I have traveled to Uganda twice. On my first trip, I spent two weeks backpacking the country. I fell in love with Uganda from the moment I arrived. A few years later, I returned and ended up spending 5 months living in Uganda. During that time, I visited many of Uganda’s major attractions. Uganda is one of my favorite countries. The people are incredibly friendly and welcoming and the landscape is lush and stunning. It’s also a reasonably safe and affordable place to travel. This guide outlines the 25 best things to do in Uganda.
In this guide, I’ll cover Uganda’s top tourist attractions including nature and wildlife spotting, adventure travel activities, cultural activities, city attractions, foods to try, and more. Whether you’re looking to trek to meet the mountain gorillas, raft down the Nile, explore the local culture, or relax on the shores of Lake Victoria, Uganda offers something for everyone.
If you’d prefer, you can watch my condensed version in my YouTube video below.
Table of Contents
- Visit Entebbe
- Hike in the Rwenzori Mountains
- Visit the Volcanic Craters in Western Uganda
- Shop for Arts and Crafts
- Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary
- Kidepo Valley National Park
- Mabira Forrest
- Lake Mburo National Park
- Meet the Ugandan People
- Semuliki National Park and Sempaya Hotsprings
- Visit the Batwa Pygmy People
- Uganda Itinerary Recommendation
The Best Things to Do in Uganda
1. Visit Lake Bunyonyi
I’ll start this list off with my absolute favorite place in Uganda, Lake Bunyonyi. This freshwater lake is located in the southwest of Uganda near Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, just north of the Rwanda border. Interestingly, Lake Bunyonyi is recognized as the second deepest lake in Africa.
Along the shores of this tranquil lake, you’ll find farms, campgrounds, eco-resorts, and several small villages. Boating and birdwatching are the most popular activities for tourists visiting the lake. Lake Bunyonyi is a great, laid-back place to just relax and enjoy nature.
The name Lake Bunyonyi translates to ‘Place of Many Little Birds,’ in the local language. Birdwatchers will find themselves in a paradise. A visit to Lake Bunyonyi provides an excellent opportunity to spot some of Uganda’s colorful and diverse bird species.
One of the must-do activities is taking a boat trip on the lake. Experience the lake up close, as you paddle through the calm waters in a dugout canoe, exploring the various islands, each with its unique tale. If you’d rather not paddle, you can book a tour in a power boat.
There are 29 islands on Lake Bunyonyi. One of the lake’s most well-known islands, Punishment Island, holds a poignant history. It was traditionally where unmarried pregnant girls were abandoned to underscore societal norms. Today, it serves as a historical symbol of the area’s cultural past.
For hikers, the hills surrounding the lake offer rewarding trails with panoramic views. Hike up the hills surrounding the lake and take in a spectacular view of the terraced hills, islands, and villages. There are also opportunities for mountain biking.
The cultural richness of the area is another highlight that shouldn’t be missed. While visiting, you can gage with the warm and welcoming locals, and learn about their customs and traditions.
While visiting Lake Bunyonyi, consider staying in one of the eco-resorts dotting the lake’s perimeter. These sustainable accommodations offer a chance to unwind while enjoying the lake’s beauty.
If you’re on a tighter budget, the town of Kabale is the best place to stay. This is a small, quiet town located about 7 kilometers (4 miles) from the lake. The town offers several budget hotel options available. You can take a taxi from Kabale to the lake.
To read my complete guide, check out my article: How to Visit Beautiful Lake Bunyonyi. Here, I outline how to travel to Lake Bunyonyi from Kampala and list the best things to do on the lake.
2. Go Mountain Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forrest
Mountain Gorilla Trekking is the most popular activity in Uganda. It’s on every traveler’s bucket list. Mountain gorillas are an endangered species that are found only in Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
In Uganda, you can go gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park or Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Rwanda has gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park. In DR Congo, you can go gorilla trekking in Virunga National Park.
Getting up close and personal with the mountain gorillas is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The entire species has fewer than 1000 individuals remaining. Uganda is home to half of the world’s mountain gorillas. It’s the best place to go gorilla trekking to view them.
Gorilla trekking involves hiking through the lush jungle to find a gorilla family. The trek can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 7 hours depending on the location of the gorillas on the day of your trek. The trekking time varies greatly. Only a handful of gorilla families have been habituated to humans. Once you find the gorillas, you’ll have around an hour with them before you return to camp.
Mountain gorilla trekking is an expensive activity. If you book a tour in advance, expect to spend around $1200-$1500 for an average tour. The price of the tour includes your permit, a guide, and transportation. Most tours also include one night of accommodation and food. It’s best to book as far in advance as possible as permits are limited. Permits frequently sell out. Particularly during the busy season.
It is possible to save some money if you just show up and organize the tour when you are there. There are often last-minute deals available. You can save about $400 this way. The Uganda mountain gorilla trekking permit costs $600. The whole gorilla trekking tour should cost $900-$1000 if you book directly with a guide.
It’s important to note that permits are in high demand. There is a chance that tours are fully booked out if you don’t book in advance. There is a possibility that you miss out.
3. Visit Sipi Falls
Sipi Falls is a series of three waterfalls located in the foothills of Mount Elgon in eastern Uganda, near the Kenyan border. The highest waterfall has a drop of around 100 meters. There are also two smaller waterfalls nearby.
