Uganda is full of tour activities to do. Deep in the central belt of East Africa, the landlocked country of Uganda is a delight for travelers to Africa. Boasting some incredible wildlife experiences and a warm tropical climate, the lush green landscape you’ll find here can be a relief if you’ve been spending a lot of time in the dry, hot and arid other parts of the continent.
For its small size, Uganda has a lot tour activities to offer travelers on the lookout for the ‘full package.’ Read on for the top places and things you should see and do while in Uganda. Named the ‘Pearl of Africa’ by Winston Churchill (and quite rightly so), Uganda is an incredible and special country with beautiful lush, green landscapes and even more beautiful, friendly people!
Plus, it has some of the bucket list-worthy adventures on the whole African continent, being one of the only places in the world for mountain gorilla trekking, and it’s a bit less touristy crowded than nearby Kenya and Tanzania.
Explore the beautiful chaos that is Kampala
Some say they need special training to navigate through Kampala’s streets. Others ask Ugandans, “How do you know where to highlight off a taxi when everything looks the same?” It’s true, getting around is an extreme sport of sorts but that’s just one of Kampala’s charms. From the boda bodas (motorbike taxis) lawlessly snaking through traffic to the honk happy matatu drivers intimidating private car drivers, it’s a sight to see — and yet, if you stick around for more than a week, it’ll all appear to be completely normal all of a sudden.
Rub shoulders with the party animals
Kampalans are known in the region for their vigour to withstand going out and ‘happen’ every single day of the week regardless of the weather or the economic and political state of the country. With clubs, bars, restaurants and lounges opting for themes such as oldies’ night, ladies night, Caribbean night, sushi night, African pot and so on, there is always something or the other going on somewhere that suits your mood and pocket. For example, the suburb of Kisementi is famous for its nightlife, boasting banks, supermarkets, two radio stations, several unique restaurants, sports bars, the most popular mall in the country that houses a cinema, a hospital, a gym, a spa, a bookstore, a supermarket and a number of high end shops. This makes Kisementi a busy area day and night.
Discover the charm of an open air Ugandan market
Ugandan markets are guaranteed to give you the real African market experience. Uganda’s markets such as Nakasero are big on fresh farmers’ produce. Word is, the Ugandan pineapple is the most delicious and her tomatoes are the juiciest in the region. Vendors also sell inexpensive second hand clothes, shoes, books, beddings – anything you want, you could get it at Owino Market which was once East Africa’s largest open market. Unfortunately, development is eroding it as a mall is steadily growing in its place. Take a Sunday stroll through the Sunday market as two streets are closed off to enable vendors bring out all their merchandise and for buyers to have enough room to browse and haggle articles on sale and enjoy the chants vendors employ to attract buyers, be ready to have your arm tugged at as they try to grab your attention. They mean well.
Get your adrenaline kick on the Nile in Jinja
Jinja is famed for its adrenaline inducing activities thereby obtaining its title as East Africa’s adrenaline capital. Get your fix to white water rafting, kayaking, bungee jumping, quad biking, horse riding and mountain biking through the colonial town and through the villages to appreciate the sunset over the mighty river Nile. Stand in the spot John Speke was when he ‘discovered’ the source of the Nile, feel like a true explorer that you are!
Meet the Karamojong
Explore ‘Uganda’s best secret’ Karamoja, the land of the Karamojong in north eastern Uganda. The Karamojong live a very minimalist and fascinating life that hasn’t been adulterated by the modern times. They are semi-nomadic herders who live for their cattle and women. Visit East Africa’s largest traditional village and sleep in a kraal as you watch the stars for a full authentic African cultural experience.
Visit Uganda’s reptile Village.
The reptile village is one of the lesser-known tourist attractions in Uganda. Hidden off the Entebbe -Kampala highway, the reptile village aims to educate people about reptiles and encourage their conservation as well. The village has snakes, tortoises, chameleons, lizards, crocodiles among others.
A trip of the reptile village will kill all your fear of reptiles, especially snakes. As you learn the little details about all these reptiles, you will become more curious and fascinated – than afraid. A visit to the reptile village is usually added either at the beginning or the end of a safari or to other attractions around the country. For people whose time is very limiting, a day’s visit to the reptile village is a nice way to break from their tight schedule.
Hot air ballooning.
Hot air balloon tours allow you to view the parks and their animals from above. The bird-eye view is incredible as it allows for seeing to the widest expanses of these national parks. Balloon tours are also great for photography. Hot air balloon tours can be enjoyed in all the Savannah parks of Uganda.
