Major attractions like trekking to encounter mountain gorillas and saying hello to the country’s chimpanzees are great at any time of year. But when it comes to animal viewing in Queen Elizabeth National Park or exploring Kampala’s cultural sights, what’s the best time to visit Uganda? The answer may surprise you, so be sure to keep reading!
Spring, Summer, Fall, or Winter?
When is the best time to visit Uganda? Spring, summer, fall or winter?
In fact, the answer is none of the above. Unlike more temperate parts of the world, such as Europe and North America, Uganda does not have four seasons. Instead, it has dry seasons and wet seasons, although a much better way of describing them is as green seasons.
Despite this, temperatures don’t alter a whole lot between dry and green seasons and are stable across the year. The bigger impact on temperatures is made by geography. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest sees temperatures of around 25°C (77°F), while Queen Elizabeth National Park is one of the hottest parts of Uganda with average daytime temperatures of around 30°C (86°F) year-round.
When are Uganda’s Dry Seasons?
Uganda’s dry seasons roughly correspond with the months of December through to February and then again from June through to August. During these six months of the year Uganda safaris are at their most popular, since conditions are perfect for game spotting and road conditions good. These months are also ideal for chimp tracking and mountain gorilla treks, surely the top tourist attractions in Uganda.
When are the Green Seasons in Uganda?
The remaining months of the year are given over to Uganda’s green seasons. The first of the year runs roughly from March through to May. March remains an excellent month for a multiday safari at national parks including Kidepo Valley and Murchison Falls.
The second green season lasts from approximately September until the end of November. The first half of this period is also good for safaris, as large numbers of animals gather at the remaining water holes.
The Best Time to Visit Uganda: Month by Month Breakdown
Below we detail the predominant weather you can expect to encounter in Uganda across the year.
The Ugandan year starts in the middle of one of the country’s two dry seasons, although it should be said that some rainfall can be expected in Uganda during any month. Definitely considered one of the best times to visit Uganda, January is prime safari season. As vegetation in the country’s ten national parks dies back, it makes it harder for animals such as rhino, elephant and lion to hide. At the same time, the drying ground means these same creatures need to seek out water sources, so any good ranger or guide will know exactly where to find your favorite species.
The last days of January’s dry spell sees rainfall levels rise slightly from 89 mm (3.5 inches) to 114 mm (4.5 inches). However, there’s still plenty to do in Uganda in February. It’s one of the most popular months for booking onto gorillas trekking trips, so be sure to reserve a place early if contemplating a trip to Uganda now. Bird lovers are also well catered for as migratory birds make their presence known.
Budget travelers might want to consider March for their upcoming visit to Uganda. That’s because while you will encounter more showers than during January or February, there is significantly less rainfall than April. Prices can be substantially lower than during the dry season, making gorilla trekking an attractive proposition in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, one of the wettest parts of Uganda whatever the month.
The wettest month of the year in all parts of Uganda, April has an average of 190 mm (around 7.5 inches) falling onto already saturated ground. This can make traveling on unsurfaced roads in national parks slow going. The upside is a landscape of refreshed foliage and plenty of young, since it’s calving season for many herbivore species.
Rainfall levels drop back again in May, with volumes equal to or less than the amounts seen in March. Beyond that, conditions on the ground remain similar to those in April. Some roads within national parks may now be closed as they become unpassable.
June sees the start of another period considered the best time to visit Uganda. The beginning of the second dry season of the year sees unmetalled roads dry out and therefore improve once more. Rainfall levels actually drop to some of the lowest of the year. In addition, June is a great month for game drives, as animals once again start arriving at permanent water holes.
Another dry month with just a light scattering of showers in most destinations in Uganda, July is difficult to beat. Nothing is off the table in July, whether its authentic east African safaris, trekking to see mountain gorillas, taking to the waters of Lake Victoria, or absorbing the culture of places such as Kampala.
August sees the clouds begin to gather once more, and rainfall averages can be double that of July. That said, this still places them on a par with other dry season months such as January. Due to the dry weather and the long school vacation period in much of the world, tours across the country are often fully booked despite the peak season prices.
Visitor numbers drop back down as September rolls on. One reason is the start of the new school year, while another is the unofficial start of the second green season. If you’re prepared to dodge the increasing showers, vegetation remains low, making wildlife easier to photograph. Animals are still making use of year-round water holes too.
Although October is not traditionally thought of as the best time to visit Uganda, it is another good month for budget travelers to consider. Rainfall differs from 94 mm (3.7 inches) in Queen Elizabeth National Park to 156 mm (a little over 6 inches) in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.
The dried-out grasslands of parks such as Kidepo Valley are a rich verdant green as November arrives thanks to October’s rains. The amount of rain isn’t dissimilar to volumes recorded in October, with the added advantage of the arrival of migratory birds in the country looking to sit out the cooler winters elsewhere.
You’ll experience most rain falling in the first half of December. The Christmas and New Year periods can therefore be another good time to visit Uganda. A fine month for multi-destination trips, it’s possible to go on safari, admire migratory birds, and go gorilla trekking. All in all, you’ll want to know if it’s safe to visit Uganda.
The best time to visit Uganda
The best time to visit Uganda can broadly be said to be the dry season months of December to February and June to August. However, it’s definitely worth exploring the months either side of these periods, whether you are looking to commune with gorillas or spot big cats on the plains.