Sipi Falls is located within walking distance of the town of Sipi, Uganda. Sipi is a small mountain tourist town with several restaurants, hotels, and campgrounds. In order to view the falls, you must pass through a lodge and pay a small fee of around $1.
The surrounding area is full of lush, green hills which are excellent for hiking. A number of hikes are available in the region. The main hike to see the falls is a loop hike around 7 km long. It takes 3-4 hours to complete. This hike will take you along a river, through farmland, and local communities. You’ll see all three falls. A guide is not necessary for the hike but is recommended.
There are a number of other activities you can do while visiting the falls. If you’re looking for an adventure, it’s possible to repel down the cliff face next to the highest waterfall. You can go rock climbing or hill running in the region. There are also some local coffee plantations that you can tour. The area also offers some excellent birdwatching. It’s also possible to go swimming in a pool at the base of one of the falls. One day is enough to see the falls. There is plenty to keep you busy for a few days.
Sipi Falls is located 170 miles north of Kampala. You can easily reach the falls in half a day with public transportation. Sipi sits in the mountains at an elevation of 1775 meters. It’s a great place to go for some fresh mountain air. A visit to Sipi Falls makes for a great weekend trip from Kampala.
For more info, check out my article: How to Visit Sipi Falls Independently and on a Budget. Here, I outline how to travel to Sipi Falls from Kampala.
4. Hike Mount Elgon
If you’re looking for a more intense hike while you’re in the Sipi Falls region, consider climbing Mount Elgon. This 4321-meter-tall mountain sits on the Uganda-Kenya border. The summit is on the Uganda side. Hiking up Mount Elgon is often considered to be one of the best hikes in Africa.
Summiting Mount Elgon usually takes around 4 days. You’ll spend 3 nights camping on the mountain. Most travelers spend a night in a guesthouse at the start and end of the hike. Before or after the hike, you can visit nearby Sipi Falls.
The hike up Mount Elgon is a bit shorter and less strenuous than Kilimanjaro. It is still challenging. You will need some good hiking equipment including sturdy shoes, warm clothes, and a warm sleeping bag. It gets chilly at elevation.
There is a park fee of $75 for tourists. This includes park entry, a guide, and ranger fees. You will also need to factor in the cost of food, accommodation, equipment rental, tips, and a porter if you need one.
5. Hang out in Kampala, Uganda’s Capital City
While visiting Uganda, chances are, you’ll end up in Kampala at some point. It’s well worth spending a couple of days exploring Uganda’s exciting capital city. Kampala is the heart of Uganda. It’s a crowded, bustling, and colorful city.
Kampala is a pleasant place to hang out and shouldn’t be missed if you are traveling in Uganda. It’s probably one of the most tourist-friendly capitals in all of Africa. Kampala is affordable, has incredibly friendly locals, and is even fairly walkable. Decent street food is also available.
I spent 5 months living in Kampala and really enjoyed it. Check out my video about living in Kampala to hear about my experience.
Some of the best things to do in Kampala include:
- Experience the nightlife- Kampala is one of Africa’s best cities for nightlife. Ugandans love a good party. There are plenty of bars and clubs to explore. Head to the Kololo neighborhoods. Most of the city’s best bars and clubs are located here. You’ll be sure to make some friends with locals, expats, and backpackers when you go out in Kampala.
- Go on a tour of the city- Hire a boda boda or taxi for a couple of hours and have the driver give you a tour of the city. Most drivers will be happy to show you around. Make sure to haggle hard as they will surely try to overcharge. This is a good way to get the lay of the land.
- Visit the Uganda National Mosque- This impressive mosque was completed in 2006 and can hold 15,000 people. It was originally called Gadaffi National Mosque then was renamed in 2013.
- Visit Uganda National Museum- This is a nice place to go to learn a bit about Uganda. The museum includes exhibits about natural history, archeology, and the culture of Uganda.
- Visit Mengo Palace (Kabaka Palace)- This is the compound of the king of Buganda. Here, you can learn some history about Uganda and the regime of Idi Amin.
- Visit Central Kampala- Central Kampala is surprisingly compact. Take a walk around and explore the local markets or grab a bite to eat.
- Visit the Kasubi Tombs- This is the burial site for four Buganda kings. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Take a Walk Along Parliament Avenue- This is a great place to view some interesting colonial architecture.
- Visit the Ndere Cultural Center- If you’re looking for a fun night out, attend a dinner show at the Ndere Cultural Center. While you enjoy your meal, you can watch the performers do traditional dances, play traditional drum music, and sing traditional songs. It’s a unique cultural experience.
You probably won’t want to spend too much time in Kampala. It is a crowded city. It’s also not the easiest place to get around. The city is kind of confusing to navigate. Traffic is a mess. There are also plenty of scammers, hustlers, and pickpockets that you have to look out for. It is worth visiting for 2-3 days if you have time in your itinerary.
6. Sample the Local Food
There are a few local Ugandan dishes that are worth a try. Probably the most famous Ugandan dish is the rolex. A rolex an omelet with tomato, onion, and salt wrapped in a chapatti. They are sold in markets and roadside stands all over Uganda for around 40-70 cents apiece. You can choose the number of eggs and chapatis you want based on how hungry you are. Fancier rolex with other ingredients are also available in restaurants. These are cheap, fast, and tasty snacks. They are also great for a quick meal.
