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Winston Churchill famously called this place the “pearl of Africa.” Today, Uganda’s treasures are yours to discover! Fertile, green, and blooming with life, this is an Africa you’ve not seen before. A thousand flowering plants, the calls of hundreds of avian species, and flittering, colorful butterflies greet you in the rainforest! This gorgeous destination—Lonely Planet’s 2012 pick for best place to travel—is riding an upswing in popularity. At the same time, Uganda is still delightfully off the beaten path and full of unique and novel experiences for adventurers.
Uganda is, perhaps, best known for its fantastic proliferation of primates! The rare, endangered mountain gorilla makes its home here, along with chimpanzees. You’ll need a permit to track gorillas, but it is worth a bit of preplanning—an up-close encounter with these majestic, intelligent beasts is an unforgettable experience! An extraordinary safari destination in general, Uganda abounds with opportunities to spy wildlife: hippos, elephants, and water buffalo! It is also one of the best birdwatching destinations on the continent.
Enjoy delicious food, learn about conservation efforts, and soak up the tranquility of a land rife with rivers, lakes, and waterfalls. Your Ugandan voyage will take you from stunning treetop lodges and glacial mountain peaks to the tall grass of the savannah as you sneak a peek at big game! One thing is for sure: you’ll fall in love with this place and its abundant charms.
Top Sights in Uganda
Located at the source of the formidable Nile, the Ugandan capital hosts a booming expat population. Although it is indisputably huge, Kampala enjoys the distinction of one of Africa’s safest big cities. While in town, check out lush botanical gardens, the Uganda Museum, and the tombs of the Kasubi and Wamala kings. Raft, jet-ski, or bungee jump over the river, book an ATV safari, and/or take a boda-boda tour—this is a veritable paradise for the adventurous! A number of fantastic eateries and opulent lodgings invite visitors to enjoy a taste of some of the best Uganda has to offer!
For trekkers, backpackers, and safari-goers, Lake Mburo National Park is a must-visit! Located outside Kampala in the western part of the country, Lake Mburo thrums with the vibrancy of life! Although it is particularly known for its zebras, the park is home to hippos, crocodiles, and antelope as well, along with lots of other species. Sport fishing and game viewing are the big draws here, along with scenic, relaxing boat rides over the eponymous lake. Hot air balloon tours are expected to begin soon! Camping and tent facilities are available for those who want to experience sleeping beneath the dazzling, starlit savannah sky.
Bwindi National Park
Home of the world’s largest population of the endangered mountain gorillas, Bwindi National Park promises the adventure of a lifetime! The rainforest here is untouched, and the riotous assortment of life is almost unbelievable. Visitors come here to track gorillas, utilizing the experience of trained guides to glimpse the huge primates as they sun themselves, play, and eat with their families. Baboons, monkeys, and chimps round out the primate population, and the birdwatching is—as elsewhere in Uganda—extraordinary.
Queen Elizabeth Park
Uganda’s most popular reserve, this vast expanse of savannah encompasses several different landscapes. Watch the tall grass of the plains sway in the wind, trek deep forests, and muck through wetlands for a peek at over six hundred species of birds. This is the premier safari destination in the country, with four of the “big five” game species (all minus rhino) present. You’ll answer the call of the wild here, in the shadow of the Ruwenzori Mountains! Check out the famous tree-climbing lions, bed down in a luxe lakeside lodge, or take a 4x4 ride along the volcanic craters.
Kibale Forest National Park
Chimpanzees are the royalty of Kibale. This is the national park with the highest population of primates in the world, and nearly every Ugandan visitor makes a stop here to check out the chimps as they frolic and play. Guided tours are available: these will bring you down the chimps’ favorite paths for the best chance of spying them as they snack on fruit and swing overhead! Those willing to scale a tall ladder into the canopy can spend the night in a treehouse lodge overlooking the watering hole—the ultimate in secluded, scenic, romance!
|Primary Airports: Entebbe International Airport (EBB)|
|Currency: Ugandan shilling (UDX)|
|Population: 36,350,000 (2012 est.)|
|Language: English, Luganda|
|Electricity: 240V/50Hz (UK plug)|
|Time Zone: UTC +3|
Uganda Travel Reviews
Summer Vacation in Uganda
My son and I decided to go for a summer vacation in Uganda. Some of the places we visited include Jinja, Tororo, Kampala and Entebbe. Tororo was our first stop on the trip. It is a small and picturesque town with very friendly people. Here, you can enjoy some of the local dishes including roasted chicken, matoke and Ugali with stew. We really enjoyed our stay in Jinja, another small town located between Tororo and Kampala. The town has a vibrant culture and great nightlife. We had a great time while drinking local brews such as Konyagi and Waragi. Kampala is the capital and the only city in Uganda. It is a sprawling metropolis with friendly people and beautiful accommodation facilities. Shop for local artwork in its main market including beadwork, paintings and woodcraft. Visit the Makerere University, one of the first universities in Africa whose alumni include presidents like Julius Nyerere, Mwai Kibaki, Benjamin Mkapa and literary icons like David Rubadiri, Micere Mugo and Ngugi Wa Thiong’o. Travel by road to Entebbe, a few kilometers from Kampala. Do not forget to take a walk along the beautiful and isolated Ssese beach. Further west, we visited Fort Portal, a small, pristine town located on the foots of Mt. Ruwenzori. This town features beautiful colonial buildings and lots of green spaces filled with trees and tea plantations. Visit the Ruwenzori National Park and enjoy scenic views of the mountain and its slopes. Here we saw mountain gorillas, chimps, baboons, antelopes, zebras and different bird species. We made our final stop at Murchison Falls National Park. Here, the highlight of the trip was taking boat rides around Lake Murchison while viewing crocodiles and hippos that usually surround the boats. Uganda offers many beautiful sites to visit.
