Not for the faint-hearted, these tracks are for hardcore adventurers. Degrading surfaces, sheer drops and twisty tarmac; we’ve picked five of the most extreme roads on the planet.
1. Karakoram Highway
The Karakoram Highway is the highest paved international road in the world. It’s got hairpins, steep cliffs and an elevation of 4,693 metres. Connecting China and Pakistan across the Karakoram mountain range, it actually traces the Old Silk Road. It’s tarmacked, but the weather can catch you out. Avalanches and snowfall are common through the winter and it’s often closed.
2. Tail of the Dragon
With the best name on the list, Tail of the Dragon lives up to it with 318 curves in 11 miles. It’s one of the top destinations for motorcyclists from all over the USA. Located on US Route 129 in Blount County, Tennessee, its sweeping curves and tight hairpins are some of the tightest in the world – you’ll need to be 100% focused.
3. Siberian Road to Yakutsk
Called the Russian Federal Highway – or the ‘Highway to Hell’ – this is the only road that runs between Magadan and Yakutsk. No paved road, just mud, some of the coldest temperatures ever recorded outside of Antarctica (in Yakutsk) and every terrain imaginable – from deserts to snow-covered plains – it’s a long road through extreme conditions.
4. Guoliang Tunnel
Carved by 13 villagers, the Guoliang Tunnel is one of the most interesting, and dangerous, tunnels in the world. It’s ¾ of a mile long and located in the Taihang Mountains of the Henan Province, China. It’s narrow, at four metres tall and five metres wide, but accepts two-way traffic. Windows have been carved through the mountainside the length of the tunnel – you can just make them out from the image below at the base of the cliff. Amazingly, it replaced an even more treacherous route along a mountain pass…
5. The Zojila
The Zojila is 3,528 metres above sea level, linking the Western Himalayan mountain range and Srinagar. The elevation will suck the oxygen out of you, the surface is dirt and barriers are non-existent – although in the winter months there are 8ft walls of snow either side of the road.