Uganda is a country blessed with remarkable biodiversity and tourist attractions. From the climate, people, national parks, hot springs, waterfalls, sprawling savannahs, snow-peaked mountains, dense forests, rivers and Lakes, Uganda is the most naturally beautiful countries in Africa. For the reasons already mentioned Winston Churchill described her as the “Pearl of Africa”. Apart from the natural beauty, the other thing that makes Ugandan’s very special are their friendly nature. A lot of countries have friendly people but often in a selective way. Ugandans are friendly to all kinds and categories of foreigners. It is why she has arguably the best refugee policy in the world.
Most tourists come to Uganda to see the wildlife. Of all the wildlife Uganda has to offer, the Mountain gorilla is the most attractive. The mountain gorillas have allowed thousands of visitors to also discover good things about the country which wouldn’t have been the case had it not been for the primates. This is not to say that Uganda’s wildlife is not as that attractive. In fact, even without the Mountain gorillas, Uganda would still remain one of the best places to go on a safari in Africa. We have come up with a long list of the top tourist attractions in Uganda. The list is not exhaustive because Uganda has so much to offer.
Things to Do in Uganda – Tourist Attractions in Uganda
Gorilla Trekking : Gorilla Trekking : This had to be top on the list because it is the most popular activity in Uganda. Uganda is lucky to have half of the overall population of mountain gorillas and in two national parks – Bwindi and Mgahinga. Mountain gorillas are endangered but their numbers have grown to slightly above 1000 in the last decade. Bwindi has 17 habituated gorilla groups which are open to tourism while Top Tourist Attractions on UgandaMgahinga has one large one. Gorilla trekking in Bwindi National Park is special because it is the only park where one can also choose to for the gorilla habituation experience. The Gorilla habituation experience is different from gorilla trekking in that it involves more time with the primates. The gorilla habituation experience is also more expensive but participants get to move with researchers and learn more about the primates. To reach Bwindi, one needs to endure a journey of 8 hours by road (450km from Kampala). For nature lovers, the journey can be very rewarding because the scenery is simply amazing. The landscape, forests, water bodies, mountains and valleys seen along the way is why the area is referred to as “the Switzerland of Africa”. If you are not convinced, you can hire a chartered flight from Entebbe or Kajjansi for your gorilla safari to Bwindi.
Eat some of the local food : Whenever one visits a new place or country, the first thing that should come to mind is the local food. Uganda has a variety of tasty local dishes. Almost all the 64 tribes in Uganda have a traditional dish. Fish is always on the menu in every country and Uganda is no exception. A favorite cuisine is smoked fish mixed with peanut/groundnut sauce and taken with millet bread. The Baganda love matoke (bananas) and peanut sauce. This dish is very popular among tourists. Other local dishes include yams, pork, chicken, potatoes, vegetable and sorghum. The hotels also include most of the known international cuisines for visitors who are less experimental.
Lion Tracking and Spotting Tree Climbing Lions in Ishasha : Uganda is the best place to see tree Climbing Lions on earth. These rare cats are found in the Ishasha sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park. A few tee climbing lions are also found in Lake Manyara in Kenya and in South Africa. Things to do in UgandaThe tree climbing lions of Ishasha in Queen Elizabeth National Park are many and the chances of seeing them higher than anywhere else. Queen Elizabeth also offers another exciting opportunity – The chance to track lions in the Kasenyi sector with experienced Researchers. Lion tracking in Queen Elizabeth National Park involves the use of GPS. A sensor is inserted into a collar which is then put around the lioness (after using a tranquilizer). The lion tracking experience is very different from that offered during game drives. During game drives, vehicles are not allowed to drive away from the main park roads. Tourists are also not allowed to get too close to the lions. With lion tracking, participants can be driven deeper into the park and away from the park roads as they follow the lions. Participants in the lion tracking experience may be requested to help in collecting samples from the lions after using a tranquilizer.
Visit the main local Markets : There is no better way to learn about the culture of a new place or people than to visit the busiest local markets. Markets offer a true picture of the kind of life everyday people live and what their values are. You might even get to hear about the latest political or social gossip. Each town in Uganda has a large market where most of the folks got to do home shopping or sell Tourist sites in Ugandatheir merchandise. In Kampala, the best three markets are Owino, Nakasero and Nakawa. Owino market is famous for its chaotic stalls but has of recent been renovated with shops in storied buildings. You can find almost anything on sale in Owino market. They have the trendiest second hand (almost new) clothes and shoes. You can find the very best brands. How they reach all the way here is a mystery. Just as you leave the cloth store, you will encounter a shop selling traditional herbs/medicine for all kinds of medical issues. Nakasero is a smaller market specializing in foodstuffs, vegetables, fruits and electronics. It is more organized than Owino Market perhaps because it is located in the city center. As chaotic as it is, Owino market is highly recommended in order to have a taste of Kampala’s chaotic life. Make sure you keep your wallet or handbag safe. The market has some of the city’s sharpest pickpockets.
