Widely regarded as the best automotive show ever made, Top Gear has entertained audiences in various formats since 1977. What originally started as a review show transformed into a program that is as fun as it is informative. In fact, plenty of people who couldn’t care less about expensive supercars have fallen in love with the show for the humor, the charismatic hosts, the exotic locations, and especially for the unique challenges the hosts take on on a weekly basis. Some of the best challenges have seen Jeremy Clarkson, James May, and Richard Hammond travel to remote parts of the world, drive obscure cars, create their own vehicles, and test the limits of the most powerful cars ever made.
But there are some places even the adventurous hosts of Top Gear wouldn’t dare to venture. It turns out there are still roads that are far too dangerous for even some of the worlds most experienced drivers to traverse. Steep cliffs, hairpin turns with no guardrails, rock slides, avalanches, and endless stretches of ice and snow are enough to make most drivers turn back in search of an alternate route.
We’ve picked some of our favorite challenges from over the years that have broken records, made us laugh, and taken us across the world. But we’ve also taken you where the adventurous drivers couldn’t go with a look at some of the most treacherous roads around the world.
25 Too much for tv: Old Yungas Road, Bolivia - The Most Dangerous Road in the World
Old Yungas Road is widely regarded as the most dangerous road in the world. Few drivers are brave enough to take on the sharp turns and steep cliffs. Unfortunately, many accidents happen here every year and many busses and trucks have gone tumbling down the cliff into the valley. To the locals, its earned the nickname “Road of Death.”
In most places, the road isn’t even wide enough for two vehicles to safely pass each other, making for even more accidents and travel problems. Needless to say, it’s a road to be avoided unless there are absolutely no other available routes.
24 Challenge: Soccer in a Car (Season 6, Episode 1)
Soccer in a car? When the Top Gear crew set two teams of Toyota Aygos up against each other, they created a challenge that was just pure fun.
The Aygo was designed to be an inexpensive, practical vehicle for people in search of a city car. As the hosts said, a city car should be quick, responsive, light on its feet, and good at changing direction.
But a simple test drive through the city wouldn't be much fun. The solution? A five-a-side soccer match with a giant soccer ball and no goalies that made for a riveting and unique sport.
23 Too much for tv: Atlantic Road, Norway - Massive Waves and Gusty Winds
Atlantic Road in Norway is well-known for being a beautiful scenic drive and is a destination for many sight-seeing tourists. The road connects several islands between Kristiansund and Molde and features eight architecturally stunning bridges.
But when the conditions are less than ideal, the scenic highway can turn into an absolute nightmare for drivers. Because of its proximity to the ocean, waves frequently come crashing down on vehicles and powerful gusts of wind make it nearly impossible for drivers to continue forward in a straight line.
22 Challenge: Eurofighter vs. Bugatti Drag Race (Season 10, Episode 3)
Racing a supercar against another extremely powerful machine has long been a popular challenge format on the show. Out of all the races, a Eurofighter jet facing off against a Bugatti Veyron is by far the most extreme and entertaining.
The Veyron is one of the most powerful cars ever created while the Eurofighter Typhoon is one of the most high-tech and sophisticated planes ever created. While in the air, the Eurofighter is capable of reaching 1,500 mph powered by twin engines that generate 20,000 pounds of thrust. The Veyron, capable of going 0 to 100 in 5.7 seconds, was no match.
21 Too much for tv: Sichuan-Tibet Highway, China - Rock Slides and Avalanches
Many dangers await anyone brave enough to take on the Sichuan-Tibet Highway in China. Most of the road goes through the most remote parts of the country and much of it isn’t even paved. If you can handle the driving terrain, you’ll face rock slides off of large cliffs and avalanches down mountains in the colder regions.
If that’s not enough, the weather is often harsh - making for low visibility and causing the road’s surface to be even more perilous. The mountainous portions of the highway feature some of the sharpest hairpins in the world.
20 Challenge: Destroy The Toyota Hilux (Season 3, Episode 5)
How hard can it be to stop a car from working? When the car in question is a Toyota Hilux, it’s apparently pretty difficult.
The team didn’t make any alterations to the truck before the challenge began. At first, Clarkson’s attempts at stopping the Hilux were pretty gentle, but escalated quickly.
This truck proved to be the ultimate survivor, still working after sitting in the ocean for five hours, being driven through a shed, getting set on fire, and making it through a building demolition. Clarkson put the truck through test after test and matter how creative he was, the Hilux proved to be too tough.
19 Too much for tv: Vitim River Bridge, Siberia - Don't Look Down
The Vitim River Bridge barely resembles what most people would consider a real road. It has a reputation for being incredibly dangerous and is widely avoided by drivers in the area. It’s constructed of wood that is frequently iced-over and decaying in several places. Originally constructed as a train bridge, it’s only about six feet wide - barely wide enough for standard vehicles to navigate across.
The 1,870-foot long bridge is about 50 feet above the water and there are no railings to prevent drivers from plummeting over the side.
