When it comes to nature-based sightseeing, there are certain itches that Europe and America just can’t scratch, which is where Africa comes in. Enter Uganda, a landlocked country backed by geological wonderment and one of the richest histories in the region. Despite being a relatively small country, there are many incredible tourist attractions in Uganda.
While we could go on and on about Africa’s finer points for ages, and if you want the quintessential Ugandan experience, you can’t go wrong with the trademark, time-tested safari trip. With that said, between the spectacular mountains, stunning lakeshore, and a plethora of hidden gems both within and outside of the major cities, there are quite a few other ways to experience this beautiful country.
For your convenience, we’ve outlined 7 of the finest attractions and activities you’ll want to check out during your trip to Uganda – while it might not be one of the continent’s bigger nations, it certainly has that X Factor that keeps travelers coming back for more.
Safari Trip in Uganda
First of all, no trip to Uganda would be complete without visiting one of it’s many National Parks. Uganda Safaris give you a glimpse into incredible animal diversity, including sighting of the Big 5. Visiting national parks such as Kibale Forest National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park, as well as the famous Bwindi Forest for Gorilla Trekking is a MUST while in the region.
In fact, Gorilla trekking is one of the most popular reasons why travelers head to Uganda as it is one of the best places in the world to do it. Despite this being the main highlight, travelers will be surprised by the many other activities and attractions you can see while in this incredible destination.
Check out our full guide to wildlife safaris in Uganda!
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The humble origins of what is now the largest lake in Africa go back some 400,000 years, to the era when homo sapiens are generally thought to have split from Neanderthals. To make matters even more epic, this is also the starting point of the White Nile, a tributary to what is arguably the most historically significant body of water on the planet.
In practice, what this means for you is a multitude of activities screaming your name – fishing, quad biking, and boating are only some of the things you can do around here, and if you’re interested in expanding your knowledge, you can always go on a guided tour of Jinja, the origin point of the Nile and a beautiful city in its own right.
This lake is so massive that it even features a flurry of islands, all filled to the brim with exciting things to check out – for example, if you’re particularly adventurous, you can take things to the next level by visiting the Ssese Islands, which are probably the best places in Africa to catch some rays (and that’s saying something). There’s also the aptly named Chimpanzee Island, where you can spend some close-quarters quality time with several dozen of our distant cousins. A visit here is one of the best tourist attractions in Uganda
Once you’ve had your share of lakeside fun, what better place to check out than the awe-inspiring capital that happens to border it? This place is often affectionately referred to as the City of Hills – the sweeping terrain allowed for a variety of wildlife to settle here thousands of years ago, most notably the impala which ultimately lent the city its name.
Religion is a big deal throughout much of Africa, and nowhere is this more apparent than in Kampala, which is home to Namirembe Cathedral, Uganda Martyrs National Shrine, Uganda National Mosque, and countless other places of worship. Then there’s Kabaka’s Palace, the ruling grounds of the King of Buganda and one of the most culturally significant constructions on the entire continent. Finally, there’s also the Baha’i House of Worship, and it’s up there as one of the most spiritually uplifting places anywhere in the world, owing to the Baha’i Faith’s live-and-let-live approach to life.
If you’re not feeling particularly inspired and don’t feel like planning your own route, there are a variety of guided tours that can take you far and wide to see everything the city has to offer. For an added history lesson, you can top things off with a visit to Kasubi Royal Tombs, where the kabakas (or kings) of Buganda are laid to rest.
Itanda Falls & Victoria Nile
Canoeing in a small lake in your hometown is one thing, but braving the currents of the Nile in your trusty kayak is a different animal altogether. As you make your way north from Jinja and Lake Victoria to Lake Kyoga, you have to do yourself a favor and spend some time admiring the beauty of Itanda Falls before breaking out the paddles.
It should be noted that this is one of the most challenging kayaking spots anywhere on the planet, but even if you’re not up to the challenge, there’s always the guided tours and the amazing hut lodges. Here’s a quick video showing the adrenaline filled waters that this kayak journey can offer.