Tour Kampala : Kampala is Uganda’s only city at the moment. It is a large city with over 2 million people. Kampala is the best place to experience everything good and maybe bad about the country. One good thing for sure is that the people are genuinely friendly. Kampala is also relatively calmer and safer than Nairobi in Kenya but that will not stop a few crooks from taking your phone on the street on a bad Top Places to Visit in Ugandaday. There are several things to do while in Kampala that anyone would struggle to make a selection. The city has a large expert community working with international governmental and non-governmental organizations. The modern bars, shopping malls and restaurants are where the international experts love to hang out. You can read more about the top attractions in Kampala for specifics. Kampala also has several markets, cathedrals, temples and art galleries. If you are planning to visit the cultural sites in Uganda, you shouldn’t forget to visit the Uganda National Museum which we will discuss later in detail. The art galleries display the work of Uganda’s best artists in form of photographs, sculptures and paintings.
Visit the Uganda Martyrs Shrine and Cathedrals : If you are on a Mission Trip to Uganda, you might want to check out Uganda’s famous cathedrals. Rubaga Cathedral is Uganda’s most important Uganda Tourist AttractionsRoman Catholic cathedral. It was built in 1914 on one of Kampala’s most prominent hills. This is where the most influential catholic Priests and Bishops sit. A guided tour can be arranged to see the beautiful interior and impressive artifacts. You could also visit the tomb for the first African Catholic Bishop and other clerics at the church cemetery. For those of the Anglican faith, the Namirembe Cathedral is the place to go. This Cathedral was built in 1919 and is where the top offices of the Anglican Church are located. For the ultimate Mission Trip, you should visit the two Uganda Martyrs Shrines in Namugongo. These shrines mark the spot where over 20 young Christians where executed on the orders of Kabaka (King) Mwanga of Buganda in 1886. The King had asked them to denounce their new Christian faith but they refused and chose to die.
Lake Victoria : In Lake Victoria, Uganda has the largest freshwater lake in the world. The lake is shared by Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya. Lake Victoria is where the river Nile starts its journey to Egypt. The lake is home to over 198 species of fish and 355 of birds. The dominant fish species is the Nile Perch. This is one of Africa’s largest fish and should be top of the list if you planning to do sport fishing in Uganda. Lake Victoria is also home to some of Uganda’s best hotels and lodges. From these hotels, you can relax by the beautiful beaches or jump into a boat to visit the amazing Islands. You can visit the section of the lake in Jinja to see the source of river Nile or go to the Ssese Islands including the Ngamba Chimpanzee sanctuary which we shall discuss as an attraction of its own later.
Chimpanzee Trekking in Kibale Forest National Park : Kibale forest is located in the western part of Uganda close to Queen Elizabeth National Park. Kibale National Park is considered the primate’s capital of Africa. It is the best place to tack chimpanzees in the world. The reason for this is because the chimps are easier to find after only a short time of tracking. Kibale forest national park has over 1,500 Uganda Top Tourist Attractions and Activitiesindividual chimps. 3 communities have been habituated and opened to tourism. Kibale forest is also one of the few parks where one can go for the chimpanzee habituation experience. This activity is slightly more expensive and involves more time with the primates. Visitors are led by experienced researchers to have a comprehensive understanding of wild chimpanzees for a whole day. Apart from chimpanzees, Kibale forest is home to 12 other primates including blue monkeys, colobus monkeys, red-tailed monkeys, grey-cheeked mangabeys, baboons, vervet monkeys and pottos. Chimpanzee trekking in Kibale begins with a briefing at the Kanyanchu Visitor Center. Visitors are then led out to track the chimps for about 3 hours. Visitors are only allowed one hour with the primates. During this time, they can observe them feed, play, groom, mate and relax. Chimpanzees are more vocal and mobile than gorillas. They spend a lot of time on top of trees and its more difficult to catch up with them. You might also be interested in where to hangout in Nairobi Kenya.
