Amazing views, sweeping vistas, enthralling wildlife and sensational cuisine, Uganda has so much to offer, the best of Africa really, all in one culture packed place. No wonder they call this place the pearl of Africa.
Did you know Uganda is the source of the world’s longest river? You can see the ‘Big Five’, it’s one of the last pockets for wild gorilla’s and has the largest lake on the African continent.
We are offering a list of top places you must see in Uganda that showcase just how divine a trip to Uganda can be, while also helping you map out the best possible itinerary for time before or after volunteering in Africa.
1. Safari in Queen Elizabeth National Park
This is one of the most visited national parks in Africa. It boasts a huge range of safari packages, like tracking down chimpanzees in the Lost Valley or boating the Kazinga Chanel, which hosts the world’s largest concentration of hippos and a plenitude of Nile crocodiles. If water creatures aren’t your thing, stick to the land adventures. The park houses 7,000 buffalo and over 2,500 elephants. Lions and leopards can also be spotted around the place, cooling off under fig trees. See how you go at Park Safari bingo and check off the Big Five; Buffalo, Elephant, Lion, Leopard, and Rhinoceros.
2. Take in Lake Bunyonyi
(The prettiest lake in Uganda)
This stunning destination is shown on the Ugandan 5,000-shilling note. There are almost thirty islands, not all of them small, that house birds and beautiful rolling pastures. It translates to, ‘place of many little birds.’ Picturesque and enchanting with terraced hillsides, a day here on the border of Rwanda is a little slice of heaven.
3. Trek to see Gorillas in Bwindi
With wild gorilla numbers dwindling, the trek through Bwindi National Park is truly spectacular. Bwindi translates to “Impenetrable Forest.” This old growth forest site is UNESCO Natural World Heritage listed and not only showcases half the world’s mountain gorilla population, there are over 200 butterfly species and incredible bird varieties.
This trek goes to places where particular gorilla families are used to human’s observing them and are completely fine with tourists and cameras. Keep your eyes open for a range of primates including chimpanzees, black and white colobus, blue monkeys, grey-cheeked mangabeys and possibly even the very shy l’Hoest’s monkey. The forest itself is incredibly beautiful and enriching to travel through.
4. Walk Kampala on a Tour
There are not too many places where you can really get a feel for genuine culture mixed with modern facilities. Kampala gets two thumbs up for being a place you want to get to know better. This is the largest city of Uganda and the capital with a seriously fast growing population. It has been named as the best city to live in East Africa.
This safe and easy to navigate city is a brilliant start point for travellers who are looking to acclimatise. This will most likely be your starting point if you fly into Uganda as it hosts an international airport.
A walking tour gives you a taste of local life, markets and architecture. Some places of worship are truly beautiful.
5. See Ssese Islands
This is islands, plural. There are over 80 islands in the Uganda archipelago with stunning white sand beaches, a laid-back pace, and all the treats you can want in an island paradise. We mentioned at the top that Uganda was home to the largest lake in Africa, this is it, Lake Victoria, the second largest fresh water lake in the world.
The islands are studded into the lake’s crystal waters. There are no permanent settlements which gives a national park feel. The usual destination is Buggala Island which is the easiest to access but for those who dare to do a little extra work you can get yourself to Banda or Bukasa Island for a slice of heaven that’s all your own.
This is the source of the Nile River, where the world’s longest river begins its 6,800-kilometre journey, ending in Egypt, ten countries later. Jinja is famed as the adrenaline capital of East Africa. If you like to get your heart started, this is the place to do it. Try bungee jumping, white water rafting, kayaking, horseback riding, quad and mountain biking. Designed and planned by a German architect it has some truly stunning buildings and old-world feel, topped with the hum of African life.
7. Go White-Water Rafting at Nalubale
Not your regular splash and dash experience, some of these rafting tours go for three days. Nalubale will challenge you, with underwater action possible, and why not, the water is 27 degrees Celsius. Even if you do opt for the no-flip afternoon adventure you’ll be treated to some genuine fun in nature. Just to be sure we’re on the same page here, it’s rafting the Nile. The NILE.
8. Feast up at Ndere Centre
While Kampala might be the best place for modern culture, Ndere Centre is the best place for spiritual culture. The rhythmic heart of Uganda. Ndere Troup is a dance group. Ndere Centre is their stage. It’s not just dancing, music and amazing BBQ buffet, it’s the best place to learn about the culture of Uganda (outside your volunteer village home of course!)
Yes, there is a waterfall, as the name implies, but the park is much more than that. We admit that it’s a bit of a drive to get to, about 70 kilometres to the nearest large town and 280 kilometres from Kampala, but to visit the biggest National Park in Uganda is worth the journey.
The falls are one of a kind. Here the waters of the White Nile river bottleneck into a rocky gorge just 7 meters wide before plunging over a drop of 43 meters.
In terms of wildlife, there are 450 bird types, including a host of waterbirds, and Uganda’s largest crocodile population. You can also see elephants, giraffe, leopards, buffalos, hippos, antelope and waterbucks.
10. Straddle the Equator
This is one for your Instagram pics; You, standing with one foot in the northern hemisphere and one in the southern hemisphere. Kayabwe, Uganda is one of the few places in the world where the equator intersects, so it’s worth putting up markers to show you where that invisible line is. You’ll be instantly transported back to those first geography lessons in primary school where the equator seemed like a genuine line around the middle of the world. It’s worth stopping here if you are travelling to Kampala or Masaka as very few people in the world have the opportunity to balance on the middle of the equator.
This is a hikers delight. You will probably trip over Kisoro if you are visiting the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda or the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in the south western part of Uganda. This stop over point has breathtaking views of the Virunga mountains (volcanoes).
It’s a perfect place for experienced trekkers to head out to Mount Elgon, one of the most rewarding serious treks on offer. For those wanting to stay closer to town, there are great walking opportunities that take in caves, lakes and creators.
I do realise this is more animals, but why would you plan a trip to Africa and not pencil in wild zebras? This one is down the list because it is the northern most region and not that accessible. It remains on the list because this is amazing.
Firstly, it’s stunningly beautiful. The Lost Valley is a short-grass rolling savannah, cut with rocky outcrops and ringed by mountains. It’s like a bowl of African goodness. The main source of water to the park is via a deep hot spring. As well as hyenas, giraffes, zebra, wild dogs, elephants, leopards and Congo lions, Kidepo is home to animals you can’t see in other Uganda parks like cheetahs, bat-eared foxes, caracals, kudus and aardwolves. That’s why we think it’s worth putting on the list.
Top 12 Places You Must See In Uganda
Of course that covers a lot of ground and you wouldn’t really get to see too much on a quick visit, so to truly get the most out of your visit to Uganda we recommend joining us at Africa Volunteer Aid to give back to the local community, enrich your soul and see the best of Uganda while it’s on your doorstep. We can even help you to book a safari to help you enhance any African volunteering experience.
After reading this article, tell us, what part of Uganda is on your bucket list?