6 of the World's Scariest Bridges
Earlier this month, we indulged thrill-seeking travelers with sky-high treehouses and treacherous trails. Today on Explore, test your bravery -- and your balance -- with these five stomach-churning bridges. (Just don't look down.)
Qeswachaka Bridge, Peru
Suspended more than 30 feet above the Apurimac River, roughly 60 miles from Cuzco, Qeswachaka bridge is the last of the vast network of bridges that crisscrossed the Inca empire. They fell, along with the empire, in the 16th century, but indigenous Andeans continued to pass down their bridge building knowledge to future generations.
Since the Qeswachaka bridge fibers fray easily, every year or two in June, hundreds of people from various Andean communities gather for the rebuilding ceremony, where they weave blades of Qoya grass into six long cables, securing them at each edge of the ravine with eucalyptus trunks. Thanks to their communal effort, constructing the 120-foot long bridge takes only three days.
The locals celebrate the bridge’s completion with food and dancing. Even with a modern metal bridge just upstream, they form a long line at the handwoven Qeswachaka bridge, which is just wide enough for them to cross single file.
Image by Mauro Gambini
A maze-like fortress of jagged limestone pillars, or tsingy, allows western Madagascar’s roughly 260-square mile Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve to teem with strange animal and plant species, from beady-eyed chameleons to swollen baobab trees. Although its razor edges might ward off intruders, you can still experience the tsingy -- as long as heights don't faze you.
Several hanging bridges span Tsingy de Bemaraha's gorges. The narrow crossings, made of wooden planks and rope, are just wide enough for one person. Sprightly lemurs offer an adorable distraction from the menacing limestone pinnacles below.
Image by © Jonas Tonboe
Musou Tsuribashi, Japan
As you'll see in the video below, Musou Tsuribashi rightfully earned its title as Japan's scariest suspension bridge. It soars amid the Akaishi Mountains, also known as the Southern Alps, in an area so remote that little is known about the bridge's exact length or height. Regardless, crossing the half- century-old bridge is sure to shake even the most steely nerved sojourner. Don't shake too much, though -- two thin ropes are the only handholds.
Tied together mainly with wire, the skeletal bridge consists of thin wooden slats across its width and two narrow planks running down its length. With many boards knocked askew and some missing entirely, cross with caution.
You might think only our nimbler primate cousins can traverse these precarious passages. Crisscrossing the Mekong River in southern Vietnam, monkey bridges, or cau khi, typically consist of only a handrail and a bamboo pole that sways and creaks underfoot. But locals cross them all the time, often with bicycles and other heavy loads yoked across their shoulders -- they just need to stoop over, monkey-style.
Monkey bridges connect the villages along the riverbank to the main roads. Although the government has begun replacing the bamboo originals with concrete structures, many monkey bridges still stand, continuing to delight travelers who seek a toe-tingling experience.
Image by City Pass
Wire-Rope Bridge, Scotland
If your vacation to the Scottish Highlands already leads you through moss-grown, centuries-old castles and breathtaking hikes, why not add tightrope walking to your itinerary?
Bordered by the British Isles' highest mountains to the north and the Mamore Range to the south, sheep-dotted Glen Nevis is known for its quiet, pastoral charm. It'’s also home to a terrifyingly tenuous crossing. Made of three steel cables-- one for walking and the other two for holding -- the bridge crosses the Water Nevis, rewarding brave souls with sweeping views of the An Gearanach and An Garbhanach mountains, as well as An Steall, one of Scotland's three highest waterfalls.
The Water Nevis tide can rise to high levels, which makes the bridge's cables slicker. The crossing has already snapped once, resulting in its closure for three months in 2010.
Image by The Pighole
Although rickety rope bridges regularly span northern Pakistan's streams and rivers, the Hussaini hanging bridge arguably ranks as the region's most perilous. Its flimsy wooden planks (many of them missing) and wide swing can send inexperienced travelers reeling into the Hunza River below. Threadbare remnants of the former bridge hang eerily nearby.
While just looking at the ramshackle bridge might make us queasy, locals routinely rely on the crossing to move between the Zarabad and Hussain villages near Passu.
Image by © Swee Ong Wu/Flickr/Getty Images
Melissa Pandika is an editorial intern at Sierra and a graduate journalism student at Stanford University. Her interests include environmental health and justice, urban environmental issues, and conservation biology. She has a soft spot for cetaceans.