Uganda Travel Guide

Top 10 Best Things to Do in Uganda 2020

Diverse Landscape and abundant wildlife describe the beautiful country of Uganda. The landscape here consists of snow-capped mountains to beautiful lakes. There are many crater lakes in Uganda, more than anywhere in Africa. As a prime nature tourism location, there are lots of things to do in Uganda. Most of them are related to ecotourism. However, you can also enjoy the colorful native life and history here.

BookOnBoard’s Guide to Uganda

Though landlocked, the country of Uganda incorporates much of Lake Victoria. It’s like a small sea! The wonderful country shares its borders with other tourist-heavy countries like Kenya, Congo & Tanzania. Thus, it’s often covered in many Africa package tours, or in the itinerary of southwest Africa travelers.

Travel Guide to Uganda

Uganda has a lot to offer to tourists. Known most famously for its mountain gorilla reserve and the great lake, it also has plenty of hiking, safari and cultural activities for you. So, it may be confusing to figure out the things to do in Uganda in your short time. 

Don’t fret, though! Here we are with a concise guide to Uganda tourism. In this, you can find out the best places to visit in Uganda, cheapest places to stay in Uganda, most popular places to eat in Uganda, fun things to do in Uganda, affordable hotels in Uganda, low-cost flights to Uganda, Uganda holiday packages, etc.

Top 10 Things to Do in Uganda

  1. Visit the gorillas in Bwindi
  2. Mist kayaking in Bunyonyi Lake
  3. Safaris in multiple national parks
  4. Straddling the Equator 
  5. White-water rafting in Nalubale
  6. Marvel the beauty of the Murchison Falls
  7. Walking tours in Kampala
  8. See the birthplace of the Nile
  9. Eating a Rolex from street vendors
  10. Meet the Karamojong

Other than this, you can also choose to go for a bit of splurging and enjoy a luxurious private holiday at many crater lake resorts. Or, you can go hiking or mountain climbing. Really, there is something for everyone here.

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

With a primeval tropical rainforest setting, Bwindi National Park has the largest population of mountain gorillas in the world. Nowhere in the world are there so many gorillas concentrated in one area. For this reason, Bwindi is indisputably at the top of the best places to visit in Uganda.

Other than the over 400 gorillas, you can expect to see many other interesting species here. The Park is home to colobus monkeys, chimpanzees, many kinds of birds like hornbills and turacos. Even if for some reason you couldn’t get close to the gorillas, hiking through this beautiful and lively forest is an unforgettable experience in itself. 

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

The gorilla sighting tours have trackers preceding the group. This ensures that you get to see the gorillas. However, do note that there exists a strict policy of not disturbing them, no matter how much you pay. Also, it’s not safe to get close to a gorilla with your aftershaves and perfumes and diesel smoke scents covering you from head to toe. 

Bwindi can be expensive. Therefore, if you’re on a tight budget, instead you may want to target Mgahinga National Park for your gorilla trekking needs.

Lake Bunyonyi

Close to the Rwanda borders, Lake Bunyonyi should be on everybody’s Africa bucket list. The Victoria Lake may be the biggest, but this is the most beautiful lake in Uganda, hands down. The lake is framed by lush green hills with terraces, and incorporates 29 islands. As the sun travels through the sky, the scenery changes and brings out new beauties.

In the early morning, mists rise from the Lake to skirt the islands in mystery. Slowly paddling through the rivers of cotton-candy like vapors is a deeply surreal experience. Later in the day, you can enjoy boating and fishing on the lake. Or go camping in one of the islands permitted. 

Lake Bunyonyi

Not only boating, kayaking or canoeing, Lake Bunyonyi is very safe for swimming as well. This is one of the few lakes in Africa that’s free from dangerous parasites. There’s no crocs or hippos to worry about either. Do take caution about the depth, though. 