18 Challenge: Road Trip through the Middle East (Season 16, Episode 2)
The Middle Eastern road trip was certainly one of the most thrilling road trips ever shown on Top Gear. The episode had Clarkson, May, and Hammond staring at Erbil International Airport in Iraq. Once there, they were given £3,500 to purchase the cars that would take them through Turkey, Syria, and Jordan before ending the trip in Bethlehem.
The episode was full of typical Top Gear humor. Hammond’s car stereo only played songs by Genesis while another was outlandishly decorated with bullhorns. But the challenge also brought the hosts to some of the most unique and exotic places the show ever ventured to.
17 Too much for tv: Pasubio, Italy - Cliffs are Off-Limits
The Pasubio is famous for its spectacular views of northern Italy, but it’s also one of the most dangerous roads in Europe. Steep cliffs and sharp turns without any guardrails can make for a perilous drive. In fact, so many accidents occurred that the government was eventually forced to make the road off-limits to cars. Unfortunately, some people still attempt to drive there, with dire consequences.
Now, the road is usually used as a walking path for hikers eager to see some of the best views in the country - some are even brave enough to bike down the winding cliffs.
16 Challenge: Playing Darts with Cars (Season 4, Episode 4)
There’s something inherently thrilling about launching cars off a cliff. How do you make that even more fun? Paint giant darts on the ground and try to hit the bullseye with the cars. This challenge was inspired by classic James Bond car stunts.
Hammond and May had a blast using gas-powered cannons to fire six used cars into a quarry. The cannon, similar to those used to create James Bond movie stunts, utilized compressed nitrogen to power the cars forward with a thrust of about 20 tons. The car darts challenge proves that sometimes the sickest challenges were all about being creative and had nothing to do with the performance of supercars.
15 Too much for tv: Guoliang Tunnel Road, China - Steep Cliffs and Narrow Tunnels
Before the Guoliang Tunnel Road was constructed, the remote town was entirely cut off from the rest of the world by the intimidating cliffs that surround it. Eventually, villagers from the town hollowed out a tunnel through the side of the mountain to make travel a possibility. The narrow passage has many blind turns and perilous drops. Since the road is essentially a DIY project completed by untrained workers, it isn’t up to the usual safety standards of modern roads.
The tunnel is only 0.75 miles long but requires a slow and cautious trip. Because of its construction, not many people are willing to traverse this road.
14 Challenge: The World's Smallest Car (Season 10, Episode 3)
At 6’5”, Jeremy Clarkstown is a tall man, so who better than to stick in the smallest car they could find? The Peel P50 is a minuscule 54 inches long and 41 inches wide, setting the Guinness World Record for the smallest production car ever made.
Clarkson was tasked with taking the little Peel through the city to get to the office, but he didn’t stop there. The case was so light and portable that he brought it right inside. The small engine could barely propel the car over 30 mph, and as a result, never obtained popularity in England. But it certainly made for an entertaining Top Gear challenge.
13 Too much for tv: Dalton Highway, Alaska - Endless Ice and Snow
The James Dalton Highway is one of the most remote roads in the world and is known for being a dangerous and difficult drive. Frequently covered in snow and ice, it can be completely impassable in the worst of weather conditions. High winds are often powerful enough to send rocks and other debris smashing into vehicles. When drivers aren’t being attacked by the elements, they’ll have to navigate potholes through poorly maintained stretches.
The service stations on this 414-mile long road are few and far between, meaning drivers need to be well equipped for the trip.
12 Challenge: The USA Road Trip (Season 9, Episode 3)
Taking a road trip across America is an item high on the bucket list of many travelers. In this episode, the hosts arrived in Miami with only $1,000 to spend on vehicles. Finding drivable cars on that budget was a challenge in itself, but eventually, the guys got on the road and completed various tasks while taking in the Southern states.
The most memorable challenge of the episode came about when they arrived in Alabama and were tasked with spray painting each other’s cars with phrases. The phrases chosen were fairly inappropriate and led to a precarious situation with a gas station owner that brought the challenge to an abrupt end.
11 Too much for tv: Transfăgărășan, Romania - Treacherous Hairpins
This road has a reputation for being one of the most dangerous in all of Europe. The views of the Romanian countryside might tempt drivers to take a trip down Transfăgărășan, but the hairpin turns and narrow straightaways are often enough to warn even the most adventurous drivers away. While the road is paved, it’s not always well maintained and the potholes contribute to the danger that drivers are already facing.
Those that are brave enough to take on the challenge will be rewarded with views of historic towns and the Carpathian Mountains.
10 Challenge: The Vietnam Road Trip (Season 12, Episode 8)
An episode that didn’t feature any cars turned out to be one of the show’s best ever. Given only $1000 to purchase a vehicle when they arrived, the hosts found that a car was out of their budget. They eventually decided to purchase 3 motorbikes to travel around the country but faced a series of mechanical problems on their way.
The hosts rode their motorbikes through the frantic streets of Vietnam, up mountains, and through water. The episode features some of the most stunning scenery the series ever showed, proving that Vietnam is one of the most beautiful places on earth.
