Travel Bucket List: 4 Seriously Dangerous Things to Do in South America

amazon rainforest travel bucket list
Among U.S. travelers, South America doesn’t get the same recognition as many of the world’s more popular destinations. But, for hardcore adventurers, it’s arguably the most exciting continent on earth. Here are four of the most dangerous experiences to prove while South America should be on your travel bucket list.

Biking the Death Road (Bolivia)

North Yungas Road carves a path down one side of Bolivia’s Cordillera Oriental Mountain Chain. The majority of it is unpaved and devoid of guardrails. To one side of the road, a sheer rock face; to the other, a 2,000-foot drop into a lush rainforest abyss. The warm, humid, Amazon climate guarantees fog and heavy rain most days of the year, making rockslides and mudslides a common occurrence. As many as 300 people are believed to die on the road every year, earning it the unenviable title of World’s Most Dangerous Road. To tourists and many locals, it’s known simply as “El Camino de la Muerte” or “Death Road.” Naturally, many local companies like Gravity Bolivia guide mountain biking tours down its harrowing 40-mile stretch.

Hiking the Darién Gap (Colombia/Panama)

4 Seriously Dangerous Things to Do in South America travel bucket list

The Pan-American Highway stretches nearly 20,000 miles from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska south to Ushuaia, Argentina, making it the world’s longest “motorable road.” However, this is misleading thanks to a gap in the road where Panama abuts Colombia. This is the Darién Gap: a dense, lawless, 100-mile stretch of jungle ruled by rebels, drug smugglers, and paramilitary groups. The Gap features virtually zero roads or obvious paths, and so the only way out is through. Hikers must typically bushwhack through the inhospitable wilderness full of poison frogs, jungle scorpions, and lots of spiny, deadly flora. To be very clear, hiking the Gap is dangerous, bordering on suicidal. Still, an unknown number of foolhardy travelers attempt it each year. In the words of one hiker who survived his trek there: “Even the most adventurous, or well-seasoned traveler should not give into their ego and think that they can go it alone. It’s way too easy to get lost in its vastness, or fall prey to those who hide in its uncontrolled boundlessness. I’ve been all over the world and hiked in untamed wilderness, but this is a world unto its own.”

Climbing Ojos del Salado (Argentina/Chile)

ojos del salado

Straddling the border of Argentina and Chile, on the edge of the Atacama Desert, is Ojos del Salado (loosely translated from Spanish, “Eyes of the Salty One”). Set in the Andes Mountains, it’s the highest active volcano in the world, earning it a place on the elusive Seven Continental Volcanic Summits list. With an elevation of 22,615 feet — just 200 feet shorter than Aconcagua — the real danger here is altitude sickness and the perils that come with intense physical exertion at such high elevations. Plus, it’s still an active volcano. While it hasn’t erupted in more than 1,000 years, one millennium is the blink of an eye in geological terms. Anyone who’s reasonably fit can tackle the summit independently. But, given the elevation and inherent risks, it’s best to go with a group expedition like this one offered by Adventure Peaks. As a bonus, the permanent crater lake near 21,000 feet is believed to be the highest in the world.

Trekking the Amazon Rainforest

amazon rainforest

To be sure, hiking or paddling the Amazon rainforest is, like almost everything in life, as dangerous as you make it. Going with a guided expedition — someone who understands the dangers of the local flora and fauna — almost guarantees you’ll emerge from your journey unscathed. But many travelers (like the two woefully inexperienced Polish brothers who undertook a harrowing paddle-bike journey downriver) decide to go it alone. The litany of reasons why this is a terrible idea is a long one. To boil it down: Every last thing in the Amazon is designed to kill you. However, if it’s true adventure you’re after, you’ll find it here.

Style

Beyond Clothing Can Be Worn in Sub-Zero Temperatures and On Hot Dates

Do your clothes pass the re-warming test? Beyond's do.
Travel

21 Best Travel Books to Inspire Your Next Adventure

Get out of town ... or just go to the library. Travel books simulate the sensations of sailing, sightseeing, and setting out to explore.
Travel

You Can ‘Find Yourself’ on these Ultra-Luxurious, Wellness-Inspired Tours

It's so much easier to "find yourself" amid Egyptian cotton sheets and daily spa treatments.
Auto

Forget 4WD: These 6×6 Trucks Are the Only Way to Seriously Off-Road

Because size matters and more axles are always better than less.
Outdoors

4 of the Most Dangerous Hikes in the World

You'll need a healthy dose of fear and a desire to push your self to the edge — just not over it.
Travel

‘App in the Air’ Could Help Travelers Survive the Next Government Shutdown

It's like an airport survival kit in your pocket. It will be handy long after the government shutdown ends (again).
Travel

10 Reasons to Visit Norway in 2019

The picturesque ruggedness of Norway is just part of the appeal of what may arguably be one of the most beautiful countries on the planet.
Travel

The Palms Casino’s Newest High-Roller Suites Have a Bowling Alley and Whiskey Room

The Hardwood Suite is a basketball-centric masterpiece, while the Kingpin suite is a bowling bro's paradise.
Travel

Celebrate Your Single-ness This Valentine’s Day with a Cheap Vacation

Contiki is looking to make solo celebrations even better with deeply discounted travel packages for Singles Awareness Day.
Travel

Win a Private Island Getaway for You and 7 of Your Closest Friends

Bring the entire squad on an ultra-luxe Belizean getaway worthy of a one-percenter.
Living

The Jamaican Villa Where Ian Fleming Created James Bond is for Rent and It Is Amazing

You can vacation at the birthplace of secret agent 007, complete with butlers to make your martinis.
Auto

PlugVan Converts Most Vans Into Full-Fledged Campers in 5 Minutes

Your van can be backcountry-ready for the weekend and back to work Monday morning.
Travel

Enjoy a Different Kind of Island Life at this Private Scottish Escape

Eilean Shona is a self-described, lakefront “Neverland” where visitors are encouraged to appreciate the lost art of sitting still and doing nothing.
Travel

Travel Switzerland Like a Gentleman Aboard the Luxury Glacier Express

You can sip cognac like a sophisticate aboard Europe's most iconic and breathtaking rail journey.