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Link - by Avi Abrams

Explore them with caution

Read previous issues 1, 2, 3

Continuing with our highly popular series, this issue will cover some hair-raising and simply not safe roads and tracks, most accompanied by breathtaking scenery (that is, if you'll be able to take your eyes off the road).

(original unknown)

1. Stelvio Pass Road - redefining switchbacks

Height - 2757 meters

Location - in the Italian Alps, near Bormio and Sulden, 75 km from Bolzano, close to Swiss border. (The road connects the Valtellina with the upper Adige valley and Merano)

Claim to fame - "the highest paved mountain pass in the Eastern Alps, and the second highest in the Alps, after the Col de l'Iseran (2770 m)"

(image credit: climbbybike.com)

(image via)

This road might not be as risky as the deadly routes in Bolivia, but it is certainly breathtaking. The tour books advise that the toughest and most spectacular climbing is from the Prato side, Bormio side approach is more tame. With 48 hairpins, this road is regarded as one of the finest continuous hairpin routes in the Alps.

(image credit: Emiliano De Angeli)

The road itself is a marvel of engineering skill; the exhilarating serpentine sections ask to be driven by experienced motorists for their own sakes. All in all, this could be the most magnificent road pass in Europe.

"On the southern side the road worms its way up the immensely deep Braulio ravine, clinging from side to side and tunneling frequently, between towering rock walls, to the more open basin at the 4th Cantoniera, where the Umbrail Pass comes in from the left. From the junction to the summit is little more than a mile, the road winding more gently up 900 ft. of shaly slope, but still relatively viewless.

From the summit, where the famous Ortler view is suddenly revealed, the Trafoi windings lead down in face of superb views of peaks and glaciers to Trafoi, just below the tree line. The rest of the road, falling along the Trafoibach to the Adige levels in the main valley, is a pleasant descent with fine views ahead of the Zillertal (Austrian) peaks in the main Alpine chain."

-- Hugh Merrick, "The Great Motor Highways of the Alps", 1958

(image credit: Michiel)

"Top Gear" recently featured this road, and got quite a kick out of it, too:


There are other spectacular hairpin-climb passes in the Alps. Brian Wilson has some good bike touring shots:

This one is Grimsel Pass near Gletsch, Switzerland. Furka pass is also visible in the upper left of the picture.

Coming down from Furka Pass:

Old road over Saint Gothard Pass, Switzerland - still open to the public.

(images credit: Brian Wilson)

Some will say that the hairpin road passes of Europe are quite safe to drive on. That may be so, but we think that the altitude, rockfall, snow and other unexpected road hazards (like inexperienced tourist drivers) make these routes "a little bit" more dangerous than your typical trip for groceries.


Italian Alps are rife with exhilarating switchback roads. Here is one at Fraele, near Isolaccia in Lombardy.

(images credit: Emiliano De Angeli)

The Italian side of the Splugen Pass, with breathtaking vertical grades at every turn.

(image credit: Brian Wilson)


Slovenian Mountain Roads are even narrower, and less maintained, but no less spectacular. Witness Mangrt Mountain Road, with Brian Wilson's friend trying to navigate through snow. The road is a dead end, but traveled for the sheer scenery (click to enlarge):

Snow is not a problem, in this case anyway:

(images credit: Brian Wilson)


2. Fascinating Fjord Roads in Norway.

We all know that the steep walls of fjords command an awesome view, like the one below. But when living in small towns and villages in the fjord country, you will need to use a car to get some groceries. This would mean driving on vertigo-inducing roads, honing your driving skills to perfection.

(original unknown)

Trollstigen - the Troll Ladder

Trolls did not have cars, so they built a ladder to climb this mountain... Hordes of tourists, however, brave the 9 percent incline in their family sedans - to see a beautiful waterfall and an awesome view from the top. This being Norway, the safety record is pretty good, so book your flight and visit this incredible place.

(images via)

The intense set of hairpin turns featured here belongs to the ancient Trollstigen road in the heart of Romsdal County of Norway, in the Rauma region. The road is very narrow with very few possibilities for cars to pass each other. There are frequent rockfalls in the area, so there have been some upgrades made to the road in 2005.