There are also some staple foods that you should try. One of the most popular foods in the country is matoke. This is a type of green plantain that is steamed or boiled until its soft. Sometimes it’s mashed and sometimes it’s served whole. Matoke is usually served with a soup, stew, or sauce made from ground peanuts, vegetables, or meat.
Another common staple food is posho or ugali. This is a type of corn meal made from ground corn. It is mixed with hot water until it becomes a dough-like consistency. Posho is usually served with a sauce or meat.
Another street food to try is muchomo. These are roasted skewers of meat. They are commonly sold on the roadside. Beef, pork, goat, and chicken are available.
Fish is another food to try in Uganda. Particularly around the lakes. The fish is fresh and delicious. For some of the best fish, try visiting Lake Victoria. The local fishermen will be able to provide you with a variety of freshly caught fish.
Also, be sure to take advantage of the abundant fresh tropical fruits and veggies while visiting Uganda. I ate the best-tasting avocado that I have ever eaten in Kampala. The pineapple, mango, and papaya are also excellent. Really, all of the produce is great. Uganda is an extremely fertile country. Everything grows there.
Kampala also has some pretty good restaurants to try. You can find local cuisine as well as Italian, Indian, Chinese, and Middle Eastern cuisine. There are dozens of excellent restaurants to try. A few of the highest-rated restaurants in Kampala include Cantine DiVino, Asian Fusion, The Bistro, The Lawns, Cafe Javas, Mediterraneo, and Tamarai.
7. Visit the Source of the White Nile in Jinja
The mighty Nile River starts in Uganda. The White Nile River originates in Lake Victoria and flows north into Sudan, where it meets up with the Blue Nile. The river continues all the way through Egypt and flows into the Mediterranean Sea. The Nile is the world’s longest river at over 4000 miles.
The Nile’s origin has captivated explorers for centuries. Its source remained a mystery until it was discovered by British explorer John Hanning Speke in 1858. This expedition took several years. During their search, the party had several run-ins with hostile locals and suffered a range of tropical diseases. The source of the Nile is located just outside the town of Jinja, around 80 km east of Kampala.
To view the source of the Nile, you’ll start in the town of Jinja, which is situated on the northern shores of Lake Victoria. The best way to view the source of the Nile is by taking a boat tour from Jinja. As you glide along the river, you’ll see the spot where the calm waters of Lake Victoria funnel into the Nile. The boat tour offers an up-close encounter with this natural phenomenon and gives you a unique perspective of the area’s lush landscapes. You can also simply view the source of the Nile from a lookout point on the shore.
A visit to the source of the Nile is a must-do while in Jinja. On the shore, you’ll find a monument commemorating Speke’s discovery and the source of the Nile. This provides an insight into the historical significance of this location. You do have to pay a small fee to view the monument from land.
8. Go to Jinja for Whitewater Rafting and Other Adventure Activities
Uganda is a great destination for adventure activities. The town of Jinja is known as the adventure capital of East Africa. Jinja is a laid-back town located on the shore of Lake Victoria. It sits in southeast Uganda, about 50 miles (81 km) East of Kampala. Jinja is a nice little town that is worth spending a day or two exploring.
The most popular adventure activity in Jinja is whitewater rafting and kayaking. The town is famous for it. Adrenaline junkies travel here to experience the thrilling rapids, which reach grade 5 in areas.
Unfortunately, the Isimba Dam flooded a number of the most well-known rapids in Uganda. The whitewater rafting is still good but it’s not the same as it once was. Luckily, the dam didn’t effect the rapids as much as originally expected.
A number of other adventure activities are also available in Jinja including bungee jumping, whitewater kayaking, quad biking, horseback riding, mountain biking, zip-lining, and tubing.
Jinja is also worth visiting if you’re not into adventure activities. There are plenty of more laid back activities to enjoy. Jinja and the surrounding area is a really beautiful part of Uganda. The town has some great colonial architecture to view. Jinja is also located on the shore of the beautiful Lake Victoria. The lake shore is a great place to take a stroll or just relax by the lake. You can also go for a boat ride. Sportfishing safaris are available. There is also some great birdwatching near Jinja.
Jinja is a very touristy city so prices are slightly higher there than in the rest of Uganda. Because it is such a popular tourist destination, you can also find some more upscale restaurants and hotels in town if that is what you are looking for. Jinja is a cool city to visit. It’s definitely worth spending a day or two there during your trip.
9. Go Chimpanzee Trekking
Another one of the most popular activities in Uganda is chimpanzee trekking. Chimpanzee trekking is an excellent alternative to gorilla trekking if the gorilla permit is outside of your budget. Some travelers argue that the experience is even better due to the uncanny valley nature of man’s closest living relative, the Chimpanzee. These fascinating creatures share 98.7% of our DNA, after all.
The best place to go Chimpanzee trekking in Uganda is Kabale National Forrest. You can also go chimpanzee trekking in Budongo Forrest and Queen Elizabeth National Park.
On your tour, you’ll usually trek with a guide for 1-3 hours to find the Chimpanzees. When you find them, you’ll spend about an hour with them before returning to camp.
If you’re lucky, you’ll get to view the chimpanzees up close. Sometimes they are up in the trees. In this case, your view might not be as good.
