Top 10 Destinations to Visit in Uganda

Uganda is a landlocked country located in East Africa bordered by Rwanda, Kenya, Sudan, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo from different directions.

Uganda has a very diverse culture, landscape, flora and fauna which attract most travellers into the country.

The country is home to very unique primates like chimpanzees, mountain gorillas, golden monkeys, vervet monkeys, olive baboons among others.

The tourist places and destinations in Uganda range from National parks, wildlife reserves, water bodies, forests, cultural and historical sites among. When you decide to visit Uganda, you will explore various places that will offer breathtaking and unforgettable experiences.

Uganda is called the pearl of Africa because of the numerous tourist attractions and various top destinations that one cannot miss when they visit Uganda including Bwindi impenetrable National park, Murchison falls National park, Mountain Rwenzori National park, Kibale National park, Lake Bunyonyi, The source of the Nile, Sipi falls, Lake Mburo National park, Queen Elizabeth National park, Kidepo valley National park.

A combination of all these destinations and attractions make Uganda one of the wonderful destinations in Africa and the whole world. The top destinations not to be missed in Uganda include;

1. Bwindi Impenetrable National park

Bwindi Impenetrable National park is located on the edge of the rift valley in southwestern Uganda in Kanungu district. It covers an area of 321 square kilometres which consists of the tropical thick rain forest, shrubs, waterfalls, rivers among others.

The park is home to over 500 mountain gorillas which half of the world’s population. Mountain gorillas are unique species of gorillas which are only found in Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo.

Bwindi Jungle park is the major destination visited in Uganda because of famous gorilla trekking which attracts thousands and thousands of travellers to Uganda.

Gorilla trekking is done in the 4 sectors including Buhoma sector in the northern part of the park, Ruhija sector found in the eastern part, Rushaga and Nkuringo found in the southern part of Bwindi impenetrable National park.

Bwindi national park has over 18 gorilla families habituated for trekking. Gorilla trekking is done throughout the year though it is also advised during the months of January, February, June, July, August and December when there is little rainfall and the road are less slippery.

The park is a perfect destination for travellers who want to go gorilla trekking experience and personal encounter with the mountain gorillas. The park also offers fascinating flora and fauna with over 120 mammal species, 348 bird species, 220 butterfly species and many plant species which can be seen in the park besides trekking gorillas.

Gorilla trekking experience starts in the morning with a briefing at the park headquarters by the ranger guides on the dos and don’ts of trekking and later head out to the forest to search for the endangered species in their natural habitats. Only 1 hour is allowed in the presence of the mountain gorillas then you return back for the next activities.

Gorilla trekking is allowed to only people who are 15 years and above and the gorilla trekking permit currently costs 600 US dollars for foreign nonresidents, 500 US dollars for foreign residents and 250000 for East African residents. Starting 1 July the gorilla trekking permit will be 700 US dollars and 600 US dollars for foreign non-residents and foreign residents respectively obtained from Uganda Wildlife Authority.

2. Murchison Falls National park

Murchison falls National Park is located in northwestern Uganda sitting on the shores of Lake Albert, 283 kilometres from Kampala. It is the largest National park in Uganda covering an area of 3840 square kilometres.

Murchison Falls is another sightseeing experience where the Victoria Nile River goes through a narrow gap of a rocky gorge about 7 meters with beautiful sounds of water which makes it the most powerful waterfalls in the world.

Murchison falls National Park is a blessed and most popular National park in Uganda with several tourist attractions including 76 mammal species like elephants, lions, leopards, hippos, crocodiles, giraffes, antelopes, Uganda kobs, warthogs, bush pigs, waterbucks, hyenas, Jackson’s Hartebeests among others which are seen along the Nile, in the savannah parts of the park and in the waters during the game drive and boat cruise. There are also various chimpanzees and monkeys in Budongo forest in this park, such as olive baboons, vervet monkeys, black and white colobus and so on seen in Budongo conservation area on your nature walks.

Murchison falls is also home to over 450 bird species including the rare shoebill stork among others and the East Africa rift valley endemics which are normally seen with the help of a guide. This park one of best safari destinations in Uganda for weekend getaways, both for guided and self-drive adventures whereby, one can rent a car in Kampala and drive to the park with his family for a weekend getaway to explore the magnificent Murchison Falls National Park. It is only 3-4hrs drive from Kampala or Entebbe airport.

3. Queen Elizabeth National Park

Queen Elizabeth National park is located in western Uganda spanning the districts of Kasese, Kamwenge, Rubirizi and Rukungiri. Queen Elizabeth National park can be accessed via Mbarara Bunyaruguru to Rubirizi about 6-7 hours drive from Entebbe airport.

