A nation of stunning landscapes, epic safaris, incredible primate encounters and broad smiles from its people, Uganda is rightly called the pearl of Africa. Although it sometimes struggles for attention against its east African neighbors, Uganda is the perfect destination for those looking to experience all the region has to offer. Here we bring together the top vacation places in Uganda, showing you all you’re missing and all you can experience!
It may be the national capital, but it can still be tempting for visitors not aware of the city’s delights to head straight out on safari or on a gorilla trekking tour. However, there are an impressive number of attractions in and around the city, providing a great insight into the culture and heritage of this part of east Africa.
The Kasubi Tombs are so important they have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and mark the burial sites of several former kings of the Buganda kingdom. Elsewhere, you’ll find no shortage of markets, from everyday stalls selling fruits and vegetables to those dedicated to the craftsmen and women of Uganda. If you visit just one, make it Owino market, said to be central Africa’s largest!
2. Mount Elgon National Park
Dominated by rocky escarpments formed from ancient (and now extinct) volcanoes, Mount Elgon National Park offers some of the best walking and hiking in Uganda, whether you’re seeking out a short stroll or a multi-day trek.
Thought by geologists to be the oldest volcano in east Africa, its mass stretches some 50 miles in diameter, while its Wagagai summit rises to more than 3000 meters, making it a commanding peak to summit. Along the way, hikers will pass through plains speckled with herbivores, humid rainforest, and cooler montane forest. The latter is alive with the sound of monkeys, birds and even elephant, who seek out the salt of the mountain’s caves as part of their diet.
3. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park
On the opposite side of the country, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is a truly unmissable vacation place in Uganda. That’s because this dense area of jungle is home to roughly half the world’s population of mountain gorillas.
This makes it one of the best places in Africa to creep close to animals which are both highly intelligent and highly endangered – although numbers are slowly increasing. Witnessing the spectacle of a habituated family going about their lives, feeding and grooming, involves a ranger-led walk through the jungle which can last several hours. However, you’re sure to adore every minute of this once in a lifetime opportunity!
4. Queen Elizabeth National Park
One of Uganda’s largest protected spaces, and one of its most popular with international visitors, Queen Elizabeth National Park is one of the finest vacation places in Uganda for undertaking an authentic Uganda safari.
Its mix of grassland savannah and areas of tree cover means it’s possible to follow the footprints of prides of lion in addition to finding the nightly nests of chimpanzee and other primate species. The park’s large elephant herds are another top drawer for visitors, and can be seen filling their stomachs on the banks of the Kasinga Channel alongside hippos and Nile crocodiles.
5. The Source of the Nile
Situated on the northern shores of Lake Victoria, Jinja has become a favorite vacation place in Uganda for both holidaying locals and international visitors. But it’s not the town’s lakeside setting that attracts so many people.
Instead, it’s Jinja’s location at the source of the River Nile. Just a short drive from the center of town you’ll find the point at which the lake becomes the world’s longest river at Coronation Park. Here there is a memorial to Victorian explorer John Hanning Speke, the first European known to have set eyes on the lake. Slightly further upriver, at Itanda Falls, the adventurous can tackle various white-water rapids on rafting expeditions sure to thrill and delight in equal measure.
6. Kidepo Valley National Park
It may be relatively remote, but visitors will find the journey to Kidepo Valley National Park worth the effort. Because of its isolated location, the wildlife that can be found within the park is some of the most relaxed in the country.
What’s more, Kidepo’s species list includes several animals that can be seen nowhere else in the country, including phenomenally rare wild dogs. Comprising wetland, acacia scrub and golden grasses, oryx and hippo are also common, sharing the land with the semi-nomadic Dodoth pastoralists who have lived in the region since before recorded history.
7. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
An alternative vacation place in Uganda to Bwindi for encountering the country’s famed mountain gorillas is Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Less than 34 square kilometers in area, it may be small, but the park is no less impressive for that.
Its boundaries protect the slopes of three mighty Virunga mountains, each of which top out at between 3,400 and 4,100 meters, providing a majestic backdrop to any visit to the park. The main activity once in the park is gorilla trekking, with permits allowing visitors to hike to the last known location of the Nyakagezi family group in the hope of spending a pleasant hour in their company. The family comprises no less than nine individuals, with four mature males, two females, one juvenile and two infants.
8. Murchison Falls National Park
A second phenomenal vacation place in Uganda linked to the flow of the River Nile is Murchison Falls National Park. The highlight of the park are the falls, which channel the newly-born River Nile through a rocky gorge just a few meters wide and more than 40 meters high. The result is a spectacular setting for all the senses.
Beyond the falls, visitors to Murchison Falls National Park are able to delve into a magical series of habitats, be that via the walking trails of the Rabongo and Kaniyo Pabidi forests or via sunrise hot air balloon rides across river, forest and savannah.
The Best Way to Experience the Top Vacation Places in Uganda
Spread widely across the country, the top vacation places in Uganda can be difficult to explore independently. However, there’s little difficulty in including each of our top picks in a single itinerary when making use of local travel experts and guides.
Doing so also takes all the stress out of arranging your own transport and accommodation, as well as trying to get hold of those all-important, but limited, permits that will allow you to track mountain gorillas.
So if you’re thinking about Uganda as your next vacation destination, be sure to choose a company with years of experience in Uganda.