The chimpanzee trekking tour costs around $250-$300. The permit costs $120-$150 depending on the season. There are half-day and full-day treks available. The chimpanzees that you’ll visit have been carefully trained to tolerate human presence.
For a more up close and personal experience, you can also opt for a chimpanzee habituation tour. This type of tour is designed to slowly introduce chimpanzees to humans so they become more comfortable being near humans. The chimpanzee habituation process usually takes around two years.
This tour usually lasts a full day. You’ll start early in the morning and spend the day watching the chimps in their natural habitat. They spend much of their days in the trees.
10. Go on a Safari in Queen Elizabeth National Park
Located in Western Uganda, Queen Elizabeth National Park is the most visited national park in the country. Some would say it’s the best. Queen Elizabeth National Park is also one of the largest national parks in Uganda at over 2000 square kilometers. You could easily spend 2-3 days here and still not see it all. If you only have time to visit one park in Uganda, this would be a good choice.
In Queen Elizabeth National Park, you can find 95 different species of mammals including 4 of the big 5. You’ll see lions, elephants, crocodiles, and buffalo. Around 500 species of birds can also be found in the park. If you’re lucky, you’ll spot the famous tree climbing lions.
The density of wildlife isn’t as great as some of the other national parks in Africa but there are still lots of animals to see. For some of the best wildlife spotting in Queen Elizabeth National Park, take a boat tour of the Kazinga Channel. This is a 20-mile-long natural channel linking Lake Edward and Lake George. Along the shores, you can spot an abundance of animals. Animals come to the shallow river to drink and bathe. You can get closer to the animals in the boat than you can in a vehicle.
Queen Elizabeth National Park is famous for its rare tree climbing lions. It’s one of only two places in the world where they exist. The tree climbing lions are the most common in the Ishasha part of the park. You also have an excellent chance of spotting the African Bush Elephant. If you’re looking for wildlife viewing, this is one of the best places in the world.
Queen Elizabeth National Park is also known for its spectacular natural beauty. The region contains many unique volcanic features. You’ll see craters, cones, and beautiful crater lakes. It’s the best and most scenic place to go for a safari in Uganda.
A number of different types of safaris are available in Queen Elizabeth National Park. You can take a standard safari in a vehicle. You can go on sunrise, evening, and night safaris. Walking safaris are also available. As mentioned earlier, you can also take a boat cruise on the Kazinga Channel. It’s also possible to tent camp in Queen Elizabeth National Park. This is a great opportunity to star gaze, listen to the sounds of the park, and possibly spot some nocturnal species.
It’s important to note that Queen Elizabeth National Park occasionally suffers from security issues as it is located along the border of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Before you visit, check travel advisories. A few years ago, a woman was kidnapped in Queen Elizabeth National Park. The national park is generally safe to visit and the guides take security seriously.
11. Stand on the Equator
One of Uganda’s most famous attractions is the equator. Uganda is one of a handful of countries that straddles the equator. Standing on the equator is an interesting activity to check off of your travel bucket list.
On the equator, you’ll find a small monument and a couple of signs as well as a few craft shops, restaurants, and cafes. You can take a photo at the monument and stand in the Northern and Southern hemispheres at the same time. It’s super touristy but kind of fun.
Around the monument, you’ll meet some guys demonstrating how the flow of water changes direction as you cross the equator. This is just a trick that these guys do to earn a bit of money from tourists. It’s not a real physical phenomenon. The Coriolis force is not strong enough to change the flow of water over such short distances. It’s basically a scam.
There are a number of places to visit the equator in Uganda. Pretty much every highway that crosses the equator has a sign. The most popular place to visit the equator is Kayabwe, on the Masaka-Mbarara highway. This is about 45 miles southwest of Kampala. You’ll pass right by here if you’re traveling to Lake Bunyonyi or if you’re going to Rwanda. It’s worth stopping for some photos if you have time.
12. Go On a Safari in Murchison Falls National Park and View the Waterfall
Murchison Falls National Park is Uganda’s largest national park at 4,000 square kilometers. The ark is located in the northwestern part of Uganda. Established in 1952, Murchison Falls National Park is also Uganda’s first national park. It is named after a large waterfall in the national park on the Victoria Nile River.
A visit to Murchison Falls National Park wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the falls themselves. Also known as Kabalega Falls, Murchison Falls is a spectacular waterfall on the Victoria Nile River. At this impressive waterfall, the water forces itself through a small 8 meter (23 foot) gap in the rocks and drops 43 meters (141 feet) before flowing into Lake Albert. An incredible 300 cubic meters of water flows through the falls per second. This makes Murchison Falls the world’s most powerful waterfall. It is incredibly loud and impressive. The area at the bottom of the falls is called Devil’s Cauldron.
There are a couple of different ways to view the falls. You can take a boat cruise on the Nile River to the bottom of the falls. You can also hike or drive to the falls to view them from the top. The hike takes around 45 minutes from the trailhead.
After viewing the falls, you can take a game drive. In the park, you can find 76 species of mammals including lions, hippos, Rothchile’s giraffes, elephants, crocodiles, leopards, buffalos, hippos, hyenas, antelope, waterbucks, and more. In addition, there are over 450 species of birds living in the park including the famous Shoebill Stork and Uganda’s national bird, the Grey Crowned Crane.
