Uganda is actually one of Africa’s up-and-coming gems. Yes, you’ll have to be careful, and there are warnings that need to be heeded about traveling to the contested and conflicted areas of the northern territories.
However, Uganda is, for the most part, a safe and enthralling place. It’s a land where hippos humph through the wetlands and lions laze in the acacias. It’s a land of rain-stained forests and misty hills that house chimpanzees. It’s got the lapping waters of Lake Victoria, and the winding channels of the Victoria Nile to boot. Vistas of rock-ribbed mountains and standalone volcanoes conquer the peripheries, shooting up to craggy summits where waterfalls and thunderstorms coalesce. Meanwhile, Kampala is a pulsating city, steeped in tribal ancestry and life. It’s an all-round top African adventure.
If you are looking to self driving Uganda for the first time, you may be hard-pressed to decide which places are best to explore. To settle your dilemma, we have compiled a list of the most beautiful places to visit in Uganda.
The ancestral capital of the Buganda kingdom is modern day Uganda’s capital too. And for an African first city, it’s got real charm and panache.
You can still see some of the thatched relics of the former glory years at the Kasubi Tombs, or you can taste the frenetic energy of day-to-day Ugandan life between the sun-cracked streets of Central Kampala; a place of throbbing markets (the city’s Owino market is said to be the largest in Central-east Africa) and echoing mosque minarets (that soaring Gaddafi National Mosque is a must!). On the edge of town is the more straight-laced area of Nakasero Hill, where well-to-do villas house the country’s elite and expats chatter in the ramshackle bars.
Murchison Falls national park
Murchison Falls National Park, which sits on the shores of Lake Albert in northwestern Uganda. It’s known for the rumbling Murchison Falls, the most powerful falls where the Victoria Nile River squeezes through a 7-meter narrow gap to splash out powerful water at 300 cubic meters per second. Adjacent to Murchison is Uhuru Falls, taking the excess of Murchison Falls water to create a spectacle that has become a Uganda tourism magnet.
Murchison Falls National Park is endowed with big game, including elephants and hippos, and you could catch sight of the chimpanzee in the Kaniyo Pabidi mahogany forest. The Lake Albert Delta is home to rare shoebill storks. There is game fishing in the cascades of Karuma Falls.
The River Nile through that park with its teeming hippo and serried ranks of crocodiles on the sandbanks, coupled with large numbers of other species coming down to drink and bathe, in the highlight of a visit to this magnificent park. The most dramatic view of the waterfall is at the top of the falls, where the sight and sounds of the Nile crashing through the 6-meter wide chasm makes an unforgettable assault on your neural senses.
Queen Elizabeth National Park
Queen Elizabeth National Park is like a sample platter of Africa. You can try a little of everything African here with diverse habitats and exotic wildlife.
Wetlands, forests and savanna grasslands offer ample opportunities to see the likes of elephants, leopards, hippos, chimpanzees, giraffes, and the tree-climbing lion. There are various safaris, lake cruises, and even hot air balloon tours available here for you to explore this amazing area.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
You’ll have to go to the far southern depths of Uganda to find the great galumphing beasts of the highlands: mountain gorillas.
The appropriately-named Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is one of the top places to find them too, with its indelibly green rainforests falling down from the windswept heights of cloud-shrouded volcanoes.
The area buts up to the famous Virunga Range, and offers game sightings of rare mountain gorillas alongside other awesome creatures – think woodland elephants, golden monkeys, wild hogs and jackals.
Although there is only one family of gorillas living here, the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park offers great trekking tours for you to experience striking vistas of the Virunga Mountains, bamboo forests, volcanoes, and the endangered golden monkey.
Bwindi Impenetrable national park
Bwindi would have taken the number one spot on the top Uganda destinations because it protects the world’s most precious jungle jewels, the mountain gorillas. Alternatively, it took the third because it’s only popular with international tourists and not the locals. And this is mostly because it’s the most expensive of all places to visit in Uganda.
The name Bwindi comes from the local word “Mubwindi” meaning place of darkness. The thick forest canopy blankets the forest floors creating an environment for plants to highly compete for light and an impenetrable jungle for humans. Thus the name Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.
