>  Blog   >  Extreme Adventure in Bolivia: Mountain Biking Death Road

Whoa. Who knew Bolivia would be such a wild adventure? 

Before my recent visit I truly had no idea how different the country is from the rest of South America nor what an abundance of extreme adventures I would find near La Paz. 

The highest, most isolated country on the continent, Bolivia’s mountain ranges soar above 21,000 feet while the Amazon basin bleeds into neighboring Brazil. These diverse and extreme landscapes translate to some pretty epic adventure activities.

I’ve been an avid mountain biker the past few years. When I’m not traveling, you’ll find me hauling up the Santa Monica mountains on my Juliana Furtado a few nights a week. It was music to my ears that mountain biking is one of the most popular activities for tourists visiting La Paz, Bolivia. 

I didn’t originally plan to mountain bike in Bolivia since I was trekking. But at the last minute I booked an excursion on my final day in the country. Even though I was exhausted from my trek up Pico Austria the day prior, my love of mountain biking had me up at 6 a.m. the following day for another extreme adventure in Bolivia. 

The Most Dangerous Road in the World 

Bolivia’s most popular destination for mountain biking is “Death Road,” a narrow unpaved road that stretches for 43 miles leading from roughly an elevation of 15,000 feet outside La Paz down to a small town in the temperate rainforest at 4,000 feet – that’s 11,000 feet of descending! 

The road, constructed by Paraguayan prisoners in the 1930s, was originally constructed for cars, not bikes. With such narrow passageways and jarring cliffs that at times drop 2,000 feet on either side, the road is extremely perilous for vehicles and has witnessed many deadly accidents over the years. 

While some cars still use the road (when it’s not closed due to mudslides), a more modern route provides much safer passage for vehicles and in recent years “Death Road” has been taken over by groups of mountain bikers. 

How to Mountain Bike Bolivia’s Death Road 

Mountain biking Bolivia’s “Death Road” isn’t something one should do solo – even for an avid mountain biker like me. During my visit to La Paz I booked a day trip with Gravity Assisted Mountain Biking, the top rated company. 

The day trip with Gravity Bolivia cost $125. This included a bike and all gear, guides, two full meals and snacks. There are several tour operators that offer a similar trip for a lower price, but when doing something that involves the word “death,” I feel it’s best to go with the safest choice. The “Death Road” day trip can be booked on GetYourGuide or in person at their office in the city center of La Paz. 

Not all bikes are created equal, and while my ride wasn’t as smooth as being on my own beloved Juliana Furtado, Gravity has the best mountain bikes of any tour company in Bolivia. Their Kona downhill bikes are full-suspension, meaning it’s a much more comfortable experience thanks to the extra shocks. 

My Experience Mountain Biking Bolivia’s Death Road 

The full day experience began early – 7 a.m. at a local coffee shop where the group met our guides and enjoyed a quick breakfast and overview of the day ahead. From here we drove an hour to the starting point at a high altitude lake. 

The temperature at this high elevation was freezing and I dressed in three layers plus the wind resistant pants and jacket Gravity Bolivia provides. From here we zipped down a paved road for about five miles before reaching the official start of “Death Road.” 

The beginning of the most dangerous road in the world is marked by a sign – and shrouded in fog below. Here the paved road narrows and turns into dirt. We shred down hairpin turns, verdant mountain slopes lead into the invisible below. 

Our guides at Gravity Bolivia stopped the group periodically during the journey to fill us in on what to expect on the road ahead. At some points along the road the trail is so narrow I don’t see how a large bus could possibly fit. At other points wild waterfalls soak the road. 

It takes us several hours to descend 11,000 feet and we stop for a simple lunch of sandwiches along the trail, looking up at a cliff covered in vines and foliage – looks straight out of Indiana Jones. 

We ended the day in the temperate rainforest and paid a visit to the Senda Verde animal refuge, one of the few places in Bolivia where injured wild animals like the Andean bear and jaguar are cared for. 

After a meal and water, we piled back into the van for the two-hour ride back to La Paz. I arrived back to my hotel at MET La Paz just after 8:30 p.m. It truly was a full day experience to mountain bike Bolivia!

What to Know Before You Mountain Bike Bolivia

  • It’s difficult. Though it’s a downhill ride and very little climbing is involved, it’s still challenging to ride 32 miles. My legs were sore afterwards – granted I did a 6-hour hike to the peak of Pico Austria the day before so that didn’t help. 
  • Not all tour operators are created equal. I never felt in danger, but the closest I came to fearing for my safety was when a different group of riders much more reckless than our own hauled it down the mountain and pushed pass without care. One rider collided a bike in my group solely because this rider wasn’t obeying any rules of the road or particularly paying attention to where she was going. I was grateful to be with our guides at Gravity Bolivia and see how seriously they were taking our safety. 
  • Not all bikes are created equal. It’s a bumpy ride when you mountain bike Bolivia. We had full suspension Kona downhill bikes, but I noticed a difference not being on my Juliana Furtado. Gravity has the best bikes of any company in Bolivia, so this is another reason I wouldn’t go with any other operator. 
  • The elevation gains are no joke. When we began our ride I was freezing, wearing every single possible layer of clothing I could. After descending 11,000 feet I ended the ride boiling hot and covered in sweat, stripping down to my bike shorts. Definitely wear layers! 
  • It’s breathtaking. I love mountain biking! The views were so spectacular and the landscapes are just unreal. I highly recommend mountain biking in Bolivia as long as you have a high baseline of fitness and sense of adventure.