There are many lodges and resorts dotting the area. It’s an experience to dine on their terraces with this majestic view in front of you. You can take a boda boda (bike taxi) ride down the dirt trails around the lake to visit the interesting places around Lake Bunyonyi. 

National Parks of Uganda

There are plenty of National Parks in Uganda and almost all of them offer some kinds of safaris. They are diverse in natural setting and wildlife, and the tours also vary from short trips to days-long excursions. Consequently, your whole vacation may be consumed in covering the Parks in Uganda!

Queen Elizabeth National Park is famous for its large population of African elephants. There are literally thousands of them here! Also, it sports over 7000 cape buffalos, prawled by leopards day and night. You might also get lucky and spot the tree-climbing lions here.

National Parks of Uganda

Kibale National Park is great for seeing Chimpanzees. You can get up close and observe the social life of these wonderful creatures. Their near-human intelligence is uncanny! You get to trek around 12km in Kibale, seeing the chimps and other species.

The other game parks offer some unique stuff as well. In Lake Mburo National Park, you can spot heards of hippos. It’s famous for bird-watching as well. You can take boat tours in the lake and get close to the animals, as many safety permits.

The Equatorial Line

Uganda sits right in the heart of Earth. So, the equator runs right through it. This line, though invisible, marks the division of the earth’s northern and southern hemispheres. It crosses the highway in Kayabwe, Mpigi in Uganda. It’s around 75 kilometers south of Kampala on the road to Masaka. 

Uganda Equatorial Line

There is a monument here on the line denoting the equator. You can get your picture taken. How great is it to stand with one foot on one hemisphere and the other foot in another? This place is perfectly the exact same distance from the north and south poles.

The magnetic needle has no dip here and stays perfectly horizontal. The locals make a free show of how water circulates in different directions depending on the hemisphere you are standing on. It’s a great photo opportunity!

Nalubale Rafting

This place is famous for many White Nile river rafting tours. For adventurous tourists, this is one the best things to do in Uganda. The rafting experience is challenging and tough. But, the tours are operated by experienced instructors with guaranteed safety precautions. The equipment are checked and rechecked and there is a safety boat nearby at all times. 

Nalubale Rafting

There are many types of rafting tours. Some of them are only a few hours long, and some can last two-three days, even. Get your adrenaline kick while being tossed around by the foamy fierce waters of the young Nile! Other than rafting, there are plenty of adventure stuff to do here. For example, kayaking, bungee jumping, quad biking, horse riding, mountain biking, etc. You also hike along the river to visit many local villages.

Murchison Falls

Located in one of Uganda’s top national parks, the Murchison Falls is among one of the most famous waterfalls in the world. The river Nile is forced to pass through a narrow opening here to drop into Devil’s Cauldron. The foaming falls offer a lot of photo opportunities. 

Murchison Falls

The Murchison Falls National Park is actually the largest one in Uganda. At one time, this park was home to at least 15,000 elephants! Sadly, poachers wiped out most of them. Still, nowadays it holds an impressive variety of wildlife including elephants, crocodiles, giraffes, leopard, buffalo, hippo, antelope, waterbuck and many other species. There are also above 450 species of birds here.

Plenty of tour operators offer many safaris into the park. They last half-a-day to full-day, usually. There are many beautiful lodges and resorts in the Park as well.

Kampala

Kampala is the heart of Uganda, it’s capital. Unlike Nairobi, it has few negative vibes. So, having a tour of the city should be in your things to do in Uganda list! The vibrant, colorful city offers many landmarks like Kampala Hindu Temple, Lubiri Palace, Uganda National Mosque and the Nakasero Market. It is a very safe city, so touring the city on foot is recommended to see the local life.

Getting around Kampala can be a chore, due to the bustling busy main roads. You can get on a Boda boda (bike taxi) to cheat the traffic jams. Still, the city can take a whole week out of your travel itinerary sneakily. You will spend days just gawking around in the markets. 

