Covered in greenery as well as undulating hills. Bangladesh echoes with the Muslim call to prayer as well as Buddhist chants, and is one of the most mysterious and wonderful lands in Asia. Bangladesh is the neighbor of India, but you will find a less developed and more laid back atmosphere here.
The country had a tumultuous past that saw it gain freedom from first the British and then from Pakistani rule. When you consider that all this happened in the 20th century, it just goes to show what a turbulent recent past Bangladesh has had to endure. As a result, it offers a slice of authentic life to travelers who want an untainted image of the region.
The people of Bangladesh are famously friendly and welcoming and the country is full of cultural wonders such as the tea covered highlands of Srimangal to the gorgeous golden sands of Cox’s Bazar, which is actually the third longest beach in the world. Other highlights include bustling cities like Dhaka as well as areas of rural paradise like the Sundarbans National Park.
Here are the best places to visit in Bangladesh:
1. Cox’s Bazar
Spilling out into the Bay of Bengal is Cox’s Bazar, an area covered in salty fishing skiffs and bustling jetties.
This little town in the far south-east of Bangladesh is known for its stunning beach which stretches for an amazing 120 kilometers from north to south along the side of the balmy Indian Ocean.
This is the third longest beach on the planet and you will find local fishermen reeling in the day’s catch as well as bubbling rock pools and crashing turquoise waves that make this a great spot for surfing.
2. The Sundarbans
The Sundarbans are located at the point where the mighty waterways of the Brahmaputra and the scared Ganges crash into each other at the edge of the Bay of Bengal.
As you would expect, the area is also covered in spectacular wildlife and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Here you will find Bengal tigers stalking the mangroves as well as rhesus macaques swinging in the canopies.
Other highlights include chitals and you will also find local huts dotted around the area and hiding beneath waxy palm trees.
It may seem a world away from the wilds of area like the Sundarbans mangroves but the city of Dhaka offers you a jungle of a different kind.
Sprawling along the Buriganga River, Dhaka used to be the home of the British Raj during the colonial period as well as Mughal princes and the likes of Shah Jahan (the architect of the iconic Taj Mahal). Nowadays more than 17 million people call this city home and you can expect temples, churches, mosques monuments, and colorful and aromatic bazaars.
Make sure to also check out the curry and golap eateries of Old Dhaka while you are here.
Srimangal is the tea-growing capital of Bangladesh and the area is a riot of different hues of green.
The area is famous for its rains which help the tea to grow and you will find a sea of different plantations here as you explore the highlands and the hamlets that make up Srimangal.
On a trip here make sure to visit a local tea processing plant which will usually include a trip to a tasting house so that you can enjoy a cup of fragrant tea whilst enjoying the views over the rippling fields.
Hiking is also poplar in the area although the undulating landscapes mean that some hikes are more challenging than others.
Chittagong has a population of 2.5 million which is nothing when you compare it to other cities like Dhaka.
That said, this frenetic port town is still worth a visit, particularly if you are traveling to the beautiful Hill Tracts of Bangladesh.
These gorgeous trails that include pretty Foy’s Lake are hidden along scenic valleys and Chittagong is widely considered to be the jumping off point if you are planning a trek.
In the city proper you will find Chittagong Ship Breaking Yard where you can see hulking tankers being ripped apart, and other spots of interest include the shrine of Sufi Amanat Khan, one of the most revered saints in Bangladesh.
Set amongst the beautiful Chittagong Hill Tracts is the delightful mountain town of Rangamati which is a serene and peaceful alternative to many of Bangladesh’s frantic cities.
The town sits on the banks of Kaptai Lake which is known for its blue and green waters as well as the woodlands that surround it.
Small, colorfully painted boats bob on the surface of the lake and if you are lucky then you may see an Asian elephant strolled along the riverbank.
The main draw here is the hiking and wildlife excursions as well as the golden statue of Buddha Dhatu Jadi.
Other top spots to visit also include the Parjatan Hanging Bridge and the regal palaces of the old Chakma Raj.
Surrounded by the Muranja, Wayla, and Chimbook mountains that rise to nearly 1,000 meters above sea level is the stunning town of Bandaran.
The area is covered in misty green and is home to tobacco farms and hilltop lookouts and there is also a lively bazaar where you will find arts and crafts from the Shan tribes from Myanmar across the border.
Other reasons to come here include lazy bamboo boat rides along the majestic River Sangu as well as the mighty Nilgiri Hill and the crashing waters of the Jadipai Waterfall.
8. Saint Martin
The little enclave of Saint Martin is like nowhere else in Bangladesh as this is the only coral island in the country.
The region is covered in shifting sands and lapping seas, all nestled close to coconut groves.
In many ways it looks more like the Caribbean than South Asia, and you will find delicious seafood here including fiery curries.
Scuba diving is also a popular pastime, so if you want to check out some of the country’s amazing aquatic life then this is the place to do it.
Paharpur is a pint-sized town which is most well known for the Naogaon District where you will find UNESCO World Heritage Site ruins called Somapura Mahavihara.
This spot is said to be one of the most fascinating Buddhist archeological sites in South Asia and takes the form of a large redbrick quadrangle which is bisected with alleys and chambers that would have been meditation rooms in days of old.
Make sure to check out the ornate stone work which dates back to the 8th century.
Kuakata Beach juts out into the Indian Ocean from the southern side of the river islands of central Bangladesh.
One of the great reasons to come here is to watch the sunset over the sea with the glowing Sundarbans in the distance.
The beach is fringed with tropical palm trees and you will also find small rivers that cut through the land to the Bay of Bengal.
This area of Bangladesh is less visited by tourists so if you are looking for the road less traveled then this is a good spot to choose.
Some of the people you will see here are the local fisherman and you can sample delicious curried crab and lobster.
Located in the lush highlands of the north of the country, Sylhet is covered in tropical forests and tea plantations.
This part of Bangladesh has a history that dates back 800 years and you will find Hindu shrines in Jaflong that are slowly being taken over by the lush shrubbery.
In the center of Sylhet you will find markets selling piles of tea leaves and locals cycling around town.
You will also find the Bangladesh-India border here at Tamabil-Jaflong as well as the Lawacherra Rainforest which is known for its resident leopards.
12. Gaur (Lakhnauti)
The ancient city of Gaur sits on the Indian border and is located in north-eastern Bangladesh.
Nowadays the city is ruined and uninhabited and you will see red-hued arches as well as towers and crumbling monuments.
Power struggles between the Afghans and the Mughals meant that the town was abandoned in the 16th century and you should make sure not to miss the relics here such as the carved stone reliefs in the Eunuchs’ Mosque and the royal tombs.
Bagerhat is not as famous as Dhaka or Srimangal but this peaceful city in the south west of the country has an array of historic attractions that you can enjoy at a slower pace.
The city was founded in the 15th century by the Sufi Saint Khan Jahan Ali and it is the home of the Shait Gumbad Mosque.
Here you will find towering domes and you can also take a trip to the tomb of Saint Khan Jahan Ali which is usually covered with offerings and surrounded by chanting pilgrims.
If you were to look at Barisal from above then it would resemble a patchwork of muddy brown and deep green fields.
This river town on the Ganges Delta is covered in fields of shrimp farms and rice paddies and if you make it here then be sure to check out the floating markets that sell local vegetables, fruits, and seafood.
Sonargaon used to be a thriving trading hub but now it is something of a ghost town that straddles the Ganges.
Here you will find eerie carved mansions and docks, old mosques, and jungle vines twisting in between everything.
If you want to see a completely different side of Bangladesh that many people don’t experience, then this is the place to come.