Here is our selection of the top attractions and things to do in Uganda. We will mention some attractions in the cities, countryside, and protected areas then mention some tours for the area or travel bloggers who have visited these areas to give their own opinion.
Gorilla Watching in Bwindi National Park
A main reason to visit Uganda from a nature perspective is to see the incredible mountain gorillas, which are only found in this region. Mountain gorillas differ from their lowland cousins as their fur is thicker and adapted to the colder temperature at high altitude.
Gorillas live in groups of around 10 individuals and are led by the most powerful silverback with the rest of the group comprising females and younger males. The silverback makes important decisions for the group and protects them from danger.
To see these animals, you can enjoy gorilla tours from Kisoro, which is about 460 kilometres (290 mi) from the capital city of Kampala. Kisoro is located in a fantastic area of Uganda and is in the African Great Lakes region. This is where the African continent is slowly splitting apart revealing the beautiful lake scenery. Because of the incredible landscape, many people refer to this part of the continent as the Switzerland of Africa.
There are some great lodges in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, which is one of the best places to see the gorillas and was named after the forest’s many stands of bamboo. Bwindi contains many other animals as well as the gorillas and protects around 90 species of mammals, including 10 different primates. This is the richest area in for mammals in Uganda and there are many other species to see, such as the black and white colobus monkeys, green monkeys, Schmidt’s red-tailed monkeys, and duiker.
There are currently about 400 gorillas in Bwindi and the number has been increasing steadily over the years. Many researchers feel the slow growth of the population can be attributed mainly to visitors wanting to see the gorillas, which helps provide money and global attention for the remarkable animals.
The gorillas are spread among 11 habituated groups, which you can visit on tour by purchasing a gorilla permit and booking a stay at one of the wonderful gorillas lodges. One of the most easily accessible gorillas groups from Kisoro is the Nkuringo group, which you can visit on tours from the highly regarded Nkuringo Gorilla Camp.
Bird Watching in Bwindi National Park
In addition to the gorillas in Bwindi, the birds here are also incredible and the forest ranks as one of East Africa’s best regions for birdlife and birdwatching. From some of the Bwindi Lodges, such as the Nkuringo Gorilla Camp or the Mahogany Springs Safari Lodge, you will have some fantastic birdwatching opportunities. Head out with your knowledgeable guide to spot many of the fascinating birds that call this forest home.
The favorite species to find in the forest include the Turner’s eremomela, Chapin’s flycatchers, Shelley’s crimson-wings, African green broadbills, bee-eaters, Grauer’s swamp warbler, and the abundance of butterflies
The drier months, which are June to August (most tourists) and December to February (less tourists) are the favored time to visit Bwindi, but birders may prefer the wetter months for a higher chance of seeing more bird activity. The wetter months are then from March to April and September to November.
The Bwindi Impenetrable Forest contains some fantastic habitat for a variety of birds and there are around 350 different birds recorded with 23 birds only found in this region. This means the forest is home to 90% of all Albertine Rift endemics.
Other favorites to find in the Bwindi area include the black billed turaco, black bee-eater, blue-headed sunbird, short-tailed warbler, bar-tailed blue trogon, and kivu ground thrush, yellow eyed black flycatcher, Garner’s warbler, Africa blue and white-tailed blue flycatchers and red-headed bluebill.
There are some different birding trails around the area, including the Ivy river trail, Kashasha river valley, Buhoma waterfall trails, and the Mubwindi swamp trail in Ruhija. Birders visiting the Nkuringo Gorilla Camp who want to focus on endemics have especially enjoyed visiting a small pocket forest named Nombe.
There are a team of very enthusiastic birding guides at the Nkuringo Gorilla Camp and you can organize some specific birding itineraries.
Hike from Kisoro to Nkuringo and Buhoma
Given the fantastic scenery of the region, there are many different hiking opportunities to see the area. Local guides who know the region best will show you the most scenic hiking trails, such as between the hamlet of Buhoma on the north side of the Bwindi Forest National Park and the town of Kisoro in south western Uganda.