You can stay the night in the national park if you choose. There are a range of accommodation options in the park including camping and luxury lodges.
13. Visit Lake Victoria
At 26,000 square miles, Lake Victoria is the largest African Great Lake by surface area and the second largest freshwater lake in the world.Uganda controls 45% of the coastline of Lake Victoria. The rest of the lake is shared with Kenya and Tanzania.
Whether you’re an adventure enthusiast, a wildlife lover, or a culture explorer, Lake Victoria caters to all tastes and interests. On this spectacular lake, you can enjoy a wide range of recreational activities including hiking, birdwatching, picnics, kayaking, canoeing, boat tours, swimming, fishing, mountain biking, and more. If you’re lucky, you may spot some wildlife native to the area such as crocodiles, turtles, and hippos.
One of the best ways to appreciate Lake Victoria’s grandeur is by taking a boat tour. As you cruise along, you can enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes, spot various bird species, and visit the numerous islands scattered across the lake. Boat tours also offer a chance to view the local fishing communities in action.
Fishing is another popular activity on Lake Victoria. Try your hand at catching Tilapia or Nile Perch, two of the lake’s most prevalent fish species. Local guides are often available to provide a memorable and authentic fishing experience.
Bird watching is another popular activity. The lake’s wetlands and surrounding areas also provide refuge for various animal species, making it a fascinating spot for wildlife observation.
After a day of exploration, unwind at one of the many lakeside resorts. Watch the sun set over the vast expanse of water and enjoy some fresh fish for dinner.
One thing you may not want to do in Lake Victoria is swim. The lake contains Bilharzia (also known as schistosomiasis). This is a tropical disease caused by a type of parasitic worm that is transmitted by infected snails. It is commonly found in Rift Valley lakes. Luckily, the disease is treatable if you do happen to catch it. To avoid Bilharzia, it’s best not to swim in Lake Victoria or any other lake in Uganda.
14. Visit the Ssese Islands
While visiting Lake Victoria, consider taking a ferry ride out to the Ssese Islands. This stunning archipelago, comprised of 84 islands, is nestled within the expansive waters of Lake Victoria. This tropical paradise offers a unique blend of natural beauty and rich cultural experiences.
The Ssese Islands offer a number of activities for visitors. While visiting the islands, you can enjoy leisurely walks along the beaches, marvel at the brilliant sunsets, go for a boat ride, fish, hike, or rent a bicycle and explore. For wildlife enthusiasts, the islands’ forests are home to an array of fauna, including various monkey species and a diverse range of birds. Visiting the Ssese Islands is also a great opportunity to meet the local Bantu people who inhabit the islands.
The heart of tourism in the Ssese Islands is Kalangala on the largest island, Bugala. Easily accessible by ferry from Entebbe, Bugala Island is a haven of lush forests, white sandy beaches, and an inviting local community. The ferry ride itself is a scenic introduction to the archipelago, offering captivating views of Lake Victoria. If you prefer, you can also access the island by plane from Entebbe.
For travelers with a sense of adventure, island-hopping through the Ssese Islands via local lake taxis is a must. These water taxis offer an excellent opportunity to explore the diverse islands. You can hike through the dense forests looking for monkeys on Bugala Island, view vibrant birdlife on Bukasa Island, or enjoy the peaceful seclusion of the smaller islands.
One of the most rewarding experiences on the Ssese Islands is meeting the locals. Known for their warm hospitality, the inhabitants of these islands offer visitors a glimpse into their customs and traditions. The islands don’t receive many foreign tourists so the local culture is mostly intact. Engaging with the local community offers a deeper understanding of the island life.
15. Visit Entebbe
Entebbe is a charming little lakeside town located on the shore of Lake Victoria, about 40 km south of Kampala. Its location makes it a perfect stopover destination for travelers flying in or out of Uganda. The international airport is located in Entebbe. Beyond its role as a transit point, Entebbe offers a wealth of attractions and activities that make it worth a visit in its own right.
One of the town’s highlights is the Entebbe Botanical Gardens. This lush paradise is a haven for birdwatchers, nature lovers, and anyone seeking tranquility.
If you’re intrigued by the reptilian world, a visit to the Reptiles Village will be an informative experience, where you can encounter a variety of native reptile species.
Animal enthusiasts will also appreciate the Wildlife Conservation Education Centre, which works towards conserving Uganda’s rich biodiversity.
Another animal sanctuary that deserves a visit is the Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary located in Lake Victoria. Here, you can observe rescued and orphaned chimpanzees in a semi-natural habitat, contributing to their care and conservation.
Another interesting natural area to visit near Entebbe is Mbamba Swamp. This is a great place to see Shoebills. These large and strange-looking storks live in freshwater marshes throughout East Africa.
Entebbe is also a great spot for those looking for adventure activities. You can explore the area’s scenic trails on a mountain bike or on horseback. You can also engage in thrilling water activities such as boating and fishing on Lake Victoria. Entebbe is also a great place to enjoy a leisurely stroll along the lake’s serene shoreline.
In the evening, you can unwind in one of the town’s many restaurants, where you can fresh fish from Lake Victoria. A variety of accommodations options are available in Entebbe, ranging from budget-friendly guesthouses to luxury lakeside resorts to convenient airport hotels.
