Bandarban is easily the best destination of the three hill tracts districts. With its picturesque views over the Shangu River, and heaps of trekking opportunities just outside the villages, Bandarban is a must-see on any hill tracts itinerary. Unfortunately, a recent kidnapping means that security is a perennial issue in the hill tracts. It is highly suggested that you use a local tour operator to help you manage the process of permissions, especially if you want to strike further out into the countryside by foot.
The town’s roads all bend and curve with the sweeping path of the Shangu River. As you come into town you’ll be met by hundreds of rickshaw wallahs who know all the local hotels, however the Royal Hotel is definitely the best of the lot in town; Hillside Resort is where you stay when you want to get away from the hordes below.
Just down the street from the Royal Hotel is the Tohzah Restaurant (Modhumpara) The best place in Bandarban to have a taste of fiery indigenous cuisine. Be warned: the chillis used in the cooking here will blow your head off. Like most other restaurants, food is pre-cooked so it’s wise to show up around mealtimes if you’re willing to eat whatever spicy concoction they’ve prepared – cow stomach & snails sometimes show up on your table. Otherwise, Riggri Khyog (Milonchori, Hillside Resort) offers user-friendly food readily adjusted for the Western palette with superb views over the hills. Best location for a meal, although requires transport to/from the resort from town if you’re not staying as a guest.
Kewkradang is one of Bangladesh’s tallest peaks, although there is some debate as to whether Tajingdong is higher. At 882m, getting to Kewkradang involves a rewarding multi-day trip that may prove too difficult and/or frustrating for individuals to arrange given all the security hullabaloo surrounding visits to Bandarban for foreigners. But those spectacular views of empty hillside scenery, plus the pleasure of reaching this unknown corner of Bangladesh makes the journey highly worthwhile. Again, the service of a tour operator such as Bangladesh Eco-tours is highly recommended.
Like all the hill districts, prior approval from the District Commissioner is required before your visit, so the appropriate paperwork can be forwarded to the army checkpoints. The Dhaka-Bandarban route is again best serviced by Soudia S Alam bus company, which departs from their counter near the Kamlapur Railway Station at 08.30 and 23.15 (7hrs; Tk350). From Bandarban, the same service returns to Dhaka at 09.15 and 20.00 and their office is closer to the main jeep stand. Rickshaws are the primary mode of transport in Dhaka. For journeys further afield, there’s a jeep stand across from the S Alam bus company office on the road that comes into town.