The classic and much loved walking trail is between Kisoro and Buhoma, which you can also combine with a gorilla trekking adventure. The usual amount of time to do the trek is over two days where you will enjoy fantastic views, including the incredible Virunga Volcanoes.
Spend a night on the shore of Lake Mutanda, which you will then cross in traditional dugout canoe to begin your trek. We will then follow village trails to see fantastic scenery to enjoy rainforest, mountains, the lake, and the form of the land.
While on the walk, you will enjoy some fantastic cultural experiences to enjoy seeing how people live in this part of Africa. In addition to this and the incredible scenery, there is a lot of wildlife to see enroute, such as many different interesting birds, monkeys, and if you choose, you can combine with a memorable gorilla trek to see these gentle giants of the forest.
There are many other trails in the region to make the most of the spectacular mountainous scenery, such as the walks to the different volcanoes of Mt. Margarita (5109m) Mt. Rwenzori, and the Elgon Wagagai Peak (4321m).
See Chimpanzees in Kibale Forest National Park
Across Lake George to the north east of Queen Elizabeth National Park in the west of Uganda is the Kibale Forest National Park. Although these forests are connected and chimpanzees are found in the Queen Elizabeth National Park, we recommend seeing our closest relatives in the Kibale area as it’s a little easier to find the chimpanzees. In fact, the Kibale Forest is recommended as the best place in the whole of East Africa for seeing chimpanzees.
The most popular trail in the park is the walk from the Kanyanchu Visitor Center, which lasts about three hours to visit the chimps and to see a diversity of wildlife enroute. When we encounter the chimpanzee groups, visitors are allowed to spend a maximum of one hour observing the fascinating animals, as they play, feed, and relax in their group.
As with the gorilla treks, to visit the chimpanzees we recommend booking your chimpanzee visiting permit and tour in advance as the visits per day are tightly controlled for the chimpanzees’ welfare and they can get quickly booked up.
In addition to the chimpanzees in Kibale, you will also encounter some of the other primates inhabiting the area, such as blue & red-tailed monkeys, red-colobus mangabeys, and the grey-cheeked mangabeys swinging in the forest’s canopy. Another of the favorite trails is the Kanyanchu Primate Walk to see some of the park’s thirteen species of primate.
A travel blogger who visited the Kibale Forest is Helen from Notwithoutmypassport.com.
Savanna Wildlife Safari in Queen Elizabeth National Park
The Queen Elizabeth National Park region is the most popular tourist destination in Uganda, which is linked to the area’s diversity. The protected area contains many different wildlife-filled habitats, such as forests, wetlands, savanna grasslands, and a number of lakes.
The Queen Elizabeth National Park sits in the western side of Uganda, which is a few hours drive southwest of the country’s capital and largest city, Kampala. There are a few different towns close to the protected area such as Kasese and Bushenyi.
The park contains a lot of wildlife, such as the iconic African safari animals, but is also fortunate to contain and protect a population of our closest relatives, the chimpanzees. Towards the north and across Lake George, the park connects to the Kibale Forest National Park mentioned above.
You can enjoy game drives in Queen Elizabeth National Park to search for the icons of the African plains, such as lions, elephants, antelopes, and buffaloes. There are over 200 km of game tracks throughout the park we can explore.
Being part of African Great Lakes region, there are some fantastic lakes to visit where you can enjoy cruises on the glistening waters to scout for a range of wildlife. There is also a fantastic channel to enjoy between Lake Edward and Lake George to see hippopotamus, Nile crocodiles, and a multitude of birdlife.
In addition to exploring the area on game drives, one of the most spectacular ways to experience these savanna environments is by hot air balloon, which you can book as an add-on experience.
Golden Monkey Trekking
The golden monkeys are a fantastic group of primates to see in the wild and can be relatively easily encountered on guided treks through the forest. There are a couple of different areas to find the monkeys, but the best place to track the monkeys in Uganda is the Mgahinga National Park at the foot of the Virunga Mountains.
The monkeys enjoy hanging around the stands of bamboo forest within these protected areas and the monkeys are now used to people, which means they’re more easily observed. However, the monkeys move fast so make sure you’re using your fastest lens speed.
