Bike Riding Death Road in Bolivia (and living to tell the tale)

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la pa death road

There are few things I have done in my travels that have really shaken me up… Death Road was one of them.

Now that I think of it, it may be the only thing I have done in my travels that has almost brought me to tears. Give me bungy jumping off the highest bungy in the world or skydiving out of planes any old day. But bike riding down a road where hundreds of people die per year on a mountain bike at a high speed with no cliff railings? No thank you. This was truly a once in a lifetime type of deal.

 Bike Riding Death Road in Bolivia

So it all started at 7:30am in an English pub where I met my guide Dustin from Gravity Assisted Mountan Biking – renowned for being the safest company doing the ride on a daily basis. They’re been doing it the longest and have mostly English guides, so I figured I couldn’t go wrong, right!? Sure you will pay a little more… but can you really put a price on your life? I swiftly decided no, no you can’t… and coughed up the $120 for a day unlike any other.

From the pub, we drove for an hour in the bus – myself, a Scottish girl, a Canadian, numerous couples from Australia, England, and Italy. Now outside of La Paz, we were handed our gear for the day – our bikes (fit to size and brakes on the side of our home country), pants, jacket, gloves, helmet, scarf and powerade. To be quite honest I hate powerade – but given we were in for a 4-5 hour journey on a bike, I figured I could do with the extra hit of energy.

After a not-so-brief safety rundown (which is a good thing, might I add!!!), we set off on the first leg of the trip.

First we rode down a road purposefully built for traffic, speeding down the hill as fast as the slope and wind would take us. We were instructed to leave a bus-length between ourselves and the rider in front of us, given this is how so many accidents occur. Here’s a look at our view on the way down…

la paz bolivia

After warming up on this road, it was time to take to the gravel road that is known to most as The World’s Deadliest Road. Stupidly enough, I hadn’t taken a moment to consider the name – thinking it was more or less a nickname the road had received for being so unsafe. As it would turn out, 300 people die a year on the road – hence the name. The worst part was that one of my fellow riders informed me of the statistics JUST BEFORE I hopped on my bike. Talk about timing…

Screen Shot 2014-09-22 at 8.32.18 am

After convincing myself to go for it (I was seriously considering bailing), I embarked on the 4-5 hour ride down hill with my fellow riders. It was quite a rush of emotions – particularly fear, given riders must ride on the CLIFF SIDE of the road… how that is considered okay I truly have no idea. 

But the ride is fine if you can a) ride a bike and b) focus on the task at hand. One of the riders in front of me had quite a tumble off her bike after hitting a rock in the gravel and losing her balance (which occurs frequently on the ride), but luckily for her she was nowhere near the cliffside when this happened.

To be quite fair, the only stories you hear of people tragically falling off the cliff are those who are either not confident on a bike, trying to take a photo, or racing down hill. None of which I would recommend for obvious reasons!

If you dare, this is undeniably the most memorable bike ride you will have in your life… and a must for any thrill seeker visiting La Paz, Bolivia.

death road la paz


What are your thoughts? Would you, wouldn’t you!? Let me know in the comments below what YOU think of my decision to bike ride death road.

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    November 15, 2015 at 2:52 pm

    Hey Brooke! I grew up in Bolivia. I just found your blog today and LOVE it! I hiked the Inca Trail from the top of La Paz, down to the Yungas Jungle…the only way out was on a bus on the death road. It was terrifying!!!

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    Hannah Wasielewski
    June 18, 2015 at 9:45 pm

    Looks like you did this trip just shortly after I did. I completely agree with you, a ONCE in a life time thing, meaning I will never do it again. I was miserable the entire time and finished dead last in my group. At least everyone in my group was extremely chill, but if I return to Bolivia, I’ll be sitting this activity out.

    May 20, 2015 at 6:51 am

    The 300 deaths per year figure is from when this used to be the only highway between La Paz and Coroico, which is a popular resort town for weekend holiday makers from La Paz. Vehicles used to fall off the edge every week or so which led to it’s name. The government build a new better road in 2006 which is very safe and much quicker so hardly anyone except cycling tourists use the old ‘Death Road’.

    Death or serious injury are possible on this tour but it’s not quite as dangerous as it sounds. 10’s of thousands of tourists do the tour each year and only a dozen or so have died in the 20 years they have been running.

    Shawna Heinz
    April 11, 2015 at 10:38 am

    Hey Brooke! I am about to do the death road ride in Bolivia in May with Gravity Assisted and am so nervous!! I have been on a bike plenty of times before but never mountain biking! AAHHH any advice??

    March 4, 2015 at 11:37 am

    Soy argentino, hice la ruta de la muerte en febrero 2013, la hice en camioneta, una toyota, viajé desde Buenos Aires exclusivamente para hacer la travesía, un flash, pánico y vértigo como jamás sentí en mi vida, para sentir adrenalina es aconsejable hacerla en vehículo, no en bike, sólo así sentís palpitar tu corazón por el miedo.

    March 2, 2015 at 2:57 am

    I think I could do this, my younger sister did it a year ago! 🙂 But the thought of my bf doing this scares me to death! He can be so clumsy at times, even though he´s not a bad cyclist overall. Tripping over his own long legs sometimes!

    Ellie Quinn
    February 13, 2015 at 9:50 am

    I read your post after you did this trip and it was on my ‘to-do’ list in Bolivia and today I’ve just done it!
    I very nearly bailed too and considered just staying in the van haha but so glad I did it!

    • Brooke Saward
      February 13, 2015 at 11:00 am

      OMG you’re awesome for doing it!!!! how scary is it I think it was the worst/best thing I’ve ever done for my nerves haha! CONGRATS!!