Kampala

The Ugandan open-air markets are famous and they give you the real African market experience. Owino Market is famous for its colorful shops with fresh juicy fruits, street food, souvenirs, clothes, baskets, trinkets, pottery – whatnot! On Sundays, you two streets are closed just for the vendors. Don’t be alarmed by vendors grabbing your elbow – they mean well.

Kampalans are also known for their after-work vigor. Real party animals, they are! Consequently, Kampala is stuffed with clubs, bars, nightclubs and other nightlife spots. There is always something going on after dusk in the vibrant city! The John Babiiha Avenue and the Kisementi neighborhood are especially famous for their nightlife venues. 

Lake Victoria

The biggest lake in whole Africa, the body of Lake Victoria is shared among three nations – Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania. Uganda takes about half of it. It’s a beautiful place for boating, fishing, camping, and hiking.

Lake Victoria

Lake Victoria is the chief reservoir of the White Nile river. In Jinja, the John Speke point is where the gushing river erupts from the Lake. It’s also the second-biggest freshwater lake in the world. It’s almost a sea! Consequently, it’s a great place for some tame beach activities and watersports for the family. Also, a lot of migratory birds come around this area. 

There are many islands here, offering a much-needed respite from the bustling life and tour hustles. The Ssese Islands offer unspoiled white sand beaches and a slow-paced lifestyle. While on Ngamba island you can feed chimpanzees. You can also have a romantic getaway at one of the secluded small islets. Or, you can go fish for over 200 species of fish, including the great tilapia.

Local Food in Uganda

Yes, we wrote that right on the list. You can eat a Rolex in Uganda. Well, not exactly a real Rolex. Obviously. It’s actually a chapati wrap of eggs, veggies, and meat, cooked in authentic Ugandan style. It’s one of the most popular street foods in Uganda. 

Most of the cities in Uganda offer plenty of food stalls for tourists. You can have many varieties of food like the humble chapati and kikomando to the bewildering Irish with egg and Muchomo. Yes, as in most African countries, samosas or sambusa are available here as well, with a bit of local twist! 

Local Food in Uganda

Granted, most street stalls are not that clean and hygienic. However, some lead-belly globetrotters argue that the dirtier the grill the tastier the chapati! If you do feel a bit yucky, then you can go to the dining places. The most popular places to eat in Uganda include the Mediterraneo and Biryani House in Kampala, Java House, and All Friends Grill Bar in Jinja, and the all-you-can-eat buffet in Arch Foods near Soroti, and the Iron Donkey in Gulu.

Karamoja

It’s one of the best open secrets of Uganda. On the eastern side of the country, you can come to Karamoja. This is the land of Karamojong, the Ugandan native tribe. Living a fascinating tribal life that is hardly touched by modernities, they are semi-nomadic people. The Karamojong herd cattle and value their women greatly. You cannot miss this taste of the primal Ugandan life.

Karamoja

The Karamojong are actually an amalgamation of many African tribespeoples migrating through the vast lands. They include people from Masai, Turkana, and Nyngatom. The tribespeople are especially resistant to modern life’s attractions. They preserve heritage, culture, and customs dating back a thousand years or even more. That is why visiting the Karamojong will be a very interesting adventure. 

Not only the tribe, but Karamoja also has a lot else to offer the active tourist. The area is home to many volcanic mountains and surrounding hiking and biking trails. There are a few protected game reserves and national parks here offering some of the most scenic views in Africa. The area is largely unspoiled by tourism and traffic. Accordingly, it’s the best place to visit if you are trying to avoid the crowds.

Frequently Asked Questions about Uganda

1. Is it safe to travel to Uganda in 2020?

As with any country, petty criminals and opportunistic troublemakers are here in Uganda as well. However, comparatively, it’s pretty safe. The country as of now isn’t facing much political disturbance either. The government has a vested interest in keeping things calm and civil in the interest of the tourism industry here, which is a great source of income for Uganda. 

