Entangled in the minds of many tourists by the ever-present threat of one Joseph Kony and his so-called Lord’s Resistance Army, the nation of Uganda is actually one of Africa’s emerging jewels. Yes, you will need to be careful and there are warnings to heed about travelling to the disputed and conflicted areas of the Northern Territories.
However, Uganda is, for the most part, a safe and exciting place. It is a land where hippos hum through the wetlands and lions rest in the acacias. It is a land of rain-stained forests and misty hills that are home to chimpanzees.
It has the waters of Lake Victoria and the winding channels of the Victoria Nile to boot. Views of rocky mountains and freestanding volcanoes conquer the peripheries, reaching craggy peaks where waterfalls and thunderstorms meet. Meanwhile, Kampala is a vibrant city, steeped in tribal ancestry and life. It’s a great African adventure!
Let’s explore the best places to see in Uganda:
The ancestral capital of the Buganda kingdom is also the modern capital of Uganda. And for a first African city, it has charm and style.
You can still see some of the thatched relics of previous glory years in the Kasubi Tombs, or you can savor the frenetic energy of everyday Ugandan life among the sun-drenched streets of central Kampala; a place of pulsating markets (the city’s Owino market is said to be the largest in East Central Africa) and echoes of mosque minarets (Gaddafi’s grand National Mosque is a must!).
At the edge of the city is the straighter area of Nakasero Hill, where well-to-do villas house the country’s elite and expats chat in ramshackle bars.
2. Kibale National Park
Delve into the dense jungles and wetland forests of the vast Kibale National Park(see map) and you will not be disappointed! What awaits us is some of the world’s most stunning scenery of wild chimpanzee packs, and you can see these majestic Central African apes shuffling through the undergrowth and commanding the canopies on everyone’s game drives and safari excursions. the different types.
There is also a kaleidoscope of other curious little monkeys to spot, such as L’Hoest’s rare red Colobus and the Ugandan.
It is also possible to admire the ancient fig trees and see some more recent efforts to create sustainable coffee plantations in the area.
3. Ssese Islands
A cocktail of Latin American-worthy golden sands, sun-kissed beaches and rolling waves, the Ssese Islands archipelago is Uganda’s answer to the tropical gems of the East African coast in the Indian Ocean.
Splashing across the waters of Lake Victoria, they are considered the country’s premier place of rest and relaxation, with the popular Buggala Island and Bulago at the top of the menu.
You can kick yourself at one of the lakeside resorts or lace up your walking boots and head up into the foothills, where hippo-dotted swamps hide between the ridges.
Kayaks and other water sports are also available at Buggala.
4. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (see map) truly lives up to its name! A land of rocky peaks and endless green, found in some of the oldest primary forests in Africa.
Biodiversity (think geckos alongside gorillas alongside a host of curious insects) earned the place a UNESCO World Heritage tag, while most safari-goers head here in search of monkeys. colobus and chimpanzees.
The impressive landscapes are typical of the Albertine rift. They rise and fall to well-trodden valleys and peaks, with quartzite massifs and teak-lined rivers.
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5. Murchison Falls National Park
Named for the roaring waterfalls that sprawl across its middle, the wilderness of Murchison Falls National Park is undoubtedly some of the most astounding in northwestern Uganda.
The protected area is actually the largest national park in the country, with a whopping 4,000 square kilometers between its borders.
The biggest attraction is, of course, the point where the Victoria Nile crashes into a closed gorge and over a cliff over 40 meters high.
However, travelers can also expect to stalk lions, giraffes, elephants, and much more.
Entebbe, at least for most international visitors, will be the entry point to Uganda.
It is here that the nation’s Entebbe International Airport makes its home; Its runways against the waters of Lake Victoria.
Most will leave quickly too, en route to Kampala or other remote safari destinations around the country.
Those who are relaxing can enjoy a laid-back spot that still keeps up with the old British Protectorate, as this is where English colonists made their base decades earlier.
One of the relics of that time is the beautiful National Botanical Gardens, while there are also lovely churches, and the official residence of the president: the Uganda State House.
7. Queen Elizabeth National Park
Named just QENP for short, this vast expanse of desert lying near the shores of Lake Edward and the DRC border in the west is Uganda’s most famous national park.
Every year, thousands of tourists visit it in search of the lazy Congo lions and chimpanzees that can be seen mingling between the Maramagambo Forest and the grassy savannah.
