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All In A Week's Trip: Beaches, Mountains And Cities Of Bangladesh 


Credits: Nasir Khan

Photo of Credits: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/nasir-khan/8572196250/">Nasir Khan</a> by Yamuna Matheswaran

Despite its proximity to India, Bangladesh is a country that remains relatively unexplored. While bearing similarities with India, Bangladesh retains a unique history and rich culture all of its own. It's also very easy to get to, with regular bus, rail and flight options from Kolkata and other Indian cities. This one-week Bangladesh itinerary includes everything from the hustle and bustle of Dhaka and lush lakes of Chittagong to the fresh mountain air of Bandarban and the pristine beaches of Cox's Bazaar. You'll find that there are plenty of things to do in Bangladesh, and the warmth of the locals will disarm you. So what are you waiting for?

Off the airplane and into the chaos of Dhaka (Photo by Yamuna Matheswaran)

Photo of Off the airplane and into the chaos of Dhaka (Photo by Yamuna Matheswaran) by Yamuna Matheswaran
Day 1

Bangladesh being an Islamic country is home to a number of captivating mosques, and you'd be missing out if you didn't visit at least one. Once you've unloaded your bags and freshened up, kickstart your trip by heading to Baitul Mukarram, the national mosque, situated in the centre of Dhaka. It also happens to be the 10th biggest mosque in the world.

Open daily. No entry fee.

After the mosque, take a taxi/auto-rickshaw to the Armenian Church located in Old Dhaka. Built in the 18th century, the church offers a glimpse into a different world - the life of the Armenian community that thrived in the city a few centuries ago - and is architecturally fascinating.

Contact the caretaker at +880 1711-049608 to arrange a visit.

Feel the pulse of the city on the banks of the Buriganga River, just a few minutes away from the Armenian Church. Dhaka Sadarghat or the Sadarghat Port comprises one of the world's largest river ports, with over a hundred thousand people travelling to and fro everyday. It provides a gritty, lively view of life in Dhaka and, despite the commotion, can be an oddly poetic place to take in the sunset.

If you fancy a boat ride, a one-hour river tour on one the larger wooden boats will cost around Tk 30 - 40, and a ride a small rowboat is about Tk 5 per person.

On the banks of the Buriganga River (Photo by Yamuna Matheswaran)

Photo of On the banks of the Buriganga River (Photo by Yamuna Matheswaran) by Yamuna Matheswaran

The warmth of the locals envelops you (Photo by Yamuna Matheswaran)

Photo of The warmth of the locals envelops you (Photo by Yamuna Matheswaran) by Yamuna Matheswaran

End the evening at the bustling and historic New Market open-air shopping complex, where you can find anything from fabrics, jewellery, food and electronics to sarees, readymade dresses and footwear at a wide range of prices.

Opens at 10 AM, Mondays half-days and closed on Tuesdays. No entry fee.

Day 2

Tomb of Pari Bibi (Photo credit: Francisco Anzola)

Photo of Tomb of Pari Bibi (Photo credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/fran001/30569750134/">Francisco Anzola</a>) by Yamuna Matheswaran

This 17th century historic fort is a striking example of Mughal architecture, albeit an incomplete one, and one of the most frequently-visited tourist places in Bangladesh. It consists of three structures, namely the mosque, the tomb of Pari-Bibi and the Diwan-i-aam palace, surrounded by beautiful gardens.

Timings depend upon the season and day of the week. For more info on timings and prices, click here.

After lunch, head to the Liberation War Museum. An absolute must-see, the museum pays tribute to the nation's hard-won independence from Pakistan during the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971. It also chronicles the events of the monumental Language Movement. Learning about the courage and resilience of the Bangladeshi people, having endured genocide and rape, will move and inspire you.

Timings: 10 AM - 6 PM (Mar - Sep) & 10 AM - 5 PM (Oct - Feb), Sundays closed. Price: Tk 5.

Spend a peaceful evening at the Dhakeshwari Mondir, a Hindu temple located a stone's throw away from the Lalbagh Fort. The temple is open everyday, except in the afternoons from 2 - 4 PM.

Day 3

Greater Chittagong consists of the south easternmost parts of Bangladesh, with a total population of over 28 million. No Bangladesh itinerary can be complete without a trip to this region. It comprises Chittagong city (the second-largest city in Bangladesh), Chittagong Hill Tracts and other neighbouring districts, including Cox's Bazar. Dhaka to Chittagong city is about a 5-hour drive or a 6-hour bus/train ride. Frequent flight options between the two cities also exist. If travelling by land, leave early in the morning in order to arrive in Chittagong city in time for a late lunch.

