Top Gear has been delighting British audiences since its debut. The long-running program originally featured gearhead presenters Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May as they tested the limits of various vehicles, from supercars to beaters. While most of their (mis)adventures took them around the UK, the miscreant trio often found themselves traveling the world to challenge themselves, the terrain, and the vehicles.
Flash-forward to 2018, and Top Gear has become a global phenomenon. The original presenters left after a dispute with BBC, but the program was revived with a new cast. Clarkson, Hammond, and May went on to other things, but Top Gear continues on. Though some people say it’s lost its charm, others still tune in every week for more gearhead misadventures.
One of Top Gear’s claims to fame is that it’s always been willing to push boundaries. Although this occasionally landed cast and crew in trouble, it often provided entertainment and amusement for viewers at home. During their adventures around the world, the cast and crew found themselves up against some of the world’s most dangerous roads.
Not every dangerous road in the world has had the distinction of being featured on Top Gear, of course. We have a sneaking suspicion that some, like the last 9 in this article, are a little too extreme even for this envelope-pushing program.
20 Too dangerous: Check Out The “Snail Pass” Between Chile And Argentina
Paso de los Caracoles, or the “Snail Pass,” is a local name for the Paso de los Libertadores. The pass, located between Chile and Argentina, is also called the Paso del Cristo Redentor. “Snail Pass” is probably an accurate name, at least on the Chilean side of the border. The road winds its way through a series of hairpins as it slowly and steadily climbs to an altitude of 3,200 meters.
Despite the number of hairpins and the amount of traffic, the pass is also considered one of the world’s most scenic drives. The Argentinean side is certainly more sedate. It gently ascends through the mountains, until it reaches the tunnel entrance.
19 Too dangerous: Turkey’s D915 Is For Daredevils Only
Sometimes known as Bayburt-Of Yolu, the D915 in Turkey’s Trabzon province is the definition of an extreme road. It links the city of Bayburt with Of, a town in the Black Sea region. The road stretches on for 106 kilometers. Over the course of it, there are 29 hairpins. Oh, and did we mention the sides are steep drop-offs with no guardrails?
This is one road where you want to be sure your handling skills are top-notch. We’d love to see the Top Gear presenters take it on, if only because we know they could handle it. Safety should come first, though, so maybe it’s a good thing they haven’t tackled this one yet.
18 Too dangerous: This Alpine Road Takes The Cake
The Alps are one of Europe’s defining features, and they also define the driving experience in many parts of Europe. Col du Chaussy, located in southeastern France, is fairly typical of the kind of driving experiences you’ll find here.
The road kicks things off with the “lacets de Montvernier,” a series of 17 hairpins in 3 kilometers. That’s one every 200 meters or so. The road also climbs sharply. Once you’re past the lacets, you’ll gain over 1,000 meters in altitude. Nearer to the summit, the surface of the road degrades. Even still, this is considered one of the most scenic drives in the world, so long as your nerves hold out.
17 Too Dangerous: The Route Over A Volcano (But They Actually Tried It Anyway)
In the same episode that saw the presenters tackle Bolivia’s Death Road, Clarkson, May, and Hammond decided to drive into Chile. They decided on a straight route across the border, which often seems like a great idea.
Unfortunately, this particular road goes over an active volcano. The road climbs to an altitude of more than 17,200 feet (or 5,000 meters). Unprepared for such a journey, the 3 presenters experienced altitude sickness. Their vehicles weren’t much better off, as the lack of oxygen at that altitude reduced the cars’ power. Needless to say, you don’t want to attempt this one without training and being prepared to abandon your vehicle. The presenters wisely decided to turn around, and try another route.
16 Too dangerous: Hawaii Has Several Infamous Roads We should avoid
The Road to Hana, located on the Hawaiian island of Maui, is probably one of the best-known dangerous roads in the world. Hawaii, though, has no shortage of roads that will test even those with nerves of steel. The Kahekili Highway is another one.
This is a 1-lane paved road, stretching about 20 miles between Kapalua and Wailuku on Maui. You’ll have rock on one side, and sheer cliffs on the other. There are no guardrails. Combine these with snaking turns and narrow passages for a hair-raising drive. Oh, and watch out for falling rocks and mudslides too, especially if it’s just rained.
15 Too dangerous: This Peru Road Has Some Curves
Route 3SF runs near the Urubamba Valley in southeastern Peru, wending its way through the Andes. Its most infamous section is a 10-kilometer stretch known as Curvas de Huanchaca. The name is quite apt, as there are 24 hairpin turns in those 10 kilometers. That’s about 2 turns every kilometer.
