10 hidden places I visited, in Uganda In Just 10 days! Follow us on Facebook for more outdoor inspiration from Africa.
Our trip started (and ended) at Entebbe Airport in Central Uganda. Entebbe sits on the northern shores of Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest (fresh water) lake. The lake reaches up to Jinja, which is about 80 km from Entebbe. From the airport we drove directly to Jinja. The road constructions are getting better and better and without traffic jams around Kampala, it will take you around 4 hours. On your way you will enjoy the views of plenty tea and sugar plantations.
Jinja, the source of the Nile (1 day)
Jinja is one of the upcoming places to visit in Uganda. It’s famous for the historic source of the (White) Nile and also called the adrenaline hotspot of East Africa because of the many white water activities like rafting, kayaking, jet boating and bungee jumping. A private boat tour is a more relaxing way to experience the Nile. You will spot many birds like the kingfisher, heron, stork, ibis and the fish eagle and you’re able to see the (real) source of the Nile. Don’t expect too much of this place, it is not one of the best things to do in Uganda, just a fun place. It’s a very small (touristic) spot on the river where you can jump off the boat and walk over a wooden deck towards the ‘source of the Nile’ sign to make a quick photo. It is the point where the longest river in the world begins to flow. All the way from Lake Victoria to the Mediterranean Sea through central and northern Uganda, South Sudan, Sudan and Egypt. Did you know it takes the water about 3 months to complete this journey? For thousands of years the true source of the Nile has been a subject of speculation but for the majority of the people, Lake Victoria is still considered to be the real source. Jinja is a great way to start your Uganda trip. For those wanting more adrenaline based activities Jinja has to be part of your Uganda itinerary, but then reserve a little bit more time.
At the Eastern bank of the River Nile you’ll also find a monument dedicated to Mahatma Ghandi, the world famous apostle of peace and non-violence. After he was murdered in 1948 his ashes were split in portions to be scattered in the main rivers of the world.
Sipi Falls (2 days)
Sipi Falls is a series of three huge waterfalls that lie on the edge of Mount Elgon National Park and the border of Kenya. The unharmed landscapes of the Sipi Falls area are absolutely spectacular; a perfect place to unwind and one of the best places to visit in Uganda. Even the route to Kapchorwa is beautiful. You will drive through small, authentic villages and slowly drive up the mountain road where you’ll get a good impression of this incredible area.
Sipi is a hiker’s paradise! The actual falls are only accessible by foot and it takes around 3,5 hours to visit all three falls (7-8 km). A local guide will accompany you on your hike. They are all well informed about the historical and geographical background of the area and the fee you pay is a way of supporting the community to benefit from the tourist visiting Uganda.
The guide will also provide you with a walking stick to give you support since you go through some steep spots. Especially when it rains the paths get slippery and muddy. I would also suggest packing a thin raincoat. Not only because it can rain any time but also because you’ll get very close to (and even behind) the falls.
Kidepo National Park (2-3 days)
Being named the 3rd best national park in Africa, Kidepo National Park is definitely a must visit in Uganda. It’s the country’s most isolated park and one of the country’s best treasures where you will find true African wilderness. It’s a long and rugged journey up to the northeast along the border with Southern Sudan, but you will not regret it! Kidepo is one of the best places to visit in Uganda and offers spectacular Savannah landscapes that end in rocky horizons. Also it is the best place for wildlife viewing in the country. Compared to other national parks this park hosts a great variety of animal species and a safari up here should be part of your Uganda trip.
After leaving Sipi you will cross the Pain Upe Wildlife Reserve, which is situated along the Mbale-Moroto road. This reserve is one of the most remarkable protected areas in the Karamoja region. Locals say it’s another great wildlife paradise that you should visit while in the Northeastern part of Uganda. I only drove past it, but sadly didn’t have the time to visit. Keep it in mind when you plan your trip to Uganda.
Murchison Falls National Park (2-3 days)
Murchison Falls has a lot to offer and is Uganda’s oldest (1926) and largest wildlife reserve is home to four of the Big Five. Because of the poaching crisis there are no rhinos left anymore. Luckily you are able to see them in Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary. On our first game drive we saw many Ugandan Kobs, elephants, giraffes and buffaloes. The other days we saw even more animals such as the leopard, lions, hippos and many birds. If you’re lucky the park gives you the ability to see plenty of wildlife on a short safari. Especially for those who have limited time when visiting Uganda the Murchison Falls national park is a great Uganda travel tip.
Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary (1 day)
By visiting this rhino re-introduction project you’re able to top off the big five with the white rhino. The sanctuary is set up near Murchison Falls NP (2,5h drive) and it’s the only place in Uganda where you’re able to see rhinos in a heavily protected but wild area. The rhinos are free to move around on 7000 hectares of land. Don’t forget to wear long trousers and closed/waterproof shoes, because you will walk through high grass and wet areas to search for the rhinos, accompanied by a ranger of course. The rhino trekking will take you around 1,5-2,5 hours and will cost you about $45 per person, an amazing thing to do in Uganda. If you want to have more time at Ziwa to do other activities like a Shoebill trek, canoe ride or night- and nature walks, you have the possibility to overnight in a lodge or tent. If I would do another Uganda trip I would stay here one night because here you’ll have the highest chance of seeing the prehistoric Shoebill, an opportunity I missed. Nevertheless I wanted to include Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary in this Uganda travel blog to make you aware how bad the rhino situation in the world is.
Kibale Forest National Park (2-3 days)
This lush tropical rainforest is the place to visit in Uganda if you want to see the chimpanzees in their natural habitat! On a chimpanzee trekking you will hike through the forest to look for the chimps and once you find them, you’re allowed to stay with them for maximum one hour. Do you want to spend more time with our closest relatives? No problem. I highly recommend the habituation experience ($200), where you will spend a whole day with the chimps during their daily activities like de-nesting, foraging for food, grooming, playing and making nests for the night. It’s a lifetime experience and one of the best things to do in Uganda for wildlife lovers.
The Kibale area also offers beautiful crater lakes. A three hour hike includes three crater lakes, local villages, tea-plantations and a great view from ‘the top of the world’ overlooking all 3 crater lakes and the Rwenzori Mountains. If you are a fan a hiking this is among the best things to do in Uganda. From Crater Safari Lodge, on the banks of one of the crater lakes, you’re able to start the hike from the lodge. In the local village you have the possibility to visit a homestead, taste banana gin in a local pub or visit a small community school. Try to squeeze this into your Uganda itinerary, you won’t regret it.
Queen Elizabeth National Park (3 days)
Located in western Uganda, against the back of the Rwenzori Mountains, you will find Uganda’s most popular national park. It’s named after the royal Queen Elizabeth II of England. However we didn’t see a lot of wildlife, I understand why it’s the most frequently visited park. It’s home to numerous birds and mammal species and has spectacular diverse landscapes. The vast plains of Queen Elizabeth NP are famous for its tree-climbing lions and besides African savannah you will also find lush forests, volcanic cones and beautiful salt crater lakes with large herds of buffaloes. If you are lucky you might see Flamingo’s visiting Lake Munyanyange. So many great places to visit in Uganda!
Ishasha sector and tree-climbing lions
The Ishasha sector is famous for its tree-climbing lions. Because it’s a 2-hour drive from the northern part of Queen Elizabeth NP I recommend staying one night in Ishasha before heading to Bwindi. During the hottest part of the day you have the highest chance of seeing the lions in a tree. In the morning or around sunset they are more active in terms of scanning the area looking for food. I was lucky to see two young cubs chilling in a tree while two other cubs were climbing the opposite tree; the mother was hiding in the bushes. It is supposed that lions climb these huge fig trees as a way of protecting themselves against the numerous biting tsetse flies on ground level and to view their potential preys grazing on the open plains.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park (2-3 days)
Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its ecological uniqueness and natural beauty; the forest is included in any Uganda travel guide. It is home to roughly half of the world’s remaining population of the critically endangered mountain gorillas. The trekking was a great adventure I was finally able to cross off my long bucket list. It’s important that gorilla trekking permits ($600) are secured prior to arrival to avoid disappointment. Although expensive it is one of the best things to do in Uganda. The trekking is available from 4 different areas. I did the trekking from the Rushaga area and I have met the habituated Bweza family, which counts 11 members. The youngest was only 6 months and the oldest Silverback 43. A great Uganda travel tip is that the permits for the Rushaga area tend to run out last and if you’re lucky you will get a group of only 4-5 people in stead of the maximum of eight. This gives you more space to observe and photograph the gorillas during that one hour you’re allowed to stay with them.
Lake Bunyonyi (1-2 days)
After an exhausting gorilla trekking, you earned some time to relax and chill-out. For that, Lake Bunyonyi, which means place of many little birds is the perfect place to be and it’s only a 2 to 3 hour drive from Bwindi. Because of the green-terraced landscape and the great scenery of hills, valleys and winding roads it’s also called the ‘Switzerland of Africa’. An amazing places to visit in Uganda for landscape photography. Believed to be the second deepest lake in Africa, Lake Bunyonyi is a body of water in South-western Uganda near the Rwandan border, and one of the country’s top natural treasures. Despite the depth (44m-90m), good swimmers have a chance to take a swim in the lake. There are no crocodiles or hippos and it’s bilharzia-free. At 1962m above sea level, the lake enjoys moderate temperatures year round, but cool in the morning and evening.