Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh

The Chittagong Hill Tracts is situated in southeastern Bangladesh, bordering India and Myanmar/Burma and is a destination of its own.
It is a region home to 11 different tribes who’s language, cultural history, dress attire and religion ( which is Buddhist while the rest of Bangladesh is Islamic) differ greatly in comparison to the rest of the country. Unlike the signature surrounding flat lands, the landscape contains an array of plentiful rolling hills, lakes and waterfalls.

Life goes on with ease and is a tranquil escape from the chaos in the Capital of Dhaka. The Chittagong Hill Tracts region remains more of a neighbor to Myanmar/Burma than Bangladesh itself.

Before making a visit to the Chittagong Hill Tracts  you must have a permit. The permit can easily be obtained at the State Office in the city of Chittagong. The permit officer is incredibly friendly and will likely offer you a cup of tea while sorting out the paperwork. He stated I was only the 45th foreigner to visit the area in the last 3 years.

As you continue your journey to the tracts you will encounter a few Military checkpoints. You must have your permit checked and your name added to the registration book.

The permit allows you to visit the three districts: Khagrachari, Rangamati, and Bandarban.
I visited Rangamati and Bandarban.

Rangamati.

Rangamati Town
Town of Rangamati. Not the prettiest town on earth.

My view from my hotelroom in Rangamati

My view from my hotel room in Rangamati.
View from my hotel room in Rangamati.

While the town of Rangamati  is not the most eye-appealing destination on earth, it is the only place to find accommodation in the area. Due to strikes and road closures you may be forced to spend a few extra nights here so be sure to plan accordingly. I had to spend 2 extra nights here for that reason.

There is still beauty to be found at the most popular attraction in Rangamati known as Kaptai Lake. The Lake was a man-made project constructed in the 1960’s as the Kaptai Dam on the Karnaphuli River and was part of a Hydro-electric project. The lake is up to 490feet / 150m deep these days. Construction of the lake also created a chain of numerous islands through the hill covered landscape.

The itinerary of your stay should include a tour of Kaptai Lake and its islands. Some islands are home to the area’s waterfalls and small communities while others contain small guest houses and fruit plantations.

A small communty on the lake
A small community on the lake.
Chittagong Hill Tracts
One of the waterfalls the locals were highly proud of. It was the dry season during my visit so not much water.
The view from one of many islands in the area
View from one of many islands in the area.
Locals getting around on Kaptai Lake
Locals getting around on Kaptai Lake.
Like everywhere elsei n Bangladesh is done by boats
Like everywhere else in Bangladesh, transportation is done by boat.

 

Bandarban.

Bandarban is the most remote and least populated district in all of Bangladesh.  The most famous must-see located here is the Buddha Dhatu Jadi temple; the largest Buddhist temple in Bangladesh.

Buddha Dhatu Jadi
Buddha Dhatu Jadi the Golden Temple of Bangladesh.
Buddha Dhatu Jadi the golden Temple of Bangladesh
Buddha Dhatu Jadi the Golden Temple of Bangladesh.
The view from the golden temple
The view from the golden temple.

The Temple is located on the top of the highest hill in the area, 4km outside of Bandarban town. The easiest way to reach the temple is to take a local Tuk Tuk here for less than 1 USD.  Another popular activity in Bandarban is to take a trip down the Sangu River by boat. The Sangu river is 270km long and flows into the bay of Bengal. It is a short trip that only takes about an hour.

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A local paddling down the Sangu River.
local boat´s at the sangu river
Traditional boats on the Sangu River.

Although I had locals asking me to take their photo so frequently that it became an annoyance, it is very important in the Chittagong Hill Tracts that you do not take photos of local people without asking permission. A tourist I had met got into some trouble after snapping a photo of two older local women.

Local posing for a photo, the person on the left side told his friend to lift the heavy bag just for the photo
Local posing for a photo. The man on the left side told his friend to lift the heavy bag just for the photo
A local kid posing for photo, he wanted to give me the wheel as a gift
A local kid posing for photo, he wanted to give me the wheel as a gift

Extra Information about The Chittagong Hill Tracts.

Because of ongoing security problems, many foreign governments advise against all but essential travel to the Chittagong Hill Tracts, and your travel insurance may not be valid in this area. I went here on my own and had no problem what so ever, I even meet 2 other solo travelers here. But traveling in this area should be done with care.

Money.
There was NO working ATM or official place to change money in either town during my visit. When I asked the locals they told me such place did not exist.

Internet.
None of the hotels I stayed in had working WIFI even if a sign said they did. I did see a few internet cafes in both towns. My local Bangladesh Sim card worked fine for internet in the area.

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Chittagong Hill Tracts is the tribal area of Bangladesh. Its landscape full of hills and waterfalls differs greatly from the rest of the country. This region also practices Buddhism unlike the surrounding Islamic areas.
Chittagong Hill Tracts is the tribal area of Bangladesh. Its landscape full of hills and waterfalls differs greatly from the rest of the country. This region also practices Buddhism unlike the surrounding Islamic areas.

 

 

3 Comments
  1. Just curious on how recently you visited? A friend and I were in Bangladesh for 2 weeks in April/May of this year and we were really set on going to the Hill Tracts and all of the information we could find on getting a permit said to go to the state building in Chittagong. Once we actually got to Chittagong and went to the building where we were given the address to, the man there said that they moved the permit office to a different building. Upon arriving at the building where the new office was supposed to be we were told that they now longer issue permits in Chittagong and the only place you can get a permit arranged is in Dhaka and that you must give them 10 days notice before hand! Anyways we didn’t have the extra time to spare in backtracking to Dhaka and waiting around for 10 days so we missed out on the Hill Tracts. From your pictures it looks pretty incredible

    1. Hello Kyle.
      Sorry for the late reply.

      I was there in late August this year, Im sorry to hear that you had problems obtaining the permit and couldn’t go. The man in permit office was so friendly and welcoming. So it seems like it change to the better after you tried to visit there.

      Christian

  2. Hi Christian, thanks for the valuable information about the Hill Tracts. Just a few more questions if you don’t mind. Would you have the address of the office where you went to get the permit? And how long did it take to get it?

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