The road also climbs quite sharply, rising nearly 650 feet in altitude over that same stretch. The average grade is somewhere around 6.5%. What’s more, the road isn’t even paved, making it even more treacherous. Since it’s just wide enough for one vehicle and has no guardrails, you’d better hope you don’t meet oncoming traffic.
14 Too dangerous: Don’t Take This Mountain Trail
In the Kishtwar District of Jammu and Kashmir, India, National Highway 26 turns into a dangerous trail through the high mountains. If driving 100 miles of narrow, twisting road alongside a very clear view of the valley floor thousands of feet below sounds like a good idea, we’ve got the road for you.
The road does see some traffic, because it’s the main route to the base camp at Kishtwar Kailash, although mountaineering here has become far rarer since the early 1990s. Although there are many other factors at play, we wouldn’t doubt the drive has at least a few brave souls changing their minds and turning back.
13 Too dangerous: Skippers Canyon Road Can Be Scenic Or Scary
Skippers Canyon Road wasn’t built for cars. The gravel pass was considered a feat of engineering when it was constructed between 1893 and 1890. A gold rush in this area of New Zealand’s South Island required a better trail, and this is what the miners came up with.
Today, the road remains unpaved and incredibly narrow. You’ll need to back up until you can find room to pass if you encounter oncoming traffic on the 1-lane track. Did we mention the road is cut into the side of a sheer cliff? It’s little wonder rental car companies won’t honor your insurance if you choose to drive this treacherous stretch of road.
12 Too dangerous: Peru Sure Loves Hairpins And Hair-Raising Roads
We’ll have to travel back to Peru to find this next dangerous track. Road 663 is just a few numbers off from a truly daunting one, but once you’ve seen the road, you’ll agree it doesn’t need any help giving anyone goosebumps.
Located near the town of Llata, Road 663 is narrow, wide enough for just one vehicle. It also has no guardrails, and features sheer drops of around 300 meters. Did we mention the hairpin turns? Road 663 has 20 hairpins along its 12-kilometer stretch, giving Curvas de Huanchaca a run for its money. There’s even an unlit tunnel.
11 The Trio Travels Bolivia’s Infamous Yungas Road
The Yungas Road, more commonly known as Death Road, which takes travelers to the Bolivian capital of La Paz, is widely known as one of the most dangerous roads in the world. Winding its way through the misty mountains, it features a number of twists and sheer drops that have contributed to the road’s number of fatalities. Its narrowness doesn’t help either, making passing almost impossible.
Clarkson, Hammond, and May traveled the Death Road in a 2009 episode of Top Gear, the Bolivia Special. In it, Hammond was forced to take the ditch to avoid a passing bus, and Clarkson faced danger when he met an oncoming car in a particularly narrow section of the road.
10 This Dangerous Welsh Road Was A Top Gear Favorite
As it turns out, the Top Gear hosts didn’t need to travel too far from home to find some dangerous stretches of road. The A4069, also known as Black Mountain Road, is absolutely infamous for its twists, dips, and climbs, as it traverses the western parts of Brecon Beacons National Park.
The road has a number of hairpins and offers unrivaled views of the Black Mountains in Wales. In 2011, it was featured on Top Gear, with Jeremy Clarkson driving a section of it for an episode. It’s since been known as “Top Gear Road,” and has become more popular. Unfortunately, that popularity has made it more dangerous to drive due to increased traffic.
9 The Road To The Shipki La Pass Is Hardly Passable
In their India Special, the Top Gear hosts traveled around the country, trying to drum up better trade relations between Britain and India. Although their efforts at trade diplomacy were an absolute disaster, the 3 did get to tour some of India’s most dangerous roads.
At one point, they traveled to Himachal Pradesh, one of India’s northern states. The Himalayas run through the state, making much of the terrain treacherous and difficult to pass. The presenters headed along the mountain road toward the Shipki La Pass, along the border with China. The pass itself is located at nearly 13,000 feet. The road is often closed due to snow accumulation.
8 The Route to Usuhaia Proved Treacherous
During their Patagonia Special, the 3 presenters encountered some serious setbacks and challenges. The episode was widely criticized as it placed almost everyone involved in its production in serious danger.
