Bangladesh is the hidden jewel of Asia and a must for your travelwishlist
Bangladesh sits comfortably between India and Myanmar and is the perfect getaway for those who want to get off the beaten path. This country is rich in culture and diversity and is the perfect location for a once-in-a-lifetime holiday. Whether you love thrilling experiences or would prefer to relax and unwind, Bangladesh is full of surprises. When planning your holiday, here are six top destinations recommended by a local:
Dhaka is the capital city of Bangladesh, and it’s also home to the largest international airport in Bangladesh. Most visitors will begin their journey here, and you cannot ask for a better start. This bustling city never sleeps, and it is so easy to get swept away by its charm. For those who love to learn a little about the history of where they are, Dhaka has so many different monuments to learn from, and is the perfect place to learn more about the history and culture of the country. The Lalbagh Fort is an incomplete 17th century Mughal fort, which was abandoned when the Mughal royalty did, but it remains standing today. Another important monument to visit is the Shaheed Minar, erected to represent the deaths caused by the 1952 Bengali Langauge Movement demonstrations. The best way to see all of these monuments (and others) is to take a guided day tour, where experienced guides can teach you all about the history and culture found within the city.
If you do need a quick break from the hustle and bustle, we recommend a day trip to Sonargaon. Not too far from Dhaka, Sonargaon is the old capital of Bangladesh, and the historic beauty of this region is unmatched. Parts of the city, such as Panam Nagar, have been abandoned, but still stand as reminders of the beauty and power of the city. For the best experience, take a guided tour that includes a relaxed boat ride down the Meghna River.
Sylhet is another bustling metropolis, situated in the north-east of Bangladesh. The region has been a constant source of power throughout history, with many battles being fought over the fertile land and various periods of colonization by Mughals and the British. Today, the region of Sylhet is the largest producer of oil and gas in Bangladesh, making it a land of prosperity and growth. Aside from the significant oil production in the area, Sylhet is also known for its aromatic, delicious teas. Tea lovers should take a trip to the Lakkatura Tea Garden, an estate that covers over 3,000 acres and produces over 500 tons of tea. Learn the practice of tea harvesting that has been going on here for hundreds of years, and take in the peaceful serenity of this oasis. Take in the vast rolling hills as you walk, and watch the women hard at work picking tea leaves that will be exported all over the globe. The tea garden isn’t too far from the city center, and can easily (and cheaply) be accessed through public or private transport.
Depending on what time of the year you visit Bangladesh, you may want to visit the Ratargul swamp forest. This forest is protected by the government and is home to a diverse range of plants and animals. Take a guided tour down the river and through all the little inlets, Most people travel through the swamp during monsoon season, which runs from April/May to August. You can easily plan a day trip to the Ratargul swamp forest from Sylhet, and there are a number of tour operators that take bookings year-round.
Chattogram, also known as Chittagong, is another coastal city that is just teeming with life. It is a major port for the country and as a result, there are always people coming and going. One activity that should be on everyone’s bucket list for when in Chattogram is to take a ride in a baby taxi. “Baby taxi” is the name given to the small auto rickshaws that zoom around the country, and are also popular throughout Asia. It’s very common in Chattogram to see brightly painted baby taxis, as drivers take pride in their vehicle, and work hard to make sure they stand out. Not only is this form of transport common and relatively cheap, but it really is one of the most efficient options. If you love the thrill of winding sharply in and out of traffic, then you need to go for a ride at least once.
4. COX'S BAZAR
Cox’s Bazar is famous for being the longest sandy beach in the world. The name Cox’s Bazar actually refers to a town near the coast, but you need to make the most of these stunning beaches. No holiday is complete without spending at least a little time relaxing on beautiful sunny sands, and this is the perfect spot to unwind. Cox’s Bazar is also one of the best surfing spots in Bangladesh. Although the local surf community is relatively small, it is full of amazing surfers who want to share the gift of surfing with others. Coast the waves with a rented board from the local surf school, or take lessons from the Bangladeshi masters themselves. Although Bangladesh has a very conservative population it is not unusual to see women on the waves alongside men - this is one of the only spots in the world where female and male surfers are almost equal in numbers.
One of the most popular attractions to visit in Rangamati is Kaptai Lake. This is the largest man-made lake in Bangladesh, and a leisurely boat ride across it is the best way to explore its grandeur. Created in 1960 in order to make a dam and provide electricity and water for the city below, Kaptai Lake has become a major tourist hotspot. The lake is surrounded by dense green forestry, secluding this calm oasis from the outside world. There are a range of different options available for hire at the dock of the lake, complete with captains who can show you the best spots on the late. We recommend booking a traditional sampan boat for the most authentic experience - these beautifully-crafted boats were initially used for fishing and to transport goods up and down the river. Although many are still used for these purposes today, they have also found great popularity thanks to the smooth ride that they can offer tourists. If you aren’t content to just sail across the lake, you can rent a boat to take you to the Shuvolong waterfalls. Enjoy this stunning natural wonder from afar, or jump in the cool waters to refresh yourself. Kaptai Lake is also home to some beautiful picnic spots, so make sure you pack some lunch as you relax in the middle of this lush paradise.
Patuakhali is another coastal town, made famous for being able to see uninterrupted views of both the sunrise and sunset. Also known as the “Daughter of the sea,” Patuakhali is surrounded by rivers as well as the ocean. A definite must-do for your time in Patuakhali is morning yoga early on the beach as the sun rises, or a sweet, romantic picnic on the sand as the sun sets. The best views can be seen from Kuakata Sea Beach, located at the very tip of the peninsula. Kuakata is the second-most popular tourist destination, but it still radiates far more tranquility and peace than the packed Cox’s Bazar. Take advantage of the warm weather to relax, or go swimming in the calm seas.
The best time to visit Bangladesh
Bangladesh experiences various weather patterns, and certain times of the year are better for planning your dream holiday. It is recommended that you visit the country between November and April. Bangladesh experiences winter from November to February, so this is the coolest period of the year. The country’s proximity to the equator means it is never actually that cold - in fact, most tourists find these temperatures the most comfortable. For people who do like the heat, March and April are still relatively cool and the weather is sunny.
May to October is generally seen as the "off season" for Bangladesh because this is summer and the monsoon season. Bangladesh experiences high temperatures and extreme humidity from the end of April to June. This can feel incredibly uncomfortable for many tourists, especially those who have created an itinerary filled with outdoor activities. June to October is referred to as the monsoon season and is characterized by ongoing heavy rains and tropical cyclones.
Regardless of your travel dates, there will always be unique attractions to experience. There are some tourist activities that are best experienced during the rainy season (specifically the Ratargul swamp forest) when water levels have risen.
There are a number of domestic and international airports throughout Bangladesh, providing easy access to get in and out of the country, as well as from one side to the other. There are some trains that connect cities such as Sylhet and Chattogram. When there are no available trains, buses are also a great choice, although many will travel via Dhaka, which creates an indirect and longer journey.
Moving around in a city is still an easy process, but will differ depending on where you are. Most cities will be full of baby taxis which are small, three-wheeled tuk-tuks. These vehicles are being slowly phased out of some cities due to their high levels of emissions, but you will always be able to find regular taxis instead.
Obtaining a visa
Most foreign nationals traveling to Bangladesh require a visa, but this can be sorted upon arrival, with no prior paperwork required. The cost of this is $51 USD or €51 EUR and must be paid in cash in either of those currencies. The tourist visa is valid for 30 days and can be extended for another 30 days if you wish to enjoy your travels a little longer. Always check official government sources for up to date and accurate visa information before you travel.
[Article written by Ador Talukdar]