16. Go Hiking in the Rwenzori Mountains
Tucked away in western Uganda, you’ll find the beautiful Rwenzori Mountains. Also known as the “Mountains of the Moon”, the Rwenzoris are a breathtaking range. Its highest peak, Mount Stanley, reaches an altitude of 5,109 meters, making it the 3rd tallest mountain in Africa. This majestic range straddles the Uganda-Democratic Republic of Congo border, providing a unique blend of diverse landscapes, wildlife, and cultural experiences.
Hiking is the highlight of any visit to the Rwenzori Mountains. Options range from day hikes to multi-day treks. The trails are usually pretty quiet as this range is fairly remote and not too well known among travelers. The pinnacle of the Rwenzori experience is a multi-day trek to the summit of Mount Stanley, locally known as Mount Ngaliema.
A trek to the peak of Mount Stanley typically takes around 8-9 days, starting from Kilembe. This expedition takes you through a range of diverse landscapes. There are plenty of opportunities for wildlife spotting and breathtaking photography along the way.
This is a fairly demanding trek that requires good physical fitness. Along the trail, you’ll find a range of accommodations, from basic huts to campsites. It’s advisable to arrange your trek through a reputable tour company that provides experienced guides, porters, and necessary gear.
17. Visit the Volcanic Craters and Crater Lakes of Western Uganda
Western Uganda has some really beautiful volcanic craters and crater lakes. These craters were formed through intense volcanic activity thousands of years ago. They dot the landscape, creating a unique terrain that’s as picturesque as it is geologically fascinating.
One of the most beautiful lakes is Lake Nkuruba, which is located near the charming town of Fort Portal. Lake Nkuruba sits nestled within a lush tropical forest. Hiking around Lake Nkuruba is a delightful experience, with trails offering panoramic views of the lake and the surrounding landscapes. The area is also rich in biodiversity. It’s not uncommon to spot monkeys and various bird species during your hike.
Another place to marvel at Uganda’s volcanic past is Queen Elizabeth National Park. This area is home to a cluster of stunning volcanic craters. The most noteworthy are the Katwe Craters. Interestingly, some of these craters are filled with saltwater lakes. Some have turned into lush grasslands. The best way to view these craters is by taking a scenic drive or joining a guided tour. Be sure to check out Lake Katwe. Here, you can visit a salt mine
Visiting the craters in the early morning or late evening is highly recommended as these times offer the most breathtaking views. The play of light and shadow over the water makes for an unforgettable experience. For the best experience, consider staying in one of the many lodges within or near the craters. These lodges offer stunning views of the craters and the surrounding landscapes, allowing you to soak in the beauty at your leisure.
18. Go Shopping for Arts and Crafts
if you’re looking for artwork or souvenirs, Uganda has a vibrant art scene. Kampala serves as the hub of Uganda’s art, housing various galleries such as Afriart Gallery, Nommo Gallery, Umoja Art Gallery, and AKA gallery. At these galleries, you can marvel at a diverse range of artworks, from contemporary paintings to traditional sculptures.
Beyond the galleries, an integral part of the Ugandan shopping experience is exploring the bustling local markets and roadside stands. These are the perfect places to shop for authentic souvenirs and handicrafts made by local artisans.
Among these markets, Owino Market in Kampala stands out as one of the largest and most popular, offering an endless array of local products. Owino Market is the biggest and best market in Kampala. The market is at its largest and busiest on Sundays. Here, you can buy almost anything including food, electronics, clothes, handicrafts, art, and more. Also, check out the Exposure Africa Market and the African Craft Village.
The vast selection of arts and crafts available in Uganda is impressive. You can find intricate wood carvings depicting local wildlife, vibrant textiles, beautifully woven baskets, handmade jewelry, paintings, and much more.
Even if you’re not interested in buying anything, it’s well worth your time to visit a local market. It’s a cultural experience. You’ll see the locals going about their day-to-day lives buying and selling. You’ll also get to see the types of products that are available. It’s really interesting looking through the foods, clothing, and other items that are for sale.
When shopping at local markets, it’s important to haggle. Prices quoted to tourists are much higher than the local price. It’s part of the shopping culture to negotiate, so don’t be shy to bargain for a better price. Haggling isn’t just about getting a better price. It’s also a way to engage in friendly interaction with the vendors. It’s part of the experience.
19. See the White Rhinos at the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary
Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary offers one of the best wildlife viewing experiences in Uganda. Situated near Murchison Falls National Park, this sanctuary plays a vital role in the restoration of Uganda’s rhino population. Poaching led to the extinction of wild White rhinos in Uganda, with the last white rhino reported in 1983.
Today, Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary is the proud home of around 22 white rhinos, with a goal to reintroduce these majestic creatures back into Uganda’s national parks in the near future. The sanctuary was started in 2005. It sits on 7000 hectares of land. The rhinos roam freely throughout the sanctuary.
While visiting Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, you can embark on a 2-hour guided walk with a knowledgeable ranger, getting you up close with these gentle giants in their natural habitat. The guides maintain a safe distance, but these walks often allow for incredibly close encounters with the rhinos, providing fantastic photo opportunities. During your visit, you’ll also get a chance to learn more about rhinos including their behaviors, feeding habits, and conservation needs. The tour currently cost $45 for foreigners. The proceeds go toward the rhino breeding program.
