The Death Road, Bolivia

According to the Inter-American Development Bank, the Death Road in Bolivia is statistically the most dangerous road in the world. It has of course been turned into a tourist attraction, with twelve separate ‘adventure sports’ companies in La Paz offering Death Road mountain biking trips.

The Death Road, Bolivia

I decided to attempt it myself whilst in La Paz. The day began with a guest house pick-up at about 8am, and we drove from La Paz up to the starting point – ‘La Cumbre’ – at about 4,700 metres altitude. We’d imagined a nice sunny day, but for the last 30 minutes of the journey, we drove through sleet and snow, and we feel silent.

The company I’d chosen – El Solario – had promised to supply a waterproof raincoat, which turned out to be little more than a porous rag, and the state of the Trek mountain bikes left rather a lot to be desired – with chains falling off and brakes not working before we even began. These kind of ‘mechanical issues’ don’t inspire confidence when you’re about to descend 3,500 metres (in altitude) down the Death Road!

The first 20KM were spent freezing and wet, hurtling down rainy sealed roads with very low visibility as we passed through the cloud line. Soon we headed off-road onto the real ‘Death Road’ which is unsealed, and has no crash barriers at all along its nearly 40km length. We would intermittently stop whilst our guide described who had died (and how) in particular spots along the way. The worst accident involved a head on collision between two buses in the 80s. Both went over the edge, and sadly all 102 people lost their lives. There have also been 12 mountain-biking tourists killed over the years.

As a biking trip it was great fun. The views were superb, and biking downhill for nearly 60KM (and 3.5KM in altitude) was definitely a huge adrenaline rush. But was it really dangerous? On one occasion I came close to losing control on a bend, with a lethal drop to one side. This slowed me down immediately and for the rest of the trip but on several occasions I still nearly flew off the bike on as I connected with a rock or two. I’m sure a lot of people are considerably more reckless than I was and I’m also sure that for these people the Death Road could easily bring about a sudden and premature end….


Photos of the Death Road biking trip, Bolivia
The Death Road on Wikipedia

Video: Isla Del Sol, Lake Titicaca

This video shows the beautiful Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun) on Lake Titicaca in Bolivia, the site of the main Inca creation myth – it was here legend has it that Viracocha (the creator god) had his children Manco Kapac and Mama Ocllo spring from the lake and found Cusco and the Inca dynasty.

I took a boat to Isla del Sol from Copacabana, and walked the length of the island during the day – only 7km, but at this altitude (nearly 4,000 metres) it felt three times further!

I apologise in advance for my infantile presenting, I obviously just have no idea whatsoever.


Photos of Isla Del Sol and Copacabana, Lake Titicaca

Copacabana & Isla Del Sol, Lake Titicaca

I decided to break up the journey between Puno in Peru and La Paz, the capital of Bolivia with a stop in Copacabana and a trip to Isla del Sol (Island of the sun). Isla del Sol is the site of the main Inca creation myth – it was here legend has it that Viracocha (the creator god) had his children (the first Inca) Manco Kapac and Mama Ocllo spring from the lake and found Cusco and the Inca dynasty.

Isla del Sol, Lake Titicaca, Bolivia

Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world at about 3,800 metres, and the waters are a beautiful blue, reflecting the sky, surrounding hills and distant snow-capped mountains. There’s something other-worldly about the whole lake Titicaca area – it’s almost as if the lake exists in a region between heaven and earth, but in neither.

Having arrived in Copacabana about three hours after leaving Puno, we stayed the night in Copacabana and caught the earliest passenger ferry the next day over to a small village called Challapampa in the North of La Isla del Sol. About 45 minutes walk North of the port, perched on a cliff with breathtaking views across the lake lie the sacred rock, and ruins of the Inca temple of the sun.

From here we spent a few hours walking about 7km South across the island towards Yumani. It may not sound far, but at this altitude, on the undulating island paths it took a good three hours with a few rest stops. The walk was truly spectacular, the views across the lake towards the mountains in the background were unforgettable.

We arrived in the small village of Yumani close to sunset, and quickly found a very cheap room (US$2) with views across the lake towards the mountains, and settled down for the night.


Listen to my podcast from Bolivia
Video of Isla del Sol & Lake Titicaca
Photos of Isla Del Sol and Copacabana, Lake Titicaca