    October 20, 2014 at 10:22 pm

    I did this when I was in Bolivia in 2012, was very scared before I started, but while doing it you feel you are indeed in control if you can a) ride a bike and b) focus. And the scenery… it is so insanely beautiful! Go do it if you can!

    Maria Andrea
    October 9, 2014 at 5:22 am

    It’s easy to say “I would totally try that” from the safety of the couch I’m on right now. Ultimately I think I would, but I would come out shaking, and like you, probably be holding back tears. So amazing you did this Brooke 🙂

    October 6, 2014 at 3:24 am

    I definitely want to try this!

    Lizzy at Nomad Notebook

  • awanderlustblog@OUTLOOK.COM'
    October 5, 2014 at 7:15 am

    you’re brave, that looks super scary!! hope you enjoyed your time in london

    Dustin P
    October 3, 2014 at 3:32 am

    Thanks again for going down the road with us, we hope you enjoyed yourself and we´re thankful for your gracious blog about us.
    Thanks again,

    Fran Gauner
    October 3, 2014 at 12:49 am

    I’ve been to LaPaz and opted NOT to do the road, lol. The 300 deaths number is vastly exaggerated and is done by the local companies to make it sound more dangerous. My guide told me that the number is maybe 15 or 20 a year, if that. In any case I give you so much credit for doing what I was terrified to do. Love your blog. Fran

    Hannah Louey
    October 2, 2014 at 11:21 pm

    Oooh! I would love to do this, but I’m not THE most confident bike rider. As in, I ride around Melbourne but I’m terrified about traffic…Hmmm, oh well, maybe in a few years time.

    Christine King
    October 2, 2014 at 2:17 pm

    Crazy, Crazy, Crazy!!

    October 2, 2014 at 2:43 am

    Wow! A few members of my family lived in Bolivia for a year and they mentioned this road. I was wondering if you were going to do it! Congrats, you made it!


    Renate @ Renate's Travels
    October 2, 2014 at 1:07 am

    I did this last year, and I was very nervous before jumping on the bike. But once on it, I felt a lot better!

    I could go at my own pace, and there was no hurry. It was a lot less dangerous than I had pictured. Still very creepy, of course! But now that the road is closed for all regular traffic, it’s a lot safer than what it used to be. Thank god!

    October 1, 2014 at 10:27 pm

    The views look absolutely stunning! Although I’m comfortable on a bike, I’m way to clumsy to attempt something like that. But if I could figure out a way to be less clumsy (is that possible?!), I would definitely try it.

    Jesse Owen
    October 1, 2014 at 10:24 pm

    Those views look stunning and tempting as it would be I can’t ride a bike so I would almost certainly become one of the 300… Eek!

    October 1, 2014 at 8:46 pm

    Amazing! I love South America and this is definitely on my ‘to do’ list on a future visit!

    October 1, 2014 at 7:49 pm

    I wouldn’t do it.. but then again I am a pussy. I think you were very brave to do it and you’ve seen so much gorgeous things!

    October 1, 2014 at 7:18 pm

    Don´t be so dramatic 😉
    It used to be a hundred people per year when the road was still used for traffic. Now that it is pretty much used for tourists only, there are a few deaths per year due to people not paying attention but not a hundred! This number applies to people who are getting injured on the road because they were NOT going cliffside and ended up crashing into the rocks on the other side. (which could also happen anywhere else in the world)
    It is a very dangerous ride indeed, but a great adrenaline rush as well. As long as you´re paying attention to what the guides are saying, you should´t worry to much and just enjoy it! =)

    October 1, 2014 at 7:14 pm

    Oh goodness, I would definitely NOT like to do this!

    Best holiday destinations
    October 1, 2014 at 6:24 pm

    Such a fantastic place and amazing experience. thanks for posting nice views.

    October 1, 2014 at 3:38 pm

    You’re brave! My ex and I weren’t so adventurous when we went. A tourist had recently died because she pumped the wrong brakes on her bike and went headfirst over the cliff, so we chickened out. We still did the road (albeit the newer, but still deadly one) in a public van to get to Coroico. It was so scary but we got to the zipline and survived. Great post!

    October 1, 2014 at 3:24 pm

    I remember you mentioning this in the meetup… glad you survived though! I do not think I would have the balls to do it myself :S

    Michelle T
    October 1, 2014 at 2:45 pm

    I think it is exciting and marvelous! I don’t even know how to ride a bike! I am very sick and have been for a long time. I missed out on a lot of physical activities in my early adulthood, most everything, I guess. If I could be well, I would do everything daring and exciting that people wish they would have done but didn’t do. Skydiving, scuba diving, bungee jumping, cave diving. Life is too short, go for it. Do it all! By reading this blog I can be where you’ve been if only in my mind. I’m sure the most awesome views are seen from the places most people rarely go.

    October 1, 2014 at 2:34 pm

    Wow! That’s so brave. So you have ridden a bike before and knew what you were doing?!!! Well done.

    October 1, 2014 at 1:52 pm

    I definitely would, it’s on my to-do list!!

    20 year old travel blogger

    October 1, 2014 at 1:48 pm

    Well done! This is defnitely not something I would for a trip to Bolivia but I can’t really ride a bike anyhow.

    Hannah Tookey
    October 1, 2014 at 10:02 am

    Super brave! But how could you not?!

    Runway Ribbons
    October 1, 2014 at 8:57 am

    I was literally holding my breath after every sentence on this post! I’ve heard so much about this road & it scares me so much. Maybe if I was being driven in the car then I would, but I seriously don’t think there is any amount of anything that would make me go down the road on a bike. Brooke, you are EXTREMELY brave! xx

    Theresa Christine
    October 1, 2014 at 8:18 am

    Oh wow! That sounds amazing, I definitely would do it if I were visiting. Like you said, lots of the deaths are probably from careless riders…and those views look so so worth it!!