The sounds of birds and other indigenous wildlife are bound to knock you right to sleep as soon as your head hits the pillow here, and you can always rely on the entourages of musicians and entertainers that frequent the area to brighten up your day.
If you make it all the way to Lake Kyoga and you happen to have a local with you, you’re in for quite the learning experience – the lakeside area is mostly made up of small fishing communities which have been known to respond really well to tourists, and if you have a pair of binoculars, you get to see some of the finest avian species in all of Eastern Africa.
Other points of interest are Murchison Falls National Park where you can see chimpanzees, elephants, and hippos. These destinations are staples in Uganda Itineraries!
Editor’s Note: Looking for more things to do in Africa? Check out our Africa Bucket List to help you plan a trip of a lifetime.
Explorers of old used to refer to the most perilous mountains along the Nile as Mountains of the Moon, and the Rwenzori Mountains along the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo are the perfect example. The granddaddy of them all is Mount Stanley, which towers at over 16,000 feet, and it offers an unforgettable view of Rwenzori Mountains National Park.
If the Great Lakes in the States just weren’t legendary enough for you, this is also where you can find the African Great Lakes, namely lakes George, Albert, and Edward, all named after members of the British Royal Family. Near Lake Albert, make sure to spend some time at the mesmerizing Murchison Falls National Park, the largest in the entire country and home to one hell of a waterfall.
From here, you can make your way through various game reserves to the southernmost parts of the country before ending up in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. This place houses some of Africa’s most interesting animals, but it’s also where you can find some of Uganda’s swankiest accommodation, surrounded by lush foliage and more scenic vistas than you can count. Also, since you’ll be straddling the DRC border for the entire trek, this is a good time to offroad and check out yet another country with just as many amazing things on offer.
Mount Elgon, Mbale, & Kumi
As amazing as the westernmost parts of the country are, we have nothing but love for East Uganda, and one of its highlights would have to be Mount Elgon. This is one of the oldest volcanoes in this part of Africa, and you don’t have to worry about it erupting on you – all the better since the view from atop Wagagai, the mountain’s tallest peak, is life-changing.
Once again, you have the option of crossing the border from here, this time into Kenya via Suam – if you decide to do so, the hot springs at the Suam Gorge are unlike any you’ve seen anywhere else in the world. As far as the Ugandan portion of this landmark goes, you should devote at least a single afternoon to Sipi Falls, the crowning jewel of Mount Elgon that also happens to be open-access.
Resting near the foot of the mountain is the town of Mbale, one of the larger settlements in the area and a great place to catch a breather from all that exploring. Once you’re feeling up to it, you can take a quick drive to Kumi and its Nyero rock paintings, relics of the African Middle Ages and markers of a fascinating religious site.
Kidepo Valley National Park
Standing in the heart of Uganda, you could throw a stone in a random direction and end up at a fantastic game refuge. With that said, few places can match the splendor of Kidepo Valley National Park, the northernmost point of the country and the proud home of the kudu, aardwolf, and many other species that are indigenous to this area. It is a popular Ugandan tourist attraction and is a great place to spot a variety of animals and wildlife.
One thing that makes the park stand out is the terrain variety – there’s the titular Kidepo Valley section, which is known for its lush palm trees and other interesting flora, as well as the Narus Valley portion, whose desert-like climate is central to the survival of countless fascinating animals. This is also the habitat of the elusive Rothschild’s giraffe, so consider yourself lucky if you happen upon the few that remain here today. Elephant herds in this national park are often also often seen roaming around.
Topping off our list of must-see mountains in Uganda, this park also houses Mount Morungole, known for being the historic home of the Ik people – with the help of a trusty tour guide, you might get the chance to meet the Ik and get a glimpse into their day-to-day life.
These communities are renowned for their relationship with honey bee farming, so if you’re fortunate enough to find accommodation in the area, you could be one of the few to see the Ik work their magic up close.
Overall, Uganda is a destination that is extremely rich in both culture and experiences. While visiting there, there are a plethora of exciting attractions and activities to do. Over to you, what are your favorite Ugandan experiences?