With the world’s longest beach and largest mangrove swamp, Bangladesh has plenty of surprises on offer. And Bangladesh’s natural landscape is far more diverse and dramatic than most people realise. Continue reading to discover X reasons to pack your bags for a trip to Bangladesh.
1. It’s home to the world’s largest mangrove forest
The remote Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest, covers a vast area of Bangladesh’s southwest. Its many freshwater rivers merge with saltwater from the Bay of Bengal, allowing a spectacularly diverse ecosystem to flourish. It’s a place of surreal beauty: often shrouded in mist, largely uninhabited, wild and swampy. You may spot wild boar, spotted deer, Ganges dolphins, monkeys, reptiles and – if you’re fortunate – a Bengal tiger. A few hundred of these magnificent animals live in the Sundarbans.
2. It has a female Prime Minister
The US may have failed to elect its first woman President, but Bangladesh has had a woman prime minister since 2009 – and she served from 1996 to 2001. Sheikh Hasina Wazed comes from a political dynasty. Her father, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, was the principal organiser of Bangladesh’s separation from Pakistan in 1971. In 1975, her father, mother and three brothers were assassinated at home by military officers, after which she spent six years in exile, returning as leader of the Awami League in 1981.
3. Bangladeshi food is heaven for fish lovers
Freshwater fish is a hallmark of Bangladeshi cuisine. Classic Ilish macher consists of a freshwater fish (ilish) wrapped in a banana leaf with mustard seed paste and aubergine. Depending on your tastes, you can bake, steam or fry your ilish macher.
Machher jhol is a spicy fish stew, thickened with potatoes and seasoned with turmeric, ginger and garlic. Bangladeshis like their food spicy and aromatic – even Indians find the dishes hot here.
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4. It has the world’s longest beach
Stretching for a record-breaking 125 kilometres down the Bay of Bengal, Cox’s Bazar beach is the longest in the world. Its big waves have even encouraged a nascent surfing scene. Around nine kilometres offshore from the tip of the Cox’s Bazar-Teknaf Peninsula is beautiful St Martin’s, Bangladesh’s only coral island, with idyllic white-sand beaches, azure waters and palm trees.
5. Fishermen use trained otters to help with their catch
Yes, you read that right. Ingenious fishermen in parts of Bangladesh use otters, harnessed together, to help them catch fish. The otters spot the fish among the plants in the river, flush them out and herd them towards the nets. This once-widespread fishing method has died out in much of Asia, except in Bangladesh.
6. It’s home to a lost city
In the southwest of the country, near the modern town of Bagerhat, lie the remnants of a lost city. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Mosque City of Bagerhat, is home to more than 50 medieval mosques and mausoleums – an open-air museum of Asian Muslim architectural heritage, with a mix of Turkish and Mughal styles. Established in the 15th century by revered Sufi Saint and local ruler Khan Jahan Ali, Bagerhat lay hidden by vegetation for hundreds of years before being uncovered in the 19th century.