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.

Travel

North Carolina Road Trip Itinerary: What to Eat, Drink, and Do in the Tar Heel State

It all starts by landing in Asheville, the state’s most progressive and welcoming community, where you can pick up your car rental and head to town.
Outdoors

Escape in Style With the Best Ultra-light Travel Trailers of 2019

It doesn't matter what kind of traveler you are — weekender, hardcore explorer, gear hauler, etc. — there's a camper for you.
Outdoors

The Most Jaw-Dropping Natural Swimming Holes in the United States

You don't need to trek to Thailand or South America to find sparkling depths and crystal-clear waters.
Travel

New Mexico Road Trip Itinerary: 10 Can’t-Miss Stops to Add to Your Route

Road trips across New Mexico should consist of breakfast burritos, vintage Americana, stunning desert backdrops, and a little relaxation.
Travel

Get Paid to Live on Luxury Yachts for a Year with HushHush

Uber-luxe shopping site HushHush just announced that it's in search of one very motivated Yacht Tester. The best part: No experience necessary.
Travel

Newfoundland Road Trip Itinerary: Where to Visit, Eat, and Stay on the Canadian Island

One of Canada’s most remote provinces is also one of the most spectacular places to visit within the massive country.
Outdoors

The Best Time to Visit the 5 Most Popular U.S. National Parks

Hint: Be flexible and visit when most other people don't want to.
Travel

The View of an American Road Trip from the Back of a Motorcycle

One day while heading to my favorite peak, an idea formed: "What if I could tour the Rocky Mountains of the West on the motorcycle of my dreams?"
Travel

The Best Road Trip Songs: Hit Play Then Hit the Gas

Ah, the open road! It beckons us to cast aside responsibility, embrace the unknown, jump in the car, and just go. Take this mixtape with you.
Travel

Weird Roadside Attractions: 10 Picture-Worthy Pit Stops in the U.S.

From Cadillac Ranch to Salvation Mountain to Lucy the Elephant, wonderfully bizarre roadside attraction line American's highways.
Travel

Here’s What Happens to Your Body on a Long-Haul Flight

This is why you really should (but probably won’t) skip that third Bloody Mary en route.
Travel

Win a Free Vacation- But Only If You Promise to Bartend Jamaica’s Most Notorious Floating Bar

If you've got the mixology skills, you could spend a week in paradise at Jamaica's most notorious dive bar.
Travel

A List of Road Trip Essentials You Should Never Journey Without

In travel as in life, it’s the little things that make the biggest difference.