50+ Fantastic Reasons to Visit Uganda | The Pearl of Africa
Uganda is blessed with lush tropical forests, endless hills, and imposing mountains. There is also a wide array of wildlife and beautiful sunny weather that make this small gem a fantastic destination for tourists. Whether you’re a birder, outdoorsy, adrenaline junkie or foodie, you’ll find it when you visit Uganda.
No wonder Winston Churchill dubbed it “the pearl of Africa” during his 1907 visit to the country. For a full picture of why the country is worth a visit, here are my 52 reasons why you should visit Uganda!
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52 Reasons to Visit Uganda
- Visit the Source of River Nile
If you didn’t know, River Nile is the longest river in the world and flows through 11 African countries. So, visiting its source is quite a big deal. The source is found in Jinja. The town is about an hour away from the capital city of Kampala on a good traffic day. You can take photos next to a plaque marking the spot for bragging rights that you visited the source of the longest river in the world.
- Climb Mt. Rwenzori
This snow-peaked mountain in a tropical country is an enigma in itself. One option is a hike to Margherita peak. It is the third-highest peak in Africa and takes you through green forests with flowers, butterflies, and birds. It gives the mountain a ‘La La land’ feel. It’s best to climb this mountain during the dry season between June – August.
- Go gorilla trekking
This is a must-do activity while on a tour to Uganda because it offers an experience of a lifetime. These endangered “second cousins of man” are a wonder to see and interact with within their natural habitat. You can either track the gorillas in Bwindi impenetrable forest or Mgahinga national park.
- Track the chimps
Tracking chimpanzees is best done in the Kibale forest. You can also see other primates like the rare L’Hoests monkey, red colobus monkey, blue monkey and bush babies.
If you don’t enjoy hiking or have young children, you can opt to take a boat trip to Ngamba Island on L. Victoria. It’s the only place in Uganda that has no age restrictions for children. You can easily see the chimpanzees in their sanctuary from the visitors’ center.
- Check out the caldera in Mt. Elgon
The highlight of climbing mountain Elgon isn’t exactly reaching the peaks for most hikers. But rather trekking down the mountain to see the hidden caldera lying at the Eastern border of Uganda and Kenya.
- Cross the equator
Plan a stopover at Kayabwe town while on your way to visit the Bwindi impenetrable N.P or Queen Elizabeth national park. It’s a great place to take goofy and memorable photos at the equator. You can event stand with a leg placed on either side of the equator line.
- Enjoy delicious organic food
The fresh taste of Ugandan food is incomparable any other food in the world. The same can be said about the generous food portions served in restaurants across the country. Have a taste of staple foods like Matooke (mashed plantain) served with pounded groundnuts and fresh veggies. Not forgetting the sweet potatoes which many visitors to the country attest to being sweeter than they are used to.
8. Take a cruise along the Kazinga channel
The Kazinga channel cruise in Queen Elizabeth national park is an all-time favorite. It’s especially great for those who wish to see a wide range of birds and animals in luxury. Hippos, crocodiles, elephants, and birds such as the saddle-billed stork and pink-backed pelicans can be seen lazing around on the water banks or in water as you sail.
9. Visit the Batwa of Mgahinga
Pay the Batwa people – an indigenous pygmy tribe – a visit and learn about their culture. You can learn about the caves they lived in before the primates invaded their domain. You’ll also learn how they now co-exist with the animals in the Mgahinga forest.
10. Visit the beautiful Murchison falls
If you visit Uganda, take a boat cruise to the bottom of these breathtaking falls in Murchison Falls N.P, sailing past hippos, lurking crocodiles, and startling eroded earth cliffs along the way.
11. Raft on the White Nile
Are you an adrenaline junkie? Then rafting through the fierce rapids on the mighty river Nile will be a worthwhile experience for you. And no need to worry if you’re a first-timer because there are different rafting trips designed to suit everyone – first-timers to skilled rafters, while still giving you that well-deserved challenge.
12. Bungee jump on R. Nile
While you might have bungee jumped before back home, that’s not an excuse to skip out on it because you didn’t do it on the mighty river Nile. Besides, it never gets old – that adrenaline hike you get from bungee jumping.
13. See the famous big 5
Few countries can boast of hosting all these animals, and I am happy to tell you that Uganda is one of those lucky few. While you can spot the big 4 (lion, elephant, Hippo and leopard) in these three national parks: Murchison Falls, Queen Elizabeth, and Kidepo Valley, the rhinos can only trek at the Ziwa rhino sanctuary – 125.2 km from Murchison Falls N.P.
14. Go on a night game drive
For an assured opportunity to see the elusive cats like the leopards, hyenas, and lions that are hard to spot during the day.
- Visit the most beautiful national park in Africa
Nestled in the far northeast of Uganda, Kidepo Valley National Park is an unspoiled park with picturesque landscapes and a valley teeming with ostriches, buffalos, and cheetahs. No wonder CNN argues that it’s the most beautiful park in the whole of Africa.
