Things to Do and Places to See in Bandarban
When life gets too overwhelming in the city, you just can’t help but crave a retreat back to nature. If you’re looking for exotic new places to explore, the district of Bandarban in Southeastern Bangladesh might just be the perfect choice for you.
A stunning panorama of greens, mountains, and bodies of water, Bandarban is the remotest and least populated part of the country. It is the home of the country’s highest peaks and the refuge of more than fifteen ethnic minorities. Bandarban is also the hometown of the Bohmong Chief of the Marma population.
Planning a Bandarban trip soon? Here are some of the places and attractions that make Bandarban a worthwhile place to visit:
About 3500 feet high, Nil Giri is one of the tallest peaks in Bandarban. If you’re off to see nature at its finest, then Nil Giri is the place to be. Whether you’re visiting on a cool day in winter or a cloudy afternoon, you will be amazed at the scenery on top of the mountain. You will be able to see river, small waterfalls, and tribal villages from up there.
Hire a Chander Gari (pet name for a truck/jeep) or a micro-bus from Bandarban town and head out to Nilgiri. The journey will surely take your breath away and it may very well be one of the most memorable journeys of your life. It may take 3 hours to reach Nilgiri.
The resort at Nilgiri (the only one at Nilgiri) is managed by the Bangladesh Army, so if you want to spend the night there you will have to contact the authority to make reservations.
In terms of amount of water falling, it is the largest waterfall of Bangladesh. It is connected with Sangu River in a place called Remakri of Thanchi Upazilla. This place was discovered by the tourists very recently. To reach Nafakhum, after coming to Bandarban you will need to go to Thanchi (79 Km from Bandarban) first by bus. It can take around 4 hours.
Once at Thanchi, you will need to register your name at the local army camp and hire a mandatory travel guide. A guide will cost 600Tk for the first day and 500Tk more for each additional day. After all the preparations are made, you will need to hire an engine boat (4000-5000Tk) which will cover the Thanchi-Remakri-Thanchi route via Sangu river. It will take 4 hours to reach Remakri (upstream) and 2 hours to get back from Remakri (downstream). You can have your lunch here and prepare to spend the night at this place. Some locals will let you stay at their place for just 80-100Tk – which will be a great experience for sure. In the morning, ar around 5 am start your 2 hour hiking towards Nafakhum. I know that it takes a while to reach Nafakhum, but it is worth it. And the journey is spectacular in its own self.
Travel Tip: No bus is available after 2:30 pm from Thanchi to Bandarban. So make preparations accordingly.
Nilachal & Shuvronila
Situated at only 5 kms away, this 2000ft high pit-stop is one of the most easily accessible tourist spots of Bandarban. Just hire a autoriksha or a jeep to go there. Best time to visit is in rainy season or in winter. From the top you will be able to enjoy a bird’s-eye view of the Bandarban town.
Travel Tip: There is no accommodation facility or restaurants at the top. So you will need to make arrangements accordingly.
Shoilo Propat and Bawm Market
If the crystal clear water of this natural fall does not attract you, you may be tempted to experience glimpses of the local bawm community (tribe) living in this area. Due to the availability of fresh water in this area 2/3 bawm villages have been set up here. Bawm handicrafts like hand-woven baskets, rugs and fish-traps can be found and purchased from local shops.
Travel Tip: Accommodation & food is not available here. But you can enjoy some tea at the local teashops run by the bawm people.
If Rangamati has Kaptai Lake, then Bandarban has Boga Lake – the difference though is that the beauty and wonders of Boga Lake are all natural. It is also the highest lake in the country, being about 3000 feet above sea level. The journey to this lake can be a tiring one (not for you if you are more of the luxurious type), but the view once you reach the lake is simply rewarding. It may take a 4 hour hike from Ruma Bazar.
Travel Tip: It is recommended that you start your journey in the morning so that you can relax and do your activities in the afternoon. You might as well camp the night away and light a bonfire beside the lake’s magnificent beauty.
Golden Temple or Shorno Mondir
Situated about 3kms away from town, (also known as) Buddha Dhatu Jadi houses Bangladesh’s second largest Buddha. The beautiful golden stupa sits on top of the hill, giving visitors a good glance over Balaghata and a peaceful religious complex all in all. It attracts local and foreign visitors alike all year long.
Travel Tip: You need only a few hours to visit this beautiful site. The temple is open from 5PM to 7PM. Please note that shorts or three quarters pants are not allowed inside the temple.
Meghla is one of the top tourist attractions in Bandarban. Located 4 kilometers from town on the road to Keranihat, Meghla features a mini-safari-park, a zoo, a hanging bridge and a artificial lake at the foot of the hill. It is a perfect venue for an afternoon of boat riding, picnic, and bonding with your friends and family.
You can spend a whole day in Meghla – just remember to prepare some food as it can be hard to find some full meals inside the place.
Boating on the River Sangu
Sangu River (also known as Chhangu) is an integral part of the local community. Though in winter the river comes almost to a standstill, during rainy season it showcases a strong current. Hundreds of logs and bamboos are transported through this river.
Experience Bandarban’s famous River Sangu by crusing through the waters on a sampan (a double oared boat with a blunt aft and a flat bottom) or a normal boat. You will enjoy boating through the river’s serpentine cruise as you appreciate nature and witness local people doing their daily activities. The cruise may take from 1 hour up to a whole day – depending if you want to make stopovers for food or just make a quick trip through the place.
Travel Tip: Hire a sampan (traditional boat) or an engine boat from Kyachingghata or from old Chhangu bridge and go upstream or downstream.
Tohzah Restaurant & Tribal Bazar
Near Bandarban’s main road, in Bandarban Street Market you will find this modest restaurant where you can taste Marma cuisine. The menu is limited to lizard, wild pig, fish and some vegetables. All along Bandarban you will find tribal shops which sell handicraft items.
Trekking & Hiking
Bandarban is one of the very few places where you can go trekking in Bangladesh. You can go trekking on two of the highest mountains of Bangladesh – Tahjingdong & Keokradong. Details about trekking and hiking arrangements is another story to tell and will be posted in a separate article.