Aside from all the negative press, Uganda used to get in the past decade, this beautiful but rather small landlocked country in the Eastern part of Africa has emerged into one of the best African safari destinations. From tracking gorillas in Bwindi impenetrable National park to seeing tree-climbing lions on a game drive in Queen Elizabeth National park, there are so many tourist attractions in Uganda that shouldn’t be missed.
Also, known as the Pearl of Africa, Uganda has amazing wildlife, incredible landscapes, amazing scenery, diverse cultures, great climate all year round and above all the friendliest people you’ll ever meet.
Whether you’re traveling to the country for a short business trip or a long and adventurous trip, here are the best places to visit in Uganda for an ultimate African safari.
The top tourist attractions in Uganda
1. Bwindi Impenetrable National park
Home to almost half of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas (approximately 400 within the park), Bwindi Impenetrable National park located on the edge of the rift valley in the Southwestern region of the country is one of the best national parks in Uganda.
For travelers that have always wanted to track gorillas, Bwindi offers an impeccable experience of getting up close and personal with the endangered mountain gorillas.
Other than tracking gorillas which is the highlight of visiting Bwindi impenetrable national park (and Uganda as a whole) and enjoying the impressive biodiversity, the park offers breathtaking flora and fauna – harboring over 120 species of mammals, 348 bird species, 220 species of butterflies and over 1000 flowering species. All this and the ecological importance that Bwindi national park posses led it to be enlisted as a Unesco site.
Pro tip* You will be required to purchase a gorilla tracking permit from Uganda wildlife Authority (UWA) prior to your safari since only 8 people are allowed to track a specific mountain gorilla group. Also, the gorilla tracking safari can take anywhere between one to eight hours depending on where the gorillas slept the previous night.
2. Queen Elizabeth National park
Spanning districts of Kasese, Rukungiri, Kamwenge, and Rubiririzi in the western region of Uganda and approximately 400km south-west of Kampala, Queen Elizabeth National park is one of the best national parks in Africa and one of the most visited in the country.
A safari in Queen Elizabeth national park never disappoints as it lives up to its reputation of offering an amazing flora and fauna – with an impressive lush of vegetation, a number of crater lakes and the famous tree-climbing lions.
The park has a diverse ecosystem which includes the beautiful crater lakes beneath the park’s hills creating breathtaking views, savanna grasslands, ishaha plains whose trees are the resting places of the lions, views of the Kazinga channel which is filled with hippos, crocodiles, elephants, and buffalos on its banks.
In addition to boasting about the 95 mammal species that call Queen Elizabeth home, it also has over 612 species of birds to cater to bird lovers making Queen Elizabeth national park one of the major tourist places in Uganda.
3. Murchison Falls National park
Harboring the glorious Murchison Falls, Murchison Falls National park is the largest national park in Uganda spanning an area of 3,840 square kilometers. It is located 283 km north-west of Kampala which is Uganda’s capital.
Murchison Falls is a breathtaking sight as the Nile river water gushes through a 7-meter rocky gorge creating a beautiful musical but thunderous sound – a feature that makes it the most powerful waterfall in the world.
The park together with its neighboring surroundings forms the Murchison Falls Conservation Area (MFCA) which is endowed with a lot of animals including but not limited to lions, leopards, elephants, giraffes, buffaloes, Uganda cob, and bush backs. And along the shores of the Nile, hippopotamus, and crocodiles can be spotted.
On top of that, the park also houses over 400 bird species making it one of the beautiful places in Uganda, not only to get a glimpse of the African animals and birds but also the most impressive waterfall in the country.
And Since Murchison falls national park covers a huge part of Budongo Forest, a haven for Chimpanzees, Chimpanzee tracking which is the second exciting tracking adventure after gorilla tracking is possible.
Pro tip* The beauty of the mighty Murchison falls can be enjoyed from anywhere around the falls but to appreciate it even more and get into close proximity with the splashing water of the falls, hop onto a boat cruise along the Nile and your mind will be blown away.
