Uganda is one of the most exciting and beautiful holiday destinations in the world. Whether you are wowed by landscapes, wildlife, culture, or simply seek adventure – Uganda is the perfect destination for you. But don’t just take our word for it. Read our list of the top 20 things to do in Uganda and see if you don’t agree with us! (We’re in good company, by the way, in making this claim; in 1907 Winston Churchill dubbed Uganda the Pearl of Africa!)
Let’s explore the Pearl of Africa …
1. Go mountain gorilla trekking
Number one on our list of things to do in Uganda is gorilla trekking. If you’re looking for adventure, you can’t get any better than this! Get up close and personal with mountain gorillas in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
Only a handful of people get to spend time with wild mountain gorillas in their natural habit, because there are roughly only 720 left on the planet.
Gorilla trekking is therefore both a fascinating and truly unique experience, one that’s understandably at the top of many people’s bucket lists! Here are 20 more things to know about mountain gorilla trekking.
2. Visit endangered rhinos
Due to poaching (the very last wild rhino in the country was killed in 1982) you won’t spot rhinos in Uganda’s national parks. Instead, there are currently 22 white rhinos living happily in the expansive Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary.
The sanctuary was started in 2005 by the rhino reintroduction project, and profits go towards the breeding programme and their eventual release into the wild! These endangered, magnificent creatures are free to move around on 7,000 ha of land.
Watch them at close range on a one- to two-hour trek whilst they roam in their natural habitat. This is a spectacular African experience not to be missed!
3. Canoe on Lake Bunyonyi
Believed to be the second deepest lake in Africa, Lake Bunyonyi is one of the country’s top natural treasures. Hence why it’s also on our list of the top 20 things to do in Uganda!
The lake is framed by lush, terraced hills, but it’s the 29 islands of various shapes and sizes scattered across the water that make it most magical.
Its the perfect place to relax, explore the neighbourhood on a quad bike or go bird watching. The word bunyonyi in the local language actually means ‘birds’, and yes, you guessed right – it’s thus called because the lake is home to an extremely broad range of bird species! Get your camera ready and check out those stunning views.
Hop on traditional Ugandan wooden boats and paddle to one of the Lake Bunyonyi’s many hidden islands, one of which has a small adventure park including a zip line!
And don’t forget to bring your swimsuit. Lake Bunyonyi is known as one of the few lakes in Uganda free of bilharzia (a common parasite found in southern Africa), making its waters safe for swimming. Yippee! It’s also free of dangerous wildlife like hippos and crocodiles. Even bigger yippee.
4. Go on safari in Queen Elizabeth National Park
If you consider yourself a bit of a nature buff, you’ve probably heard about the Queen Elizabeth National Park. It’s the most popular tourist attraction in Uganda and the most visited national park – and we can see why! It’s home to 96 species of mammals, including lions, buffaloes, warthogs, hippos, crocodiles and elephants. You can spot them all at close range.
What’s more, you can see the park’s tree-climbing lions! Very few African lions climb trees. Nobody knows for sure why a handful of lion populations in Uganda and Tanzania go up trees when their brethren don’t. Some think they climb trees in order to avoid tsetse fly bites. Others believe it’s a way of them escaping the heat on the ground. Whatever the real reason, they look rather comfy!
5. Take a boat safari on Kazinga Channel
A narrow stretch of water connecting Lake Edward and Lake George, this channel is among the most important features in the Queen Elizabeth National Park and can’t be missed!
The park is known for being home to the world’s largest concentration of hippos, who happen to live side by side with Nile crocodiles. Wouldn’t want to fall in that water, that’s for sure!
Taking a boat cruise down the channel is a great way to keep you distance yet still see these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.
6. Visit the salt pans of Lake Katwe
Lake Katwe is a traditional salt mining lake known for its high-quality salt. Small salt mines make a pretty pattern on the edge of the lake. We recommend popping by on your way to Queen Elizabeth National Park to see how the local community mines the salt.
FYI, the lake was formed in the aftermath of a violent volcanic eruption..
7. Explore the town of Entebbe
Entebbe is a small, green and laidback town on the shore of Lake Victoria. It’s a fantastic hub for adventure sports, exploring nature and cultural pursuits.
And bonus: Entebbe International Airport is just next door! This makes it the perfect overnight stop on your way in or out of Uganda.
