The most diverse region of Bangladesh, Chittagong is a land that stretches from forested hills and scenic lakes to sandy beaches and coral islands. It’s a land of off-the-beaten-track adventure, with great hiking and remote boat trips, but also one of cultural contrasts – around a dozen Adivasi groups live here.
Khulna & Barisal
A land of savage beauty where man still battles nature for everyday survival, unexplored Khulna comes top on the bucket list of intrepid adventurers. Comprising in large parts of nothing but marshlands, waterlogged jungles and rivers, this archetypal explorer country is not easy to navigate, but it promises to leave you with some of your most abiding memories of Bangladesh.
Most people arrive in the southwestern division of Khulna with the primary intention of organising a boat trip deep into the Sundarbans, to spy on Royal Bengal tigers in their mangrove habitat. That apart, the biggest draw of the region are the Islamic ruins of Bagerhat, which is now a Unesco World Heritage Site.
Chittagong is Bangladesh's second-largest city and the country's largest port. It's a gritty, polluted and congested place, but as the gateway to the Chittagong Hill Tracts – one of the most beautiful and fascinating corners of the country – it's somewhere that many visitors pass through at some point.
Built on the northern bank of the Padma River, Rajshahi is a fun university town with enough colour and attractions to keep you occupied for a short visit. It also makes a sensible base from which to dig through the layers of history in Sona Masjid, Puthia and Natore. The Padma's riverbank affords pleasant views.
Cox's Bazar – named for an 18th-century British East India Company captain – is a place dear to most Bangladeshis' hearts. As everyone you meet will tell you, it's the longest continual natural beach on the planet (a whopping 125km), and the place where the country likes to come to relax.
Srimangal & Around
Sylhet may be the primary city in the eponymous division, but sylvan Srimangal is the undoubted star of this region. Blessed with rolling hills carpeted with endless tea plantations, dense forest sanctuaries and a sprinkling of tribal villages, this place is bound to rank among your most treasured experiences in Bangladesh.
The river-laden division of Barisal is very much off the radar for the average tourist, but an off-the-beaten-track journey here makes for a wonderfully authentic riverine experience. Barisal has little in the way of must-see sights, but its maze of waterways, luxuriously green farmland and quiet village life make it a beautiful place to travel around.