Currently off the mainstream tourist radar and all the better for it in our opinion. If you seek adventure in an authentic, diverse and largely undeveloped location, Bangladesh could well be for you. The country offers a surprisingly diverse range of experiences and getting to them is generally easy and comfortable – we found road conditions to be very good. Bangladesh is one of the most populated countries in the world, but also one of the friendliest. Outside of Dhaka, most Bangladeshis will not have come across foreign tourists and their interest is warm and genuine. The land is dotted with waterways that flood in the summer, providing rich soil to generate the lush landscape that follows. A journey through this rural wonderland is a very special experience.
For the time being, tourism is still in its infancy in Bangladesh, especially outside of Dhaka. If you don’t mind skipping 5 star luxury, you’ll be rewarded with stunning rural landscape, friendly locals and authentic experiences.
The Sundarbans National Park is one of the main reasons why many people come to Bangladesh. The world’s largest mangrove forest is a myriad of tidal waterways where a range of wildlife can be spotted, including the famous Bengal tiger.
Dhaka is a city of two halves. Most tourist hotels are found in the newer business district of Gulsham, although there are few sights of interest here. Old Dhaka however is a sensation overload; narrow crowded lanes, bustling bazars and thousands of brightly painted rickshaws make this a truly unforgettable experience.
Take the overnight paddle-wheel steamer boat from the fascinating Sadarghat boat terminal in Dhaka, where enormous multi deck ferries tower alongside tiny wooden canoes. In the early morning, you’ll arrive at Barisal from where you can explore the tranquil backwaters of Bangladesh by traditional country boat, stopping at local villages along the way and visiting a floating market.
History lovers should make for Paharpur and Mahasthangarh where you will find impressive Buddhist and archaeological sites. The ancient mosques and mausoleums at Bagerhat are also a highlight, especially the 60 domed mosque.
Nature lovers shouldn’t miss the Sylhet area for trekking, cycling and exploring the tea gardens around Srimangal.
Stroll on the longest stretch of natural beach in the world at Cox’s Bazar and venture into the Chittagong Hills to discover Bangladesh’s Adivasi culture. The communities living on the chars (river islands made of silt) are also fascinating to visit and gain an insight into their way of life.
Bangladesh has something to offer everyone looking for a diverse, authentic experience and a bit of adventure. Our advice is to go now, before the inevitable development and sanitisation.
Best Time to Go:
The high season in Bangladesh is from October to March; temperatures are cooler and the worst of the main monsoon rains are over. January and February can sometimes get chilly. Temperatures rise in April and May and can be unbearable without the cooling monsoon rains. However, this is the time to join honey harvesters in the Sundarbans. Monsoon rains arrive in June which cools the air but can disrupt travel plans due to flooding. The monsoon season lasts from June to September. At this time, the tea picking in Sylhet is fully underway.
Main Tourist Destinations: (in alphabetical order)
Dhaka, Barisal, Kushtia, Paharpur, Mahasthangarh, Chittagong, Cox’s Bazar, Sylhet, Srimangal, Sundarbans, Bogra, Mongla, Khulna
Dhaka, Chittagong, Sylhet
The longest continuous sea beach in the world can be found in Bangladesh at Cox’s Bazar.
The season starts in the Sundarbans in April. Visitors can join special tours that accompany the honey harvesters into the mangrove forests.
The world’s second largest gathering of Muslims after the Hajj in Mecca takes place in mid to late January in the north Dhaka suburb of Tongi. Millions of people take to the streets.
The month of fasting for Muslims sees many restaurants either closed or with limited opening times and menu. The fast is broken at sunset with a selection of iftar, traditional Ramadan snacks which is interesting to try. Ramadan takes place in June or July. Some public buildings may close or have restricted opening hours during Ramadan and traffic in Dhaka is at a standstill for a few hours before sunset as people return home to break their fast.
A Hindu festival to celebrate the birth of Krishna in August/September. Thousands of devotees congregate at Dhaka’s Dhakeswari Temple.
Bengali New Year
Known locally as Pohela Boishakh, hundreds of thousands of people gather under the banyan tree in Dhaka’s Ramna Park on 14 April to celebrate the new year with singing, dancing and various processions.
Known as Dol Purnima in Bengal, the “Festival of Colours” involves Hindus throwing coloured powder and water over each other. It is best observed in Dhaka’s Shankharia Bazar and usually takes place in March.
A six day Hindu festival in October celebrating the goddess Durga. Effigies are built and paraded through Dhaka’s Shankharia Bazar before being placed into the Buriganga River on the final day.
Eid ul Fitr
The end of Ramadan is celebrated by much feasting.
Dhaka, Chittagong, Sylhet
One month visa on arrival available at Dhaka airport
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