9 Too much for tv: Skippers Canyon Road, New Zealand - Permit Required
If you want to take on Skipper’s Canyon Road in New Zealand, you’ll need a special permit to do so. The twisty road was deemed so dangerous that the government decided to step in and limit travel there. Those that do get to drive down the canyon road will find the passage difficult to navigate due to sharp turns and narrow passages.
It’s so narrow that two cars can’t pass each other, meaning drivers need to be especially slow and cautious when coming up on a blind turn. When wet, the road is also extremely slippery making the task even more difficult.
8 Challenge: The North Pole (Special)
The most unique destination ever featured on a Top Gear challenge has to be the North Pole. The 2007 special had the hosts tasked with being the first people to travel to the Magnetic North Pole in a car. What Clarkson initially called a luxury expedition turned out to be anything but.
Clarkson and May drove a 2006 Toyota Hilux to their destination. Despite the fact that the truck could only crawl a handful of miles a day at times, they were eventually successful. Hammond, on the other hand, attempted the challenge by dog sled and was ultimately evacuated by plane.
7 Too much for tv: Patiopoulo-Perdikaki Road, Greece - Slippery and Steep
This road might offer some stunning views of Greece, but it’s an incredibly challenging drive that many won’t dare to attempt. The narrow road is built along a steep cliff and offers no guardrails for protection. As if that wasn’t scary enough, the Patiopoulo-Perdikaki Road isn’t very well maintained and contains many dangerous potholes and cracks which can send even the most cautious drivers off-course.
Tight hairpins in other sections make the drive even tougher. Drivers who want to make it from one end of this road to the other have to be well-prepared for a slow and cautious trip.
6 Challenge: Racing North (Season 13, Episode 1)
A race between a Jaguar XK120, a Vincent Black Shadow motorcycle, and a 60163 Tornado train became one of the show’s most memorable and beloved challenges of all time. The hosts were on a mission to discover which mode of transportation would get you from London to Edinborough faster.
In the end, it was James May’s Jaguar that completed the 400-mile journey in the least amount of time. While the train arrived slightly ahead of schedule, Clarkson still couldn’t beat out the sports car. If the race itself wasn’t exciting enough, the episode is also one of the best displays of gorgeous UK scenery.
5 Challenge: The Source of the Nile (Season 19, Episodes 1 and 2)
These two episodes chronicled one of the best road trips the Top Gear hosts ever took. The trip began in Uganda and challenge was to find the true source of the Nile River while driving budget second-hand estate cars. The drive took them through Rwanda and Tanzania before finding the source.
The challenges on this trip are some of the most rugged the crew had ever faced. Crossing rivers on rafts and navigating difficult terrain made getting to the destination a real challenge. Despite the difficulties, the hosts were able to locate the source and see some extreme locations along the way.
4 Too much for tv: Karnali Highway, Nepal - Rocky Road Through Desolation
Karnali Highway is a treacherous road that connects two major regions of Nepal, starting in Jumla, the Karnali capital, and ending in Surkhet. This region of the country is largely undeveloped and extremely remote. The highway is mostly unpaved and is poorly maintained, but serves as the only link between the two regions. Inclimate weather can cause mudslides, making the road impassable for weeks at a time.
Those that attempt to travel it can expect brutal conditions in the unforgiving terrain. Breakdowns and accidents are common and there is little assistance to be found.
3 Challenge: The Botswana Special (Season 10, Episode 4)
The hosts of Top Gear often call the Botswana special one of their all-time favorite road trips, and it’s not difficult to see why. Each of the cars used were two-wheel drive vehicles that cost less than £1500 in an attempt to prove that they could be better than SUVs for the task. The crew set off across Botswana and the 1,000-mile drive that followed was nothing short of epic.
They drove through salt pans, endured dust storms, completed time trials, and named Hammond’s car “Oliver” in one of the most memorable specials the series ever filmed.
2 Too much for tv: Federal Highway 1, Mexico - Unpaved and Untamed
Most of Highway 1 in Mexico is unpaved, forcing drivers to navigate rugged roads of dirt, gravel, and rock. While some stretches of the road are paved, they’re still perilous. Much of the highway winds along dangerous cliffs and doesn’t have many guardrails to prevent drivers from plummeting off the side. The guardrails that do remain along the road are often split, a visual reminder of the accidents that are all too common along this stretch of the Baja Peninsula.
Drivers looking to travel the region don’t have much choice when it comes to alternate routes as Highway 1 is the only road that connects many of the remote towns to the rest of the country.
1 Challenge: James May Sets a Record in a Bugatti Veyron (Season 15, Episode 4)
Affectionately known as Captain Slow, James May took the ride of a lifetime in a Bugatti Veyron and became the fastest driver in the world. For this challenge, May traveled to Germany and visited Volkswagen’s top-secret performance testing complex. The oval test track at the complex is the site of a 5.5 mile long straight away, long enough to let any car reach its max speed.
May set out in ideal conditions and let the car do what it was made to do, but his record was soon broken. The Veyron proved capable of reaching 267 mph in the hands of Bugatti’s test driver.