Located in a mountainous area in southwest Uganda (near the border with Rwanda in the south), Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is most famous for its giant primate inhabitants, the mountain gorillas.
Kibale National Park
Stepping into Kibale Forest, you will immediately be welcomed by the dew freshness, endemic flowers’ fragrance, and primates’ musty scents. The alien sounds that bounce off your eardrums echo from distant red colobus hoots and exotic birds’ tweets.
In the distance, the sound of forest elephants felling branches along its path gives you an image of what surprise inhabitants you could encounter in this ancient tropical forest. Unexpected visitors leave trails around your forest camp or cottage to inform you that someone is watching when you’re not.
Kibale Forest is highly powerfully and mysteriously attractive to nature lovers who come to view a wide range of forest birds and track chimpanzees and other twelve primate species (the highest concentration on the continent) that find refuge within the park.
Lake Mburo National Park
Lake Mburo National Park is an increasingly common stop on the southwestern Uganda safari circuit. It’s the only one of the top Uganda destinations in the southern region where you’ll see zebras, giraffe, and the only park in the country with impalas, slender mongoose, and giant bush rats.
Lake Mburo is an underrated Uganda safari destination, dominated by the eponymous lake, which with its forest-fringed shores hemmed in by rolling green hills is scenically reminiscent of the more celebrated Lake Naivasha in the Kenyan Rift Valley.
It is the only reserve in Uganda to support a large population of impala, and one of only three protected areas countrywide where Burshell’s zebra occurs the other two being the far less accessible Kidepo Valley and Pain Upe.
Other antelope species casual visitors can spot are Topi, bushbuck, common duiker, Oribi, Defassa waterbuck, and Bohor reedbuck. At the same time, the lake and lush fringing vegetation support healthy populations of buffalo, warthog, bush pig, and hippopotamus. Bird experts have recorded about 315 species of birds in Lake Mburo National Park. It is probably the best place in Uganda to see acacia-associated birds. Rwonyo Camp is as good a place as any to look for the likes of mosque swallow, black-bellied bustard, bare-faced go-away bird, and Ruppell’s long-tailed starling.
Kidepo National Park
Kidepo National Park offers breathtaking savannah scenery that ends on a rocky horizon. The park harbors outstanding landscape scenery unrivaled by any other national park in the whole of East Africa, and it features a wide latitudinal array that offers a variety of climatic conditions which support remarkably different vegetation.
The diverse vegetation facilitates the different assortment of animal species within the park which are equally plentiful, among which are not seen in other parts of this country. The wildlife and vegetation in the park are rather more characteristic of Kenya than Uganda.
Over 77 animals inhabit Kidepo National Park. Among the resident Carnivore species only endemic to Kidepo are the hunting dog, bat-eared fox, cheetah, striped hyena, caracal, aardwolf, Beisa Oryx, Lesser Kudu plus Grant’s gazelle, elephant, Orbis, Burchell’s zebras, Jackson’s hartebeests, bush pigs, cape buffaloes, bohor reedbucks, warthogs, defassa waterbucks, Rothschild giraffes, bush duskier and elands, bushbucks, in addition to lions, common zebras, leopards, plus several small cats such as the side-striped jackal, Kongoni, black-backed jackal spotted hyena, lions are seen to rest on the rocks.
The park has five primate species, including the endemic Kavirondo bush baby, numerous Orbis within the Narus Valley, Guenther’s Dik Dik, the Senegal Galago, and the White-tailed Mongoose. However, they comfortably come out for a good show on a night game drive.
Kidepo Valley has the second-highest population of birds than any of the top destinations in Uganda, led only by Queen Elizabeth National Park, showcasing an impressive bird list of over 470 species. Sixty of the bird species on its list haven’t been recorded anywhere else in Uganda. Kidepo is especially good for spotting raptors, with 56 species on record. You can spot migratory birds in Kidepo from November to April.
Found nearby the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in the African Great Lakes region, Lake Mutanda is one of Uganda’s jewels. Surrounded by the Virunga Mountains and dotted with lush islands, this lake is a beauty to behold.
