The Yungas is a slender area of forest that runs along the eastern slope of the Andes Mountains, going from Peru through Bolivia and into the north of Argentina. This special ecosystem of land is the transition period between the forest floor and the Andes Highlands. A mixture of streams, valleys and fluvial mountain trails all contribute to the formation of this unique environment. What results is an enormous amount of biodiversity. Part of this comes from the huge variances in altitude and latitude, which causes an array of flora and fauna to flourish. The name Yungas Road comes from the road leading into the Yungas region
Yungas Road was originally built through the 1930’s by Paraguayan prisoners of war. During the Chaco War between Bolivia and Paraguay, the Bolivians used Paraguyans they had captured to work tirelessly on the road. Over the space of 20 years a project to improve the stretch of land took place. This included transforming Yungas Road from one lane to two lanes by enlarging the passage where possible and laying flat pavement. A new road was constructed between Yolosa and Chusquipata, so that people did not have to use the section of Yungas Road which connected the two towns. The passage which connected the two towns was known as the most dangerous segment of Yungas Road due to the constant horrific accidents which took place at this small stretch of land. For this reason a new section of road was built to enable people to bypass this dangerous passage of the original Yungas Road, which had taken so many lives. This bypassed section of the road, which has seen no improvements and is still not fit to be used by cars, is the stretch of Yungas Road which tourists now cycle down as part of tours.
Yungas Road is located in the region of The Yungas, 56 kilometers from La Paz in Bolivia. The road runs to roughly 4,650 meters above sea level in the Andes mountains. This can mean that altitude sickness may become an issue for people if they are not careful. To avoid this it is recommended to spend a day or two at high altitude such as in La Paz in order to acclimatize. Chewing on coca leaves can help to further prevent altitude sickness
Known as the most dangerous road in the world, such a title is not earned unless some serious tragedies have taken place. The original road was only one lane wide, nowhere near enough to comfortably cater for two cars passing each other, let alone two buses or trucks. When the rainy season hit the road would only creep thinner and thinner due to heavy rainfall turning parts of the road to mud, where it would get slid over the edge of the cliff face as cars pass. There are no exact figures as to how many people have died on Death Road but the average death toll was estimated to be between 200 and 300 people every year. It had become a far too regular occurrence for a vehicle to slide off the edge of the road and plummet hundreds of feet, killing anyone inside at the time. The worst accident to ever occur in Bolivia happened on July 24th 1983. On this day an overcrowded bus filled with over 100 people tipped over the edge of the road and fell into a canyon below, killing everyone on board. Even with the most dangerous section of the road being used almost solely for tourist bike rides now, the stretch of land is still no laughing matter.
Like most places in South America there are two distinct seasons in Bolivia: Winter (dry season) which goes from May to October and Summer (rainy season) which goes from November to March.
During this period you can expect some rougher terrain if you’re looking to enjoy a pleasant ride. The ground can become extremely muddy and wet, the humidity can be very high and as you descend the mountain and the temperature picks up you will begin to feel the humidity take more and more effect. Cloudy skies are more prominent during these months, however the average temperature is also higher. All of these things leads to an abundance of flora and fauna in the region, but with this also comes a swarm of mosquitos so be prepared.
You can expect the days to be almost always sunny, with the sun also tending to go down a tad bit earlier around this time of year. Night time can get very cold, especially in areas such as La Paz where the altitude is so high. There is much less humidity making the general weather a lot more pleasant.
Between the months of May and July is the best time to visit if you want to have an easier ride with less humidity and less chance of rain. This may come at a cost of less vegetation but overall it makes for a more enjoyable experience.
There is a wide variety of jaw-dropping scenery and astounding landscapes to create one of the most unforgettable tours you will do in South America. The treacherous road which has taken so many lives is surrounded by vibrant green plants and trees while also being perched among the Andes Mountains to make a picture that a camera will never do justice. Although it attracts so many visitors, the natural beauty of it remains completely untouched and preserved.