4. The source of River Nile
River Nile is the longest river in the world and seeing it’s origin is a must when you travel to Uganda. A visit to the pearl of Africa is not complete if you don’t see the source of the Nile as it is one of the major Uganda tourist attractions.
Located in the Eastern part of Uganda in Jinja town approximately 80 km from Kampala, the source of the Nile is one of the most visited places in Uganda receiving a number of tourists from far and near to experience this incredible landmark.
One of the incredible features to look out for are the bubbles at the exact spot (source) which indicates that water comes from the underground which later spreads to other parts. And according to John Speke, the first European Explorer, It is believed that actually 30% of the Nile water comes from the underground at the “source”.
And after seeing the Nile and it’s source, explore Jinja town which is like Uganda’s “summer” destination packed with adventurous activities like White water rafting on the Nile, Kayaking, Quad biking, and many other fun adrenaline activities.
5. Kampala city
Located in the heart of Uganda, Kampala comes up as the most diverse city in the country accommodating millions of people from different tribal ethnics. Being the capital, it’s the most developed city in the country and over the years, many western cultures have been adapted making it a fun city to explore and one of the interesting places to visit in Uganda.
The city offers so many places to see that shouldn’t be missed out if you want to learn about Kampala and the locals in-depth. Some of the places to visit in Kampala include but not limited to;
- Kampala downtown: Get the feel of the real-life of the locals, the markets, the taxis parks, the chaos, the liveliness and how local businesses are carried out.
- Places of worship: Gadaffi Mosque also known as the Old Kampala mosque which is the biggest mosque in the country and also the National Mosque, Namirembe cathedral which is the provincial Cathedral for the Church of Uganda ( known as protestants), and Lubaga cathedral which is the provincial cathedral for the Roman Catholics in the country.
- Temples; The Bahai Temple and Shree Swaminarayan Temple.
- The Uganda independence monument;
- Historical places in Uganda like the Buganda kingdom palace, The Kasubi Tombs and so many others
These are just some of the many tourist attractions in Uganda that you can’t afford to miss while exploring this bustling city of Kampala.
6. Lake Victoria
Known as the birthplace of the longest river in the world, the Nile, Lake Victoria is not only one of the country’s landmarks but also one of the top Uganda tourist places.
With a surface area of approximately 59,947 square kilometers, Lake Victoria is not only Africa’s largest lake by area but also the largest tropical lake in the world. It is also the world’s second-largest freshwater lake by surface area just after North America’s Lake Superior.
Lake victoria boats itself with incredible natural beauty from amazing islands, breathtaking sunsets & sunrises, incredible views to the fresh cool breezes. It is also blessed with over 200 fish species and around 350 bird species across the lake region.
Since the lake is spread across the country, there are a number of places to enjoy Victoria but one of the coolest areas is in Entebbe town. A visit to the Entebbe botanical gardens guarantees the utmost relaxation from the cool breeze and a chance to spot some of the Lake’s birds. Other Ugandan locations where you can have a glance at Lake Victoria include Jinja, a town in the Eastern part of Uganda, Ssese islands, a group of beautiful islands on the lake and so many other places.
7. The Equator
Uganda is blessed to be one of the few countries where the equator passes. Located just 72 km from Kampala, visiting the equator can be treated as a stopover activity as it is on the way to some of the tourist sites in Uganda like Queen Elizabeth National park or Bwindi impenetrable National park along Kampala – Masaka Highway in Kayabwe, Mpigi district.
So you basically get to ticket off a number of places in Uganda on the same trip and at the same time take the iconic photo of you standing right in the middle of the Equator landmark – talk about being in both the southern and northern hemispheres at the same time with just the imaginary line of the Equator cutting across.
While at the Equator, try out the exciting water experiment to see how water swirls in opposite directions when poured at different spots of the northern and southern hemispheres.