Sights along the way (Photo by Yamuna Matheswaran)

Photo of Sights along the way (Photo by Yamuna Matheswaran) by Yamuna Matheswaran

Sights along the way (Photo by Yamuna Matheswaran)

Photo of Sights along the way (Photo by Yamuna Matheswaran) by Yamuna Matheswaran

Sights along the way (Photo by Yamuna Matheswaran)

Photo of Sights along the way (Photo by Yamuna Matheswaran) by Yamuna Matheswaran

Sights along the way (Photo by Yamuna Matheswaran)

Photo of Sights along the way (Photo by Yamuna Matheswaran) by Yamuna Matheswaran

After a relaxing lunch, a trip to Aarong Handicrafts will be the perfect way to unwind following a long day of travel. Aarong is a retail outlet selling unique, good quality local artisanal crafts, including clothing, home goods, jewellery and accessories. What makes it stand out is the fact that it is operated by the NGO BRAC and employs poor rural and marginalised artisans, particularly women. Aarong will be a unique addition on your list of things to do in Bangladesh, so don't miss it. You'll definitely find a fitting souvenir and/or gifts here to take back home with you.

Open daily, 10 AM - 8 PM.

Take in the sunset at Patenga Sea Beach, one of the most popular tourist places Bangladesh, while enjoying the various scrumptious street foods on offer. Fried crabs are considered a delicacy here; there is also a selection of restaurants nearby to choose from.

Day 4

The Bandarban Hill District is one of the most sought-after destinations for travellers in Bangladesh, and rightly so. Nestled amidst the clouds and treetops, it is the least populated area in the country. Bandarban makes for an ideal day trip since it is a convenient two-hour drive from Chittagong city.

Bandarban Golden Temple (Photo by Yamuna Matheswaran)

Photo of Bandarban Golden Temple (Photo by Yamuna Matheswaran) by Yamuna Matheswaran

Bandarban Golden Temple (Photo by Yamuna Matheswaran)

Photo of <p class="" data-paraid="para-4685">Bandarban Golden Temple (Photo by Yamuna Matheswaran)</p> by Yamuna Matheswaran

There are a number of things to see and do while in Bandarban. Popular attractions include the Buddha Dhatu Jadi (or the Bandarban Golden Temple), Chimbuk Hill, Meghla Parjatan Complex, and Shaila Prapat waterfall, to name a few. Your best bet would be to book one of the various Bandarban day tour packages on offer. (Inquire at your hotel for further information.)

Note: New regulations require foreigners intending to visit the Chittagong Hill Districts (including Bandarban) to submit an application at the home ministry at least a month ahead of time.

The Chittagong Commonwealth War Cemetery commemorates the many soldiers and civilians who died during the course of World War II. Get an early start to your day by paying your respects at this sombre but scenic memorial.

Open daily from 7 AM - 12 PM & 2 PM - 5 PM. No entry fee.

Foy's Lake (Photo credit: Rafat)

Photo of Foy's Lake (Photo credit: <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foy%27s_Lake#/media/File:Foy%27s_Lake_2_by_Rahat.jpg">Rafat</a>) by Yamuna Matheswaran
Day 5

Another popular feature on any list of tourist places in Bangladesh is Foy's Lake. The picturesque Foy's Lake makes for the perfect way to spend the afternoon, particularly if you're travelling with kids. Embark on a boat ride, head to the amusement park, or enjoy a relaxing lunch by the lakeside. For more info, click here.

Lieutenant General Ziaur Rahman was once the President of Bangladesh and the founder of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party. He was assassinated in 1981 in the Chittagong Circuit House, a rest house for high-ranking government officials. The palatial Circuit House has since become home to the Zia Memorial Museum, paying tribute to the beloved leader and chronicling important events in the nation's history.

Timings: Sat - Wed 10.30 AM - 5.30 PM, Fri 3 - 8 PM, Thursdays closed. Price (local/foreigner) Tk 10/100.

Day 6

The natural, scenic beauty of Cox's Bazar has enthralled tourists for years and made it an almost-permanent fixture on any Bangladesh itinerary. Stretching out to a distance of 120 kms, it is the world's longest sea beach and a particularly must-visit destination if you enjoy coastal life. From Chittagong city, it is around a three-hour drive to the town of Cox's Bazar, and an early start will get you there by noon.

