Top Five Things To Do in Sylhet
Far from the sandy beaches of Cox’s Bazar or the coral island of Saint Martin’s is a hidden gem of tourism in Bangladesh. Far up in the north eastern section of the country is a swath of land covered in lush green forest, rolling countryside and hilly fields. This is the Sylhet Division, and if you haven’t yet seen it, it’s long past time to make that trip.
The Sylhet region is an incredibly diverse area that offers a little something for everyone. The city of Sylhet is one of the wealthiest in Bangladesh. A majority of the residents have ties to either British or American residents who have long since returned home. Yet their influence and presence can still be felt in the area, making this one of the more modern and western influenced parts of the country.
In other areas of the division, you’ll find some of the most breathtakingly beautiful sceneries and natural wonders. From lush tea gardens to natural rain forests to stunning water falls, the natural beauty will impress any nature lover who lays eyes on it.
If you’re coming in from far away, the easiest way to get to there is through air travel. You can find flights to Sylhet at www.ticketshala.com/flights/. The Osmani International Airport is served by many major domestic carriers including United Airlines and Regent Airways. If you’re travelling in from outside Bangladesh, you will be routed through the capital city, Dahka.
Bus service is available in either luxury or no frills options. Luxury bus service is available through providers such as Hanif, Shohag, Poribahan, and Green Line and are generally available from 7:30 AM until 10:30 PM. For the budget bus lines, they can be found from 6 AM till midnight running from Dhaka to Sylhet. If you prefer to ride the train, there is daily train service from Dhaka, Chittagong and Comilla.
Top Five Things to Do and See
Of course there are several reasons to visit this beautiful section of the country, but in the interest of expediency, here are just five things for you to do and see when you come to the Sylhet Division.
Hum Hum Waterfall
This incredibly scenic destination is not just one of Bangladesh’s most impressive natural wonders, it’s also one of its newest. While it’s impossible to say how long the waterfall has been has around, it has only been discovered by man since 2010. Located deep in the Razkandi Reserve Forest, it takes a 3 to 4 hour trek through the hills and rivers to get to the Hum Hum Waterfalls. Be advised that during the rainy season, this trip can be even more difficult to complete. The muddy roads and hills can be especially difficult to traverse.
Once you first take in all of its beauty and wonder, you will realize it was worth the time and effort. This waterfall is 160 feet high, making it one of the country’s tallest waterfalls.
Tea Gardens and Bangladesh Tea Research Institute
Bangladesh is one of the world’s leading exporters of high-quality tea and the heart of that tea production is in Srimangal in the Sylhet Division. The acres upon acres of beautiful and lush tea gardens is why this part of the country has become known as “the land of two leaves and a bud”.
And of course no visit to the heart of Bangladesh’s Tea region would be complete without a visit to the Bangladesh Tea Research Institute. Following the partition of India in 1947, the region found itself cut off from access to agriculture technology and so the site was built as the Pakistan Tea research station in 1952. After liberation, the site took its current name in 1973 with a mission to ensure the best tea in the world continues to come from this region.
If you’ve ever enjoyed a fresh cup of tea, you would really love the experience of touring the Institute. Here you’ll see how the researchers work to make sure the crops are the best they can be, and will be for the years to come.
The Shrine of Hazrat Shah Jalal
The shrine of the 14th century Sufi Saint Hazrat Shah Jalal is one of Bangladesh’s biggest and most important pilgrimage sites. The shrine is the resting place of the man who devoted his life to spreading Islam throughout the region. He came from Delhi to preach Islam and is most famous for defeating the Hindu King Gour Gobinda. Legend has it that he turned the evil followers of the king into catfish and their descendants still populate the lake that is adjacent to the shrine today.
Hazrat Shah Jalal’s sword and robes are preserved within the mosque but are not available for public display. You will be asked to remove your shoes before entering the mosque. The popularity of this pilgrimage site cannot be denied. It draws hundreds of people from all walks of life on a daily basis.
The Lawacherra Rain Forrest
This beautiful slice of nature covers 12.5 square kilometers of land in Kamalgonj Upazila of Maulavibazar District, about 160 km north east of Dhaka. The area was officially made a national park in 1996 in an attempt to preserve the natural resource from the growing devastation of illegal logging.
The forest within the park boundaries is home to two villages comprised of indigenous people known as the Khasia Adibashis. Many of these people make their living from the forest either as day laborers or woodsmen.
The Lawacherra Rain Forrest serves as a natural habitat for a number of animals and insects. At last count, the forest contained no less than 276 species of animals which breaks down as: 4 amphibian species, 6 reptile species, 246 bird species and 20 mammal species. This forest is one of the few places in the world you’ll find the extremely rare primate, Hoolock Gibbons. It is also world renowned as a bird sanctuary and thus draws thousands of devoted bird watchers each year.
If you have even a passing interest in enjoying nature undisturbed by modernity, the Lawacherra Rain Forest is for you!
The Manipuri ‘Maha Rash Leela’ Festival
For a once-in-a-lifetime enriching cultural experience, the annual ‘Maha Rash Leela’ Festival is an absolute must. The grand religious festival has been held in Madhabpur Juramandhab, Komolgonj of Moulvibazar district every year since 1842 as a celebration of the divine love of Radha and Krishna.
Maha Rash Leela is a celebration of colour and dance in which Manipuri girls dress in vibrantly colourful outfits and partake in dance rituals such as Rakhal Nritya, which is the dance of Sri Krishna.
The festival also includes Mela, or fairs, where the Manipuri people sell several items such as Manipuri handicrafts, household items, and toys. To learn more about the Sylhet Division visit: www.wikitravel.org/en/Sylhet.