Bangladesh, with complicated borders with India on two sides, Nepal to the north and a bit of Myanmar at the southeast, is both an alluring and off-putting place to travel. Internal political unrest, poverty and natural disaster are what have typically brought Bangladesh into the news. But this small nation has proven itself resilient and welcoming.
Temples, shrines and monuments devoted to the religious practices of ancient and contemporary Bangladesh dot the towns and countryside. Buddhism, Sufism and Islam are all represented in some of Bangladesh's most moving landmarks. The remains of a great Buddhist monastery can be found just outside the city of Comilla. Known as the Mainimati Ruins, the area contains several dozen significant Buddhist sites and ancient stuppas, which are rounded domes said to contain Buddhist relics and, often, remains of Buddha. For those interested in Sufism, which is the mystical arm of Islam, the Shrine of Hazrat Shah Jalal, a 14th-century Sufi saint is a landmark in the eastern city of Sylhet that draws visitors on pilgrimage throughout the year. Bangladesh has several functioning mosques worth visiting. The largest and most impressive mosque in Bangladesh is called the The Shait Gumbad Mosque, and is located in the city of Bagerhat. The mosque's 77 domes and fortress-like presence are a sight to behold. Visit Bagerhat's other three smaller, single-domed traditional mosques for a sense of Shait Gumbad's grandiosity.
Bangladesh has several museums that commemorate and preserve the nation's ancient and recent past. The National Museum in Dhaka is an excellent stop to get a comprehensive overview of Bangladeshi religious landscape, political history and natural wonder. For visitors focused on political history, Dhaka's Liberation War Museum is a sobering and thorough choice. The small display chronicles the 1971 War of Independence, one of the world's deadliest modern conflicts. Politics, news coverage and battle memorabilia are on display, and as the exhibit proceeds more personal items and even human remains are on exhibit to give visitors a sense of the human tragedy.
Architecture and Gardens
Buildings and gardens dot Bangladesh's large cities and villages. In Dhaka, the Baldha Gardens offer a respite from the busy urban environment. Two enclosures give visitors the experience of a private garden, once owned by a wealthy aristocrat. Also in Dhaka, the Hussaini Dalan is an ornate Shiite center with a tranquil pond. It was originally built in 1642 to house an imam and remains a recognizable landmark for Shiite culture in Bangladesh. Dhaka's Botanical Gardens are quite extensive, with more than 1,000 species of plants. Close to 100 acres gives visitors much to explore, and the Turag River is visible from the grounds.
Beaches and Waterways
One tourist draw to Bangladesh is affordable, pristine beaches on the far southern coast on the Bay of Bengal. Most visitors begin their visit to Bangladesh's beaches with a trip to the town of Cox's Bazar. There are ample places to eat and rent beach chairs in Cox's Bazar. Continue south down the coast and find more beaches with amenities and affordable lodging. Inani beach is renowned throughout the world for being the longest and broadest, and will never feel crowded even in the heart of the tourist season. Kuakata is a somewhat isolated tourist resort on the southernmost tip of the Bangladeshi coast. Kuakata caters to international travelers and offers family activities and meals to guests.