Top most visited places in Uganda
Top most visited places in Uganda : also known as the pearl of Africa is a safe and enthralling place, a land where lions laze in the acacias and hippos hump through the wetlands and has misty hills that houses gorillas & chimpanzees in a land of rain-stained forests. It has also got the lapping waters of Lake Victoria (largest in Africa), and the winding channels of the Victoria Nile to boot. A distant view of rock-ribbed mountains and standalone volcanos conquer the peripheries, shooting up to craggy summits where waterfalls and thunderstorms coalesce. Kampala is the capital of Uganda, and a pulsating city which is steeped in tribal ancestry and life. So, if you are travelling to Uganda for the first time, you may be hard-pressed to decide which places are the best to explore and below we have compiled a list of the top most visited places in Uganda.
When visiting places in Uganda, don’t miss to check out Uganda’s capital city, Kampala the largest city with a population of around 2.5 million people. It is located in the south-central part close to the shores of Lake Victoria, it is a home to a steady expat community and also offers plenty of things to see and do. Some of the beautiful places to tour in Kampala include; art galleries, temples, cathedrals and museums that include the popular “Uganda National Museum”. You can also browse throbbing markets such as the Owino Market (said to be the largest market in Central-east Africa) for food, clothing and crafts. The capital also offers a good range of hotels for accommodation, restaurants for fast food and bars for enjoyment and relaxation.
If you want to experience the Heart of Uganda, the story begins with Lake Victoria, which is the birthplace of the Nile River. This is Africa’s largest lake shared by three countries; Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania and boasts one of the world’s largest ecosystems. The lake was named in 1858 by a British Explorer “John Speke” and receives its water from thousands of small streams such as River Kagera and much more. Lake Victoria is the perfect place for those that find serenity in looking at the water, enjoy boat cruise, fishing excursions and catch the sun drown into the vast water body. There is also much natural beauty and wildlife to see here; from scenic mountain views to islands beaches, and various water birds and animal species.
Entebbe stands on Lake Victoria a few thousand metres north of the Equator and only 45 kilometers of the modern capital Kampala. It derives its name from a Luganda phrase “Entebbe za Mugala” literally meaning the headquarters. It was a cultural site for the Mamba clan and was also the capital of Uganda during the colonial era. Entebbe is the entrance point to Uganda for the international visitors through the Entebbe International Airport which was first an airstrip but later upgraded in 1951. Entebbe became a British Colonial Administrative and Commercial Centre in 1893 when Sir Gerald Portal used it as a base. In 1913, Sir Frederick Treves described Entebbe as the “prettiest and most charming town of the lake”. Some of the attractions in Entebbe include, the official residence of the president (the state house), Entebbe botanical gardens, Uganda wildlife education centre, Reptile village, Ngamba island, Mabamba swamp, Ssese island, Lutembe bay among others
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is ranked among the top attractions in Uganda because it offers an amazing experience for visitors to stand just metres away from the gentle giants Mountain gorillas. Over 300 Mountain Gorillas are found in this forest of which an estimate of over 14 are habituated. Over 120 mammal species are found here with over 350 bird species. Local communities like the Batwa pygmies live in and around the forest and you can enjoy great cultural encounters after your Gorilla trekking experience. Nature walks and hiking along the trails of Buhoma and mountain biking are also available for the visitors.
Source of the Nile
The second world’s longest river is found in Africa, with Lake Victoria as its source and starts its 6‚500 kilometers journey from here to the Mediterranean Sea. A visit to the source of the Nile is a truly rewarding moment and this will give you an unforgettable experience. There is a golf course unwinding along the banks and the source of the Nile provides a pretty focal point to the flow of water from Lake Victoria’s only outlet. The Nile River rapids over an opportunity for you to go White water rafting, Kayaking, Bungee jumping and enjoying the boat cruise.
Murchison falls National Park
Murchison Falls National Park is the largest and oldest conservation area and one of the most spectacular in Africa. It is bisected by the Victoria Nile, which plunges 45 meters over the remnant rift valley wall, creating the dramatic Murchison Falls. While here, you can witness enormous waters bursting through a narrow gorge before crashing in powerful, roaring cascades. A boat cruise along the Nile River to the bottom of the falls is a rewarding experience for nature lovers, as the northern trail teems with a variety of both bird and mammal species including the reptiles. Guided nature walks along the southern part are another refreshing activity, and spot fishing is also possible at Para. A game drive in this park will leave you with great memories after spotting some of Africa’s icons such as African lions, elephants, leopards, giraffes, Uganda kob, water bucks, Jackson’s hartebeests, buffaloes and many more.