A visit here offers wildlife sightings, birdwatching, canoeing, fishing, hiking, biking and trekking with the Batwa People, the native people of the nearby forest.
Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary
Located north of Kampala in Nakasongola, this sanctuary is home to Uganda’s only population of wild rhinos, but that is not all it offers.
Scenic nature walks, canoe cruises, and guided trekking tours award you with sights of hippos, crocodiles, large antelopes, and more than 250 different bird species.
A visit to Uganda offers you the unique opportunity to stand on the equator and be in two hemispheres at once. Uganda is one of the few countries in the world where the equator crosses through it.
The best equator landmark in Uganda is found on the Kampala-Masaka Road, where you will find a few restaurants and craft/souvenir shops as well. Other equator markers in Uganda are found in Queen Elizabeth National Park and near Entebbe.
Entebbe, for most international visitors at least, will be the entrance point to Uganda. It’s here that the nation’s Entebbe International Airport makes its home; its runways butting up against the waters of Lake Victoria.
Most will also leave promptly, on their way to Kampala or the country’s other far-flung safari destinations. Those who linger can enjoy a laid-back place that still trundles to the tune of the old British Protectorate for it’s here that the English colonists made their base in earlier decades.
One of the relics of that age is the beautiful National Botanical Gardens, while there are also charming churches, and the official residence of the president: the Ugandan State House.
The Rwenzori Mountains National Park
If you want to experience Uganda’s most extraordinary natural beauty, a visit to the Rwenzori Mountains National Park is a must-do.
Home to the “Mountains of the Moon,” this UNESCO World Heritage Site offers stunning scenery consisting of waterfalls, lakes, rivers, glaciers, and forests that shelter many bird species and chameleons.
Hiking, mountain climbing and culture visits with the Village of Ruboni are just a few of the exciting things you can do here.
Mount Elgon National Park
Home to the extinct volcano it is named after, Mount Elgon National Park offers diverse landscapes, wildlife, and activities.
You can amble through heath or hike through dense evergreen and bamboo forests to view magnificent waterfalls, stunning peaks, interesting plants, fascinating birds, and primates like the blue monkey and colobus monkey.
If you are lucky, you might glimpse a hyena, buffalo or even an elusive leopard.
Semuliki National Park
It may be one of Uganda’s newest and smallest national parks, but the Semuliki National Park packs awe-inspiring beauty and plenty of attractions that include its most famous, the Sempaya Hot Springs.
After watching the boiling hot springs blast off into a steamy spray, you can hike through the forest to catch glimpses of its many bird species and exotic animals such as flying squirrels, red-tailed monkeys, pygmy antelope, and the endangered shoebill stork.
The Ssezibwa Falls site is more than just magnificent waterfalls. It is part of an incredibly beautiful oasis just outside of Kampala that is steeped in legend, history, and culture.
The Buganda people can tell you how a woman gave birth hundreds of years ago to the two rivers that flow around a serene island here. Others will tell you how the Ssezibwa Falls area is the perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of the capital city.
The locals call it “place of many birds,” but many tourists call it paradise. With its 29 islands, terraced hillsides, charming shore towns, and attractive resorts, it is no wonder that Lake Bunyonyi allures people from all over the world.
Many safari tourists choose Lake Bunyonyi as a base because the lovely setting is relaxing and peaceful. Additionally, the lake offers water sports and birdwatching while the nearby towns provide colorful markets and cultural experiences with the local villagers.
Nyero Rock Paintings
It is not every day that you get the opportunity to see prehistoric rock paintings, so if you are in Uganda, a trip to Kumi town to see the Nyero Rock Paintings is more than worth the effort.
Found in three separate rock shelters, these beautiful, well-preserved paintings portray concentric circles, animals, and canoes.
The hike to the site is relatively easy, and you just may see monkeys, lizards, and birds along the way.
In conclusion, looking for the best places to visit in Uganda? In this huge guide, you’ll learn about the most beautiful and most interesting attractions in Uganda. Uganda has other attractions in different regions though these are among the must visit attractions.