Unlike their revered, rail-bound cousins, long-distance buses are considered more of a necessary evil than rewarding travel experience. These unsightly, lumbering machines have a reputation for being uncomfortable, unpleasant and tireless champions of the very worst in musical radio.
But, when plying the right route, traversing a country by bus can be a genuine delight, offering penny-pinching travellers a front-row view of the world’s scenic byways and lesser-seen landscapes, as well as granting opportunities to meet memorable characters and tuck in to local delicacies en route.
So strap yourself in and leave your preconceived notions behind, as we embark on a whistle-stop tour of the world’s most beautiful bus rides.
Morocco: Marrakesh to Er Rachidia
- Distance: 308 miles (496km)
- Estimated duration: 11 hours
The landscapes rolling past the windows along this 300-mile journey tend to render travellers transfixed in a style usually reserved strictly for mobile phones and film screens; a phenomenon that is fitting given these desert vistas, hemmed by the dramatic Atlas Mountains, have provided the backdrop to countless cinematic encounters, from Lawrence of Arabia to Gladiator to Game of Thrones.
The story of this great voyage begins in the dizzying souks of atmospheric Marrakesh, quickly ramping up in tension as it approaches the High Atlas via the tortuous Tizi n’Tichka pass (2260m). Having meandered along heady mountain trails, the route passes an arid landscape of mudbrick kasbahs and palm groves to Ouarzazate, nicknamed ‘Ouallywood’ for its film studio, where a troop of Berbers, sporting colourful traditional turbans, may join your roving cast. The grand finale is Er Rachidia, a former French garrison town on the fringe of the Sahara, where sandboarding, camel treks and adventures in the great desert await.
Top tip: For additional comfort, grab a seat on one of the premium bus lines running this route, such as CTM or Supratours.