The golden monkeys make a fantastic add-on experience to enjoy with the gorillas or the chimpanzees. The trip makes an ideal short stay in another area of Uganda in the Virunga Mountains to find the monkeys where there are only a few thousand individuals remaining. On tours to see these fascinating primates, you can visit the habituated groups for an hour at a time.
The golden monkeys are a relatively small primate and are covered in long, golden hair. They are classified as an endangered species and are found in the Virunga’s bamboo forests. Despite protection, their population size is continually decreasing, but because they have been habituated by researchers, finding the monkeys is relatively simple as the monkeys are used to people and don’t run away. The fee paid for the permit then helps the monkeys’ protection.
Visit Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary
The Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary protects Uganda’s only wild rhinos and is located just north of Kampala near the famous Murchison Falls. In total, the sanctuary protects 15 rhinos but is also a fantastic place to see other wildlife, including a fantastic diversity of birds.
Enjoy bird watching, nature walks, relaxing, and of course finding and watching the rhinos. The rangers of the sanctuary will guide you around the reserve to find the wildlife, including the rhinos themselves but also crocodiles, hippos, and antelopes. Birders often enjoy the reserve and spend time finding some of the 250 different species. You can find some fascinating birds within the sanctuary boundaries, including a number of rare species.
The sanctuary was founded by various wildlife and conservation organizations in an attempt to restore Uganda’s rhinoceros population. The sanctuary intends to protect rhinos from people and Africa’s predators while they breed and grow and will then re-introduce the rhinos into Uganda’s protected areas, such as Queen Elizabeth National Park. While awaiting their reintroduction, visitors can enjoy seeing these remarkable animals while also helping to spread the importance of rhino conservation in the country.
A total of around 80 rangers and guards watch over the sanctuary day and night to maintain the animals’ safety. The total land area of the area covers 7, 000 hectares, which you can explore with your highly trained ranger who knows the park better than anyone else. You can enjoy different facilities and infrastructure, such as a tourist lodge, camping area, and budget guesthouses to accommodate all types of tourists.
Explore the protected area to scout for the rhinos and other animals, including hippos, monkeys, crocodiles, and many different birds, enjoy nature walks, and canoe the different waterways.
A travel blogger who visited Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary is Barbara from Solotravelerblog.com.
Visit Murchison Falls
Murchison Falls is a fantastic natural attraction located in the aptly named Murchison Falls National Park, which with a few other protected areas create the Murchison National Park. The park has been visited by the likes of Winston Churchill, Ernest Hemingway, and various royals over the years.
The protected area is home to many different animals, including hippos, crocodiles, lions, leopards, elephants, giraffes, antelopes, chimpanzees, and many different birds. However, because of intense hunting in the 1900s the wildlife is not as it once was. Animal populations have been recovering and you’re sure to see some examples, including some of Africa’s icons.
This is the largest national park in Uganda and the Murchison Falls sits as the jewel in the crown of the protected area. The falls was named after a president of the Royal Geographical Society and is the main attraction.
Murchison Falls is a fantastic spectacle with water violently crashing through the narrow, rocky gorge. The falls ejects the Victoria Nile River through a 6 meter wide chute, which cascades down 30 meters to the Nile River. Because of the spray of water, you can see a constant rainbow over the falls adding to the spectacle of this must-visit Ugandan attraction.
Kampala is Uganda’s capital and makes a fascinating stop on your Ugandan adventure to enjoy for a day or two seeing this important city. Ugandans in general are very friendly and the city of Kampala offers a more relaxed atmosphere than its neighbor of Nairobi across the Kenyan border.
The city is relatively calm and safe. So much so, Kampala has a stable expat community with many different NGOs running various humanitarian and conservation projects. The city has some modern areas with top of the line restaurants and bars, which is often where the expats and visitors enjoy spending their time.
You can enjoy many different markets selling a variety of produce, clothing, and crafts. There are also some different attractions to see in the city itself, which will easily keep you entertained over a couple of days. These include temples, cathedrals, markets, galleries, areas of historical significance, and museums.
