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Journey through Asia’s breath-taking landscapes: 5 most scenic bus rides

Discovering the breath-taking landscapes and wonders of nature in Asia often goes beyond simply arriving at your destination. Sometimes, the journey itself becomes an unforgettable part of the adventure. From the majestic mountain passes of the Himalayas to the serene rice fields of Southeast Asia, this continent offers some of the most stunning and picturesque bus rides in the world.

These bus journeys are comparatively cheap, coupled with a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the natural beauty as well as the local cultures and traditions. So, buckle up and get ready as we present some of the most beautiful roads in Asia that you may enjoy from the comfort of a bus seat.

Journey through Asia’s breath-taking landscapes: 5 most scenic bus rides

Photo: Collected / Wikimedia Commons / Mahnoorrana11

Karakoram Highway

The Karakoram Highway, also known as the Friendship Road in China, is a part of the old Silk Road that has been in use for centuries. Stretching from the Hasan Abdal of Pakistan to the Kashgar of China, this 1,300 kilometres highway is also one of the longest paved roads in the world.

The path passes through the Karakoram and the Pamir mountain ranges at an extremely high altitude, with its highest point at the Khunjerab Pass, which stands at an elevation of 4,693 metres above sea level, making it the highest border pass in the world. Along this remarkable route, visitors will be treated to panoramic vistas of majestic mountains, steep valleys, glaciers, and pristine lakes that offer an unforgettable visual experience.

Given the considerable length of this highway, it is hardly surprising that a single bus journey will not suffice; at least two trips are necessary for the full experience. The best approach for a bus expedition along this route would be to catch a bus departing from Islamabad to Gilgit, with fares typically ranging from Tk 1,000 to Tk 1,800.

The section of the highway that winds through Gilgit-Baltistan is renowned for its exceptional scenic beauty, so take some time to savour the breath-taking views. Do not forget to try out the local speciality, Bozlanj tea, prepared from an indigenous wildflower. Afterwards, catch another bus from Gilgit heading towards the Khunjerab Pass, a ride that generally costs between Tk 4,000 and Tk 5,500.

Pai-Chiang Mai Route

Officially known as Route 1095, the Pai to Chiang Mai highway is arguably the most scenic route in Thailand. As you get on the bus for this trip, you will find yourself winding through the mountainous region of Northern Thailand, featuring mesmerising vistas of dense forests, hills, green valleys, and endless paddy fields that seem to meet the sky at the horizon. 

In spring, the route transforms into a vivid tapestry of wildflowers in full bloom. Yet, the real allure of this highway lies in its meandering path. The highs and lows of the road, complete with more than 750 twists and turns, offer an experience that has often been described as a roller coaster ride. This adventurous 128 kilometres bus journey will cost travellers around Tk 600.

Journey through Asia’s breath-taking landscapes: 5 most scenic bus rides

Photo: Collected

Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi

If you cherish the idea of exploring Vietnamese culture and landscape on a single bus tour, this trip is probably meant for you. Connecting the northernmost part of Vietnam with its capital in the south, the National Route 1A offers a diverse and captivating experience featuring the natural beauty and cultural heritage of the country.

As you start your journey to the north from Ho Chi Minh City, the road will follow the Mekong Delta, with paddy fields and intricate waterways as far as the eye can see. Further along the road, you will pass through charming coastal towns like Nha Trang and Da Nang, where pristine beaches dot the coastline. As your bus takes you to the North even further, you will be welcomed with stunning views of traditional Vietnamese villages and their terraced rice fields.

Travellers should expect a journey of roughly 35 to 40 hours along this extensive 1,730 kilometre highway, costing between Tk 3,000 and Tk 4,500 for their ticket fare.

Tianmen Mountain Road

The Tianmen Mountain Road, often locally referred to as the Heaven Linking Avenue, is a world-famous scenic road located in Hunan Province, China. Unlike other roads on this list, this route is considerably small. The length is only 11 kilometres but still, the journey is not for the faint of heart as in addition to the mesmerising beauty of the Tianmen Mountain, this relatively small road also features 99 terrifying U-turns. 

This road seamlessly blends the beauty of nature with exceptional engineering, promising a unique experience for adventurous souls. At the heart of this road's fame lies the enchanting 'Heaven's Gate', a remarkable natural rock arch formation that serves as the frame of the summit of the mountain.

For starting your bus trip to this enchanting mountain, the most convenient option is to hop on a bus to either Route 4 or Route 402 from Zhangjiajie City. Pay the ticket price, which typically hovers around Tk 30, and you will be on your way for an unforgettable journey!

Journey through Asia’s breath-taking landscapes: 5 most scenic bus rides

Photo: Collected / Wikimedia Commons / Narender9

Leh-Manali Highway

Located in the northern region of India, the Leh-Manali highway is arguably the most adventurous bus journey that the country has to offer. Connecting Manali of Himachal Pradesh with Leh, the capital of Ladakh, this 480 kilometres long road is probably the most beautiful one too. From the lush green valleys of Manali to the rugged beauty of the high-rising barren mountains of Ladakh, the highway offers a complete mountain road experience.

The route features several incredibly beautiful locations, such as the Rohtang Pass, Taglang La, Baralacha La, and the Pangong Lake. Your journey will also lead you through a series of charming towns and villages, including Keylong and Sarchu, each offering its own unique cultural charm.

The cost of a bus ticket for this route is approximately Tk 4,000, which includes an overnight stay in Keylong and a couple of meals along the way.

Alternatively, travellers have the option to catch a bus from Manali to Keylong for about Tk 230 and then board another bus from Keylong to Leh, typically priced around Tk 800. This will allow you to enjoy the entire experience while still following the budget-friendly options.