8. Kidepo Valley National park
Located in the Karamoja region in NorthEast Uganda, Kidepo Valley national park is one of the most remote and isolated National parks in Uganda and it’s only those that embark on the 700 km journey from Kampala can truly testify that it is one of (if not) the best Uganda wildlife safari.
Spanning an area of 1,442 square kilometers, Kidepo is a rugged savannah in the semi-arid valleys between Uganda’s borders with Sudan and Kenya cut across by the Kidepo and Narus Rivers.
Since the park is very isolated, it still has that wilderness virgin charm that can’t be found anywhere in Uganda. With a combination of the savannah landscape, mountainous features, and flowing water bodies, Kidepo national park is undeniably the best safari in Uganda.
With over 77 mammal species and approximately 475 bird species, Kidepo valley national park not only offers amazing game drives and bird watching extravaganza but also nature and bush walks to get up close with Uganda’s wildlife.
If game driving in the rugged savannah vegetation of Kidepo doesn’t inspire you to embark on this off the beaten path, then the cultural visits to the Karamoja villages should, in order to learn more about the culture, history and the way of life of the Karamajongs plus the IK people whose tribe is one of the oldest in the country.
9. Mt. Elgon National park
Home to the oldest extinct volcano in East Africa, Mt. Elgon National park is popular for the 4,321 m high mountain where it derived its name. It is located in Mbale split between Uganda and Kenya with the Ugandan side covering a surface area of 1,110 square kilometers while the Kenyan part is only 169 square kilometers.
The prime reason for visiting Mt. Elgon national park in Uganda is to climb Mt. Elgon and possibly reach its highest peak of Wagagai which stands at an elevation of 4,321 above sea level.
Mt. Elgon is a great option for hikers since even beginners can step up to the challenge due to the lower elevation and mild climate compared to its counterparts of Mt. Rwenzori or even Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.
Aside from taking in the incredible views and reaching the highest peak of Wagagai (this is like a moment of victory), Mt. Elgon national park has an impressive landscape that keeps changing for each altitude reached. From the mixed-bamboo forest, lush Montana, the worldly uncommon plant species like the large Lobelia, to the beautiful wildflowers. The mesmerizing caldera, caves, and water bodies (with one shaped in the map of Africa) are some of the other beautiful features to see while trekking your way up the mountain.
While wild animals are rare to spot in Mt. Elgon National park, a few that call this park home (though at the lower slopes) include Elephants, Buffalos, antelopes, many types of monkeys including the red-tailed ones, black and white colobus plus the blue monkeys. The park is also endowed with a number of different tree species which amount to at least 144 and half of Uganda’s butterfly species are recorded to be in Mt. Elgon National park. All this certainly proves that Mt, Elgon national park is one of the best tourist attractions in Uganda.
10. Sipi Falls
Just located next to Mountain Elgon national park, Sipi falls whose named was derived from the wild banana plant that grows nearby is one of the best places to visit in Uganda for spectacular views and a good splash of water.
It is a collection of 3 falls dotted in the Kapchworwa region on the border of Mt. Elgon national park with each flowing at a different altitude.
Hiking up the falls gives spectacular views of the Karamoja low lands, Lake Kyoga and the coffee plantations in the area.
Pro tip* Since the Falls are located just at the foothills of Mt. Elgon National park, a visit to the Sipi falls can be easily combined with that of Mt. Elgon. This can either be done before or after but since the falls give a more relaxed and calm vibe, it is better to visit them after a great 4 days climb of the mountain.
11. Ziwa rhino sanctuary
Located 176 km (100 miles) north of Kampala on the Gulu highway in Nakasongola district, Ziwa rhino sanctuary is home to the only wild rhinos in Uganda.
With 22 southern white rhinos, Ziwa rhino sanctuary has become one of the popular Uganda destinations to see rhinos in the country. What makes a visit to the Ziwa rhino sanctuary even more exciting is that you get to do an on-foot rhino trekking tour as the tour guides lead you to the African bushes to have a close encounter with the endangered white rhinos.