That being said, you should note that Uganda has been targeted in the past by global terrorist cells like Al-Qaeda. There are some risks from local rebel groups like ADF, who have known to kidnap tourists for ransom in the past. However, the situation has improved a lot recently with stringent new security measures in place. Every year, around 15000 tourists visit Uganda from the UK alone. So, it’s one of the safer countries to travel to Africa.

2. Are there low-cost flights to Uganda?

There are four major airlines operating in Uganda – Ethiopian, Qatar, Etihad and Brussels Airlines. All of them offer cheap flights to and from Kampala Airport. However, you should know that from June to September it’s the peak tourism time in Uganda. Therefore, the tickets are quite expensive at that time. You should try booking them as early as possible to get good deals. Also, Sundays and after dusk flights tend to be cheaper for Uganda.

3. Which are some affordable hotels in Uganda?

Though it is a tourism-heavy country, your trip to Uganda need not be expensive! You can save a lot by booking budget accommodation. There are many cheap places to stay in Uganda. Some of them are:

  • Shangri-La Hotel Uganda Ltd.
  • Lake Victoria Hotel
  • Jinja Nile Resort
  • Silverback Lodge
  • Mucha Hotel
  • Mountains of the Moon Hotel
  • Mount Elgon Hotel and Spa
  • Lake View Resort Hotel
  • Hotel 7 Seasons
  • Mbale Resort Hotel
  • Malakai Eco Lodge
  • The Prestige Suites
  • Arcadia Hotel Suites
  • Bunyonyi Overland Resort
  • Imperial Botanical Beach Hotel
  • Metropole Hotel Kampala
  • Forest Cottages
  • Executive Airport Hotel
  • Masindi Hotel
  • Dolphin Suites
  • Wash and Wills Hotel
  • Hotel Ruch
  • Nexa Resorts Hotel
  • …and many more!
4. Can I book Uganda holiday packages?

Of course! The country is full of tourism operators who provide various kinds of package tours to Uganda. You can book an Uganda vacation package from an international operator as well, though they tend to be a bit more costly. The packages vary from a few day’s local tours to long country-wide vacations. 

Uganda holiday packages

Some of the best tour packages in Uganda are:

  • Uganda Overland: Gorillas and Chimps – 9 days
  • Troop to the Gorillas w/o accommodation – 6/9 days
  • Best of Murchison Falls – 3 days
  • Uganda Plus Gorillas – 11 days
  • Best of Uganda – 10 days
  • Gorilla Trekking and Lake Bunyonyi Canoe Trek – 5 days
  • Exclusive Luxury Safari Uganda – 10 days
  • Wonders of Uganda – 20 days
  • …and plenty more!
5. When is the best time to visit Uganda?

Uganda is an equatorial country, so you needn’t worry about colds. Also being a landlocked country it isn’t assaulted by the violent weather the island paradises or coastal countries experience. However, heat is an issue here, and the rains may render most country roads too mucky to travel.

Considering all that, June to September is still the best time to visit Uganda. It’s mostly dry in this season and most animals are active in this season. Gorilla tracking is the best around August. 

However, you can go to January-February if you are looking for a budget accommodation and cheap tours, with a bit of rest from the hordes of tourists.

6. What should you wear in Uganda?

Uganda is a bit conservative when it comes to clothing. Especially in the cities. You shouldn’t wear short, tight or revealing clothes. It’s not regarded as civil in most places. However, due to the heat, you may be tempted to wear tiny clothes. Instead, we suggest you go for loose, light and long clothes that would cover your skin protecting it from sunlight. Also, keep cool by being in shade and being well-hydrated.

In the end

It has been a pleasure guiding you through the beautiful country of Uganda. We hope this travel guide was useful to you! Further, we write about other nature tourism spots as well, please check them out!

We would love to hear from you! Please use the comments section below to let us know your thoughts and suggestions.

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