Queen Elizabeth National Park
Queen Elizabeth National Park is located in western Uganda, and is one of Uganda’s most visited National Parks. It was named after Queen Elizabeth II and was established in 1954. The park’s diverse ecosystems, which includes sprawling savannah, shady, humid forests, sparkling lakes and fertile wetlands, makes it the ideal habitat for classic big game, primates and over 600 bird species. It is such an amazing place to explorer while on your visit to Uganda.
The alpine highland glaciers, snowfields and blue cirque lakes, makes Rwenzori Mountain, also known as “Mountain of the Moon” one of Africa’s beautiful mountain parks. Huge tree-heathers and colorful mosses are draped across the mountain side with giant lobelias and everlasting flowers, creating an enchanting, fairytale scene. A nine to twelve days trek will get skilled climbers to the summit of Margherita (the highest peak). The mountain is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located within four districts; Kasese, Bundibugyo, Ntoroko and Kabarole in western Uganda along the Congo border. It is a home to reptiles, amphibians, over 70 mammal species and over 217 bird species.
While heading to Jinja, it’s just a short drive along the highways east to the river town of Jinja, which juts out into the waters where the Victoria Nile emerges from its eponymous lake. Sleepy, sun-cracked and relaxed, the place is a perfect antidote to the energy of life in the capital. While in Jinja, you will be sure to find something to suit, with everything from pool-peppered boutique hotels to more rustic ecolodges. Don’t forget to head for the whitewater rapids on River Nile for some rafting when you want to get the blood flowing.
Semliki National Park
Semliki National Park may be one of Uganda’s smallest national parks with inspiring beauty and plenty of attractions that includes its most famous, the Sempaya Hot Springs. These hot springs bubble up from the depths to demonstrate the powerful subterranean forces that have been shaping the rift valley. You can hike through the forest to catch glimpse of its many bird species and exotic animals such as the flying squirrels, red-tailed monkeys, pygmy antelopes and many more. The Park sprawls across the floor of the Semliki Valley on the remote, western side of the Rwenzori Mountain. It is dominated by the eastern most extension of the great Ituri Forest of the Congo Basin.
Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary
Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary is located in Nakasongola district and it’s the only place in Uganda to see rhinos in the wild-and not just see them, but get extremely close to them. Because of poaching, rhinos became extinct in Uganda in 1983 and so a sanctuary was set up later to reintroduce the rhinos in the country. It started with just six rhinos, but thanks to a successful breeding program which has led to an increase in the number and they are expecting more. The rhinos can be seen by taking a guided walk with a knowledgeable ranger which takes about two to three hours.
Uganda is blessed to be one of the few countries where the Equator passes. Located just 72 kilometers, along Kampala-Masaka Highway in Kayabwe, Mpigi district. You can get the iconic photo of you standing right in the middle of the Equator landmark, being in both the southern and northern hemisphere at the same time with just the imaginary line of the Equator cutting across. While at the Equator, also try out the exciting water experiment to see how water swirls in opposite directions when poured at different spots of the northern and southern hemispheres.
Old Kampala Mosque
A popular thing to catch a glimpse within Kampala is the famous Old Kampala Mosque. This stately yellow building with its cluster of copper domes is the 5th largest mosque in Africa, with space that occupies around 16‚000 people all praying together. Its huge prayer hall is decorated with stained glass from Italy, an enormous blue and red woven carpet, and intricate chandeliers from Egypt. If your energetic enough, try climbing the 306 steps to the top of the minaret where you will have a perfect way to get your bearings and take in the size of the city from a peaceful vantage point.
Kidepo Valley National Park
Kidepo Valley National Park lies in the rugged, semi-arid valleys between Uganda’s borders with South Sudan and Kenya, approximately 700 kilometers from Kampala. It was gazetted as a national park in 1962 by Milton Obote, and has a profusion of big game and hosts over 80 mammal species as well as over 500 bird species.
Ssese islands are a group of about 84 islands dotted along the northwestern shores of Lake Victoria. Each island differs in size, shape and exotic flora and fauna. While here, you can relax amid beautiful scenery, see different primates, walk on white-sand beaches, enjoy horseback riding and windsurfing, as well as interact with the Bantu people and also learn about their culture.