Golden Monkey Trekking in Mgahinga : Golden monkeys are very cute but endangered primates. They are characterized by their thick golden hair which makes them very attractive. Golden monkeys are thought to be a sub-species of the blue monkey. They are only found in Uganda Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In Uganda, golden monkeys live in Mgahinga National Park. Uganda and Rwanda are the best places to track golden monkeys. The monkeys love feeding on bamboo shoots on the slopes of Virunga’s volcanoes. They are expert tree climbers and masters of acrobatics. Their greatest fear are the large African eagles which will not hesitate to catch them if they get a chance. Unlike Mountain gorillas whose population is now increasing, that of golden monkeys continues to decline. Visitors can only visit habituated groups and the fees collected is used to protect them.
Stop by the Equator Crossing : The main equator crossing in Kayabwe along Masaka road is one of the most visited landmarks in Uganda. It happens to be located along a major route used by tourists visiting Uganda’s main national parks. All tourists visiting Bwindi, Mgahinga, Queen Elizabeth, Mount Tourist Attractions in UgandaRwenzori and Kibale National Park make stopovers to take photos and have lunch at the equator. What is the Equator anyway? The equator line marks the point where the earth’s south and northern hemispheres are separated. In other words, the equator line divides the world into two. There are other marks to show the equator line in other parts of Uganda but not as visited as the one in Kayabwe. In Kayabwe there is a souvenir shop where tourists you can buy souvenirs. The best part is taking photos with two legs in different parts of the earths hemisphere to show your friends and other relations back home.
The Ndere Centre : Ndere means a flute. A flute is one of the most musical sounding instruments in Africa. The Ndere Centre is one of the most visited places in Kampala. The Centre aims to promote Uganda’s diverse cultures while instilling a sense of pride in them. It is frequented by those who are interested in learning about Uganda’s cultural heritage. Every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, hundreds of people (including tourists and expatriates) gather at the 700 seater venue to enjoy traditional dances, music and dinner. The cultural performances are from all of Uganda’s main tribal groups. The different dance groups are carefully chosen and only the best from each tribal group are allowed to perform. The groups come up with something new every week and that’s why people come again and again. If you are in Kampala, this is the best place to go to learn about the Uganda Culture.
Visit Art Galleries : There are countless galleries in and outside Kampala. Most of them display the works of local artists. The 32° East Ugandan Arts Trust is a good example. Other prominent galleries include the Afriart Gallery, the Makerere Art Gallery for its monthly exhibitions, Kabale Arts Center which shows how the Bakiga tribe lived thousands of years ago. The AKA Gallery at Tulifanys showcases collections from a prominent artist known as Geoffrey Mukasa. The other galleries prominent galleries are the Uganda Art Gallery, Karibu Art Gallery, Umoja Art Gallery and Nommo Gallery.
Visit the Source of the Nile in Jinja : Uganda is blessed to have the source to one of the world’s longest and most famous rivers, the Nile. The river Nile is associated with many famous events and is mentioned in the world most read books like the bible and the Koran. It is the lifeblood of many Uganda attractionscountries and especially Egypt. The River Nile gets its waters from Lake Victoria before starting its long journey to the Mediterranean Sea. The source of the Nile is only 2 hours away from Kampala by road. The government has built a beautiful garden close the source of the Nile where one can see relax, monkeys and birds. The famous Gandhi Monument is located in the gardens where visitors can go and take photos. You can combine touring the source of the Nile with a variety of activities like Bungee jumping, whitewater rafting, quad biking, horseback riding or a boat cruise along the Nile river. Some of these activities will be or are already discussed in our long list of the top attractions in Uganda. If you are wondering about where to stay, you might want to know that Jinja has many high quality hotels and lodges on offer.
The Murchison Falls : The Murchison Falls are one of the top tourist attractions in Uganda. They are found in the Murchison Falls National Park – one of the best in East Africa. The Murchison falls is home to chimpanzees, antelopes, Roskilde Giraffes, leopards, elephants, lions, hippos, crocodiles and over 450 species of birds. Despite the rich flora and fauna, the Murchison falls is the key attraction of the park. The falls are formed at a point where the great river Nile squeezes though a narrow gorge with several rocks creating massive waves and white form in several sections before making a final fall then continues its journey calmly to Egypt. The water spray creates a constant rainbow throughout the day adding on to the beauty of the falls. Visiting the top of the falls is one of the things to do while in Uganda.