- Enjoy the traditionally brewed alcohol
We have distinctive local brews like Malwa, which is drunk hot from a pot using a long straw and Kwete, which is actually a sweetened drink. But don’t get it twisted, these drinks can still get you drunk.
- Go camping
Camp in the wilderness, and take pride in your braveness as you hear lions roaring in the distance and hyenas laughing out loud.
- Listen to the powerful roar of the Kidepo valley lions
The roar of these lions is like no other you have ever heard before. Their roar is carrying that one from miles away can seem close by and a close-by roar can rattle drinks on a table.
- Amabeere ga Nyinamwiru caves
Amabeere ga Nyinamwiru means “the breasts of Nyinamwiru” and these are breast-like features found in the caves that drip milk-like water. Legend has it that these are Princess Nyinamwiru’s breasts, which were chopped and thrown into these caves by her father Bukuku, the King of the once-powerful Chwezi Kingdom to prevent her from breastfeeding her son whom he feared will grow up to overthrow him.
- Witness the Imbalu
A public circumcision ritual performed by the Bagisu people to initiate their boys into manhood. If the thought of watching the ritual gives you the heebie-jeebies, then you can choose to only watch the exciting imbalu dance that always precedes this ritual.
- Fort Bigo Bya Mugyenyi
Visit the ruins of the fort built by the supernatural Bachwezi. They are believed to have disappeared into thin air instead of dying to protect their kingdom. It’s a marvel to view their fascinating earthworks in person.
- Visit the Karamojong
Like the Masai of Kenya, the Karamojongs are pastoralists with unique cultural wear and dance. While visiting, you can get to tour their manyatas (homes with low doors that you have to almost crawl to enter), and also attempt their jump into the sky dance.
- Canoe across the Mabamba swamp to see the shoebill stork
The Mabamba swamp is one of the best places to see the elusive shoebill stork in Africa while you canoe through the papyrus swamp and see other birds (a sure plus) like the Papyrus Yellow Warbler and Blue Swallow.
- Visit the beautiful Ssese Island
Relax away from the bustle and hassle of Kampala on the incredible beaches of Buggala Island, one of the 84 islands that make up the Ssesse islands in Lake Victoria. It’s a popular romantic destination for lovers and honeymooners.
- Great weather
Uganda’s weather is nothing like any you’ve experienced anywhere in the world. You’ll get to bask in the sun no matter the season (dry or wet) because the sun shines throughout the year.
- Track the Golden monkey
While golden monkey trekking isn’t as popular as gorilla tracking, tracking this rare and elusive monkey through the bamboo forest of Mgahinga national park offers an exciting experience. It’s an adventure you will relish as you take in scenic views of the Virunga mountains along the way.
- Enjoy cultural dances at Ndere center
The many different tribes in Uganda stem from the different cultural dances. But you don’t have to go gallivanting the entire country to watch them because you can enjoy all these captivating dances from the Ndere center found in Kampala.
- Try on the different cultural wears
Like the Mushanana, Gomesi, and Kanzu which you can wear to a traditional wedding. Or you can dress up in one just to take pictures and show off your diverse fashion sense on Instagram.
- Tour the tea plantations and enjoy Uganda’s Arabica coffee
Take a tour through the beautiful tea plantations in Eastern Uganda, see how Arabica coffee is made, and after, savor a cup of tasty Arabica coffee.
- Enjoy the party scene
If you’re a party animal, then Kampala city, also known as “The Las Vegas of Africa” for its crazy nightlife is a tick off the bucket list destination for you. With plenty of hangout places to suit all kinds of people like the Sky Lounge, Club Guvnor, and Silk Lounge, you can party till dawn. Just know the city never goes to sleep.
- Honeymoon at the Kyaninga lodge
Hidden in a forest on top of a hill with the picturesque Rwenzori Mountains in the backdrop and overlooking a crater lake, Kyaninga lodge offers an exceptionally romantic experience for honeymooners. The place is a refreshing change from the usual honeymoon destinations -especially for nature lovers -where you can take a walk around Lake Kyaninga or just unwind at the lodge.
- Annual Mt. Elgon bike race
Compete in the annual Sipi falls mountain biking race and if you’re quite determined or ‘lucky’, you’ll win it along with the prize that comes with coming first. Otherwise, the scenic ride up the mountain from Sipi and the thrill of riding through the mountain is a worthy reward.
- Friendly and hospitable people
Ugandans are warm and welcoming people that will make you feel at home while you enjoy your stay in the country. Don’t be shocked if people keep inviting you to share a meal with them, or keep waving and saying “hello” as you travel around the country.