Cox's Bazar (Photo credit: Md Aslam)

Photo of Cox's Bazar (Photo credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/rongdhonutelecom/7668136580/in/photolist-cFBcRo-cFAT2J-cFBcTS-ddhNFE-nYjueY-H1qSZH-nFXuqc-9LAnzK-nFXurV-nYjuhy-nYjut5-7XwaEf-88GEyd-88GELw-88GERo-7W32xk-88GE69-88GEg1-88DqmV-88GEuo-7WD5BZ-88GEaJ-88GENs-88GEnN-7WGibE-88GEDE-Ckz6sA-CC9kx9-CecgsV-CEoSU6-CKotK5-Cec9iK-CKozLo-Cec9GR-BQbABm-gsovj6-CEoUqT-CKowym-CeccRX-BQiNhk-7Hnnxp-N5MsJ5-FKeTXX-GtEMjk-gsqbBR-6fjFUk-gsqReJ-gspUBN-gsoPow-TaGrbq">Md Aslam</a>) by Yamuna Matheswaran

Cox's Bazar (Photo credit: Md Aslam)

Photo of Cox's Bazar (Photo credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/rongdhonutelecom/7668136378/in/photolist-cFBcMU-cFBcRo-cFAT2J-cFBcTS-ddhNFE-nYjueY-H1qSZH-nFXuqc-9LAnzK-nFXurV-nYjuhy-nYjut5-7XwaEf-88GEyd-88GELw-88GERo-7W32xk-88GE69-88GEg1-88DqmV-88GEuo-7WD5BZ-88GEaJ-88GENs-88GEnN-7WGibE-88GEDE-Ckz6sA-CC9kx9-CecgsV-CEoSU6-CKotK5-Cec9iK-CKozLo-Cec9GR-BQbABm-gsovj6-CEoUqT-CKowym-CeccRX-BQiNhk-7Hnnxp-N5MsJ5-FKeTXX-GtEMjk-gsqbBR-6fjFUk-gsqReJ-gspUBN-gsoPow">Md Aslam</a>) by Yamuna Matheswaran

On the way to Cox's Bazar from Chittagong, you will come across the village of Ramu, which houses a significant Buddhist population. Take a little break here and explore the pagodas, monasteries, and the 13-foot bronze Buddha statue.

Day 7

Known for its captivating views of the sunrise and sunset, Laboni Beach is a hit with locals and tourists alike. For a truly memorable experience, book a drive along the coast starting from Laboni Beach all the way to the tranquil Inani Beach (around 35 kms away). There are plenty of opportunities for adventure along the way, such as surfing, jet skiing and parasailing.

Before heading to the airport to fly back to Dhaka and then back home, one final shopping expedition is called for. The Burmese Market offers a plethora of goods - sandalwood-based products, handwoven textiles, food etc. - from Burma, as well as Thailand and China.

Open daily, 8 AM - 12 AM.

How to Reach

If you're travelling to Bangladesh from India, there are a range of options available based on your preference. Buses run from Kolkata to Dhaka (duration of 10-12 hours) as well as as from Agartala to Dhaka (4-5 hours) at very reasonable fares. The Maitree Express is a train service that runs between Kolkata and Dhaka and takes 10-11 hours. Flights to Dhaka from Kolkata, Mumbai and Delhi are frequent and convenient, as well as from Kolkata to Chittagong.

Getting Around

Once inside Bangladesh, you have frequent buses (of all comfort levels) and trains at your disposal. To maximise comfort and minimise travel time, you can also hire taxi services (commonly offered by tour operators) to travel between cities. Dhaka to Chittagong city takes about 5-6 hours by road or 45 minutes by flight. Flights from Cox's Bazar back to Dhaka take an hour and cost around ₹2800 to ₹4200.

Where to Stay

For budget travellers, there are a number of well-rated, reasonably-priced guesthouses as well as decent three and four-star hotels available in Dhaka, Chittagong city and Cox's Bazar. Five-star hotels are aplenty, particularly in Dhaka, and cater to your luxury travel needs. If travelling with family, booking entire homes on Airbnb is a viable, affordable option.

What to Eat & Drink

When in Bangladesh, eat like the locals and feast on various types of fish, vegetables, lentils and rice. Naturally, Bangladeshi cuisine shares a lot in common with food you might be familiar with in India, particularly Bengali and Northeast Indian food. But there are local delicacies that you mustn't miss out on, like sampling varieties of dry fish in Cox's Bazar. There are also a number of restaurants serving European, Latin American, Mediterranean or Asian cuisines, if that strikes your fancy.

Bangladesh will undoubtedly take you by surprise and make for a very memorable trip, while remaining affordable as well. Don't miss out on a chance to explore this hospitable country!

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