Ziwa rhino sanctuary is not just about tracking rhinos (do not let the name mislead you), it also has some other smaller animals like Uganda kobs, Bush backs, waterbucks and others. It’s prime location and the landscape is also great for bird watching and taking nature walks.
Pro tip* Since the Ziwa rhino sanctuary is just off the road that leads to Murchison falls, you can combine both of these safaris in just one trip to save time and money.
12. Lake Bunyonyi
Regarded as one of the honeymoon holiday destinations in Uganda, the beauty that Lake Bunyoni offers cannot be compared to anywhere else in the country. Lake Bunyonyi translated as a “lake of many little birds” is located in south-western Uganda between Kisoro and Kibale and it is believed to be the second deepest lake in Africa.
With a collection of 29 islands surrounded by steep terraced hillsides, well – maintained resorts, calm and quiet environment with the only noise coming from the singing birds, no wonder Lake Bunyonyi is where most travelers in Uganda head to get some peace and quiet after jam-packed safaris in the country as it is one of the most beautiful places in Uganda.
In addition to providing spectacular views, a number of activities can be done at Lake Bunyonyi; from boat canoeing, zip-lining across the lake, resort hopping to swimming in the crystal clear waters – it is perfectly safe to swim in since it has no hippos, crocs or even bilharzia.
So if you were looking for things to do in Uganda to get away from it all, then visiting Lake Bunyonyi will serve you just that and more.
13. Mt. Rwenzori National park
Located in western Uganda at the Uganda- Congo border, Mt Rwenzori National park harbors the snow-capped mountain of Rwenzori which is also referred to as the “Mountains of the moon”
Mt. Rwenzori may not be a volcanic mountain like other major mountains in East Africa, but it is definitely one of the Uganda places to visit for an incredible hike.
Standing at a height of 5,109m above sea level, Margherita is the highest peak on the mountain that makes tourists travel from far and near to conquer this Ugandan giant.
Apart from the incredible and challenging hiking trails, Mt Rwenzori national park which is also enlisted as a UNESCO world heritage site offers breathtaking views of the different landscape that changes with the altitude. From the land terrain, plant life of sub-montane vegetation, luxurious tropical evergreen forest to the incredible snowcapped peaks.
Bird watching, lounging on the foothills of Rwenzori, hiking and cultural exchanges are some of the incredible things to do in Mt. Rwenzori national park.
14. Ssese islands
If you’re looking for what to do in Uganda, then a visit to the Ssese islands will be fulfilling and relaxing. Located in the northwestern part of Lake Victoria in Uganda, Ssese islands are an archipelago of 84 beautiful islands that all differ in size and landscape but each remaining incredibly beautiful in each own way.
The Ssese islands are some of the major tourist attractions in Uganda that you can visit to unwind, relax, enjoy the white sand beaches, and participate in a number of water activities. When you want to get away from it all, the crazy noise of the city, the wildlife, Ssese islands will give you that escape route.
15. The wildlife Education center- Entebbe zoo
Having been listed as the best zoo in East and Central Africa, Uganda Wildlife Education Center is one of the best places to visit in Uganda. It harbors most of the wild animals especially those that may have been rescued from animal traffickers and poachers.
The wildlife Education center is located just outside of Entebbe town perfect for a visit if you want to see the African animals but you don’t have enough time to visit some of the national parks in Uganda for an ultimate safari.
A visit to the Entebbe zoo will guarantee you a close-up encounter with the chimpanzees or even a guided tour to see the lions, white rhinos, leopards, zebras, and many other animals.
There you have it folks – that was the list of the major tourist attractions in Uganda. It is by no means exhaustive but if you were looking for things to do in Uganda, I hope this post gave you a number of options to consider.
Have you been to any of these Uganda attractions? What was your experience? Share with us in the comment section plus other places in Uganda that could be high on your bucket list but haven’t yet visited.
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