Quad biking / ATV game viewing
This is not available in all the national parks. In Lake Mburo National park, you can enjoy seeing the wild animals as you ride an ATV. This is possible in lake Mburo because of the very few predators that could put humans at risk. Animals such as lions and leopards are very few which allows the increasing number of grazers like Uganda kob, zebras, eland, and other antelopes. This brings them to frequented places and they can easily be spotted as you ride on an ATV in safe areas.
Game viewing on Mountain Bikes.
You can also ride a bike through some parts of the national park and enjoy your personal connection with nature and the animals and birds that live in it. This is also Primarily done in Lake Mburo National Park, for the same reasons as above. You won’t be able to spot a pride of lions or a group of leopards while you ride a bike, but you wouldn’t want that. In any reality.
Adventure Tour Activities in Uganda
White water rafting on the Nile.
Besides being the world’s longest river and a mystery that baffled the Greeks and Egyptians of old times, the river Nile provides one of the best water rafting experiences in Africa. The River’s force creates powerful rapids, which are incredible for the grade 5 white water rafting so many people love. Doing White water rafting on the mighty Nile is an adrenaline-pumping activity that many people can’t leave Uganda without partaking.
Bungee jumping in Jinja.
This is for the adrenaline chasers who want to take the 40 plus meters and plunge down towards the Nile. If you want to pump even more adrenaline and extend your limits for fun, Bungee jumping is the activity for you. Dropping down 44 meters to touch the Nile waters will have you screaming in fear, joy, bravery and all the other emotions. In the end, you will be happier for it – and probably do it some more. This is done with world-class gear and an experienced team to guarantee your safety.
Mabira forest canopy ziplining.
Mabira forest is a natural rain forest that is located a mere 44 kilometres away from Kampala. This makes it a very accessible place to visit for short day/weekend activities. Ziplining in the Mabira canopy allows you to soar through the tallest trees of this rain forest. Along the way, you will also be able to see many primates and birds. The network of 5 zip lines stretches across 250 meters and is outfitted with equipment that adheres to strict international safety standards.
Hike to Sipi Falls.
Sipi falls is located 270 km from Kampala, in Kapvhorwa district. Sipi river is on the foothill of Mount Elgon and goes down over a distance of 7km, to form 4 waterfalls. The main falls(shown in the picture) drops close to 100 meters over a cliff. For people who enjoy nature and hiking, Sipi is a perfect little getaway. Hiking Sipi falls is hugely enjoyed by both international visitors and local Ugandans and East Africans. In addition to hiking, you can enjoy more fun activities in Sipi to make your experience even richer.
Camp on the Elgon caldera
Mount Elgon is an extinct volcano on the border of Uganda and Kenya. It is estimated that Mt Elgon last erupted 24 million years ago. What is better than climbing, this very old mountain? Camping on top of its caldera. Which is believed to be one of the biggest ones in the world. The Merriam website dictionary perfectly defines that ” a caldera forms when the top of a volcanic cone collapses into the space left after magma is ejected during a violent volcanic eruption. Its diameter is many times that of the original vent.” For those who love camping, the is as far as you can take it with outdoor camping in Uganda.
Explore the source of the Nile
The natural landmark associated with the source of the Nile were submerged in the early 1950s due to the construction of the Owen Falls Dam. The site is still of great interest and plaques on both banks of the river indicate where the former Rippon falls were. After reaching the source of the Nile, a boat ride on top of the Rippon falls is a thrilling experience of having Lake Victoria on one side and then the start of the Nile on the other.
Climb the Rwenzori.
Mount Rwenzori is the highest mountain in Uganda. What makes climbing mount Rwenzori more adventurous is the intensity of the endeavour. While Both Mt Kenya and Kilimanjaro are taller than Rwenzori, Rwenzori is a harder climb than both of them. The simple reason is that Rwenzori is a mountain range, and therefore as you ascend to the top, you climb up and down several times a day. And then do it again the next day until you reach the top.
You can climb Rwenzori up to the highest peak in at least 9 days, depending on your strength. This is definitely not something for everyone, and caution should be taken before climbing mount Rwenzori. Here is our sample Rwenzori Climbing tour, to Margarita Peak to give you an idea of what lies ahead.
Culture Tour Activities in Uganda
Visit the Old Kampala Mosque (Gadaffi National Mosque)
The Old Kampala mosque was a project initiated (but not completed) by Uganda’s former president Idi Amin Dada in the 1970s. When he was overthrown, the project stalled for about 25 years.