Despite being an old building in need of a little love, a popular attraction is the old Uganda National Museum, which shows the cultural heritage of the country including exhibits on Uganda’s cultural and natural history. There are also a few different galleries you can enjoy that display paintings, photography, sculptures, and exhibits from many different local artists.
A travel blogger who visited Kampala is Anne from Yourlittleblackbook.me.
Visit the Ndere Centre
The Ndere Centre is a highly recommended attraction to experience the country’s traditional dance and music. A few days of the week, you can enjoy a dinner and theater performance at the center to see a high energy show of Ugandan culture. The dances are from a variety of Uganda’s different tribes and the show takes place in a 700-seat amphitheater on Sundays at 6pm, Wednesday at 7pm and Fridays from 7pm.
The name itself is from the word for flute, which is the symbol of the troupe because of its diverse and beautiful sound, but also as it’s one of the only musical instruments found across all cultures and is a metaphor for unity.
The mission of the center and its dancers and musicians is to help rekindle a sense of pride for Ugandan culture while promoting it to the world. A team of dedicated Ugandans carefully research and respectfully present parts of all the cultures that make up the Ugandan people constantly updating the performances.
It is a repeated theme across sub-Saharan Africa where information was not written down as language didn’t exist in written form, instead the information was passed between generations through performances, such as dance, storytelling, poetry, and music.
The Ndere Troupe are a definite must-see attraction in Uganda and the award-winning performers have been practicing their art for nearly 25 years spreading the fascinating and enjoyable performances.
A travel blogger who visited the Ndere Centre is Charlotte from Muzungubloguganda.com.
See Lake Victoria
Lake Victoria is the world’s largest freshwater tropical lake and sits as the jewel in the crown of the African Great Lakes region. Sitting across the borders of Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania, this is where the Nile begins, which was one of the world’s most historically significant rivers.
The lake itself is home to some fascinating features, such as the different islands and reefs to enjoy. Around 200 species of fish and over 350 different birds call the Lake Victoria region home, which you can spot on some fascinating lake tours.
The peninsulas and islands of Lake Victoria are home to some luxury lodges where you can relax near the glistening waters and take tours around the lake to see some of the unique features and wildlife.
A great place to visit to experience the Lake Victoria region from Uganda is the town of Entebbe where you can feel the breeze from the fantastic lake. Here you can enjoy the relaxing atmosphere and the botanical gardens, which are visited by many different bird species. You can also meet one of the sources of the great Nile in Jinja to imagine where this river runs and the history linked to this incredible waterway.
The most popular Lake Victoria island to visit from Entebbe is Ngamba Island, which is home to a private chimpanzee sanctuary protecting orphaned chimpanzees. The sanctuary was set up by the Chimpanzees Sanctuary and Wildlife Conservation Trust (CSWCT) and funded by a number of organizations, including the Born Free Foundation, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, and the Jane Goodall Institute.
A travel blogger who visited Lake Victoria from Uganda is Charlotte from Muzungubloguganda.com.
See Lake Bunyonyi
Lake Bunyonyi is located close to Kisoro and Kabale and near the border with neighboring Rwanda. This is one of the largest of Africa’s lakes by depth and contains 29 different islands. Not just a popular tourist attraction for international visitors, the lake is also a popular relaxation destination for locals. Around the lake, you can find the towns of Muko and Kyevu, and you can enjoy a range of lakeside accommodation.
There are few buildings on the islands, aside from some infrastructure for tourists and a couple of schools. The main community is the Bufuka Village, which is mainly composed of members of the Bakiga and Batwa tribes. A popular attraction is to see the traditional dances of the Batwa. Another of the favorite things to do here is to take a cruise and go island hopping around Lake Bunyonyi.
The real spectacle of the lake, however, is the incredible scenery. For its beauty alone, the lake is regarded by many visitors as one of their favorite lake destinations. Because of its proximity to Bwindi Forest for gorilla trekking, which is the main reason visitors venture to this corner of Africa, the lake makes a fantastic add-on experience to see some breathtaking scenery.
A travel blogger who visited Lake Bunyonyi is Helen from Notwithoutmypassport.com.
