13 unmissable places to visit in Uganda, The Pearl of Africa

13 unmissable places to visit in Uganda, The Pearl of Africa

Don’t miss out on these 13 best places to visit in Uganda, when going on a safari trip to the ‘Pearl of Africa’. Uganda offers a serene beauty with wonderful tourist destinations and is popular for its breathtaking landscapes, biodiversity, and abundant birdlife and wildlife including the endangered mountain gorillas and chimpanzees.

Read about the most beautiful places to visit in Uganda that deserve a spot on your Uganda itinerary.

Chimp Tracking Uganda

1. Jinja and Lake Victoria; the source of the Nile

Jinja is a popular tourist destination, famous because of the historic source of the (White) Nile. It is the starting point of the world’s longest river that flows from Lake Victoria to the Mediterranean Sea through central and northern Uganda, South Sudan, Sudan, and Egypt.

After Entebbe, Jinja is a great starting point for your Uganda trip, especially if you are in for adrenaline-based activities. Bungee jumping, rafting, kayaking, and other water activities are some of the many active tourist attractions in Jinja.

Source of the Nile on Lake Victoria in Jinja Uganda that is reached by boat

If you prefer a more relaxing way to experience Jinja, you may want to book a (private) boat tour on Lake Victoria to see the Speke monument at the 'source of the Nile'. A boat tour to the source of the Nile is one of the highlights in Uganda and a great way to spot birds that live near the river, like kingfishers, fish eagles, storks, and ibises. When you reach the actual source of the Nile River, you can jump off the boat and walk over a wooden deck towards the source of the Nile sign to make a quick photo. Do know this is a small touristic spot with overrated boat trip prices that is not everyone's cup of tea. However, it's the only way to visit the 'source of the Nile'.

2. Sipi Falls; a hiker's paradise

Sipi Falls is a hiker's paradise! It’s a series of three impressive waterfalls located in a spectacular, unharmed, and green landscape near the border of Kenya. It’s one of the most beautiful places in Uganda and a perfect place to unwind. The hike to all three falls takes 7-8 km. The waterfalls are only accessible by foot.

Sipi Falls Uganda Things To Do

A local guide will accompany you on the walk and tells you about the historical and geographical background of the area and share some interesting facts like the medical purposes of the surrounding plants. Taking part in guided hiking activities like these is a perfect way to support the local Ugandan community and a spectacular way to enjoy and learn about the beautiful green surroundings of Sipi.

Travel to Sipi Falls in Uganda: Long Exposure Photography by Kim Paffen

Sipi Falls is also known for its many local coffee plantations. Coffee is Uganda's leading export crop, but because of financial difficulties, it’s hard for small local farmers to keep their heads above water. Visiting a coffee plantation plot in a rural Ugandan village is a great way to support the farmers. They are extremely hospitable and are happy to show you the whole coffee process; from picking to shelling, grinding, and roasting. Obviously, you finish by consuming a delicious strong Ugandan coffee (Arabica), straight from the source.

Local Coffee Plantation Visit Uganda

3. Kidepo National Park; the Serengeti of Uganda

When it comes to game viewing, Kidepo Valley National Park is one of the best places to visit in Uganda. It’s the most isolated park and unknown to many tourists, but it offers an abundance of wildlife and spectacular Savannah landscapes.

Kidepo National Park is located in Northern Uganda, at the border with Southern Sudan. It takes some effort to reach the park, but the variety of wildlife and beautiful views are worth it all. Be prepared for bad road conditions and road closures when it rains. Also, make sure you have enough fuel. Kaabong and Kitgum are the nearest places to stock up on fuel.

When you are in for an adventurous safari, add Kidepo National Park to your Uganda safari itinerary; a true gem and one of the most beautiful places in Uganda: Uganda's own Serengeti.