Some of the activities you can go in Entebbe include:
- horse riding
- visiting Entebbe Botanic Gardens
- shopping at the craft markets
- mountain biking
- visiting Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary (which protects orphaned chimps)
- exploring the impressive Uganda Wildlife Conservation Education Centre
- and much more!
8. Have fun on Lake Victoria
While in Entebbe, you have to make the most of Lake Victoria! This majestic expanse of water is shared by Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya. Spending time on the waters of Lake Victoria is most definitely on our list of the top 20 things to do in Uganda!
Some popular activities include:
- sunrise or sunset canoeing
- playing volleyball
- swimming at Lido Beach
Did you know that Lake Victoria is the largest lake in Africa and the chief reservoir of the White Nile?
9. Explore the city of Kampala
Northeast of Entebbe, Kampala is a dynamic and engaging city with a rich and colourful history. Visiting the capital city adds yet another flavour to your Uganda experience and you get to see one more side of real Africa!
Our local leader Dan can take you to a local restaurant or bar in the evening which can be an adventure in itself! If you’ve enough time, also be sure to check out the Kasubi Tombs, the resting place of four kings of Buganda and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
We also recommend dinner at Ndere Cultural Centre, where guests are treated to a traditional dance performance.
10. Hike to Sipi Falls
The picture below speaks for itself, right?
Just a short drive from Kampala, Sipi Falls in Mount Elgon National Park is a series of three tall waterfalls cascading in a 99 m drop along the lower slopes of Mt Elgon.
There are different hikes you can take, all starting from the small trading centre of Sipi. If you’re feeling ambitious, it’s possible to undertake a day hike from the main waterfall to the three smaller falls that lie upstream, one of which has a beautiful swimming pool at its base. Be sure to pack your bathing suit!
You can also abseil the cliff face alongside the main waterfall – a must for thrill-seeking travellers!
11. Adventure activities in Jinja
Uganda really is the perfect place to get your adventure on, and the small colonial town of Jinja is the country’s adventure capital!
Jinja is where the White Nile flows out of Lake Victoria. Many consider this to be the true source of the Nile! It’s an incredibly beautiful spot, and we recommend spending at least a couple of nights here, raising your adrenaline in the day, and relaxing by the shore in the evenings.
Some of the exciting adventure activities on offer in or near Jinja are:
- white-water rafting
- mountain biking
- bungee jumping
- horse riding
- quad biking
The town itself presents beautiful colonial-era architecture and a buzzing local community.
12. Visit Murchison Falls
Murchison Falls became one of Uganda’s first national parks in 1952. It’s the largest national park in Uganda and one of the best destinations for those interested in the country’s wildlife.
Today, you can expect to see elephants, crocodiles, endangered giraffes (more on these below), leopards, hartebeests, oribis, Uganda kobs, buffalos, hippos, antelopes and waterbucks. That’s a long list! The park is also home to 460 species of birds, including the shoebill stork.
And of course a visit to Murchison Falls would not be complete without a visit to the falls themselves up close in person. You can do this on an unforgettable boat cruise.
13. Meet Rothschild’s giraffes
Rothschild’s giraffes comprise one of the smallest populations of giraffes in the world. It’s estimated that there are only around 1,600 of them left in the wild. It’s IUCN status is “near threatened”. These giraffes can be found in just Kenya and Uganda.
Murchison Falls National Park is home to the largest population of Rothschild’s giraffes. Rothschild’s giraffes are actually one of the tallest giraffes, able to grow to almost 6 m tall!
Fun fact: a group of giraffes is called a tower of giraffes. How appropriate!
Did you know that a giraffe’s heart is about two feet long and weighs roughly 11 kg?!
14. Zip line through Mabira Forest
Mabira Central Forest Reserve is just 44 km east of the capital of Kampala, and on the way to the town of Jinja. This makes it an easy addition to your Uganda itinerary.
Apart from being a beautiful, ancient rainforest that’s ideal for hikes and exploratory walks, it has a fantastic zip line that it’s dubbed the Mabira Forest Canopy Super Skyway! The zip line grants you amazing views over the canopy, and you’ll see the River Musamya as you fly over it.
While you’re laughing and whizzing through the air with your pals, keep an eye open for African fish eagles, palm nut vultures and great blue turacos, among others! At the end of the zip line, you hike back to base camp via Griffin Falls.
15. Bike through Lake Mburo National Park
Lake Mburo National Park may be smaller than the others, but boy does it pack in a whole load of wildlife! Its fantastic location, between Entebbe and Bwindi, makes it a good stop over to avoid really long drives or a flight.
