easy enough, it is a smooth paved road that goes on for about 22Km. The scenery surrounding the road was spectacular!! The further we got down the road, the warmer it got. Thank GOD!!!
Ankle socks were a bad choice, take note!! We stopped for a quick snack at the small town of Unduavi after about an hour and a half of cycling and we had the opportunity to take off our biking gear (well the colourful ‘Boiler Suit’ – not the elbow pads, helmet and gloves – may need them!!!), which was great as we were all sweating at this stage.
We got back into the van and we were driven to the start of “the real” Death Road. The road had changed from smooth paving to gravel and rocks, I could see why it was called the world’s most dangerous road now.
The start of our journey consisted of us cycling on an incredible stretch of road surrounded by the clouds, every now and then there would be a break in the clouds and we would see the gigantic drop below as well as some of the most magnificent jungle type scenery you can imagine.
I couldn’t admire the view for too long though as cycling on this road requires full attention!
This adrenaline fuelled road continued on for the remainder of the tour filled with narrow stretches, sharp corners, waterfalls and of course excitement.
I had my hands hovering over the brakes for the entire tour so as to avoid going too fast and losing control of my bike. Although the competitive juices do entice you to draw on your inner Red Bull stunt driver persona, you didn’t even realise you had been hiding for all those years!!!
Alas no, a wise man once told me ‘discretion is the better part of valour’ and I kept the speed relatively in check…There was a van following behind us for the whole trip in case anybody got a puncture in their bike, but luckily nobody in our group had any problems with their bikes.
Another great thing that I particularly enjoyed was that Altitude Adventures had someone taking photos of us at different points along the road so we were able to get some great photos at some truly amazing places.
Some of the helmets have a mount attached to the top of them so I was able to have my GoPro recording my journey and the footage that I got was incredible! If you own a GoPro I would 100% recommend bringing it with you.
Towards the end of the tour we were presented with two different routes that we could take to the finishing point. One route was fairly straightforward while the other option we were told was more dangerous and challenging.
Our group unanimously decided to all head down the more dangerous track, we all wanted to get the true Death Road experience! This was indeed the most challenging part of the whole tour, it was a downhill track full of sharp twists and turns and the occasional car passing by.
You need to have your hands gripped firmly on the handlebars for this part as it is a bumpy road that requires the highest attention and focus. It was an unforgettable experience and I promise you will get the biggest adrenaline rush in your life if you decide to brave “El Camino de la Muerte”, The World’s Most Dangerous Road!
The whole journey in total took around 5 hours to complete and we all arrived safely at the end. We were driven to a resort called Hotel Villa Verde where we were able to get some food, have a swim in the pool and most importantly have a nice hot shower, which is well needed after Death Road!
After getting a shower and changing into some fresh clothes we got back into our van to get dropped back to our hostel in La Paz.
My Top Tips
- Wear shorts and a jumper, it’s cold at the start of the tour but it gets very warm after about an hour on the bike so be prepared
- Bring a spare change of clothes for when you get to Hotel Villa Verde
- Bring a pair of sunglasses
- Bring sun-cream as the sun can be quite strong
- Have some insect repellent spray with you to avoid getting any bites
Aidan Rooney, an Irish backpacker travelling around South America for the year. Follow him on Instagram (@aidanrooney09).