(image credit: Andreas Misera)

(image credit: Ingrid)

(image credit: Lucio José Martínez González)


Another Fjord Jewel - Lysebotn Road

This is probably the most fun you can have on four wheels, and then on your two legs checking out various hiking trails leading from the area. In fact, this just might be the most breathtaking place in Europe (on par with Swiss Interlaken area). It all starts with the narrow road up the fjord's steep walls:

(image credit: Stefan Jonsson)

This is the Lysebotn Road in Lysefjord, Norway - complete with 27 switchbacks and a 1.1 kilometer long tunnel at the bottom, also with three switchbacks inside. Let one driver tell the story (courtesy Stefan Jonsson):

"The first half of this road was nothing too special, but then... then came the fun part! The last 30 km (18 miles) to Lysebotn were the most fun I have ever driven! This part of the road was a true roller-coaster! It was narrow but with a perfect surface, and you just sat there on the bike with a big smile on your face as you pushed on for some really active driving. Not a straight part of the road as far as you could see. It was up and down and left and right all the time! The road ends with a 27 hairpin serpentine road taking you from 1000 meters (3280 ft) above sea level down to Lysebotn and the Lysefjord. At the end of the serpentine road you go through a tunnel that screws itself 340 degrees through the mountain and as you come out of it (slightly dizzy) you have Lysebotn in front of you. If you ride a motorcycle in Norway, then this road is something you simply can not afford to miss!"

Amen to that, brother. This is the view 900 meters down, once you get on top:

(image credit: Malte)

(image credit: Reinhard Pantke)

So it only make sense to continue further - and hike to the most spectacular piece of rock in the Universe - Prekestolen, or the Pulpit Rock.


The Pulpit Rock Hike - if you fall, it's 1000 meters down

This place is indeed so spectacular, that we are going to write a special post about it. For now, just to give you a taste of some scenery - a few shots of people definitely having fun (not forgetting thousand-meter drops at every turn)

(image credit: Susi Varming)

After a steep hike up (300 meters elevation gain), which should take about 2 hours for an inexperienced hiker, you get to stand on the "world class" photography attraction, the pedestal of truly spiritual proportions.

(image credit: Gard Karlsen)

This stupendous trail will exceed your expectations for truly great hiking, if you don't slip on any boulders in some foolish jump for a picture. The fall is exactly one kilometer, almost enough time to grow wings.


We finish with the two scenarios which might not have a happy ending. At least I'd be surprised if they do.

The last picture is NOT Photoshop! This is a real drop, performed by the Russian dirt biker Ben de Roni (read more here) as part of the "Achtung 3" extreme biking video. Respect.

Here is another drop:

Send us pictures of your own road adventures and various dangerous routes - for the inclusion in the next part of the series!


Read the rest of the series ->

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Blogger LadyBanana said...

I can barely look at some of those pix - some ppl have no fear of heights!!

Great collection!

Anonymous Ares said...

As this post about dangerous roads has evolved into a Norway fjords article, I feel the need to share this cute video from YouTube on BASE jumping - ladybanana will be able to see some more people with no fear at all!

Anonymous Anonymous said...


Blogger Rich Tatum said...

Thanks for the link to my "When Sermons Go Awry" page! You're right. Traffic rockets!

Good thing I got my site back up and running last night!


Blogger przemoe said...

Passo Stelvio is often used in Giro d'Italia - it's incredible, people actually race there on bikes.. Where a normal man would have problems getting there by car ;)

Blogger Rémi said...

Maybe the first post of a new serie "The Most Beautiful Road of the World" ?

Blogger JustApril said...

Wowie! What breathtaking shots! I don't have a fear of heights, but a couple of those pictures made me gasp out loud! I would really like to know how those bicyclists manage those drops! wild

Anonymous scroobius said...

Amazing photos, once again. I have to visit some of these places, truly breathtaking.

Anonymous mofembot said...

The road between Villard Notre Dame and Villard Reymond in the French Alps west of Grenoble and south of Vizille is the scariest road I have ever driven, period, and I have driven some very scary mountain roads (to say nothing of driving over a bridge in Costa Rica that we had to help repair in order to get over it).

