The Bucket List: The World's 8 Best White-Knuckle Roads

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The Bucket List: The World's 8 Best White-Knuckle Roads

Summer is the right season to plan a road trip. It’s a time when you can roll down the windows and shift into that next travel gear. That is, unless your journey takes you down one of these eight perilous roads around the world. Are they worth the white knuckles and imminent risk? That’s for you to decide.

1. Passage du Gois
France

Timing is key if you’re planning to travel to France’s Noirmoutier via the Passage du Gois (pictured above). Twice a day the road floods with the tides leaving unprepared drivers stranded along the more than two miles of road off the Atlantic Coast. Check the tide schedule and leave yourself plenty of time. Speeding down this slippery road to beat rising waters is not advised.

2. Karakoram Highway
Pakistan

At an altitude of more than 15,000 feet, the Karakoram Highway is the highest paved international road in the world. Driving the KKH (as it’s known) requires high-altitude turns and poses the risk of falling rock, among other dangers. The highway runs from Pakistan to China and if you travel the entire extent of it, you’ll get to cross through the world’s highest international border crossing at the Khunjerab Pass.

3. Stelvio Pass
Italy

stelvio_pass.jpg
Photo via Flickr / by dodge challenger1

The thrill and threat posed by driving Italy’s Stelvio Pass is obvious just from looking at it. With nearly 50 hairpin turns through the Alps at more than 2,700 feet above sea level, it’s no easy ride. Despite its challenges, the alpine twists and turns prompted British television series Top Gear to deem it the greatest driving road in the world.

4. Guoliang Tunnel
China

Guoliang Tunnel Road_Fang_Chen.jpg
Photo via Flickr / by FANG Chen

Driving Guoliang Tunnel takes you literally through a portion of the Taihang Mountains in China. The road is carved right into the side of a cliff, where its width is often little more then 13 feet. One misguided jerk of the wheel and you might, at best, lose a side mirror. Luckily, the tunnel portion of the drive lasts for less than a mile.

5. Dalton Highway
Alaska

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Photo via Wikimedia Commons / by Micah Bochart

At first glance and in photos, Alaska’s Dalton Highway (officially the James W. Dalton Highway) looks so serene it’s downright inviting. Don’t let this 414-mile stretch of road fool you, it poses its fair share of risks. Just watch seasons three through five of History Channel’s Ice Road Truckers, which was filmed along Dalton Highway. Stretching from Fairbanks to nearly the Arctic Circle and with less than a handful of towns along the way, isolation and ice are your two biggest threats.

6. Yungas Road
Bolivia

Yungas Road _ALHN.jpg
Photo via Flickr / by AHLN

With no guardrails and a road that hugs the edge of cliffs, which, at certain points, give way to 2,000-foot drops, it’s no wonder Yungas Road has earned the nickname Death Road. Just a decade ago, it was deemed the most dangerous road in the world by Inter-American Development Bank, and since has been featured on a number of televisions shows that cater to extreme driving. Thrill seekers can drive the length of the road from La Paz to Yungas, Bolivia’s Amazon rain forest region. While the northern portion of the trip is considered the most dangerous, it will require a firm grip and laser focus the entire 40 or so miles.

7. Skippers Canyon Road
New Zealand

Skippers Canyon Road_Andrea Lai.jpg
Photo via Flickr / by Andrea Lai

A sign greeting you at the start of Skippers Canyon Road warns, among other things, that some car insurance will be voided once proceeding. If you dare to carry on, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of New Zealand’s Skippers Canyon, but we don’t recommend looking too far beyond the road unless you’re a passenger. The gravel road was carved by miners well over a century ago, and today remains extremely narrow as it takes you down more than 16 miles of steep cliffs one twist and turn at a time.

8. Tianmen Mountain Road
China

Tian_Menshan_Mountain_Huangdan2060.jpg
Photo via Wikimedia Commons / by Huangdan2060

With nearly 100 turns packed into less than seven miles, China’s Tianmen Mountain Road will leave you white-knuckled and weak in the knees as you ascend (or descend) more than 4,000 feet to and from Tianmen Mountain National Park. If you don’t have the stomach for it, there’s a cable car that will deliver you to the top and requires less time and nerves.

Paste Travel’s Bucket List columnist Lauren Kilberg is a Chicago-based freelance writer. Her travels have found her camping near the Pakistani border of India and conquering volcanoes in the Philippines.

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