The east African nation of Uganda has a wealth of top attractions. These include 10 magnificent national parks providing a home for iconic species as varied as gorilla, chimpanzee and tree-climbing lions. But beyond these big ticket attractions, this welcoming landlocked nation also boasts an impressive number of unusual things to do. There are several secret places in Uganda well worth exploring as part of your time in the country. Not sure how to find them? Just take a look at our guide to Uganda’s hidden gems!
Lying among the foothills of Mount Elgon, on the border between Uganda and Kenya, Sipi Falls is a magical series of three cascades tumbling over the region’s rocky slopes. Easily combined with a trip to the Mabira Forest and the source of the River Nile at Jinja, the largest of the three cascades drops a massive 95 meters.
Following the footpaths to the summit of the falls provides unbelievably fine vistas across the Karamoja Plains, alongside lush Arabica coffee plantations and several small lakes. Also acting as a starting point for hikes across Mount Elgon, daredevils can arrange to abseil down the rock walls of the falls, bike along pleasant mountain trails or fish in the Sipi River, making Sipi Falls one of the secret places in Uganda well worth seeking out whatever your leisure time interests!
Kasenda Crater Lakes
Although you might not guess it today given the tranquility of Uganda’s various habitats, the entire region was a bubbling vat of boiling lava and volcanic eruptions just a few thousand years ago. One result of all this geothermal activity are the five volcanic peaks of Mount Elgon. But another are three lakes that still count as secret places in Uganda.
Together these lakes are known as the Kasenda Crater Lakes, although they also have their own individual names – Nkuruba, Nyinambuga and Kifuruka. We don’t recommend you take the plunge and swim in any of these lakes, which still release waters that smell strongly of sulfur, though they each provide a spectacular location from which to soak up Uganda’s natural environments.
When it comes to secret places in Uganda with important cultural links, you might consider heading to Mutanda Island. One of a handful of inhabited islands on Lake Mutanda, it lies close to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, making it a great add on to any gorilla trekking tour in the country.
Surrounded by the Virunga Mountains, the island is inhabited by people belonging to the Abagesera clan, while other islands on the lake have been historically used as prisons for those who committed crimes against the clan. Others are uninhabited by man, but are overflowing with vegetation and rich in wildlife seeking out the protection of a lake home.
Also called Amabeere Caves, Nyakasura Caves are located just a few kilometers outside of the town of Fort Portal and sit behind a curtain of water formed by Nyakasura Falls. Mired in legend, it is said that the daughter of a local chieftain, king Bukuku of Toro, was forced to live in the caves by her father because she was so beautiful she was irresistible to the region’s menfolk.
Living in her cave home didn’t stop her becoming impregnated by the Batembuzi king Isaza. She eventually gave birth to a son called Ndahura, who was nurtured with the mineral rich waters which dripped from the cave walls.
The story ends with Ndahura becoming a powerful king, eventually taking over the Bukuku throne despite his humble upbringing.
Salt Mines of Lake Katwe
If you’re struggling for souvenir ideas, the salt mines of Lake Katwe may just be what you’ve been looking for. Found close to the boundary of Queen Elizabeth National Park, which is one of the best places in Uganda to head out on safari, it is believed salt has been mined and traded from here since the sixteenth century.
Still extracted largely by hand by small-scale workers, the rock salt is drawn up from the lake and dried before being cleaned, graded and sold. A visit to the lake therefore provides a fascinating insight into a way of life that has hardly changed in centuries, as well as being one of the top secret places in Uganda to explore!
The Beaches of the Ssese Islands
Possibly the best kept secret places in Uganda, the beaches of the Ssese Islands provide the perfect hideaway for anyone looking to combine the physical activity of a gorilla trek and early mornings of a game drive with a beach escape.
Lying in Lake Victoria, the archipelago is made up of 84 individual islands known for their pristine white beaches and warm shallows. Rivalling the Indian Ocean coast of Uganda’s neighbors, the islands have a range of different places to stay, whether you’re seeking out a budget beach escape or a little luxury.
Soar Through the Mabira Forest Canopy
One of just a handful of forest ziplines anywhere in Africa, and the very first in Uganda, the Mabira Forest Canopy Zipline gets you 40 meters up into the tree cover to experience the jungle like its monkeys do.
Beginning by scaling the near-vertical trunk of a giant tree, the adventure is formed out of five separate ziplines which together stretch roughly 250 meters across the River Musamya. Along the way you’ll also be able to take in Griffin Falls, and have a good chance of catching sight of smaller mammal species including grey cheeked mangabeys and birds including great blue turacos.
Secret Places in Uganda Just Waiting to be Explored!
Uganda’s gorilla trekking experiences and safari opportunities are now well known. Less well known are the secret places in Uganda which visitors should consider seeking out. So if you’re looking for what to do in Uganda, be sure to add some of the country’s more unusual places to visit to your list of must-see attractions in this gem of an east African nation!