Bengali New Year, April
Bishwa Ijtema, January
Lalon Festival, March & October
Cool and dry, January is one of the more comfortable months, although evenings can get pretty chilly.
The world’s second-largest gathering of Muslims, after the Hajj in Mecca, takes place in two three-day periods in mid- to late-January in the north Dhaka suburb of Tongi. Millions line the streets.
Asia’s largest festival of photography is a biennial event organised by DRIK gallery in Dhaka. The festival usually lasts for two weeks towards the end of January. There are events planned for 2017. See www.chobimela.org for details.
Similar weather to January; cool and dry. Locals might be wrapping up in hats and scarves, but for most Westerners it’s mild rather than cold.
February 13 marks the beginning of spring for the Bengali calendar. Biggest celebrations are at Dhaka University. Women traditionally wear yellow.
International Mother Language Day
Also called National Mourning Day, this solemn occasion on 21 February remembers those killed in 1952 during protests to establish Bengali as an official language of East Pakistan. A large procession moves towards Shaheed Minar, a memorial in Dhaka University.
The last month before the weather really hots up, March is still an OK time to visit the Sundarbans, the hill tracts and the wetlands.
Known as Dol Purnima in Bengali, Hinduism’s paint-throwing Festival of Colours is best observed in Dhaka’s Shankharia Bazar. Will be held on 13 March 2017; 2 March 2018; and 21 March 2019.
A three-day folk music festival is held in Kushtia during Dol Purnima (Holi) in honour of Lalon Shah, the legendary Baul saint.
On 26 March top political leaders and hundreds of visitors go to the National Martyrs’ Memorial in Savar, just outside Dhaka, to remember those who lost their lives in the fight for independence.
It’s now too hot for some, although travellers still visit the Sundarbans for honey-collecting trips, and tea picking has begun again in Sylhet.
The honey-collecting season in the Sundarbans starts on 1 April, and visitors can join special tours that follow bee-sting-hardened honey harvesters into the mangrove forests.
Celebrated by minority groups in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (who all have different names for it), this three-day festival is held around Bengali New Year in mid-April and sees much eating, drinking (locally brewed rice beers are a favourite tipple) and merriment.
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 see in the new year before singing, dancing and various processions take place around the city and beyond.
Really very hot now, with no cooling rains. Best to escape to higher ground in the east of the country if you can.
Sometimes called ‘Buddha’s birthday’, this festival actually encompasses the birth, enlightenment and passing away of Gautama Buddha. Good time to be in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Dates match May's full moon, currently listed as 10 May 2017; 28 April 2018; and 18 May 2019.
The anniversary of the birth of national poet Kazi Nazrul Islam is celebrated with public readings and songs on 11 May.
The anniversary of the birth of Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore is celebrated with public readings and songs on 25 May. It’s an interesting time to visit the country's cultural capital, Kushtia.
Bangladesh breathes a collective sigh of relief with the first rains in June, and the land explodes into life. It doesn’t rain all day every day, but sporadic downpours cool the scorching temperatures.
The Muslim month of fasting sees many restaurants either shut down or change to an iftar menu of traditional Ramadan snacks, eaten in the evening. Head to Old Dhaka’s Chowk Bazar for evening atmosphere. Predicted to start on 27 May 2017; 16 May 2018; and 6 May 2019.
May and June is mango season in Bangladesh. Markets in west Rajshahi particularly overflow with them, but you'll find this queen of fruits everywhere.
Monsoon rains continue. It’s a hit-and-miss time for travel, with unpredictable weather, but the greener-than-green scenery and fabulously moody clouds can be awesome. Tea picking in Sylhet is in full swing.
Eid ul Fitr
The Muslim festival that celebrates the end of Ramadan is marked by alms-giving, prayer and feasting. Greet people with ‘Eid Mubarrak!’. Predicted upcoming dates: 26 June 2017; 15 June 2018; and 4 June 2019.
This Hindu festival celebrates Jagannath, lord of the world and a form of Krishna. Images are set upon a jagannath (chariot) and pulled through the streets. Head to Dhamrai, just outside Dhaka. Upcoming dates are 25 June 2017 and 14 July 2018.
The hottest days have now passed, but along with September, this is flood season and huge swathes of Bangladesh disappear underwater, making travel extremely unpredictable.
Day of Mourning
August 15 is a day to mourn the 1975 assassination of Bangladesh’s founder, Sheikh Mujib Rahman. It’s a national holiday when the Awami League is in power; at other times flags are flown at half-mast.
Flooding continues, although the worst of the monsoon rains are over. Sylhet’s tea estates are lush and active. Temperatures are still hot, but not ridiculously so.
Eid ul Adha
The Muslim Festival of Sacrifice remembers Abraham’s sacrifice of his son Ishmael, and is celebrated with mass morning prayers followed by the slaughter of a cow, sheep or goat. Expect blood-strewn streets. Upcoming dates are 1 September 2017; 20 August 2018; and 12 August 2019.
Sometimes in August, sometimes in September, this Hindu festival celebrates the birth of Krishna, an avatar of the god Vishnu. Thousands of devotees descend on Dhaka’s Dhakeswari Temple.
The start of the best time to visit. Late rains sometimes spoil plans but generally the weather is dry and comfortable. From now until March is ideal for the wetlands, the hill tracts and the Sundarbans.
Loud and colourful six-day Hindu festival celebrating the worship of the Hindu goddess Durga. Effigies are built and paraded through Dhaka’s Shankharia Bazar before being dumped in the Buriganga River on the final day. Predicted dates are 11 October 2017 and 18 October 2018.
The second of the two annual, three-day folk-music festivals held in honour of the greatest Baul of them all, Lalon Shah. This one marks the anniversary of his death. Head to Kushtia on 17 October.
Weather-wise, this is the best single month in which to visit Bangladesh. Temperatures have cooled and the rains have gone, but the landscape is still green and lush.
National Revolution Day
November 7 commemorates the 1975 uprising that helped Major General Ziaur Rahman, the founder of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), rise to power. A national holiday when the BNP is in government, but not recognised by the Awami League.
Maha Raas Leela
This Hindu festival, which celebrates a young Lord Krishna, attracts up to 200,000 pilgrims to the Kantanagar Temple near Dinajpur, and is held at full moon in November. Also celebrated with fervour at Dubla Char, a remote island in the Sundarbans.
The cool of November brings out the culture crowd in Dhaka, which hosts several great festivals, including Dhaka Lit Fest, the Bengal Classical Music Festival, Dhaka International Folk Festival, and Jazz & Blues Festival Dhaka.
Getting cooler now, but still dry, December is also a very comfortable time to visit, although evenings start getting chilly towards the end of the month.
Eid Milad un Nabi
Celebrating the birth of the Prophet Muhammad, mosques around the country hold low-key events. Dates for upcoming years are 12 December 2016; 1 December 2017; and 20 November 2018.
Martyred Intellectuals’ Day
Held on 14 December; remembers the murder of hundreds of journalists, doctors and academics that took place just days before the end of the Liberation War. Officials pay their respects at a mass gravesite in the outlying Dhaka neighbourhood of Rayer Bazar.
A national holiday on 16 December, celebrated to mark the end of the 1971 Liberation War. Expect much flag-waving as well as events at the Liberation War Museum.