Anyone who has ridden a roller coaster at least once knows the expression “to have your heart in your mouth.” However, it’s unlikely this entertainment can be compared with highways built at an altitude of several kilometers over an abyss, in a lonely desert, above the water, or even below it.
Guoliang Tunnel, China
The Guoliang Tunnel is 1.2 km (0.75 mi) long and was built through a mountain range leading to the village of the same name. In the 1970s, the inhabitants of the village made this tunnel and the “windows” in it themselves using only hand tools. The width of the tunnel is about 4 m (13 ft), so drivers have to be extremely careful.
Maeklong Railway Market, Thailand
At first sight, Maeklong Market resembles hundreds of other Thai markets…but only until you hear the whistle of the train which passes right through the market stalls. The sellers take their goods away and fold their tents in seconds, giving way to the train that moves at a speed of about 15 km/h.
Yungas Road, Bolivia
Yungas Road connects the Bolivian cities of La Paz and Coroico. Descending from a height of 3,300 to 360 m (2 mi to 1,181 ft) above sea level, it forms a number of loops. Despite the fact that the road is very narrow, even trucks manage to pass each other. However, one of them often has to back up for quite a distance.
Eyre Highway, Australia
Looking at this highway, one can hardly imagine it’s really dangerous. However, the number of accidents on this 1,600-km (994 mi) stretch of Australian highway, built far from localities, is really high. The reason is quite simple: the landscapes here are so monotonous that drivers simply fall asleep at the wheel.
The “Nose of the Devil” Railway, Ecuador
The “Nose of the Devil” railway is built on the rock of the same name at an altitude of 800 m (2,624 ft). Until recently, tourists were allowed to ride on the roofs of wagons running here, but today it’s prohibited.
Pamban Railway Bridge, India
Pamban Bridge connects the mainland part of India with the island of the same name. In 1964, the bridge was destroyed by the strong winds of the Palk Strait. This is why now, when wind speed exceeds 55 km/h, trains receive a special signal warning of the possible danger.
Karakoram Highway, Pakistan — China
At 1,300 km (807.7 mi) long, Karakoram Highway is considered the world’s most high-altitude international highway. One of its sections passes at an altitude of more than 4,600 m (15,091 ft). Summer monsoon rains often wash it out and cause landslides. In winter, the highway is closed due to weather conditions and possible avalanches.
Passage du Gois, France
This seemingly common passage connects the island of Noirmoutier with mainland France. However, during the tides, it’s fully covered with a 4-m (13 ft) layer of water and is available to drivers only twice a day.
Leh-Manali Highway, India
Leh-Manali Highway runs through several high mountain passes, located at an altitude of 4 to 5 km (13,123 to 16,404 ft). The road is extremely narrow, but this doesn’t prevent local drivers from zooming through at high speeds.
Tianmen Mountain Road, China
A road that’s 11 km (6.8 mi) long with 99 bends leads to the top of Tianmen Mountain where the Buddhist temple is situated. In some sections, the distance between two curves is less than 200 m (656 ft), so drivers have to be extremely careful.
Road through Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
The highway running through the dried Salar de Uyuni is located at an altitude of 3,650 m (11,811 ft) above sea level. Local landscapes are so unusual that it’s easy to get lost in them, and cell phones here are mostly useless. Even though it’s safe to go here with a tour group, it’s better to avoid going on your own, especially since at night the temperature falls to −30°C (-22°F).
Road through Skippers Canyon, New Zealand
Numerous holes and cliffs, steep descents, sudden bends, suspension bridges, and narrowings of the road are far from all the surprises lurking on the crossing through Skippers Canyon. Local car rental agencies don’t even provide insurance for those who are going to conquer this route.
The James W. Dalton Highway, Alaska, USA
Only 175 km (108.7 mi) of this 666-km (413.8 mi) highway are covered with bitumen, and one has to drive the rest of the way on gravel. There are only 3 settlements, 3 refueling stations, and only 1 medical center throughout the highway. The local police force checks the presence of everything necessary for survival in the difficult Alaskan conditions for everyone who enters this route.
“Train to the Clouds,” Argentina
During the 217-k (134.8 mi) railway journey, the train passes through 21 tunnels, 42 bridges and viaducts, 2 spirals, and 2 more zigzags. Its romantic name was given to the road thanks to the altitude on which some of its segments are located: sometimes it’s so high that the trains pass right through the clouds.