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The roads less travelled
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Seven of the world’s riskiest roads

In many cases, these routes are less travelled for a reason: they feature terrifying drop-offs, unpredictable mudslides and a complete lack of concrete paving. Yet people still go.

National Road 5, Madagascar

The National Road 5 is perfect for drivers who are bored of concrete. With sections of sand, solid rock and even worn-down bridges that drivers must inspect before crossing, the 200km road takes nearly 24 hours to drive. It turns especially treacherous during the rainy season (December to March), when the lack of asphalt leads the road to become impassable in many spots.

Toamasina – Madagascar’s National Road 5 runs between here and Maroantsetra

The upside? Most of National Road 5 runs along the white sand coastline, providing spectacular views of palm tree forests and the Indian Ocean.

Rohtang Pass, India

Deadly mudslides often cover the 4000m-high road in the eastern Himalayas. Not to mention the area’s generally unpredictable weather, including snowstorms and sudden avalanches.  Although an 8k tunnel is being constructed beneath the pass to provide a safer option, the original route still lures visitors with views of rugged mountain ranges, sprawling valleys and even a mountain goat or two.

Traffic jam on India’s Rohtang Pass

Transfăgărășan Road, Romania

Romania’s second-highest road connects the two tallest mountains in the Southern Carpathians, Moldoveanu and Negoiu, and ascends a total of 2,034m in altitude. What’s so fun about this road? Nobody tends to be around to enforce the 40km/h speed limit – though the hairpin turns and dramatic descents make it tough to go much faster!

The hairpin tuns on Romania's Transfăgărășan Road

Eyre Highway, Australia

It may seem plain and boring at first glance, but the 1100km-stretch in southern Australia holds plenty of adventure – particularly with animals. You might see kangaroos, emus, wombats and sometimes even camels.

Eyre Highway crosses the flat terrain of the Nullarbor

However, the wildlife also makes the route riskier, as a wandering animal can seriously damage an oncoming car. The most dangerous time to take on the highway is dawn or dusk, when most wildlife attempts to cross the road.

Prithvi Highway, Nepal

Running 174km from Kathmandu to Pokhara past sights such as Annapurna, the 10th-tallest peak in the world and some of the country’s most important religious sites, including the sacred Manakamana Temple, this road’s dramatic views come at a potentially high cost. In addition to beautiful views of the Himalayas, you will see vehicles that have ended up in the river chasms, as they tried – but failed – to negotiate the road’s tricky bends.

Phewa Lake in Pokhara

Kolyma Highway, Siberia

Built by political prisoners exiled to Siberia, where thousands died under the brutal working conditions, the 2000km-long Kolyma is known as the “world’s coldest road”. Which is little surprise, given its location in the world’s coldest inhabited area, where temperatures can go as low as -70⁰C! Snow may fall even in the summer months of July and August.

Construction of the Kolyma Highway, also known as the ‘Road of Bones’

Guoliang Tunnel, China

For decades, the tiny cliff top village of Guoliang, located in the Taihang Mountains of eastern China, was reachable only by climbing the mountain on foot. After the government refused to build a road, the locals decided to take matters into their own hands. They used explosives and shovels to dig their own 1.2km tunnel; some lost their lives in the process.

Part of the Guoliang Tunnel

Dangerous to build, the route is also dangerous to drive. Perched on the top of a cliff and measuring a narrow 4m wide, the Guoliang Tunnel is particularly treacherous after rains, when it can become very slippery. It also offers spine-tingling glimpses of the valley far, far below!

(All images - credit: Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons licence)

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