Lalakhal River – Beautiful Bangladesh: A quick guide to visiting the magical colour changing Lalakhal River of northeastern Bangladesh.
About the Lalakhal River
The Lalakhal River (also spelled Lala Khal) is one of the most beautiful places in Bangladesh. On this section of the Sari/Sharee River, which is generally referred to as the Lalakhal River, the water flows a magnificent emerald green and turquoise blue colour.
Located in the Sylhet division of northeastern Bangladesh, the Lalakhal area is found on the border of Bangladesh and the Indian state of Meghalaya. In the winter dry season months, the Lalakhal section of the Sari/Sharee River leaves the Jainta hills of India and enters Bangladesh and flows these magical aqua colours. This natural wonder lasts for approximately 12km past Sarighat before it joins the Goyain River and becomes the Shari-Goyain.
Exploring the Lalakhal River
This colourful section of river can be admired from a variety of locations. You can simply stop as you drive across the Sarighat Bridge on the N2 which leads to Sylhet. Or you can wander the banks and checkout some of the viewpoints close to the Lalakhal ferry terminal. But, by far the most popular option is by boat for a scenic cruise.
By Boat (Noka)
Boats can be arranged from both Sarighat and Lalakhal. Those in Sarighat ply the route upriver for around 1-1.5 hours up to the India border. As a foreigner, expect to pay a hefty amount for this journey! Anywhere from TK1500 to TK2000 Bangladeshi taka TK). Thats about USD$18-24
We were staying at the Nazimgarh Wilderness Resort in Lalakhal, so took a late afternoon cruise from the Lalakhal ferry terminal. The colourful local boats are known as ‘noka’ and the ‘nokawallahs’ (operators) drive a hard bargain. Travelling with local friends, we weren’t involved in negotiations. But just the sight of ‘international tourists’ no doubt drove up the price! Expect to pay anywhere from TK500 (USD$6) for the return boat trip to the India border from here.
Our journey took us up this beautiful stretch of water as the colours changed from turquoise blue to emerald green. Our nokawallah explained that the water colour was a result of the large amounts of coal, sand and rock lying on the river bed, filtering the water.
Along the eastern bank of the river, we passed the Lalakhal Tea Estate. And on its dry mudded riverbank, colourfully dressed local ladies washed their clothes in the clear river waters. There was a mixture of curious stares and friendly waves as we passed by.
We travelled as far up as the heavily guarded Indian border, patrolled by machine gun clad soldiers, before turning and slowly floating back. We arrived back just before the sun set, with the water changing to a duller blue colour. And we were quickly set up upon by a young family of friendly local tourists hoping we would join them for a photo or two. We couldn’t refuse their friendly offer followed by a quick chat about our week in Bangladesh.
The following morning, we took a short walk from the Nazimgarh Wilderness Resort. Wandering down a little path and skirting around a small dry paddy field, we made our way to the river. As the cloudy morning sky began to brighten, the water began to glisten at its colourful best. Coming to the end of the dry season, we were able to casually wander along the dry western banks in search of a nice viewpoint to capture this magical stretch of river. In only a few weeks, much of these banks would have been completely submerged and the water a muddy brown colour.
We attracted a bit of attention as we explored this little touristed trail. Friendly children seemed somewhat surprised to find two westerners strolling along the riverbank, following us as we wandered around. Again it was nice to watch the locals go about their daily tasks, exchanging friendly smiles as we passed them by.
When to visit the Lalakhal River
This bit is important! If you’re planning a visit here purely to see this magical turquoise stretch of river, you need to get your timings right. If not, you will be sorely disappointed.
The best season to visit the Lalakhal River, is the winter period from December to February. At this dry time of year, conditions are just right, allowing this colourful phenomenon. At other times of year, if there has been minimal rain, you may be fortunate enough to these beautiful water colours. But conditions do need to come together and you need a large slice of luck.
During the wetter times of year, particularly the monsoon period of June through to early October the river is unrecognisable. Remember this river is fed by the Jainta hills of Meghalaya, one of the wettest places on earth. So, this river is considerably fuller and turns into a fast flowing muddy torrent for much of the year.
Where to stay
Many people just come for a day trip form Sylhet, but we were lucky enough to stay for a night. Staying at the Nazimgarh Wilderness Resort was the perfect location to explore the Lalakhal area. Located at the base of the Jaintia Hills, this tropical resort is surrounded by forested slopes. There’s even an awesome, if somewhat chilly infinity pool to relax in.
In the grounds of the resort there’s also a small viewing area from where you can really experience the surrounding beauty. Overlooking the Lalakhal River with the Meghalaya hills on the horizon, it’s a perfect vantage point to admire the lovely Lalakhal landscape.
Getting to/from the Lalakhal River
We travelled overland, driving up from Dhaka via the Shumshernugger Tea Estate. But most people will access the Lalakhal River from Sylhet via Sarighat.
At 42km from Sylhet, you can travel 42 km to Surighat on public bus for between TK40-60, that’s less than $1USD. Buses heading to Jaflong will drop you at Surighat en-route. From here you can travel the Lalakhal River by boat. As a foreigner expect to pay anywhere from TK1500-TK2000.
We flew out of Sylhet to Dhaka from the Osmani Airport. Alternatively you can travel by car, train or arrange to travel via a private tour company.
It was so nice get a little off track and travel through Bangladesh, right up to the Lalakhal River. It was truly beautiful and not what we expected to find in Bangladesh. It’s true what people say, this really is a country of contrasts and it’s always fun finding these hidden gems!
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