Queen Elizabeth National park was founded in 1952 as Kazinga National park and was renamed Queen Elizabeth national park after 2 years in commemoration of Queen of England, Queen Elizabeth’s visit in Uganda.

Queen Elizabeth National park covers an area of 1,978 square kilometres extending to Lake George in the northeast, Lake Edward in the south-west and Kazinga channel that connects the 2 lakes.

The park is well known for its wildlife including 95 mammal species like elephants, lions, Uganda kobs, warthogs, African buffalo, giant forest hogs, hippopotamus, leopards, antelopes, bush pigs among others and also with over 500 bird species which makes it recognized as the most Important Birding Area (IBA).

Queen Elizabeth National park consists of different sectors including the Mweya peninsular, Kasenyi plains, Ishasha sector home to the tree-climbing lions, Katwe excursion area, Kyambura game reserve, Maramagambo forest where different wild animals, birds are found in the park on your game drive, boat cruise, nature walks and treks, birding and so on.

It is also known for its volcanic features like volcanic cones and crater lakes including, Katwe craters, Bunyaruguru Crater Lake and so on.

4. Source of River Nile – Jinja

River Nile is the longest river in the whole world, with its source in Jinja town located in southeastern Uganda.

River Nile starts its journey from Lake Victoria to Egypt for about 4000 miles and pours its waters in the Mediterranean Sea.

There are various activities done on the source of the Nile that offer you with breathtaking experiences including white water rafting, bungee jumping, boat cruise, kayaking, swimming among others.

5. Kibale National park

Kibale National park is located in western Uganda protecting the most evergreen tropical rainforest. It covers an area of 795 square kilometres and shelters over 1500 chimpanzees and best safari destination for chimpanzee trekking in Uganda. It also has over 138 bird species mostly found at Bigodi swamp the most birder’s spot, monkey species like vervet monkeys, black and white colobus, olive baboons, blue-tailed, red-tailed and so on which are all see on your nature walks.

Kibale National park is also home to over 70 forest wild animal species like forest elephants, forest buffaloes, antelopes, warthogs and many others which can be seen on your nature walk in Kibale forest one of the most interesting and varied tracts of tropical rain forest in Uganda.

There is Bigodi wetland sanctuary a fascinating wetland located in Magombe swamp adjacent to Kibale National park which shelters the majority of the primate species like vervet monkeys, olive baboons, black and white colobus, red-tailed monkeys, blue-tailed monkeys, grey-cheeked and many bird species which makes it a birds paradise.

There are different activities to do in Kibale National park including chimpanzee trekking which is the best-selling activity in Kibale National park and it is done early in the morning after a briefing by the ranger guides and then search for chimpanzees in their natural habitats at a cost of 150 US dollars per person, chimpanzee habituation which allows visitors to stay with the chimpanzees for a whole day at a cost of 200 US dollars per person. There is also crater lakes tour to the Ndali Kasenda with over 50 crater lakes which can be explored on foot and visit cultural sites and historical sites like “Amabere Ga Nyinamwiru” (Breasts of Nyinamwiru) which make your trip a very interesting one.

6. Mountain Rwenzori National Park

Mountain Rwenzori National Park is located within mountain Rwenzori also known as mountains of the moon in western Uganda on the border with Democratic Republic of Congo along the East African rift valley.

Mountain Rwenzori is the third highest mountain in Africa at 5,109 metres above sea level after mountain Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and mountain Kenya in Kenya. Mountain Rwenzori National park is a UNESCO heritage site covering an area of about 995 square kilometres sheltering different wildlife, unique mountainous vegetation, glaciers, snowfields, waterfalls among others which make the area more attractive in Uganda.

There are several activities that can be done on your safari to mountain Rwenzori National park including mountain climbing to the highest snowcapped peak Margherita of mountain Rwenzori which leave you breathless. There are also the beautiful scenic views of the different types of vegetation and many crops on the foothills of the mountain, bird watching with over 217 bird species, hiking through the forest.

7. Lake Bunyonyi

Lake Bunyonyi is located south western Uganda between Kisoro and Kabale districts close to the border with Rwanda, covering an area of 60 square kilometres.

Lake Bunyonyi derives its name from the name Bunyonyi meaning small birds in the native language which makes it a bird paradise and most tour destination for birders and chilling place at the freshwater resorts. It is the second deepest lake in Africa.

Lake Bunyonyi consists of over 29 islands which also attract most travellers because each has a different historical background. For example, the Akampene island also known as Punishment Island where Bakiga girls who got pregnant before marriage were taken by their parents and left there to die.