4. Murchison Falls National Park

Being Uganda’s oldest and largest wildlife reserve, Murchison Falls National Park is one of the most visited places in Uganda. It’s home to four of the Big five game animals, rhinos excluded. Even if you have limited time, your chances of spotting animals are high. During our two-day stay in the park, we saw lots of animals including a leopard, lions, elephants, giraffes, hippos, crocs, many birds, and antelopes.

One of the best things to do in Uganda is to visit the actual Murchison waterfall. I would highly recommend booking a half-day tour, including a boat trip to the bottom of the falls. During this Murchison Falls boat trip, you can hike to the top where the water of the river Nile clashes with the borders of a narrow rocky gap and falls down 34 meters. If you are not able or don’t want to hike to the top, an alternative to see the actual Murchison Fall is to get there by car. As the most visited National Park of Uganda, it's definitely worth it to add this amazing place to your Uganda trip itinerary.

Murchison Falls National Park with a waterfall cascading down is one of the best places to visit in Uganda

5. Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary

We all know that rhinos are critically endangered because of poaching. The Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary located near Murchison Falls National Park is the only place in Uganda to see rhinos roaming around in the wild. It’s a rhino re-introduction project for white rhinos. You can trek them on foot, accompanied by a ranger. The rhino trekking will last about 1.5 to 2.5 hours and costs about $45 per person.

The rhinos are heavily protected but can roam free in an area that covers 7000 hectares of land. The walk is not heavy, but it’s an open space, so it can be very hot in the sun.

While visiting the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, you have the opportunity to do more activities like a Shoebill trek, night walk, or canoe ride. You can also stay overnight in a lodge or tent. When staying overnight, you’ll have the highest chance of seeing the prehistoric Shoebill.

Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary Uganda is the only place to visit where you can see white rhinos roam free

6. Kibale National Park; the primate capital

Kibale Forest National Park is known as Uganda's primate capital of the world and the best place to visit in Uganda to see the chimpanzee. Booking a chimpanzee trekking is the only way to see the chimps in Kibale. You will hike through the lush tropical rainforest looking for the chimpanzees and you’re allowed to stay with them for one hour at the moment you've found them.

Chimpanzee Photography Uganda

If you want to spend more time with chimpanzees and learn even more about their daily routine, it’s recommended to book the chimpanzee habituation experience. It’s a bit more expensive than a chimp trekking, but you will spend a whole day with the chimpanzees to watch their daily activities like de-nesting, foraging for food, grooming, playing, and making nests for the night. It’s an exhausting day full of movement, but an experience of a lifetime. To me, one of the highlights of my Uganda trip.

While trekking in Kibale Forest you can also find monkey species, like the Ugandan Red Colobus and rare L'Hoest.

  RELATED: Read my detailed blog about the differences between a chimpanzee trekking and habituation experience in Kibale National Park Uganda.

Chimp Trekking in Uganda

7. Kasendra Crater Lakes Region

The area around Kibale offers some of the most beautiful places to visit in Uganda, like the stunning crater lakes in the Kabarole district, tea plantations, and the Rwenzori Mountains. Especially, hikers should explore more of the region. There’s a recommended three-hour hike that includes three crater lakes, local villages, tea plantations, and a great view from ‘the top of the world’ overlooking all 3 crater lakes and the Rwenzori Mountains. Definitely one of the coolest places to visit in Uganda.

8. Bigodi Wetlands Sanctuary; a birdwatchers' paradise

Near Kibale National Park, you can find the small Bigodi Wetlands Sanctuary which is home to many other primate species and 200 different bird species (like the great blue turaco).  It’s a birdwatchers' paradise. This place is run by the Kibale Association for Rural and Environmental Development (KAFRED) and protects the Magombe swamp. All the profits are used to fund community projects around Bigodi, like supporting local schools.

Learning how to weave at the women group in the Rushaga Area near Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park

I really enjoyed the swamp walking tour and visiting the local community, where we learned about traditional weaving techniques by the Bigodi Women Group.

Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary protecting the Magombe Swamp

9. Queen Elizabeth National Park; the tree-climbing lions

Queen Elizabeth National Park is Uganda’s most popular national park, located in western Uganda, and named after the royal Queen Elizabeth II of England. This park is home to numerous mammal species and birds and offers stunning diverse landscapes and views of the beautiful Rwenzori Mountains in the back.

Besides the typical African Savannah, you will also find volcanic cones, beautiful salt crater lakes, and volcanic cones. From October to April, you might even be lucky to see flamingos at Lake Munyanyange. Large herds of buffaloes are also often found around the salt crater lakes in Queen Elizabeth NP.

To get the best out of your visit to Queen Elizabeth NP, you need to take time for several safari game drives.

Boat tour Kazinga Channel

One of the most popular Uganda activities amongst tourists in Queen Elizabeth National Park is a peaceful boat trip to Kazinga Channel. This activity takes about 3 hours and offers great opportunities for wildlife viewing. This channel connects Lake Edward and Lake George and is home to large concentrations of water buffaloes, hippos, Nile crocodiles, and exotic birds. Sometimes you can even see elephants near or in the water. For the best views of the animals in the Kazinga Channel, you have to make sure to get a seat on the left side of the boat.

Tree-climbing lions in the Ishasha sector

Have you ever heard about the famous tree-climbing lions? The Ishasha sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park is one of the few places in Africa where you can see tree-climbing lions. This area is located in the Southern part of Queen Elizabeth NP, but it’s a must-visit place in Uganda. If you are heading to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest to visit the mountain gorillas, I would highly recommend staying in Ishasha for one night; definitely one of the coolest places to visit in Uganda.

During the hottest parts of the day, you have the highest chance to spot tree-climbing lions. It is supposed that lions climb these huge fig trees as a way of protecting themselves against the numerous biting tsetse flies on ground level and to view their potential preys grazing on the open plains. I was lucky enough to capture tree-climbing lions. It was one of my favorite sightings at Queen Elizabeth National Park. 

Tree Climbing Lions in Queen Elizabeth, Uganda

10. Equator sign Kayabwe; a fun photo-stop

Uganda is one of the countries that is crossed by the equator that cuts earth into the Northern and Southern hemispheres. The most iconic equator crossing spot is in Kayabwe, located about 70 kilometers from Kampala and a fun place to visit in Uganda. This widely-known landmark is often visited by tourists on the way to the national parks in Southwestern Uganda like Lake Mburo, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Queen Elizabeth NP, and Mgahinga. Not the most beautiful place to visit in Uganda, but the equator landmark is a fun photo stop to capture yourself standing with one leg in the Northern Hemisphere and the other leg in the Southern Hemisphere.

11. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park; home of the gorillas

Visiting the critically endangered mountain gorillas should be on every traveler's bucket list when traveling to Uganda. Gorilla trekking in Uganda is done in two national parks of which Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is Uganda’s main gorilla trekking destination.

It’s declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its ecological uniqueness and is home to roughly half of the world’s remaining population of mountain gorillas.

Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi

Gorilla trekking in Bwindi National Park is an expensive activity, but an experience of a lifetime, and definitely one of the coolest and best things to do in Uganda. You need to be in a good health for the Gorilla hike because you will be walking uphill and downhill through dense tropical rainforest. At times, the hike can be exhausting, but it's definitely worth the money and effort. To me, my favorite Uganda experience.

  RELATED: Read my Guide to Gorilla trekking in Uganda featuring everything you need to know to plan your gorilla safari.

Visit the Batwa Tribe

While you’re at Bwindi, I would highly recommend visiting the Batwa Tribe. Learning more about the Batwa is one of the cultural things to do in Uganda. These original inhabitants of the jungle of Bwindi are known as the ‘keepers of the forest’. They lived in harmony with Uganda's rainforest for years and survived by hunting small game using bows and arrows. Sadly, they lost their traditional way of living. Nowadays, these impressive people share their stories, history, and cultural habits like traditional songs and dances with tourists. Seeing the Batwa Tribe is a great way of learning about their way of life and the history of Uganda.