- Visit Fort Patiko
A place riddled with the sad history of the slave trade. The Arabs built this place as a collection center for slaves, but it was later turned into a fort by Sir Samuel Baker in the 1870s after he was sent by the Queen of England to stop the slave trade. The stories about the mistreatment of the slaves are quite horrifying and insightful at the same time.
- Take a hot air balloon ride
For two reasons. Or rather three. To see all the animals in either Murchison falls N.P or Queen Elizabeth N.P, even those that you wouldn’t otherwise see while on a game drive. Enjoy the splendid ariel views of the savannah along with your ability to ‘fly’ in the air.
- Go sport fishing
Do you love fishing? Then, sport fishing on L. Victoria is a must-do for you. If you’re that fortunate, you’ll get to fish out some of the biggest Nile perch fish, take photos of your perfect catch and, cook and devour it.
- Nyege Nyege music festival along the Nile
This is one festival that both Ugandans and foreigners live for. Pack your bags in September and come watch artists from all over the world perform on 5 different stages while you enjoy an assortment of drinks, delicious food and dance with the talented locals.
- The Uganda Martyrs shrine and museum
For those who are religious or retrophiles, seeing where the Uganda martyrs were burnt and visiting the museum to see how all 46 Uganda martyrs died is a worthwhile experience.
- See the picture-perfect Aruu falls
Not to take away anything from the beauty of Murchison falls and Sipi falls, but these less-known falls are by far the most beautiful falls in Uganda.
- Visit the Gaddafi mosque
As the name suggests, Gaddafi built this mosque in Old Kampala and it’s arguably the most beautiful mosque in Africa. You can delight in its beauty, take lots of photos, and also enjoy views of the city from atop the hill it sits on.
- Go birding
With over 1500 bird species in the country, it’s no wonder that Uganda’s well-known as the birder’s paradise. That number is over half of Africa’s total population of birds. Some of the birds you can see include: African green broadbill, Black bee-eater, Karamoja Apalis and Nahans francolin.
- See the Nyero rock paintings
These rare paintings are a representation of the early days of man and show how the people of that time lived their lives.
- Go ziplining
You can opt to zipline through the tallest trees in the Mabira forest while enjoying views of the red-tailed monkeys, the R. Musamya and Griffin falls in the central part of the country. Or zipline across L. Bunyonyi in the Western part of the country.
- Canoe on L. Bunyonyi
Lake Bunyonyi is the second deepest lake in the world with 29 islands residing within it. That aside, most people liken its mystic beauty to that of the scenic landscapes found in the “Lord of the Rings” movie.
- Soothe your body in the Kitagata hot springs
Two adjacent hot springs actually make up the kitagata hot springs. The Ekyomugabe were once exclusively used by the former kings of Ankole while the Mulago ones are believed to have healing powers. You can soak in either of them depending on what your greatest desire is- to walk in the footsteps of kings or to have your ailments ‘cured’ by supernatural waters. The choice is yours.
- Abseil down the 100m Sipi falls
Heighten your visit to the Sipi falls by abseiling down the tallest of the three Sipi falls while you get cheered on by the locals. And also, have someone from your party take photos and make a video for remembrance.
- Visit the Bahai temple
The only temple of the Bahai faith in the whole of Africa. Meditate and relax in this tranquil place atop Lukaya hill, about 15 minutes away from the noisy city center of Kampala. You can also get a historical recount of how the Bahai religion started and how it was introduced in Uganda while you take in lovely views of the hilly city.
- Check out the crater lakes in Fort Portal
Fort Portal is not only the most beautiful town in Uganda but it’s also blessed with almost all the crater lakes in Uganda. Ambitambe Crater Lake in the Northern parts of the country is the only lake found outside Fort Portal. Some of the lakes to look out for are Lake Africa, which looks like the map of Africa, and Lake Kigere (leg) which gets its name from the footprint found on a giant rock located near it.
- Visit the snake park
For snake lovers, this is a place where you can see all kinds of snakes found in Uganda like the forest cobra, bush viper, Jameson’s mamba, and the African rock python. And if your visit is well-timed, you’ll get to watch as the snakes feed on birds, rats, and toads.
- Take a sunset cruise on R. Nile
You can watch the sunset while savoring dinner with a glass of wine.
- Visit the Kabaka’s palace and enjoy its rich history
Kabaka means the King in the Buganda culture. Just like the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, the place offers a terrific view from the palace to the Buganda kingdom’s parliament. You can also visit the torture chambers of Former President Idi Amin which are located within the palace grounds.
- Attend a cultural wedding
A colorful occasion filled with local music and dance that normally precedes the church wedding. You’ve to attend donned in traditional wear otherwise you risk standing out like a peacock.
So, what are you waiting for? Plan a trip to Uganda and come see all that the country has to offer.
Recommended Travel Resources
- Travel Insurance: World Nomads.
- Transport: AirfareWatchDog and Skyscanner (Best Sites to Research Flight Prices)
- Accommodation: Hotels.com and Orbitz
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