There is also Akacuranuko Island meaning upside down, Bwama and Njuyeera also known as sharp’s island which is also a historical site, Kahungye Island where there is a game reserve with many wild animals, primate species and birds.

There are different activities to do on your safari to Lake Bunyonyi including birding with over 200 bird species mostly seen at Nyombi swamp-like weaver birds, herons, egrets, grey crowned cranes and so on, swimming since the lake is bilharzia free, canoeing and boat rides to the different islands like punishment island, sharp’s island. Enjoy the community walks, nature walks, sightseeing and so on. It is also the best destination to visit and relax after the hectic gorilla trekking experience in Bwindi or Mgahinga National park.

Lake Bunyonyi is 7-8 hours drive from Kampala by road transport means via Masaka Mbarara Ntungamo to Kabale then to Lake Bunyonyi.

8. Sipi Falls

Sipi falls is a series of 3 waterfalls in eastern Uganda in the district of Kapchorwa, northeast of Mbale on the edges of mountain Elgon National park. Sipi falls is one of the many visited falls in Uganda with breathtaking scenery.

The falls are found on the foothills of mountain Elgon and are comprised of 3 waterfalls each flowing from different altitudes with the highest dropping down at 1000 meters and the other 2 lower than that but all offering beautiful scenic views.

Sipi falls derives its name from the British man who went to visit the falls and there was a lady who was picking the fruits from the sep plant, he asked the name of the falls and she replied sep thinking he had asked the name of the plant so that’s how the name Sipi falls comes about.

There are several activities at Sippi falls including visiting the famous sipi falls, rock climbing, nature walks, visit the caves, visit the coffee plantations, do birding among others.

Sipi falls is the most magnificent falls in Uganda and majorly where most hikes to mountain Elgon start from which gives travellers beautiful views of the Karamoja region, coffee plantations and other attractive physical features.

It is about 277kms from Kampala to sipi falls via Jinja Mbale to Kapchorwa.

9. Kidepo Valley National park

Kidepo Valley National park is located in northeastern Uganda in Kaabong district, covering an area of 1,442 square kilometres. It is the most isolated National park in Uganda which consists of a green vegetation of savannah grasslands, woodlands, shrubs and best wilderness areas in Africa.

Kidepo Valley National park was gazetted into a National park in 1962 and hosts over 75 mammal species including African elephants, buffaloes, antelopes, giraffes, zebras, warthogs, elands, common duikers, lions, leopards, cheetahs, hyenas, jackals and so on, 470 bird species among others.

There are several activities that are done in Kidepo valley National park including game drives in the savannah grasslands of the park for game viewing which allows you to view Africa’s wildlife in their natural habitats. It offers the best game drives in Uganda.

Nature walks and bush walks to different places through the Narus river valley with a variety of wild animals, birds and also hike to the Morungole Mountains where the Ik people stay. Ik means an indigenous and smallest ethnic group in Uganda.

  • Birding in Kidepo

Kidepo Valley National park is a great place for birders that they can enjoy while in the park. Kidepo Valley National park is the only destination where ostriches are found which makes it unique for sightseeing.

  • Unique Cultural Encounters

Cultural encounters to Karamojong communities also known as nomadic pastorates that move from one place to another in search for water and pasture for their animals. Visit their manyatta houses which are grass thatched and painted with cow dung and mud where they stay in extended families and the women and girls are entitled to look after a home and cook food while the men and boys are to look after the cattle to make sure they have water and pasture.

10. Lake Mburo National park

Lake Mburo National park is situated in western Uganda between Masaka and Mbarara high way, it is also the smallest savannah park in Uganda covering an area of 370 square kilometres. Lake Mburo National park is the nearest National park from Kampala for about 4-5 hours drive.

Lake Mburo National park is blessed with several wildlife species including buffaloes, leopards, giraffes, zebras, antelopes, elands, common duiker, oribis, waterbucks among others which can be seen on your game drives then the crocodiles, hippos which can be seen as you do a boat cruise.

The park is also home to over 350 bird species including the water birds, forest birds, savannah birds and so on.

The park also has different activities that the visitors can do on their visit including game drives, boat ride, birding, nature walks, cultural tours, fishing, horse riding among others which attract many travellers to have breathtaking and unforgettable experiences at the park and Uganda in general.

All the above destinations can be explored by planning an escorted or guided safari through a tour operator, or, drive your own adventure by renting a 4×4 car with or without a driver. There are many car rental companies in Uganda such as 4×4 Uganda Ltd, Self Drive Uganda Ltd, Hertz, African Jungle Adventures and Kayak among others.