Just getting up to Villard Notre Dame was hair-raising, with a poorly-maintained, dark, rock-strewn tunnel. The death road itself hadn't been maintained in years, and there was at least one place where I know our right-side tires were not 100% on the roadway, and there was at least--at least!--at thousand-foot sheer drop to our right. But we couldn't back up, couldn't turn around, could only press forward hoping that the road would not get any narrower because of rockslides & all. Had there been, we would have had to hire some kind of heavy-duty helicopter to airlift our car to a safe place. Or abandon it forever.

The moral is, if you arrive at a road with gated entrance, and there's a sign there stating "if you take this road, your auto insurance is not applicable," you should really, truly take a different route, no matter how much you hate the thought of back-tracking.

Blogger Avi Abrams said...

Thank you for the great comment... I will definitely investigate and include in following issues. Cheers.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The boulder wedged into the cliffs with two people standing on it is Kjerag Bolten not Pulpit Rock (Preikestolen.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow that Lysebotn Hairpin sequence gives me o very mixed feeling indeed...

After diving my motorcycle down from the visitors center, the "normal" curve in between two hairpins suprised me and I crashed quite hard.

I suppose a angel was on my shoulder: after kicking back the bent parts of my bike I was able to drive on, down trough the underground hairpin.... wow.

Jan Los - NL

Blogger MedStudentWife said...

Check the road on Saba - NA

Anonymous oweh said...

Great collection of roads there. An odd one I'd like to add is the Nürburgring Nordschleife. It's a racetrack that's open to the paying public. Anyone willing to risk his (in rare cases also her) life can book laps and do so with his own ride. It is dubbed the green hell because it goes on for 20 kilometers through wooded hills, often including rain or fog. It is said that there is one fatality per week. Most of these would me motorcyclists.

There is the scary story of a biker that had an accident throwing him and his machine into the woods. Although not killed in the crash, he died there because nobody noticed the accident.

Although it's not a road for transportation I think it's worth a mention.

There are also some pretty scary roads in morocco crossing the atlas mountains. These include dangerous traffic as well.

Blogger Avi Abrams said...

oweh, this is an interesting tip - will see if it fits in next part. Thank you!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

here's the Russian biker video

Anonymous myIPforMe.com said...

I don't agree to much on the pics of the roads in the Swiss mountains.

I used them many times, they are not bad to drive at all. They are maintained very accurately and there are teams ready to fix every part ruined by some rock slide or other phenomena.

Driving in cities is far more dangerous.

I just realize now that I've never seen a post about dangerous city traffic or something.

When I have time I should make a post about amazing traffic situations in Milan.

Anonymous Colin M said...

The photos of the Grimsel Pass brought back memories of hiking this road back in the 1970s, oddly nobody was willing to stop and offer me a ride!

Croatia’s mountain roads are great fun for sports car drivers but for shear driving fun it would be hard to beat the road across northern Albania’s mountains to the Kosovo border. About 150km of constant curves, hairpins and hills with small villages including one called Puke! The road is paved but there are rough breaks. Some curves have guard rails but a low stone wall or nothing at all is more common.

As a plain bad road I would nominate the main road through Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. 200km of badly corrugated gravel which is hellish to drive on at any reasonable speed. Either you drive at 20 km/h and take all day or at over 80 km/h, skim from rut to rut, and hope you don’t need to avoid an antelope or on-coming bus.

Finally: I haven’t seen South Africa’s Sani Pass Road mentioned yet. Not as long as the Friendship Highway but narrower and more difficult than the Gates of Hell section below Nyalam just north of the Nepal border.

Blogger Avi Abrams said...

Thank you Colin M for the great info - we'll try to cover these!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

To add to Ares' post on Norway, here's some wingsuit basejumping where they buzz the road

Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you want to se the stunning scenery of Norway,remember that Norway has found the cause of all evil and the cause of all traffic accidents to be speed. If you think London has many cameras, go to Norway. Not only have they got radar traps, but the calculate your mean speed between all the cameras you pass - and fines are the highest in the world. There are NO 4-lane motorways in Norway.

Blogger pojoel said...

"Trollstigen" translates to "The Troll's Path", not his ladder. But it's breathtaking anyway.

Anonymous Graham Clayton said...

The Lyseboth Tunnel sounds amazing - I've never heard of a tunnel that features three hairpin bends in it!


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