With the funding from Libya’s former president Col. Gadaffi, the project was kicked off afresh and completed in 2006. For this generous gesture, the mosque was Named Gadaffi National Mosque until he was killed and the new Libyan administration was excited about keeping the name.
Besides, the mosque’s outstanding architectural beauty, it provides the perfect 360-degree views of all of Kampala. This 360 view can be achieved by climbing up the minaret. After reaching the top, the view is worth the 300 plus stair you had to climb.
Visit Bahai temple.
The Bahai Temple in Kampala is the only temple of the Bahai faith in the whole of Africa. Bahai is an all-inclusive faith that can be called a blended fusion of all the other major faiths. The Bahai Temple in Uganda was opened in February of 1962 and sits on top of Kikaya Hill. Learning about the Bahai faith is a very interesting activity that we highly recommend for people with an interest in societal norms and religions.
Got to the Uganda museum.
The Uganda Museum is the oldest museum in the whole of East Africa. It first exhibited in 1905 in its former location on Kampala hill, before moving to its current location in 1954. The museum is great for a very informative and in-depth look at Africa’s pre-colonial history as well as specific histories related to the Ugandan people. With various collections from all over Africa, the Uganda museum provides a wide variety of options for the history enthusiast who is keen to know more about Africa’s past.
Do local shopping in Owino market or downtown Kampala.
Most people who have lived in Kampala had the ‘Owino market experience’ and it is one we recommend you undertake. Owino is more than the opposite of comfortable shopping malls, but the experience is as ‘Ugandan’ as you can get. It is chaotic, loud, tiresome and by the time you leave the market, all your senses will be exhausted.
In Owino, you will need to move with fewer valuables and hold them close. Don’t miss out on the haggling and bargaining for things you might want to buy and don’t relent easily. It is also a great chance to practice those few Ugandan words that you will have learned.
With so many lakes in Uganda, the people who love fish should enjoy catching some of the many fish species in Uganda. Uganda has around 90 fish species in its lakes and rivers. Being able to catch the large Nile Perch from Lake Victoria is a very satisfying feeling.
Straddle the Equator
Straddling the Equator is a fun way for you to be in both hemispheres at the same time with equal parts of yourself on each side. The photo opportunities with visiting the equator are amazing and it is your chance to challenge all the previous ones that have been taken before.
Visit the Nyero rock paintings
Nyero rock paintings are among the most important rock art in Uganda. They are believed to date prior to 1250 CE. Nyero rock painting is located in Kumi district of Eastern Uganda, about 250 km from Kampala.
The paintings have been related to the Batwa culture, who currently lives near the rain forests of Western and Southwestern Uganda. The most prominent Batwa tribes are found in areas near Bwindi impenetrable, and they used to live in caves and the forests until the early 1990s when most of these areas were gazetted as national parks.
Visiting Nyero is very interesting for someone who is very interested in history and the ways of life of the centuries past.
Try traditional Ugandan food.
The food of any place is the most common way to experience the place. While there are lots of international (world) dishes available in Uganda, from all parts of the world, the local Ugandan food is also very varied and enjoyable.
The most popular dishes include delicacies like Luwombo, Matoke, millet bread, Malewa and Nsenene among others. There are many different subcultures, and each has great food prepared in their own unique way.
Whether you are a foodie or not, Uganda’s food is something to try out. Here are the top 10 Ugandan foods to try. And these are the tropical fruits of Uganda you must not miss out on as well. We promise you’ll love the food.
It goes without saying that you should consider your dietary restrictions first and foremost.
Try Uganda’s street food.
For the foodies and those who are lucky to have tolerant stomachs, street food is part of any country’s culture. Street foods manage to combine the traditional foods, the newer experimented one and the popular foods from all the other places – and add in the uniqueness of the place. It is chaotic sweetness and a really authentic dive into the daily life of the people.
In Uganda, the most common and popular street food is the Rolex and unless your diet stops you, it should be on your bucket list.
Go out in Kampala’s night party scene
It is very easy to skip over Kampala nightlife, and that is unfair. Because to fully immerse yourself in the life of a place, seeing how the people live their night plays a big role. Obviously, this is not for everyone as not all people like the nightlife experience.
For someone who likes music, dancing or taking a few drinks, the Kampala that never sleeps would be a whole other experience. An experience worth checking out.
Experience the true culture of the Batwa – the people of the forest.
The Batwa are commonly referred to as the people of the forest. This is because they have lived in the Impenetrable rain forests of Bwindi, Mgahinga and the neighbouring forests of DRC for as long as they can be traced.
