A BMW service garage in Dublin once displayed the car that undertook one of the greatest motoring expeditions of all time. The car on exhibit in the BMW service garage was the 316i that three brave, travel-hungry Irish men choose to drive from Dublin to Sydney and back again. Their roundtrip, which started in 2002, lasted two years and took them 56,000km (35,000 miles) through 28 countries.
The 10-year old 316i, which had 100,000 miles on the clock before it even left Dublin, endured temperatures from -40C to 40C and not once failed to start. It encountered a few minor mishaps, including a cracked radiator that was fixed by a teenager in China using a home-made glue concoction. The epic road trip captured the attention of multiple TV crews and newspapers and even caught the attention of BMW itself, who featured an ad in the Sunday Independent with the caption: ‘Why drive from Dublin to Sydney? Because in an approved used BMW you can.’
In memory of this bold adventure, here’s a list of the top ten most challenging road trips this planet has to offer.
10. The Stelvio Pass, Italy
This road is probably safer than the rest on this list, but with sixty 180 degree hairpin bends, it’s no easy feat. The pass, surrounded by the spectacular beauty of the Italian Alps, climbs 2km of steep mountainside. It’s open from June to September.
9. Sichuan to Tibet Highway, China and Tibet
For 2400km of breath-taking scenery and enriching cultural encounters, take this popular road from May to June. The dangerous road negotiates fourteen mountains and suffers frequent landslides.
8. Canning Stock Route, Australia
For a true desert driving experience, take a four-wheel-drive (4WD) through this 1800km old drover route. Advanced driving skills, desert driving experience (including dune driving), and sufficient mechanical knowledge are essential for this challenging route. The best time to go is from May to September.
7. Trans-Sahara Highway, Algeria, Niger and Nigeria
For the ultimate desert driving experience, navigate this 4,500km stretch of Saharan desert through three countries. The best time to go is from November to February. Expect political instability and tedious visa complications. You will need a 4WD, a local guide, extreme survival skills and desert driving experience.
6. Manali-Leh Highway, India
This 490km stretch is another high-altitude, sheer-vertical drop, nail-biting experience. Go from June to September and expect spectacular beauty combined with hair-raising moments.
5. The Karakoram Highway, China and Pakistan
This old trade route runs 1200km through dramatic mountain scenery. It is the highest paved international road in the world. The road-surface might be well-maintained, but road users can still expect hardship in the form of altitude sickness, landslides, monsoon rain and snowfall. The risk of injury and death is high, but if you want to take your chances, its best to go from May to June or from September to October.
4. Patiopoulo to Perdikaki Road, Greece
This is more of a dirt track than a road. With an unstable road surface it’s easy to lose control amidst the crowd of livestock, pedestrians and traffic. There are steep drop offs on both sides and no barriers.
3. Eldoret Highway, Kenya
It’s not high altitude hairpin bends that make this road dangerous, its people. Rampant speeding, reckless overtaking, and frequent drunk drivers make this the site of 300 deaths a year.
2. Jalalabad to Kabul, Afghanistan
While trying to avoid the Taliban, also remember to watch out for narrow bends and reckless drivers on this 65km road that claims human life every single day.
1. North Yungas Road, Bolivia
Locally known as ‘Death Road’, this treacherous, 69km stretch of mountain road, claims 300 lives a year. The narrow route takes drivers perilously close to (and often over) the edge of the road which overlooks steep, vertical cliffs. It’s probably best to avoid it at all costs.