If you wish to spend more time with the rhinos, consider an overnight stay. The sanctuary offers accommodation options, allowing guests to wake up to the sounds of nature and the chance to spot rhinos in the cool early morning or late evening. There’s also a restaurant on-site, serving a variety of meals to suit different tastes. You can actually view the rhinos from the accommodation and restaurant.
You can read more about the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary on their website here.
20. Visit Kidepo Valley National Park
Kidepo Valley National Park is located in the remote northeastern corner of Uganda, on the border with South Sudan. This stunning national park is less frequented by tourists compared to other parks in Uganda due to its isolated location. Those who make the journey to Kidepo Valley National Park will be rewarded with an unforgettable wildlife and cultural experience. Kidepo National Park is a great destination for those who want to venture off the beaten path.
One of the park’s main draws is its exceptional wildlife viewing. Kidepo is home to an impressive variety of wildlife, including one of Africa’s most endangered giraffe species, the Rothschild’s giraffe. Other animal inhabitants include buffalo, elephants, zebras, leopards, and over 450 species of birds. The relative tranquility of the national park allows for intimate wildlife encounters, offering an authentic and memorable safari experience.
The landscapes of Kidepo Valley National Park are also diverse. The terrain varies from rugged savannah and mountainous regions to expansive grasslands, dotted with acacia and Borassus palm trees. The park also features the seasonal Kidepo River, which is often a gathering spot for various wildlife, particularly during the dry season. The Kanangorok Hot Springs and Mount Morungule are other notable features that enhance the park’s unique appeal.
A visit to Kidepo National Park is also an opportunity to connect with the rich cultural heritage of the region. The area is home to the Karamojong people, known for their unique traditions and customs. Many visitors find interacting with local communities to be a rewarding experience that deepens their understanding of the Ugandan way of life.
21. Visit Mabira Forest
Mabira Forest is located just a short drive from Uganda’s capital, Kampala. It’s a great place to visit on your way to Jinja. This tropical rainforest offers a number of activities for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers.
Hiking is one of the main attractions in Mabira Forest. The forest’s network of trails meanders through tall trees. Along the way, you’ll come across various tree species and possibly encounter some of the forest’s resident monkeys, butterflies, and other small wildlife.
Thrill-seekers can zip-line through the forest canopy on the Mabira Forest Canopy Super Skyway. This gives you a bird’s-eye view of the forest and the River Musamya.
Mabira Forest is also a haven for birdwatchers. It boasts over 300 bird species, including several that are endemic to Uganda.
22. Visit Lake Mburo National Park
Lake Mburo National Park is a bit of a hidden gem. It is located in Western Uganda, conveniently situated en route between Entebbe and Bwindi Impenetrable national park. Although smaller than other Ugandan national parks, Lake Mburo national park packs a punch with its rich biodiversity. It’s a great stopover on the way to or from Bwindi Impenetrable Forrest.
Unique among Ugandan national parks, Lake Mburo allows for guided walking safaris and bike safaris. This provides a rare opportunity to connect with Africa’s wilderness on a more personal level. You can also take standard driving safaris.
Safari-goers can expect to see a variety of animals, including zebras, impalas, buffalos, elands, and the elusive leopard. The park’s wetland habitats are also home to several bird species, making it an excellent destination for birdwatchers.
The park’s game drives are a great way to explore its savannah landscape, dotted with acacia trees and interspersed with wetlands. Though you can visit Lake Mburo national park at any time of the day, morning game drives are often most rewarding when wildlife is most active, and temperatures are cooler. However, an evening game drive can also be a fascinating experience, offering a chance to spot nocturnal creatures and experience the tranquility of the park as the sun sets.
23. Meet The Ugandan People
Ugandans are friendly and welcoming people. Whether you’re exploring the bustling capital city of Kampala or venturing into the rural landscapes, the Ugandan people will be a highlight of your trip, greeting you with a smile, a wave, and often a friendly chat.
Despite the diversity of cultures and languages in Uganda, English is widely spoken throughout the country, thanks to its status as the official language. This makes it easy for tourists to engage with locals. Don’t hesitate to strike up a conversation with the people you meet. Ugandans are genuinely interested in getting to know visitors.
Ugandans are also willing to help. If you’re lost or need assistance, you can ask almost anyone. People will go out of their way to ensure you reach your destination safely.
However, as is the case in any travel destination, there can occasionally be instances where individuals might ask for money. But rest assured, the Ugandan people are respectful and will not bother you if you decline. Their courtesy and understanding make the interactions comfortable and enjoyable.
24. Visit Semuliki National Park and Sempaya Hotsprings
Semuliki National Park is located in the remote, western corner of Uganda. This unique conservation area, sitting in the Albertine Rift Valley, offers visitors a unique blend of Central African jungle atmosphere and East African safari experience. Known for its distinctive hot springs, sprawling wetlands, and the winding Semuliki River, the park is an excellent destination for nature enthusiasts, birdwatchers, and adventure seekers.
Among the park’s standout features are the Sempaya hot springs. The springs are categorized into two main areas, known locally as the ‘male’ and ‘female’ hot springs. The male spring, also known as ‘Bintente’, gushes up from a broad, steaming pool. the female spring, known as ‘Nyansimbi’, meaning ‘the female ancestors’, is a boiling geyser that shoots steam up to two meters high. It’s a fascinating spectacle of nature’s geothermal power. Water temperatures reach as high as 100 degrees Celsius.