Visit the Kasubi Tombs : The Kasubi tombs are one of Kampala’s prominent cultural attractions. It is a World Heritage Site and the burial ground for four of Buganda’s last Kings and other royals. The site was built on 1882 by Kabaka (King) Mutesa 1 of Buganda as his palace but was converted into a tomb after his demise. Three other king choose to be buried in the tombs later on. They include Kabaka Mutesa II, Kabaka Mwanga II and Kabaka Suna. The Kasubi tombs are considered very important to the Baganda (the largest tribal group in Uganda). Several ceremonies and rituals conducted by representatives of the royal family to appease the spirits of the dead kings and sometimes ask for their favor. On a visit to the site, tBest Places to visit in Uganda during a tripourists will see artifacts like ancient Buganda drums, spears, bark cloth, grass-thatched huts and other royal regalia. Visit the Kasubi tombs to learn more about the history of this great African tribe. If you wish to see more of the Buganda tombs after visiting the ones in Kasubi, you can also check out the Wamala tombs or those for the Queen Mothers (Nnamasole Kanyange tombs). Apart from the Buganda tombs, you can visit the Karambi Royal Tombs and the Mparo Tombs for the Omukama of Bunyoro in Hoima.
Our the Ssese Islands : The Ssese Islands are a collection of 84 islands within Lake Victoria. The most prominent are the Ngamba Island, Bugala, Bukasa and Banda. Most of the Ssese islands still retain their natural beauty with pristine wilderness that allow primates and other creatures to thrive. Covering Major Tourist Attractions in Uganda275 square kilometers, Bugala Island is the most visited and largest of the islands. The main activity was fishing but tourism has caught up real fast and could be the leading source of livelihood for the people in the island. On a weekend, the Island is packed with middle class Ugandan’s and international tourists who are interested in relaxing and having fun in the beautiful sand beaches surrounded by beautiful scenery. If you are interested in doing a lot of fun activities like swimming, quad biking, horse riding, island hopping and canoeing, then you should think about visiting these islands for at least 3 days. To get to the island, you need to take a ferry from Nakiwogo in Entebbe. The main Islands like Bugala have a variety of accommodation facilities for both budget and luxury travelers.
Go for a safari in Lake Mburo National Park : Lake Mburo is the nearest national park to Kampala city. It is Uganda’s smallest Savannah park but home to buffaloes, hyenas, hippos, crocodiles and several species of antelopes. Lake Mburo has more Zebras than any other national park in Uganda. It is also the Top places and attractions in Ugandabest place to see leopards in Uganda. A Safari in Lake Mburo National Park is special because tourists can go for horseback safaris or use a Quad Bike to view the animals. These unique ways of viewing animals are possible because there are no lions to fear. Lake Mburo is one of the best places for fishing in Uganda and birders should expect to sport over 350 recorded species. Nature walks are also possible deep into the park unlike in other national parks. The scenery in the park is amazing and forests relatively intact because there are no elephants.
Visit the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary : This Rhino Sanctuary is located just before the Murchison Falls National Park on the way to Gulu. The sanctuary was established by wildlife conservation Agencies to protect Uganda’s last remaining White Rhinos. Uganda once had over 1,000 White and black Rhinos Tourist attractions Ugandaroaming freely in the national parks but extensive poaching wiped them out. There are no more Rhinos in the national parks and the only place to see them is at the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary. About 20 individuals are currently being protected in the vast Sanctuary. Visitors to the sanctuary have an opportunity to tour the facility under the guidance of Rangers and Researchers. The area has remarkable scenery and wildlife. The elusive Shoebill Stork is resident here but visitors can also see antelopes, hippos and crocodiles. An ambitious breeding programme to increase the number of Rhinos and releases them back into a few national parks is underway. Visit this sanctuary if you want to see Rhinos or learn more about their conservation.
Lake Bunyonyi : Bunyonyi means “place of many birds,”. Lake Bunyonyi is an earthly paradise close to the districts of Kabale and Kisoro. The lake has 29 Islands and is one of the deepest Lakes in Africa. It Things to do Ugandareceives a lot of visitors and is a point of relaxation before and after long safaris in Queen Elizabeth, Kibale and Bwindi National Parks. Lake Bunyonyi is attractive because of its natural beauty and calming nature. It is perfect for couples who want to stay in a quiet environment to relax and an enjoy the scenery. Apart from swimming and relaxing by the deep waters, one can go canoeing, island hopping and visiting one of the local Batwa or Bakiga Communities. The islands have few human settlements but there are several schools over there. You can also visit the former Island for lepers or the punishment island where girls would be abandoned (to die) if they got pregnant out of wedlock.
