One of the most freeing things about long car trips is one's ability to hop into a vehicle, turn the music up and zone out as you fly down the highway. There are some roads in the world, however, that are so extreme that zoning out is definitely not an option. Their sheer topography, crazy geography and uncertain weather patterns make driving an impossible challenge. If you find the beaten path monotonous, head over to these roads for a trip that will require extreme focus to make it out unscathed.
Atlantic Ocean Road, Norway
Stark mountain peaks, rough waves and roller coaster looking roads meld together to create a landscape unlike any other place on earth. Five miles of road and 8 extreme bridges connect a chain of islands off Norway so spectacularly it’s been designated a Cultural Heritage Site. The guardrails may make it appear safe, but driving it can still be risky when storm winds reach speeds of more than 30 mph and rapidly rising waves flood the road with water.
Old Yungas Road, Bolivia
High in the Bolivian Andes, a 12 foot-wide path snakes its way down the mountainside with solid rock one side and and a 2,000 foot abyss on the other. Often cited as the most dangerous road in the world, navigation is made even more tricky by rainy weather, mudslides and thick sheets of fog that blanket the area. For locals, “El Camino de la Muerte” (Death Road) is a vital, albeit dangerous, transportation route for truckers. For tens of thousands of mountain bikers, however, it’s become a thrilling opportunity to test the limits of their physical prowess.
Tianmen Mountain Road, China
The extreme topography of Tianmen National Park attracts daredevils of all kinds. Aerial dancers have used the cliffs as an excuse to twirl gracefully 1,300 feet above the ground, wingsuit fliers have jumped from the top sans parachute, and mountain bikers have been known to race down the steep steps of the peaks. Tianmen Mountain Road is just one more draw with 11 km of hairpin turns and stunning views. One man tackled all 99 curves in less than 11 minutes, but we’d recommend going at a slightly slower pace.
Seven Mile Bridge, Florida
This road may not be as extreme as some of the others in terms of safety, but the views are no less extraordinary. The Seven Mile Bridge is one of the longest bridges in the world and is the most scenic portion of a 113 mile road system which allows millions of tourists to cross from mainland Florida to the Keys. As you hop from one key to the next, you’ll be surrounded by miles of aquamarine water so pristine you may have a hard time keeping your eyes on the road.
Guoliang Tunnel Road, China
This tunnel is said to be one of the most dangerous in the world, but it also one of the most impressive. Built by a group of isolated villagers desperate to access the outside world, the tunnel was hollowed out over a period of five years with nothing more than hammers, chisels and brute strength. 30 “windows” of varying sizes were carved out of the rock to let natural light in and allow visitors to look out over the mountainscape.
Sani Pass, South Africa
This steep mountain pass contains hairpin turns and steep, zig-zagging roads that climb more than 42,000 feet in 5.5 miles. No one is allowed on the the gravel without a 4x4 and it often closes in the winter due to poor conditions and visibility. The remains of vehicles that didn’t make it litter the side of the road as a reminder to drive with extreme caution.