It’s really not so death-y as the name suggests but, of course, you have to do it
Dist: 195 km; Date: Mar 2014
Set off early and you can do this route comfortably in one day.
Leave La Paz on Ruta 3. The beautiful landscapes begin even before you leave La Paz but really get spectacular as you skirt Parque Nacional Cotapata and, immediately thereafter, Represa Incachaca. At the reservoir, you can detour off Ruta 3 for a kilometer or two to enjoy a less hurried view before returning to the highway. Ruta 3 is a nonstop pleasure of mostly smooth tarmac meandering at a good pace through the highlands to the northeast of La Paz.
A few kilometers after the Ruta 25 intersection at Unduavi, you’ll encounter the southern entrance to the Death Road (Yungas Rd). You can join the hordes of mountain bikers here and descend into Coroica along the Death Road. But better to continue on Ruta 3, which soon becomes particularly windy and enters into a series of switchbacks in an ever-warming descent into the lovely town with a great-sounding name of Coroico.
After an early lunch in Coroico, leave going southwest. After about 4 km you will reach an intersection. From here you can reach the northern extreme of the Death Road (Yungas Rd) veering hard right and going north or else meet up with it just about 3 km in near La Senda Verde.
Having bypassing Yungas Rd during the morning, the route should be mostly unencumbered after lunch and you can enjoy the constant ascent along a jagged, unpaved road much to yourself. Although it features several areas of sheer drop-off, it’s probably not the hardest or scariest route you’ve tackled. In fact, I believe it rose to fame more from the deaths that occurred due to two-way traffic where no margin or safety railing was present than due to the difficulty of the road itself.
Quite before you know it you’ll be back on Ruta 3 and can enjoy the morning’s scenery in reverse on your return into La Paz.