Visit Lake Mburo National Park
A relatively small protected area, the Lake Mburo National Park is classed as a savanna area containing different wildlife, such as antelopes, hyena, hippo, buffalo, zebra, and many different birds. There is also a lot of woodland because the lack of elephants, which are ecosystem engineers and usually tame savanna forests.
There are 13 other water bodies in the region, but the star lake is Lake Mburo. Mburo is part of the protected areas wetland system, which is why it’s such a great place for birdlife. There around 350 different bird species to see in the area and its a must-visit destination for birders.
There are many different activities to enjoy both on and around Lake Mburo, such as boat cruises on the lake itself to see hippo, crocodiles, and a number of different birds. Around the lake, you can then enjoy game drives in the protected area to spot the different African wildlife, such as zebra and impala, which are the stars of the park and the most easily seen animal here.
You can also enjoy guided walks around the lake to see the beautiful scenery and chance wildlife sightings or you can chose to explore the park by horse. You can enjoy horse riding from the highly regarded Mihingo Lodge. This helps with wildlife watching as you don’t make as much noise and can move between areas faster than by foot. This is also one of the best ways to observe zebra, which find the horse less intimidating.
See the Kasubi Tombs
Another attraction in Kampala, to learn a little about recent traditional cultural history of the region, we recommend a tour of the Kasubi Tombs, which is a Unesco World Heritage Listed Site and the burial grounds of four Ugandan kings and royal family. Originally built in 1882 as the palace of Kabaka Mutesa I and converted to his tomb following his death, the site was then the burial place of the three following kings.
The site gives a look at Buganda culture, and not only the care they took over their royalty, but other culturally important artifacts, such as the Buganda drums used to communicate important events over long distances.
The palace is composed of around 35 buildings and around 300 people live on the grounds themselves. A fireplace is in the middle of the area where the fire is kept lit to warm the kings spirits.
The Buganda Kingdom is the largest of Uganda’s four tribal kingdoms and has a high cultural importance for the country. On tours of the palace, you will learn about the various practices and rituals of the Buganda and a visit gives a fascinating insight into some of Uganda’s traditional ways of life.
Some travel bloggers who visited the Kasubi Tombs are Travis and Erin from Twoyoungtravelers.com.
See Lake Mutanda
A small and beautiful lake in the Kisoro District of south-west Uganda, which is an area affectionately known as Little Switzerland, the lake can be visited from Kisoro and resides in the African Great Lakes area at the foot of the Virunga Mountains. The mountains across the Ugandan border, which can be seen from the lake providing its remarkable backdrop are Mount Muhabura, Mount Sabinyo and Mount Gahinga.
The lake also contains different islands and is drained by the Rutshuru River. The forests around the lake provides home for a number of fascinating animals and plants, including habitat for the mountain gorillas.
The gorillas and a healthy population of golden monkeys live in a nearby protected area called the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Closer to the lake you can then find other wildlife, such as many different birds including cranes, ibis, weaver birds, and different kingfishers. The forests are also home to different chameleons, monitors, and a variety of frogs. You can enjoy different tours over the lake to focus on scenery, relaxation, or birdwatching.
You can enjoy a visit to Kyangushu Island and village trips to see how the locals live their lives. Visit the Mutanda Island, which is the largest of the inhabited islands where you can enjoy views of the Congo border, Bwindi National Park, and Lake Mulehe
Around Lake Mutunda are a number of trails leading through the forest, including some set up by the Batwa and cultural institutions to teach you about the people who called this forest home.
Visit the Ssesi Islands
The Ssese Islands are an archipelago in Lake Victoria that deserves their own mention. Positioned in the north-west corner of the lake, the largest of these islands is Bugala Island where you can find Kalangala town.
The Sesse Islands are home to the Bantu people and were a very spiritual location for the local people. Some of the 84 different islands are only 10,000 square metres (2.5 acres) in size while Bugala Island (the largest) is around 275 square kilometers (67,000 acres). Around half of the archipelago is inhabited, with fishing for the Nile perch and tourism being the main economy.