A Mission Trip to Uganda
My daughter and I enjoyed an incredible, eye-opening trip to Uganda with our United Methodist church. During our trip, we stayed mostly in the semi-rural Mukono District in Central Uganda, which is where our church ran a school called Humble.
In addition to visiting with the children and helping to construct a wall at the school, our church group also visited the village of Jinja, which is located on the Nile River.
We also traveled to Gulu to visit refugee camps. At the time we went, Gulu had just broken loose from the control of the Lord's Resistance Army, so it still had a somewhat unsafe feeling. Accommodations in Gulu at the time were very basic as there weren't many visitors to the area.
We also spent some time in Kampala, which is a bustling, crowded city. Then -- because our flight was delayed for a day -- we also visited Lake Victoria near Entebbe. Lake Victoria was very pretty.
The people we met in Uganda were very friendly, especially the beautiful children. We were amazed at their resiliency and their overall strength. You see women all over Uganda carrying heavy loads on their head and toting large buckets of water around.
I hope to return to Uganda in the near future so that I can visit some of their wildlife parks. Unfortunately, our trip left us little time to go on safari. I did see some monkeys and guinea fowl, but other than that, I had no real wildlife sightings in the areas that we visited.
Urban and Rural Excursions in Uganda
I travel to Uganda once a year to visit friends, take photos, and enjoy local cuisine. The country, known as the “Pearl of Africa,” offers travelers many opportunities for sightseeing, outdoors activities, and entertainment.
When I arrive in Entebbe, I always enjoy a lunch or dinner on the shores of Lake Victoria. My favorite location is Spennah Beach, which also has a lively nightlife if you prefer club music on the beach. Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary is about a 50-minute boat ride from Entebbe, and offers day trips or overnight camping where you can spend time with orphaned chimps. This is also a protected area for many reptiles, birds, and other animal species.
In Kampala, I stay at Speke Hotel, a classic yet upscale place, which offers international cuisine. The National Theatre is a short walk from the hotel and passes by the Parliament building. I see live music and cultural events at the theatre, or have a traditional Ugandan lunch and shop for curios and crafts. Occasionally, I’ll spend a few peaceful hours walking around Kasubi Tombs, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and burial ground for four kings of the Buganda kingdom. The tombs were nearly destroyed by fire in 2010, but are being rebuilt and preserved.
Jinja is a magical city in eastern Uganda, where the Nile River meets Lake Victoria. About an hour by private car or two hours by matatu (public minibus), the road to Jinja is lined with local markets, tea and sugarcane fields, and Mabira Forest. Once in town, I take a short boat ride from the shores of the lake to the area considered being the source of the Nile. There are a few huts selling local handicrafts, where I stop to get Nile Special beer and take photos. A short drive outside of town is Nile River Explorers, which is full of foreign tourists, and has a great view of the Nile. Outside the gate, get a rolex, the local street food made from fried bread filled with eggs, cabbage and onions, or various other fruits and vegetables.
Every so often, I head north from Kampala towards Gulu, to visit Murchison Falls National Park, which hosts four of the “big five” animals of Africa. This is a nice getaway from the city life!
Work took me to Uganda, but I had a chance to explore the country while I was there and experience some of the local culture. After landing in Entebbe, me and my coworkers were taken to a hotel that overlooked Lake Victoria. The city had a couple of delicious restaurants that served great goat dishes. Lake Victoria is a huge body of water that has several islands that stick out prominently. We wanted to take a boat adventure on the lake, but did not have a chance due to a busy schedule. The highlight of our trip was a journey to the capital city of Kampala where we got to experience the chaos and the energy that is a part of its charm. We toured the Gaddafi National Mosque and the Namirembe Kathedrale. These are both key religious sites that serve the country's two main religions. We learned a little bit more about the country's culture at the Kasubi Tombs. It was an interesting landmark that we enjoyed. We also went to a large souvenir market that had a large collection of local art and crafts. I picked up a beautiful painting from a local artist and several wooden masks that were used in traditional ceremonies. Overall, my brief trip to Uganda was a 4-star experience. I only wish I could have taken a safari.