Kibale National Park
Break through the dense jungles and wetland forests of the great Kibale National Park and you won’t be disappointed! What awaits is one of the world’s most awesome arrays of wild chimpanzee packs, and you can see these majestic apes of Central Africa trawling through the undergrowth. The Park is located in the western part of Uganda in Kamwenge district, in the protecting moist evergreen rainforest with a diverse array of landscapes. In East Africa, it sustains the last significant expanse of pre-montane forest. Kibale is home to over 70 mammal species, over 325 bird species and other primates.
Sipi falls whose name was derived from the wild banana plant that grows nearby is one of the best places to visit in Uganda for spectacular views and a good splash of water. It is a collection of 3 falls dotted in the Kapchworwa region on the border of Mount Elgon National Park with each flowing at a different altitude. Hiking up the falls gives spectacular views of the Karamoja low lands, Lake Kyoga and the coffee plantations in the area. It is popular with adventure enthusiasts especially climbers, hikers and hill runners. There are plenty of outdoor adventures such as tours to the local coffee plantations, birdwatching walks, hill running, rock climbing on one of the 14 bolted sport routes and abseiling down the side of the main 100 meters waterfall.
Regarded as one of the honeymoon holiday destinations in Uganda, the beauty that Lake Bunyonyi offers cannot be compared to anywhere else in the country. Lake Bunyonyi translated as a “place of many little birds” is located in the western part of Uganda between Kisoro and Kabale districts and it is believed to be the second deepest lake in Africa. With a collection of 29 islands surrounded by steep terraced hillsides, well-maintained resorts, calm and quiet environment with the only noise coming from the singing birds, no wonder Lake Bunyonyi is where most travelers in Uganda head to get some peace and quiet after jam-packed safaris in the country. In addition to providing spectacular views, a number of activities can be done here such as canoeing, bird watching, hiking, cultural experiences with the local villagers and swimming in the crystal-clear waters since the lake is free from bilharzia and water animals.
The Bahai Temple also known as the “Dawning Place” is situated on Kikaaya hill just a few kilometers from the heart of the city on Kampala Gayaza Road. It was completed in 1961 and it’s the mother temple of the Bahai’s faith in Africa. The temple represents oneness and unity with its nine-sided magnificent silhouette. Bahai Temple is of international importance and attracts followers of the Bahai faith from all corners of the world. It is also surrounded by immaculate beautiful grounds which are serene with a wide range of birds and photographic opportunities.
Mabamba swamp lies at the extreme end of Lake Victoria, the largest lake in Africa and second largest in the world. The swamp harbors several bird species including the rare shoebill stork which is very unique and uncommon making it the best birders destination. Other birds in Mabamba Swamp include; the papyrus gonolek, weaver birds, goliath heron, kingfishers, pygmy goose, chested bee-eaters, grey headed gulls among others. Don’t miss to include this destination on bucket list while visiting Uganda.
Uganda Martyrs Shrine Namugongo
The Uganda Martyrs Shrine Namugongo located along Kampala – Jinja highway and is one of the most distinguished shrines in Uganda and an important site among Christians in Africa. Believers say that young Christian’s converts (both Anglican and Catholics) were burned to death on refusal to denounce Christianity. This angered Kabaka Mwanga II, prompting him to order the execution of the young believers on 3rd June 1886. The shrine was built to commemorate the lives lost and was later consecrated by Pope Paul VI IN 1969. On June 3 every year, Catholics pilgrims from allover the world visit the Uganda Martyrs Shrine to pay their respects to these saints.
This is the oldest museum in East Africa and was started in 1908. Was first located in Lugard’s Fort on old Kampala Hill, then transferred to Makerere University at the school of industrial and fine arts and lastly to Kitante hill where it stands today. It emerged when the Governor George Wilson called for “all articles of interest in Uganda”. The Uganda Museum is a collection of traditional culture and music with all kinds of musical instruments, historical samples, science, archaeological artifacts and natural history. You should add the Museum on the places to visit in Uganda because it gives a real picture of Uganda and its people.
These are located on Kasubi hill northwest of the capital Kampala and they are a world heritage site under UNESCO. Kasubi tombs are the burial place for the royal family of Buganda kingdom and this makes them unique compared to others because four kings of Buganda are buried in here; Muteesa I, Mwanga II, Daudi Chwa II and Sir Edward Muteesa II. This is contrary to the original traditional values and norms of Buganda where every king was rested in a separate tomb. In 2010, some sections of the tombs were burnt into ashes forcing them to be closed to visitors. However, the restoration of the burnt structures commenced in 2014 and the remains of the past Kabaka’s were reinstated. The tombs are important spiritual and political site for the Ganda people as well as an important example of traditional architecture.