Only slightly less dangerous was the road the presenters took to Usuhaia, located in Argentina’s extreme south. The route was planned by Clarkson, and it took many odd turns along the way. At one point, the road even disappeared. They also encountered an unstable bridge leading them to a dead end, and a swamp that bogged down 2 of the cars. Another route proved even more treacherous. The presenters did eventually arrive, only to need to evacuate immediately.
7 Top Gear Goes Where There Are No Roads
What could be more dangerous than a place where there are no roads? That might have been the question the Top Gear trio posed in the 2007 Polar Special, which saw them speeding along through the Arctic. They traveled from Resolute, in the Canadian Far North, in an attempt to reach the magnetic North Pole.
Clarkson and May traveled by car, hoping to beat Hammond, who was traveling by traditional dog sled. Since the area has no roads and crosses plenty of ice, the route was treacherous. Once reaching firm ice, the motor vehicles had to slow down. Some routes were impassable, and they frequently had to turn back. Nonetheless, they still reached the pole first.
6 Almost Any Road in the India Special Is Dangerous
We already talked about the Shipki La Pass, and the road between it and Shimla, in the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. This was probably the most dangerous road the Top Gear presenters encountered in the India Special.
India, however, is infamous for its dangerous roads, meaning that almost any road featured in this special was a dangerous one. One promotional clip featured the team crossing a dual highway in the middle of the night, dodging stranded vehicles, unlit trucks carrying wide loads, and some very daring pedestrians. The hazards of driving almost anywhere in India are very apparent from this short video alone.
5 The Trio Braves Paris’s Terrible Traffic
Paris is probably one of the tamer locales Top Gear has visited over the years, but the French capital also has a reputation for some truly abominable traffic. The trio proved this to be true in Episode 7 of the show’s 3rd season, “Supercars Do France.”
In this episode, Clarkson, Hammond, and May travel around Paris, and then into the French countryside, in some seriously sleek supercars. They take the vehicles on a decidedly mundane journey around the city, doing everything from negotiating traffic to trying to “liberate” the vehicles from a parking garage. While the focus is on supercars, the episode also shows how sometimes, the biggest dangers on the road are closer to home than we think.
4 Road-Tripping Through America Can Be Dangerous Too
Most of us think America is relatively safe to travel through. The Top Gear presenters really did their best to challenge this perception.
While there are indeed some dangerous roads in the US, the Top Gear trio made their trip more dangerous for themselves by setting out to tick off the people in a small town near Alabama. They painted each other’s vehicles with various offensive slogans. Needless to say, the locals weren’t impressed, and actually threw rocks at the presenters and crew!
It goes to show almost any road can become a dangerous one. When you’re traveling, it’s best to mind your Ps and Qs, and try to pay attention to local sensibilities.
3 The Nile Ain’t Just A River In Africa
In yet another 2-part special, the hapless trio decides to set off in search of the source of Egypt’s famous Nile River. Overall, this trip is relatively tame compared to some of the presenters’ other exploits. They turn their vehicles into campers, and they race to see who can reach the Nile’s origin first.
There is a point where their trip becomes quite dangerous, however. As they venture further toward the source of the Nile, they come to a crocodile-infested river! With no means of crossing the dangerous waters, they actually have to construct a ferry to pass. We think we’ll stay home.
2 This Himalayan Road Beats The Shipki La Pass
The Top Gear boys took on some pretty serious mountain terrain in their India Special, but the road to the Shipki La Pass looks positively pleasant in comparison to this next road. Fairy Meadows Road is one of the most infamous roads in all of Pakistan.
The trail is a high-mountain track, stretching around 16 kilometers and reaching an altitude of 3,300 meters when it terminates in the village of Tato. It forms part of the Karakoram Highway. It’s a narrow track with steep cliffs on any side. People risk it to climb Nanga Parbat, the 9th highest mountain in the world.
1 The Road from Kurdistan to Bethlehem Was Peppered With Problems
For their Middle East Special, the presenters planned an epic, 1,200-mile (1,900-kilometer) journey from Iraqi Kurdistan through to the town of Bethlehem in Palestine. This journey, which was meant to approximate the journey of the Three Wise Men, took them through Aleppo, Palmyra, and Damascus, among other locales.
The road proved dangerous, less so because of the terrain and more so because of the unsettled state of affairs in the Middle East. Border control frequently proved difficult, and the production team also encountered landmines. Luckily, the only injury occurred when James May was knocked over by a tow rope.
References: Dangerousroads.org, digitaltrends.com, YouTube