An approximately 30-minute hike through the forest connects the two springs. This short hike offers a chance to explore the park’s rich flora and fauna. This trail is a treasure trove for birdwatchers, as the park is home to over 400 bird species, including several that are endemic to the region.
Additionally, Semuliki National Park is a great place to view Old World monkeys. 11 different species of monkeys call the park home. A visit here offers the opportunity to spot rare primate species such as the pygmy antelope and flying squirrel. An encounter with the park’s troop of habituated chimpanzees is a highlight for many visitors.
25. Visit the Batwa Pygmy People
Discover Uganda’s rich culture and diversity by visiting the Batwa Pygmy people, an indigenous group with a fascinating history and unique way of life. Once the forest-dwelling hunter-gatherers of the Great Lakes region of Central Africa, the Batwa, also known as the ‘Keepers of the Forest,’ now reside on the edges of Uganda’s national parks.
For centuries, the Batwa thrived by hunting small game and gathering fruits and herbs from the forest. Unfortunately, their way of life was uprooted in the 1990s when their ancestral lands were designated as national parks to protect the endangered mountain gorillas. Forced to vacate their homes with no compensation or adequate alternative housing, the Batwa now live as subsistence farmers. They also make money by offering cultural experiences for tourists.
Despite these challenges, the Batwa have preserved their unique culture and traditions, which they share with visitors as part of community-based tourism initiatives. When you visit a Batwa community, you’ll be welcomed with music and dance. You’ll also learn about their traditional hunting and gathering techniques, medicinal plants, and how they crafted their homes and tools.
It’s important to ensure that your visit benefits the Batwa community. Therefore, it’s best to arrange your visit through official channels like the Uganda Wildlife Authority or the Batwa Development Programme. These organizations ensure that tourism revenues go directly to the Batwa, providing them with essential income and helping preserve their unique culture and traditions.
My Recommended Uganda Itinerary
Uganda is a relatively small country. You can easily pair several of the above activities to save travel time. It’s possible to travel to most of these destinations by bus and public transport. There are also tours available to most of the destinations on this list.
If you’re starting in Kampala, you could start by making your way to Sipi Falls. On your way back to Kampala, you can break up the trip by stopping for a couple of days in Jinja.
After spending a few days exploring Kampala, you could go mountain gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. After the trek, you could make your way to Kabale and visit Lake Bunyonyi.
Next, you could head to Queen Elizabeth National Park for a safari. During your visit, you could go on a Chimpanzee trek. From there, you could head to Murchison Falls National Park and go on another safari and view the falls. You could then return to Kampala.
From Kampala, you can visit Entebbe and spend Lake Victoria and spend some time exploring the city before flying out of Entebbe international airport.
If you travel to Uganda from Kenya by bus, it would make sense to make your way to Sipi Falls first, then Jinja. Next, you would continue on to Kampala. From there, you can easily travel to Kigali, Rwanda by bus.
How I spent my Time in Uganda
On my first trip to Uganda, I traveled from Kenya by bus. Once I reached Kampala, I made the trip to Sipi Falls and visited Jinja on my way back to Kampala. After exploring Kampala, I made my way to Kabale and Lake Bunyonyi before continuing on to Rwanda by Bus. This worked out pretty well and was fairly efficient.
On my second trip to Uganda, I based myself in Kampala for 5 months. I took some day trips and weekend trips to various parts of the country to visit some of the national parks. From Kampala, it’s pretty easy to visit all of the sites on this list. Kampala is Uganda’s main transportation hub.
Chances are, you will pass through Kampala multiple times when you travel to Uganda. Consider leaving some of your luggage in a hotel so that you don’t have to drag all of your gear around. Most likely, you will be staying in the same place when you pass through Kampala so you can easily lighten your load to make travel easier. It is a hassle traveling on minibusses with a lot of gear. Leaving your bag in Kampala makes travel days a lot less stressful.
If you are traveling in East Africa, Uganda shouldn’t be missed. It is one of the most diverse places on earth in terms of natural landscapes and wildlife. You’ll see rainforests, lakes, mountains, savannahs, and hundreds of species of plants, animals, and birds. It’s an incredible country for those who love spending time in the outdoors.
The country is also fairly compact, making it easy to get around. From Kampala, you can travel pretty much anywhere in the country within a day. Even with slow and unreliable African transportation, you could probably see a good chunk of the country in a week or two.
Maybe the best thing about Uganda is the people. Everywhere I went, I met friendly locals who were more than willing to help me out or stop for a chat. In fact, According to the BBC, Uganda is the most friendly place for expats. This is one of my favorite countries. I can’t wait to return.
Have you visited Uganda? Share your favorite things to do in Uganda in the comments below.
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Zachary Friedman is an accomplished travel writer and professional blogger. Since 2011, he has traveled to 66 countries and 6 continents. He founded ‘Where The Road Forks’ in 2017 to provide readers with information and insights based on his travel and outdoor recreation experience and expertise. Zachary is also an avid cyclist and hiker. Living as a digital nomad, Zachary balances his professional life with his passions for hiking, camping, cycling, and worldwide exploration. For a deeper dive into his journey and background, visit the About page. For inquiries and collaborations, please reach out through the Contact page. You can also follow him on Facebook.