Uganda travel was never planned or on my “must to do” travel list. Uganda travel was a completely random and unexpected decision. My husband and I traveled to Uganda only because we got a cheap flight tickets and honestly told we did not even know what to expect from this travel. We came to Uganda with no expectations or knowledge, but Uganda welcomed us with opened arms. We could not have chosen a better country for our first travel to Sub-Saharan Africa!
Everything we saw and did was unforgettable, but let me point out the TOP things to do in Uganda and why you really should put this amazing African country on your travel list!
TOP things to do in Uganda
- #1 Explore the river Nile – it is said, that we can find the spring of the river Nile in Uganda. Visit the town of Jinja and find it here. This glorious river, which flows through eleven countries, is the longest river in the world and you will encounter it few more times during your Uganda travel. If you like adrenalin water sport, don’t miss out on the white water rafting in Jinja or see its rich animal life on its shores in the Murchison Falls National Park.
- #2 Hike to the 100 meter high Sipi waterfall – if you like water and intensive green color, you should never miss out on this beautiful and powerful waterfall. Get yourself a local guide, who will cost you almost nothing and find out all about the local life in the nearby village. While hiking down the waterfall, you will be challenged by the steep leather, shaking knees and sweat, but as soon as you take your eyes on the waterfall you will know, why you are here.
- #3 Visit the largest manyata in Eastern Africa – the region in Uganda with most manyatas is called Karamojo and not long ago, it was known as a very dangerous part of the country. When visited it, you might had not returned alive. Most of the travelers around Uganda still avoid it, but that was the best reason, I put it on my MUST to do list! The Karamojo region is a bit hard to reach if you don’t have your own transport, but if you can spare few extra days, you should not have any second thoughts. Instead of violent people, the Karamojongs are now curious, friendly and hospitable. Not many people visit them, so prepare yourself to get a very, VERY big attention – maybe for some, an unpleasant one, but this will definitely be one of the most unforgettable experiences, you will do on your Uganda travel. I would recommend you to hire a local guide, who speaks their language, so you will be able to ask them something and find out more about their life.
- Enjoy a diverse landscape – I almost could say, Uganda offers every landscape, you can see in Africa. Uganda has it all – jungle, savannas, lakes, rivers, mountains…The only thing it is missing is the desert and the sand dunes.
- #4 Go on a safari – Safaris are probably one of the most recognizable things in Sub-Africa and I can happily say Uganda also has some amazing national parks, which are perfect for safari and also a lot cheaper than the ones in Kenya and Tanzania. The most popular and visited national park in Uganda is Murchison Falls and Queen Elizabeth. If you prefer less visited places, don’t miss out on the Kidepo national park. It is far northeast and just below the Sudan border. Seeing all the animals in their natural inhabitant is one of the best experiences of the Uganda travel – observe elegant giraffes, big elephant’s families, hunting lions, playful antelopes, lazy water-buffalos, curious monkeys … I guarantee you, you will be speechless.
- #5 See the tea plantations – not only countries in Asia are famous for their tea plantations, but you can spot many also here in Uganda. The best starting point to visit them is a town called Fort Portal. The vivid green bushes are so photogenic you would never want to leave.
- Try their Arabica coffee – Uganda grows also Arabica coffee and no matter if you like it or not, you should try it, as honestly said, this was one the best coffee in my life!
- #6 Walk with the rhinos in Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary – Even though you will not be able to see the Rhino in Uganda’s national parks, don’t give up to quickly. You have a pretty good alternative in the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, where 15 white rhinos are living in a big walled area. Yes, the area is unfortunately behind the fence, but that is only to protect them from the wild hunters, which killed the very last rhino in the country in 1982. Almost 20 years went by, before Uganda got its first male and female couple from Kenya again. From then on, the UWA (Uganda Wild Authority) started a breading program, in which they want to revive the white rhinos in Uganda again. When there are many, they will be release in the wilderness again.
- #7 Rent a canoe at Lake Bunyonyi – when arriving at the Bunyonyi Lake you will think you are in some kind of a fairytale. The landscape is just unreal here. The big volcanic lake, which has more than 29 small islands, is so charming you would want to stay here longer than first planned. Rent a wooden canoe (6-10 USD/day) and enjoy the peace and quiet as it looks like the time stopped here few centuries ago. The good news is, this lake should be bilharzias free, so it is supposed to be safe for swimming. The only down side of the Bunyonyi lake is its altitude, as it can get pretty chilly and rainy.
- #8 Relax on the shores of Victoria Lake and visit the Ssesi Islands – one of the less visited areas in Uganda are also The Ssese Islands, which are actually an archipelago of 84 small islands in the middle of the Victoria Lake. The biggest island and also the easiest to reach is Bugala. You can reach it with a ferry from Masaka (totally free of charge) or from Kampala with a small local boat. The people on Ssese islands are extremely friendly and smiley!! I was always asking myself how this is even possible, as majority of them are poor, have HIV and are struggling day by day…
- #9 Go Gorillas or chimpanzee trekking – this is probably the highlight of the Uganda trip, but also one of the most expensive things to do. It is hard for me to admit, but, I did not do any of the mentioned treks – my budget was limited, very limited in fact, and I just could not afford to do it… But hey, something always needs to stay unseen for the next time! (Gorillas trek – 600 USD/pp, Chimpanzee trek – 80/150 USD).
- Try the typical food – Due to lots of water in Uganda, the food is very diverse and not really as boring as you might think. Yes, the famous green bananas (matoke) are still the number one choice, but you can get all sorts of vegetables and fruit here. Due to the river Nile and Victoria Lake, even the fish lovers will not be able to complain. Try the local eateries, but be prepared to wait at least two hours for a meal, if it is made out of something else than chapati and matoke.
- Visit local markets – First think which you will notice, are colors… Not only because of the colorful veggies and fruit, even the people and their dresses are something you put a shine on. Open your eyes and ears and enjoy the lively markets in all their beauties.
- Enjoy the starry sky – lots of households are still without electricity and before you get nervous about it, stop and look at the night sky above you. You will be thankful, that there are still places like this in our fast developing world.
- #10 Watch the drum makers – many people connect Africa with rhythm and drums. When traveling around Uganda, especially around Entebbe, you will soon know why. There’s a special region in the country, which is famous for drums making. If you pass it, stop and see how they are being made. You can even try to play and buy one, two, three, four… I wanted the biggest of them all, but then I asked myself, how the heck will I put it on the plane?
- #11 Cross the Equator – Traveling around Uganda will serve you with crossing the famous Equator line. If you are time limited, choose the more touristic circle on the east side, but if you have enough time, rather go to the west side, as there are no shops, no tourists and no people. You can easily have the famous circle only for yourself and make many photos while you have one foot in the northern hemisphere and one in the southern!
Uganda is truly an amazing country! Statistically this is one of the poorest countries in the world, but it is rich in so many other ways! The biggest and most valuable treasure are its people, who have nothing, but getting to know them, talking to them and spending time with them, you realize that the poorest person is yourself. And that is why I felt in love with Uganda – the country was one of my greatest teachers and eye openers from all my travels.