12. Lake Bunyonyi; Africa's Switzerland

Ass you might know, Uganda offers a great diversity of landscapes. One of the most tranquil and beautiful places in Uganda is Lake Bunyonyi. This lake is located near the border of Rwanda in the South West of Uganda, a 2 to 3-hour drive from Bwindi. Lake Bunyonyi is believed to be the second-deepest lake in Africa (44 m-90 m).

The lake is known as the ‘Switzerland of Africa’ because of the surrounding green terraces, hills, and valleys. The lake contains at least 29 islands and is 25 kilometers long and 7 kilometers wide.

Panoramic view of Lake Bunyonyi Uganda, one of the best places to visit in Uganda with at least 29 islands

One of the most well-known islands with a notorious history is Akampene island, known as ‘Punishment Island'. Unmarried pregnant girls were sent there to starve to death in the past. During our stay, we met the only living survivor, Ms. Mauda Kyitaragabirwe, who shared her story with us. She was only twelve years old when she was abandoned by her family.

Survivor of Punishment Island, Lake Bunyonyi Uganda

Visiting several islands by boat is highly recommended. There are no hippos or crocodiles, and it’s bilharzia free, so it’s safe to swim in the lake. Besides relaxing or swimming, you can also choose to go canoeing in a dugout canoe or hiking through the hills and villages. For the best view of Lake Bunyonyi, you should go to Arcadia Lodge for a drink on their huge terrace.

Boat trip Lake Bunyonyi and Punishment Island

13. Lake Mburo National Park; the best sunset views

Out of the 10 National Parks in Uganda, Lake Mburo is the smallest and the closest to the main towns of Kampala and Entebbe. This park offers endless views of wide-open Savannah landscapes with rolling hills and idyllic lake shores. It’s home to 350 bird species as well as more than 68 mammal species including buffalo, leopard, hyena, and jackal. It’s also the only place in southern Uganda to see many Burchell zebras and the only park in the country with impalas. There are no lions and elephants in the park, but because of that, Lake Mburo is the best place for walking safaris and horse safaris in Uganda.

Visiting lake Mburo is the perfect place to break up a long journey from the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest or Lake Bunyonyi to Kampala or Entebbe. In my opinion, this Ugandan National Park park is a bit underrated. I really loved the iconic sunset views over Lake Mburo.

Crested Crane is the National Bird of Uganda and on the Ugandan Flag

The 13 best places to visit in Uganda!

  • Jinja and Lake Victoria
  • Sipi Falls
  • Kidepo Valley National Park
  • Murchison Falls National Park
  • Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary
  • Kibale Forest National Park
  • Crater Lake Area
  • Bigodi Wetland Reserve
  • Queen Elizabeth National Park
  • Equator sign Kayabwe
  • Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
  • Lake Bunyonyi
  • Lake Mburo National Park

Hopefully, this list of 13 unmissable places to visit in Uganda inspires you to create your Uganda itinerary. Feel free to reach out if you have any suggestions to add to this list, or if you have any questions about traveling to Uganda; the Pearl of Africa.

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13 unmissable places to visit in Uganda on your Uganda safari trip

I'm a travel content creator, amateur photographer, apprentice field guide and nature & wildlife enthusiast with a background in social services as a People Manager at the Dutch government.I'm not only interested in the places we visit, but also inspired by the stories behind the people that call these places their home, and what we can learn from them - with a special love for the African continent.Apart from my love for traveling for the ourplanetinmylens.com platform, I also have a huge passion for music. I'm a singer; sometimes acoustic, but mostly together with my pop-rock band. Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions about traveling our planet, nature, and photography.We hope you're enjoying our free travel tips and photos taken on our planet. If so, please consider supporting our work by buying us a coffee through https://ko-fi.com/ourplanetinmylens
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