The islands are not just home to people but are inhabited by a variety of wildlife including some different monkeys, which you can visit on island tours. As a vacation and relaxation spot, you will also enjoy the fantastic white sand beaches. You can visit the islands aboard a ferry from Entebbe. Although not full of activities, the archipelago offers attractive scenery and make an excellent relaxation spot for a few nights as there are a number of accommodation options on the islands. There are also areas where you can hire a canoe and have a paddle around.
The most easily accessible is the largest island of Buggala, but you can also visit a number of others, such as Banda Island and Bukasa. Each island has its own charm with Banda Island being an old backpacker destination and the isolated Bukasa Island home to some fantastic beaches.
Visit a Local Market
Markets in Uganda offer a glimpse into the everyday lives of the local people and make for an fascinating experience for visitors. There are a few different markets to visit in and around Kampala, such as the famed Owino and Nakasero markets. Owino is known for its hustle and bustle with chaotic looking stalls whereas Nakasero is a little more relaxed and a preferred first choice.
Owino market is understandably chaotic as this is one the largest in this area of Africa with the most abundant product being second hand clothing, but you can really find most things in the market, such as traditional medicine and electronics.
Offering a more relaxed environment, Nakasero Market is more easily found and reached from Entebbe Road. Nakasero is a much smaller market and because of this can be more enjoyable. You can find many different things with a focus on fresh fruits and vegetables, but also clothes, textiles, shoes and some electronics. Although nowhere near as big as Owino, Nakasero is the largest market in the Kampala central area.
Stand at the Equator
A popular attraction is to visit the equator, which is one of the most famous landmarks in the country. The mark represents the part of the Earth that receives more sunlight than any other and because of this it’s where you find the world’s most wildlife rich forests. Tropical rainforests cover only 7% of the world’s surface but contain 50% of all the Earth’s animals and plants.
Uganda is one of the world’s areas where the equator passes straight through the country. The main equator landmark is about 70 km from Kampala towards the south west of the district and it takes about one hour to reach from the city. There are also markers in other areas following the equator as it bisects the country with others placed in the Queen Elizabeth National Park, which is the largest national park in Uganda.
With the different equatorial landmarks, you can enjoy some great photographs to document the moment and to imagine where you actually are in the world. You can then buy a little souvenir to remember the area, enjoy internet facilities to send someone an email from the equator, and relax with a coffee thanks to the renovations made by the Duke of Edinburgh in 2007.
See the Start of the Nile
While you’re in this region of Africa, it’s worth heading to see the start of the Nile River to imagine the important events in history and the countries this great river has touched before gushing into the Mediterranean Sea. This all starts in this region and you can visit one of the Nile’s sources.
The Nile is one of the longest rivers in the world and ranks along with the Amazon River. One of the sources of this incredible waterway, you can see the start of the Nile at Jinja, which is about a two hour drive from Kampala through the Mabira forest.
You can enjoy some boat trips around the lake and visit to the hydroelectric power plant at Bujagali Falls. The area around Jinja is also known as the adventure capital of East Africa. You can enjoy mountain biking, horse riding, and other adrenaline activities. The town itself is also worth a visit to see some examples of colonial architecture.
While here, there are many different accommodation options to choose from to make your stay comfortable. The lodges can often arrange your tours and cruises in the region to help maximize your experience at the start of the Nile.
A travel blogger who visited Jinja is Helen from Heleninwonderlust.co.uk.
Try the Food
It’s always one of the best attractions to sample the local cuisine and Uganda is no exception to the rule. Enjoy a variety of tasty dishes to learn more about the Ugandan culture. Fish feature prominently on the menu due to the number of lakes and rivers in the country, such as tilapia with a peanut sauce. In addition to fish, meat stews are a popular food. The influences for flavor include Arabian, Asian, and English dishes. Indian spices and food were popular in Uganda, which have been incorporated into a number of dishes.
Many of the different tribes in Uganda have their own traditional dishes, but the cuisine revolves around potatoes, vegetables, chicken, pork, fish, bananas, and yams. Peanuts and sesame seeds feature a lot in Ugandan cuisine and add a delicious flavor when combined with some of the other ingredients.
A travel blogger who tried the food in Uganda is Charlotte from Muzungubloguganda.com