Day 1: Dhaka. On arrival in Dhaka, transfer to the hotel. Time permitting, explore Dhaka and get to grips with this vibrant city. Overnight Rosewood Hotel or similar. To some, Bangladesh’s capital is overwhelming. For others it is exhilarating. No-one can deny that Dhaka leaves an indelible impression on you. A chaotic mass of humanity, Dhaka is Bangladesh’s most vibrant city and with a population of around 12 million, one of the largest in South Asia. Formerly ruled by the Moghuls and known as Jahangir Nagar, Dhaka is packed full of caravanserais, forts, palaces, mosques and churches, all bearing witness to the many cultures that have left their mark on the city. The Buriganga River runs through the city, a great place for observing the many faces of Dhaka and getting a feel for life in the world’s most densely populated city. With its colourful thriving markets, its fascinating monuments, its numerous rickshaws and most of all its engaging people, Dhaka is an experience not to be missed.
Day 2: Kurigram. Travel to Kurigram in the north west of Bangladesh. The journey takes you through a diversity of landscapes and is a good introduction to the geography of the country. Arrive Kurigram in the late afternoon. The rest of the day is free to relax or explore. Overnight Chinnamukul Guesthouse or similar. (BLD)
Day 3: Kurigram - Rangpur. We spend much of the day exploring the chars of the Brahmaputra River. These are large sandbank islands, isolated from the mainland, home to some traditional and fascinating communities. We spend our time here visiting local settlements and learning about the challenges of life here. In the late afternoon driver to Rangpur. Overnight Parjatan Motel or similar. (BL). Chars are sand islands found in a number of the main rivers of Bangladesh, home to remote communities that live very much outside of the mainstream. Only accessible by boat they have only rudimentary facilities, lacking basic services such as electricity, and they are very vulnerable to flooding during the rainy seasons, something exacerbated by climate change. The chars throughout the country are home to over half a million people who eke out a living on the sands, creating tiny farms for themselves by the virtue of the silt brought down the rivers from the Himalayas. These are one of the most fascinating environments in Bangladesh and will be one of the most memorable parts of your trip.
Day 4: Rangpur. Today we explore the highlights of northern Bangladesh, visiting the Tajhat Palace, one of the finest in Bangladesh, as well as the temple of Kali Mandir. Later visit Kantanagar temple, a stunning terracotta Hindu temple built in 1652 by the Maharaja of Dinajpur. In the afternoon visit the Ramsagar, a huge and picturesque pond. Overnight at Parjatan Motel or similar. (BL)
Day 5: Paharpur. Morning visit to Paharpur, a famous Buddhist site dating back to the 8th century and one of the most impressive archaeological sites in the country. Later visit the Hindu temples in Puthia before returning driving to Rajshahi. Overnight at Parjatan Motel, Rajshahi or similar. (BL). The enormous complex of Paharpur was constructed by the Pala ruler Dharmapala in the 8th century, built in the middle of what was once jungle. The main site is the huge monastery of Somapura, consisting of a number terraces, plinths and staircases centred around a huge shrine, although now only the lower part remains. What is left seems almost organic, with grass growing over ancient brickwork and the temple seemingly being reclaimed by the earth. The temple itself is in the shape of a cross and stands 22 metres high, hinting at previous glory and an impressive site. Many walls are covered in elaborate terracotta plaques depicting scenes of everyday life 1200 years ago. Covering 22 acres in size, Paharpur is without a doubt the finest set of archaeological remains in the country.
Day 6: Khulna – Bagerhat – Mongla. Early morning train journey to Khulna. Arrive early afternoon and visit Bagerhat, home to the famous 60-domed mosque Shad Gambuj Masjid. Overnight in Pasur Hotel or similar. (BL)
Day 7: Sundarbans. Spend the day exploring the Sundarbans by boat. This is the planet's largest mangrove forest, the home of the Royal Bengal Tiger and many other mammals and birds. You cruise both the larger rivers and are able to enter smaller canals for maximum opportunities to see wildlife. You will also be able to go ashore to walk through and experience the forest first-hand. Return to Khulna for the evening. Overnight in Western Inn or similar. (BL)
The Sundarbans are spread across Bangladesh and India, with the majority being in Bangladesh. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997, it is one of the most important habitats for wildlife on the India subcontinent, with a wide variety of species being represented here. It also acts as a flood barrier for inland towns and villages when cyclones hit the coast. Two different ecosystems are represented here, freshwater swamp forest and mangrove forest, prowled by tigers in search of deer and other prey. The Sundarbans is home to the highest density of tigers in the world, with an estimated 500 individuals stalking through the trees, although it is difficult to see them. Local villagers are however often less lucky – man-eating tigers are well known here and many villagers have taken to wearing masks on the back of their heads to give the impression of eyes, as it is said that tigers are less likely to approach their prey head on. Even without seeing tigers, the sheer pristine beauty of the Sundarbans, and the numerous other wildlife to be seen here, make this a very special experience.
Day 8: Dhaka - Sylhet. Drive to Jessore and fly back to Dhaka. From here we travel to Sylhet, in the north east of the country, stopping en route at anything of interest that we may see. Overnight Hotel Rose View or similar. (BL)
Day 9: Jaflong. Today drive to Jaflong, one of the most scenic areas in Bangladesh, close to the Indian border. Here we can see how the local people are collecting stone, with great opportunities to see a different side of Bangladeshi life and superb chances for photography. Visit the village across the river to meet Khasia tribal people and see their daily lifestyle. Return to Sylhet and visit the shrine of the great saint Hazrat Shah Jalal. Afternoon drive to Srimongal, the centre of Bangladesh’s tea growing industry. Overnight at Nishorgo Eco Resort or similar. (BLD)
Days 10-11: Srimongal. We spend two days exploring the area around Srimongal, perhaps the most beautiful region of the country. We hike in the Lowacheera Forest Reserve, with its numerous species of birds and primates including the extremely rare Hoolock gibbon, which we hope to spot. We also take a boat trip in the Hail Haor wetland sanctuary, locally renowned for its waterbirds. Other visits include the charming tea plantations and villages of the Monipuri tribal people for an insight into their daily lives. Overnight at Nishorgo Eco Resort or similar. (BL)
Day 12: Dhaka. Return to Dhaka. After arrival visit some of the sights of the capital including the National Assembly Building of the Bangladesh Parliament, the Armenian church and the university area. Overnight at Rosewood Hotel or similar. (B)
Day 13: Dhaka. Transfer to the airport for your onward flight. (B)
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