Uganda has some absolutely incredible experiences. Joining a gorilla trekking expedition to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is a true bucket list activity, while Uganda also boasts incredible safari opportunities in national parks loved by royals and respected by conservationists around the world. Beyond these internationally recognized destinations within the country, there are also plenty of secret places in Uganda worth discovery. Check out our pick of the best of them right here!
1. Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary
For a Uganda safari with a serious conservation focus you’ll want to add Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary to your list of potential destinations alongside the likes of Queen Elizabeth National Park and Kidepo Valley National Park.
A stronghold for the highly endangered southern white rhino, the sanctuary is one of the best places in Africa for guaranteed sightings of these sadly rare creatures. It’s possible to explore the 7,000 hectare area in your own vehicle, or better yet, with a knowledgeable guide. The team of rangers also run walking safaris, which bring all the senses to life. In addition to its star attractions, the sanctuary is a top spot for birders and those simply looking to relax in incredible surrounds.
2. Ssese Islands
Uganda doesn’t have a coastline as such, but that doesn’t stop the country having islands. Located in Lake Victoria – one of the world’s largest freshwater lakes – there are a total of 84 islands. Together they certainly meet the description of secret places in Uganda.
A tropical oasis almost exactly on the equator, they offer the chance to get away from it all. Soak up the sun from one of their powdery sand beaches, enjoy a drink beneath the shade of a palm tree or delve into the unique culture of the islands on a boat trip through the shallows.
3. Sipi Falls
Murchison Falls and its encompassing national park take up most of the headlines, but those seeking out secret places in Uganda should turn instead to Sipi Falls. Their waters tumble impressively down sheer cliff faces on the edge of Mount Elgon National Park, and act as the starting point for several hikes to the mountain’s summit.
As well as incredible vistas, you’ve also got the chance to encounter some of the region’s magical wildlife, including elephant and several species of impala. Given the tough terrain, it’s always recommended to hike alongside a guide.
4. Nkugate Crater Lake
Meaning ‘swallow’ in the local Runyaruguru language, Lake Nkugate was created by volcanic activity around 13,000 years ago. It had such a legend for swallowing children when angry that for many years it had its own keeper or guardian to ensure it remained calm.
Nowadays Nkugate Crater Lake is another of the secret places in Uganda that are great for hiking and exploring this incredible country, just make sure you’ve plenty of space remaining on your camera memory cards!
5. Kasubi Tombs
Although they are located in Kampala, the country’s capital, the Kasubi Tombs still have the status of secret places in Uganda. Found on the hill of the same name in the city, the tombs remain a site of religious observance and therefore should be treated with the upmost courtesy.
They contain the earthly remains of the last four kings of Buganda, who not only held political and social power but also spiritual power over their people. As such, rituals continue as they probably have done for centuries, making the tombs a great spot to learn more about the ancient history of the country.
6. Nyero Rock Paintings
The Nyero Rock Paintings offer another connection with the region’s past. The oldest such art forms in the country, the paintings are made up of six individual panels or sections and are thought to date back around 12,000 years.
Protected all that time by the rocks they were painted on, specialists believe it’s likely the red and black pigments were applied by the semi-nomadic Karamojong tribe, but the exact reason they were created is likely to remain a mystery forevermore.
7. Mabira Forest
You won’t find any gorillas here like you will in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. But that doesn’t mean you should cross Mabira Forest off your list of secret places in Uganda you need to visit. Its trees have been protected since 1932, making it one of the oldest reserves in the country.
What’s more, the tree canopy provides a home to all manner of important plant and animal species, including medicinal plants and butterflies. There’s probably nowhere better in the country to get a feeling for how the country might once have looked.
8. Mengo Palace
Much of the attention rightly falls on Uganda’s natural attractions, but another manmade spot to consider is Mengo Palace. The residence of the former king, it was built in 1922. On independence the then king Mutesa II was overthrown in a political tussle that helped see Idi Amin eventually take power.
The king went into exile after several days of heavy fighting, leaving Mengo Palace vacant. It’s not possible to explore the insides of the palace, but its underground prison makes for a creepy addition to any Uganda tour.
9. Lake Mburo National Park
It may be Uganda’s smallest savannah-based national park, but Lake Mburo National Park still packs a punch when it comes to the best secret places in Uganda. Around 350 different species have been recorded in the park’s boundaries.
These include many endemic species of bird alongside favorites including hippos, elephants, giraffes, buffalos and zebras. There are even plans to reintroduce other species including antelope, baboon and lion that would have once roamed the area.
10. Secret Places in Uganda Await Discovery
It will be the chance to track gorilla in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest or watch lion stalk their prey in Queen Elizabeth National Park that will probably convince you that taking a vacation in Uganda is a great idea. But be sure to also consider at least some of Uganda’s more hidden tourist sights, which can tell you even more about this stunning country, its history and its people.