The whole area is also marked by myriad volcanic features, ranging from the incredible Katwe craters to large cracks in the earth, making it an interesting and attractive place to go on safari and game hunting trips.
8. Mount Elgon National Park
The rock-ribbed uplands of Mount Elgon National Park(see map) are dotted with so many natural beauties that it can be difficult to describe them all at once.
Cascading from the extinct caldera of one of Africa’s oldest volcanoes are waterfalls, damp cave systems, and canyons galore.
Visitors can also feel the geothermal activity in a series of hot springs, or marvel upwards to where African goshawks and graceful shrubbery flutter across the sky.
One of the main transport and administration centers of eastern Uganda, Tin-shack Mbale is home to its own regional government and a cluster of good hotels and guest houses.
It is particularly useful for those heading to the heights of Mount Elgon and the famous summit of Wagagai, a 24 million year old volcano that is the 17th highest in all of Africa.
(For the best base for explorations around the hiking trails and glorious mountains that loom around Mbale, be sure to take a local minibus to Bududa.)
Back in town, you’ll be able to enjoy the hustle and bustle of everyday Ugandan life, along with plenty of shops and market stalls.
10. Lake Mburo National Park
Despite being one of the smallest national parks in Uganda, the rolling savannah grasses and riparian habitats of Lake Mburo(see map) certainly pack a punch.
They come sighted with herds of buffalo and zebra, crossed by dancing reedbucks, and stalked by hyenas.
Today, much of the area is covered in young forests, sprouting from the swamps that dominate along the shores of the lake of the same name.
This makes it an excellent game during the dry season, when animals congregate at watering holes.
In addition, Lake Mburo National Park is one of the most accessible, with easy access via the highway from Kampala, the capital.
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11. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
You will have to go to the southernmost depths of Uganda to find the great beasts of the highlands: the mountain gorillas.
Appropriately named Mgahinga Gorilla National Park(see map) is one of the best places to find them too, with its indelibly green verdant forests falling from the heights of cloud-shrouded volcanoes.
The area is located in the famous Virunga Range, offering game sightings of rare mountain gorillas along with other impressive creatures – think forest elephants, golden monkeys, wild pigs and jackals.
Yes, you can see them in the Democratic Republic of the Congo too, but things here are a bit safer!
12. Kidepo Valley National Park
Tucked away in the far north of Uganda (in one of the most dubious and unsafe parts of the country), Kidepo Valley National Park is an excellent visit.
It is located a whopping 700 kilometers from the capital, and is known for its remoteness.
Totally undeveloped and untouched by mass safari tourism, the region is the former homestead of the herdsmen of Dodoth.
These semi-nomadics shared the savannah and mud flat landscapes with scores of buffalo, hippos, oryx and wild dogs, which can still be seen flitting among the gray-haired acacia groves and wetlands today.
It’s just a short drive along the highways east of the river town of Jinja, jutting into the waters where the Victoria Nile emerges from its namesake lake.
Sleepy, sun-broken and relaxed, the place is the perfect antidote to the energy of life in the capital.
It has a host of great bars, but is most famous for the wealth of riverside resorts that line the banks.
You’re sure to be able to find something to suit, with everything from pool-dotted boutique hotels to more rustic, monkey-ringed ecolodges to choose from.
And when you want to get the blood flowing, be sure to head to the whitewater rapids on the river for some rafting!
14. Fort Portal
Still huffing and puffing from the appearance of paved roads in 2007, the regional town of Fort Portal has a truly enviable position below the jagged headlands of the mighty Rwenzori National Park.
Chimpanzees and gorillas roam the hinterland, giving the place a real wild feel.
However, the center is anything but wild, with human energy dominating the action.
There, it’s all about bustling markets and haggling over the produce of local farmers.
Fort Portal is also a good starting point for launching excursions to the aforementioned Queen Elizabeth National Park and Lake Edward.
Lira is a small crossroads town in the middle of north-central Uganda.
While it is actually the fourth largest in the country, it still manages to retain that charming provincial dream and vibe.
Travelers rarely come here as well, adding a touch of off-the-beaten-path character and local authenticity.
Those who make their way to the streets of Lira get to see a real Ugandan city in action, and even hear no-nonsense, visceral stories of the devastating civil wars of years past. His private army.