Visiting the Beautiful Lake Mutanda : Lake Mutanda is found in the South-western corner of the country in the District of Kisoro. The Lake lies on the foot of the three volcanoes found in Mgahinga National Park. The Lake is remarkable because of its natural beauty and location. Visitors can go for nature walks in the forests surrounding the lake or track the mountain gorillas and golden monkeys living in the area. The forests surrounding the lake are home to giant frogs, primates, chameleons and monitor lizards. Lake Mutanda has got several islands that can be explored by boat or canoe. With a boat or canoe, one can go for birding or visiting the local communities living in the islands. You can go further and see the equally beautiful Lake Mulehe, Bwindi forest and the border with Congo.
Visit the Baha’i Temple :Uganda happens to have the only Baha’i temple in Africa. The temple is built on top of a hill and offers great views of Kampala city The Baha’i faith unites all races and teaches the true values of humanity while focusing on human rights. A single Baha’i temple is built in every continent. At the time of its construction, the temple was the tallest building in Uganda and the East African region in general. It has a capacity of 400 people. The temple has a beautiful compound with flowers, trees and well maintained lawns. Tourists go to the temple for picnics, relaxation, photos shoot or to just marvel at the unique architecture. Those curious about the Baha’i faith are free to attend the Sunday prayers. Entrance is to the facility is free.
Visit Royal Palaces : Uganda has 64 tribes. Most have a King or Chief as head. You can pay a visit to one of the palaces to learn about the culture of the specific tribal group you are interested in. If you are What to do in Ugandain Buganda, you can visit the palace of the former Kabaka (King in Lubiri). Built in colonial style, this building was the center of a battle between the Kings Guards and government forces in the 1960’s. The King was exiled and left the place vacant. Later on the government of Idi Amin and Obote used some of its rooms as a torture chamber for those suspected of opposing the regime. The palace of the King of Tooro in Fort Portal has also became very popular with tourists. Its located close to the highway leading to the major national parks in Western Uganda and hence a perfect stopover point after lunch in Fort Portal. The Toro Kings’ palace is relatively new with very modern designs.
Birding : Uganda is one of the best places for birding in the world. The country has over 1,050 recorded species. This is more than what is found in the whole of Europe whose total is 700. The most attractive species are the African Green Broadbill, Black Bee eaters, the Brown-Chest Plover, Green Breasted Pitta, Karamoja Apalis, Nahan’s Francolin, Purvell’s Illadopsis, Red-fronted antpecker and the Shoebill Stork. The climate and earth movements created perfect habitats for the birds in form of lakes, swamps and forests. For the best birding experience, one needs to visit the national parks. However birding in Uganda can be done almost everywhere. You can begin spotting birds as soon as you come out of the airport. You will see them in homes, your hotel compound and even along the roads.
Sport Fishing :If you are in Uganda and wondering if angling is possible, then you don’t need to be worried. One third of the country is covered in water and this is enough to show that Uganda is a fishing country. The Nile perch is Uganda’s largest and most sought out fish by anglers. The Nile Perch can weigh over 100 kilograms. The average big catches weigh 60 Kilograms. Although most of the Nile Perch is found in Lake Victoria, the best place to catch them is along the river Nile in Jinja and the Murchison Falls National Park. The other major species in Uganda include Tilapia, Cat Fish and Mud Fish to mention but a few. Sport fishing in Uganda is still not developed to its full potential but there is a lot of potential as the economy of the country grows.
Hiking the Rwenzori Mountains : Uganda has several mountains and Volcanoes worth climbing. The most popular ones are the Rwenzori Mountains, Mount Elgon, Mount Moroto and the three Natural attractions in UgandaVolcanoes in Mgahinga National Park – Gahinga, Sabyinyo and Muhabura. The highest mountains are the snowcapped Rwenzori Mountains at 5, 119 meters and Mount Elgon at 4, 321 meters. Climbing to the highest peak of the Rwenzori Mountains takes between 9 to 10 days while Mount Elgon takes 4 days. The Rwenzori Mountains are the most popular among seasoned hikers. Reaching the highest peak of the Rwenzori Mountains is considered a great achievement even among internationally known hikers. The Rwenzori mountains lie on the border between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda. It is a World Heritage site and offers the opportunity to encounter breathtaking scenery, tropical glaciers, alpine vegetation, primates, birds, rivers and 9 lakes.
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