If you’ve backpacked South America or thought about visiting Bolivia, you might have heard of the famous death road or Camino de la Muerte. It’s located just a couple of hours out of La Paz, Bolivias capital. If you are spending time in La Paz or the area around the Death Road Bolivia biking experience is definitely not to be missed! Beautiful view over one part of La Paz at sun set
About the Death Road Bolivia
Ever since I came to Latin America I heard talk about the famous Death Road, also officially named Yungas Road. The road was made by Paraguayans kept prisoners during the Chaco War in the 1930s. It’s constructed along the sides of Cordillera Oriental Mountain. The North Yungas Road leads from La Paz to Coroico, and the south to Chulumani. In total it’s over 100km on winding roads along cliffsides. Supposedly, the Yungas Road is the most dangerous road in the world, with 200-300 deaths a year, depending on who you ask. So, what doesn’t make more sense than to actually make this road a tourist attraction? Tempted to go biking Camino de la Muerte? There is a new road built now and the Death Road is closed for normal traffic at the moment. Now there are better alternatives to move between the cities, safer routes with tunnels have been constructed since then.
Death road Bolivia tours and offer that fits you
Bolivias capital La Paz actually means “the peace” for those of you who don’t know. In the streets, there is something that feels like 100 different tour operators. All the tour companies in La Paz offer to take you biking down death road. The prices variate enormously. We paid 310 bolivianos and was the cheapest we could find without spending too much time looking around. But we also talked to people who paid 800 bolivianos for their death road tour. They all offer a basic bike with the possibility of upgrading to more advanced breaks, suspension and so on, to make the ride more comfortable. But all in all, they offer the same deal. Winding roads and incredible view over the valley 1 third into our biking expereince
What is included in a death road tour Bolivia
The standard tour for mountain biking death road usually includes the following.
- Standard Gear:
- bike, usually a bike with normal breaks, and reasonable suspension.
- knee and elbow protection, helmet, gloves, jacket, pants, and rain jacket. The gear comes with a simple bag for transportation.
- Breakfast – bread with jam and butter, tea or coffee, banana.
- Lunch – Buffet
- Pool visit (with the lunch), showers, towels, and soap (the soap is just soap in dispensers on the wall so if you want proper shampoo and stuff, bring your own)
- Photos and videos
Death road bolivia tour and experiences
We talked to a lot of people that went for the more expensive tour option. This made them feel more secure about the condition of bikes and equipment provided. Paying more equals better quality on equipment was their reasoning. When we were on death road we crossed paths with a bunch of people doing the tour with other companies. To me, the gear and the bikes all looked pretty similar. Then again, if you feel unsafe and want to make sure that you’re extra well taken care of, pay the extra money I guess. Some companies that were popular amongst fellow backpackers at the time where gravity bikes, barracuda bikes, and vertigo bikes. We, and especially me being more than a year into a backpacking trip that originally was supposed to have a budget for 3 months, went for the most economical option we could find. If you’re thinking about doing the same as me, I suggest shopping around for an hour or two in the streets on La Paz. Negotiate and see what offers you can get. Also, ask if they have a facebook group that you can check out for reviews or just to see if they are legit. We managed to negotiate to get a “better” bike for the same price. My experience was that you are allowed to bargain here. Maybe not at the most renowned once that have a set price of 800, but that’s that. Can you spot the van that was following us down the winding roads?
- Warm clothes (like an extra sweater)
- Clothes for warmer weather as the temperature change with the altitude as you descend
- Water, not included in the lunch
- camera for extra photos – we weren’t too impressed with all the photos the guides were taking. As there is a little bit of time pressure.
- sunscreen- you’re basically protected the whole time, but at the end of the road it’s actually really warm so you may want to take off some layers. When we went the sun was super strong
- change of clothes to put on in the end of the day.
Remember that you will start the day biking from an altitude over 4600 meter, and end up down in the valley. This means that you will be biking in everything from a cold windy climate to tropical sunny humidity. Keep that in mind when you get ready!
The Death Road Route, how the day is organized
Pick-up and getting gear
So depending on what you agreed upon the tour company will pick you up in your hostel/hotel in the morning. Then bring you to a location for breakfast and to get your gear. We were brought to their garage, and we all checked that our gear was in good condition and the right size. After that, we headed off about 1-hour drive to the top of death road around 4,650 meters (15,260 ft) above the sea. Get your gear on, snap some photos, get comfortable on your bike. Ready to start our ride down death road
The whole distance on the bike is a total 53 km, all downhill, and if you ask me, an absolute thrill! They should at least have two guides on the tour, one that stays in front of everyone and one that stays all the way in the back. In addition to a driver who drives after the group with extra bikes, your backpacks, water and so on.
The first part of death road
The first part of the road is about 23 km of paved highway to get used to the bikes. But, as written, it’s a highway, with traffic and there are some bumps and holes in the road. One girl flew off her bike as she didn’t see the dent in the road, so stay alert, but if you like speed, here you can definitely reach some. All along the road, you’ll make stops to see the views and to wait for the less fast/slow part of the group so that everyone can do the distances at their own time.
The second part of death road
The second part is the old and “real” death road and it’s a rocky, winding road, that is narrower in some places than others. The further along the road you get the more tropical of a climate it’ll be as well. at some point during our tour, we did a break, got sandwiches, soda, chocolates, and bananas, then kept on going.
More about the death road tour
In addition to photos along the way, the guide will tell you some facts, point out some wrecks and tell the story about different death road accidents. There is also an option of ziplining along the route for an extra cost. If you choose to zip line, that means you’ll have less time by the pool and to eat by the end of the day.
Death road mountain biking option
At the end of the track, our guide asked us if we wanted to go off-road for a part, for a small extra fee that would go to the maintenance of the road. I don’t recommend doing this unless you have paid for an extra good bike, and have experience in the area. We made it down safely, but the rain had broken parts of the trails and our bikes suspension were definitely not cut out for the trail. The bikes where totally fine for the normal route, that’s part of the tour though.
Lunch and pool in Coroico
The day ends down at an altitude of 1,200 meters (3,900 ft) in the town of Coroico. The climate is warm and tropical, a real contrast to how the day started up in the mountains. The location for lunch is a kind of hotel with a basic buffet with pasta, salad, meat, and rice options, and with a pool available as well. The ride back to La Paz is about 3 hours and you’ll be back in town about 7-8.
All in all it’s an experience filled with thrilling downhill rides, no real hard physical work except for holding the steering stable along the bumpy roads. The views are amazing and at times scary and I would definitely do it again!