When there, why not do things a little differently and take a bike ride through the park when the sun starts setting? It’s the only safari in Uganda were you’re allowed to be outside the car! You’ll see zebras, antelopes, baboons, giraffes, long-horn cattle – all from a very close range.
Note that whilst you can explore the national park at any time of day, morning game drives are better for getting photographs.
16. Trek to see Kibale Forest’s chimpanzees
It’s not only the gorillas that attract animal-lovers to Uganda. Chimpanzee trekking is also a fascinating experience and one you won’t forget in a hurry!
On a chimp tracking excursion, you go on a guided hike to through beautiful Kibale Forest to find a troop. Once you find them, you spend about an hour with them, observing them eating, grooming, playing and maybe even swinging from one tree to another if you’re lucky!
17. Stand at the Ugandan Equator
Instagrammers at the ready – the Ugandan Equator is one of the most photographed and well-known landmarks in the whole country. And of course it is, since we all love the idea of saying we’re in two places at once!
At the Equator, you’re able to stand with one of your feet in the northern hemisphere and the other in the southern hemisphere. This effectively lets you stand on both sides of the world at the same time. Mind. Blown.
18. Hike in the Rwenzori Mountains
Another worthy addition to our list of the top 20 things to do in Uganda is visit the mighty, mist-shrouded Rwenzori Mountains!
A UNESCO World Heritage Site in western Uganda, the Rwenzori Mountains are a hiker’s paradise. You can embark on short day hikes or tackle more challenging, multiday treks. Mountaineers can have a go at Africa’s fourth highest peak: Mt Ngaliema (5,109 m)!
The vegetation in the misty heights of the mountains is unusual and exotic, and the trails are quiet as the range is very remote and little-known. It’s an incredibly beautiful corner of the country that’s a must-see for anyone who loves the drama of mountains!
19. Visit a Batwa community
The marginalised Batwa people live in the far southwest of the country next door to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. They’re a pygmy tribe who have suffered loss of land and independence through the nationalisation of their ancestral lands to create mountain gorilla reserves, as well as the encroachment of modern farms.
Visitors can support them directly by going on a cultural visit to one of their villages and learning about their traditions, beliefs and lifestyle. Alternatively, in the Mgahinga area, you can go on a Batwa-guided hike to a cave, where you’ll also learn about their culture and traditions. The Batwa retain a distinct cultural identity and it’s an enriching experience to spend some time in their company.
While no group or community should have to put their culture on display in order to survive, the Batwa unfortunately have lost their traditional hunting grounds, and income from tourists is necessary. Until the day when hopefully a better, more sustainable future is safeguarded for the Batwa, we feel that supporting them through respectful visits is a worthwhile activity.
20. Hike to the Sempaya Hot Springs
The Sempaya Hot Springs are powerful geothermal springs that can reach a temperature of 100° C! There are two hot springs, separated by about a 30-minute hike. The locals refer to the the two springs as the male and female springs.
The hot springs can be found in Semuliki National Park in the west of Uganda. This is an underrated park boasting not only the hot springs but also beautiful wetland. It’s also very close to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, which makes it a great addition to a gorilla trekking trip.
Apart from the hot springs, hiking in Semuliki National Park is very rewarding as it’s a gorgeous and ecologically rich park. The Semuliki River runs through it before joining with the Congo River.
The park contains many fascinating Old World monkeys, including the mangabey, black-and-white colobus, and red-tailed monkey. Some of the birds to look out for are blue kingfisher and dwarf hornbill.
Sneaky extra: Game drive in Kidepo Valley National Park!
Okay, so we said this was a list of the top 20 things to do in Uganda. But there’s a game park tucked away in the northeast of the country that we’re dropping in here too. Because we can 😉
Few people visit Kidepo Valley National Park as it’s far from the country’s other main attractions. But those who do make the effort to get there are rewarded with a fantastic game drive.
The park’s scenery is gorgeous, and varies from rocky outcrops to wide open grassland, inselbergs and verdant valleys. Importantly, the wildlife spotting is excellent. Many visitors see lions, cheetahs and elephants, as well as enormous buffalo herds. Other animals in the park include jackals, caracals and aardwolfs, mountain reedbucks, dik-diks and kudus.
This quiet corner of Uganda is definitely worth the effort!
Feeling inspired!? Why not check out our trips to Uganda. Let’s explore together!