A true cultural experience of the Batwa involves learning about their ways of life that enabled them to sustainably stay in the forests for hundreds of years without harming the biodiversity. The Batwa officially left the forests in 1994 when Bwindi was declared a National Park, but still, stay near the outskirts. They still rely on the forest for things such as medicine.
A cultural experience of the Batwa is usually added as an optional activity to do after you have done gorilla trekking, in either Bwindi or Mgahinga National Parks.
Exotic Ssese Islands of L. Victoria.
Ssese Islands are a collection of more than 80 small islands in the northwestern part of Lake Victoria. All the islands form what is called Kalangala district.
In Ssese, you can partake in sport fishing, canoeing or ATV rides. The sandy white beaches are great for relaxing after an active day. A visit to the Islands is nice for short getaways and very popular for honeymoons and anniversary stays.
Ssese is among out top honeymoon destinations in Uganda and its popularity only keeps rising to new heights.
Visit Lubiri Mengo – the Kabaka’s Palace.
Olubiri – in Mengo is the official residence of the king of Buganda Kingdom. The palace was built in 1885 by Kabaka Mwanga II.
Mengo hill is the administrative capital of Buganda kingdom and holds great importance not only to the Baganda tribe but all Ugandans.
A visit to the Lubiri is a great way to learn about Uganda (and Buganda’s) historical journey since the coming of the British colonialists, missionaries, and through the various post-independence periods. A visit to the palace is always undertaken as part of a Kampala city tour of the top spots.
Visit the Kasubi Royal Tombs of Buganda kingdom.
The Kasubi Tombs in Kampala is the burial grounds for four kabakas (Buganda Kings) and other members of the royal family. This is a place of great spiritual and political significance for the Baganda people and is a great example of traditional architecture.
In 2001, it was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, and described as “One of the most remarkable buildings using purely vegetal materials in the entire region of sub-Saharan Africa”. The tombs were later included in the list of World Heritage Sites in Danger in July on 2010, following a fire that broke out in one of the major building in march of 2010.
A visit to Kasubi Tombs, like the visit to Lubiri is a delve into Buganda’s history. This is usually part of the city highlights tour of Kampala and its surroundings.
Take a Boda Boda ride.
Boda-boda motorcycles are the most popular form of transport in Uganda. They are especially the easiest way of getting around Kampala in the peak traffic periods. Using a trusted boda-boda is highly recommended – and easily done through the many ride-hailing apps such as Safeboda. Taking a boda-boda at the traffic peak hours is not for the light-hearted as the motorcycle will be zipping through the maze of cars and really bending some traffic rules just to get you to your destination. It is another one of ‘those Kampala’ experiences that you get to share with Ugandans.
Try a traditional cultural dance.
Uganda’s different subcultures have distinct ways of life, among which is entertainment. The various groups of people respond differently to the beat of the drum. While on a cultural visit, it is always fun to try and learn the traditional dance moves and what they mean. It is a good way to create lasting memories of your visit to any given community and learn some new dance moves too. Here is an extensive article we made about the popular traditional dances of Uganda – that represent the culture and norms of the people.
Visit Uganda Martyrs Shrine in Namugongo.
On June 3rd in 1886, Kabaka of Buganda Mwanga II burned to death 32 young men for refusing to renounce their Christian faith. The martyrs we both of the Roman Catholic and Anglican faith Christian faith groups.
Every year, people from all parts of East Africa and Uganda come in large numbers for pilgrimage. The 22 Martyrs of the catholic faith we canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1964, and are now regarded as saints.
While June 3rd is the most important day for remembering Uganda martyrs, The shrine is open to visitors any other time of the year. A city tour of Kampala usually includes visiting the Uganda martyrs shrine, and the history is very interesting regardless of one’s religious/spiritual preferences.
We have to stop our selves because this could honestly go on for much longer. Follow up articles with more detail about all these and more should be very helpful.
We have tried to link to some relevant articles and safari itineraries so that you can find all the information we can give you. We are always updating our blog with new and well-researched articles and insights. Visit our blog and we promise you will find something new, interesting and worth your time.
While we try to offer as much helpful information as possible, we are humble enough to know that there is so much more you would like to know. We only ask that you don’t feel bad about asking us to assist with any sort of related information. In fact, we encourage you to reach out.
Lastly (and obviously), we would love it if you were to visit Uganda and do so with us. Our expertise and commitment are tried and true.
Whether you are choosing an already created safari program, or a custom one made to suit your interests, we welcome your request and promise to go the extra mile in offering the most exceptional safari experience in Uganda (or/and Rwanda).
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