Often referred to as the pearl of Africa, Uganda is an adventure-lovers dream. From snow-capped mountains to misty jungles to archipelagoes brimming with paradise islands. The natural splendour of Uganda has captured the hearts of travelers for years.
Explore giant lakes, search for rare mountain gorillas, and hike the highest mountain range in Africa. Party and dine in the bustling cities, soar through the open plains of Uganda’s national parks, and get your adrenaline pumping with anything from white-water rafting to bungee jumping. A holiday to Uganda is nothing short of spectacular.
The untouched, African gem of Uganda has much to offer explorers, hikers, adrenaline-junkies and of course, wildlife lovers. Home to Africa’s largest lake, its highest mountain range and the world’s biggest concentration of mountain gorillas, there’s much here to explore. Add that to the serene lakes, the stunning islands, the bustling cities and the exceptional landscape, and it can be tough to know where to begin.
The capital city of Uganda is Kampala, resting on a set of seven hills on the shores of the largest lake in Africa - Lake Victoria.
Don’t let your first impressions of this busy, dusty city put you off. The capital city of Uganda is a great place to begin your holiday. Get under the city's skin, and you’ll soon find that this charming city packs a big punch. Kampala is also an excellent spot to use as a base for your Uganda safaris and excursions.
Visit the Kusubi Tombs, wonder the sun-drenched streets of Central Kampala with its bustling markets and throngs of crowds. Explore the beautiful Gaddafi National Mosque and sip a sophisticated cocktail or two down the Nakasero Hill area. The outskirts of the city provide a stark contrast with its rural setting of cattle farms and banana plantations.
Uganda is such a fertile country that it can supply most of Africa with food grown on its land.
Often said to be one of the most beautiful places in Uganda, Lake Bunyonyi provides an idyllic escape up in the Kigezi highlands. Picture rolling hills, gently sloping into the vast blue lake with over 20 islands peppered throughout the water. Float from island to island exploring the green terraces, fishing villages and eucalyptus and banana plantations. Go kayaking, canoeing, mountain biking and hiking. ‘Bunyoni’ literally translates to ‘place of small birds’. So you can rest assured that this is one of the best places in Uganda for bird watching.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
Home to the world’s largest concentration of mountain gorillas, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is the place to go for gorilla trekking in Uganda. Track the enormous silverback gorilla through 330 sq meters of endless green. Lush rainforests, steep mountains and dense foliage make this park one of the most bio diverse places in Uganda.
As well as Bwindi’s most famous residents, the national park is home to 120 other species of mammal including forest elephants, chimpanzees, bushbucks, African golden cats and giant forest hogs. Bwindi forest is also one of the best places in Uganda for bird watching.
Murchison Falls National Park.
The stunning Murchison Falls National Park is the largest in Uganda. With the mighty Victoria Nile carving through its centre, creating crashing falls and raging streams, visiting Murchison Falls National Park is one of the best things to do in Uganda. Spot the big 5 and scour the skies for over 450 species of birds. The main attraction here is ‘Devil’s Cauldron’ - where the Nile squeezes through a narrow gorge, bursting out the other side creating its trademark, low-lying rainbow.
Mount Elgon National Park.
Mount Elgon is situated in the jungle covered highlands with a wild beauty like no other. With an extinct volcano dominating the skyline and waterfalls cascading down its side, this place is nothing short of unique. From rugged canyons to underground mazes of cave systems and bubbling hot springs, you won’t run out of things to do. Keep an eye out for some of Africa’s most magnificent birds that call this place home.
Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Queen Elizabeth National Park makes the cut for most Uganda tours, and there’s a good reason why. You're almost guaranteed to see heaps of wildlife, including lions, zebras, hippos, giraffes, crocodiles and elephants. One of the biggest highlights here is the Ishasha area - where you’ll find the famous tree-climbing lions! Aside from the game drives, take a boat trip down the Kazinga Channel, explore caves and volcanic craters and hike through the stunning Kyambura Gorge and Maramagambo Forest.
Kibale National Park.
The undisturbed forest of Kibale National Park is the primate’s capital of Africa and the best place in the world to track chimpanzees. Set amidst undulating hills, volcanic crater lakes, coffee plantations and giant fig trees, the stark, natural beauty of the area is unsurpassed. Hiking trails will have you traipsing through dense jungle, wild wetlands and tropical forests, searching for over 70 species of mammals, 300 species of birds, and of course the famous chimpanzees.
Jutting out to meet the Victoria Nile, is the colonial river town of Jinja. Sleepy, tropical and relaxing, this is the perfect place to recoup some energy after the bustling cities and adrenaline-fuelled Uganda safaris. The city has some excellent bars and boutiques lining the river banks, housing every kind of accommodation from luxury resorts to rustic eco lodges. As for activities, Jinja is an excellent place for boat tours, white-water rafting, bungee jumping, kayaking, quad biking or horse riding.
Swaying savannah, dense forests, murky swamplands and a trickle of lakes, make Lake Mburo one of the most beautiful parks in Uganda. During dry season, Lake Mburo becomes an excellent place for a Uganda safari as the wildlife congregate beside its watering holes. Even though this is one of Uganda’s smallest national parks, it's home to a wide selection of wildlife. There’s plenty to do from birding to boat rides, horseback riding to hiking the Rubanga Forest and the beautiful rolling hills surrounding it.
Entebbe Botanical Gardens.
Resting on the shores of Lake Victoria is the laid-back town of Entebbe housing the most famous Botanical Garden in Uganda - Entebbe Botanical Gardens. Filled with rare flora, trees, monkeys, flowers in every colour, squirrels, butterflies and birds, make this stunning place feel magical. Explore 98 acres of fresh grass, take a picnic on the lawn or discover the tranquility of the rainforest. The gardens also house a variety of birds and monkeys.
Kidepo Valley National Park.
Kidepo Valley National Park is one of the wildest, most remote parks in Uganda. If you can get here, you’ll be rewarded with much smaller crowds than in other National Parks in Uganda. Take a game drive through the rugged savannah, the semi-arid valleys of Kidepo and explore the Narus rivers with its mountainous backdrop. It’s wild, rustic beauty makes Kidepo one of the most stunning places in Uganda.
This remarkable archipelago, with no less than 84 islands, is Uganda’s little slice of paradise. Golden sands, sun-kissed beaches, calm, warm waves and absolutely beautiful scenery. Each island has its own charm and personality with different exotic flora and fauna on each one. Some of the most popular islands are the Buggala and Bulago Islands. Relax by the lake, hike in the lush rolling hills, kayak along the rivers or horse ride through the forests.
Geography & landscape of Uganda.
Uganda lies in the centre of Africa's Great Rift Valley. Its landscape consists mainly of flat, high plateaus, surrounded by rolling hills and encroaching low-lying mountains. The central region of Uganda is home to tropical forests and swaying grasslands, while the borders are dominated by mountainous regions such as the Rwenzori Mountains and Mount Elgon. Explore the semi-deserts, the arid plains, the lush tea plantations and rolling savannahs of this unique African country.
Culture, religion and etiquette.
Uganda is predominantly a male-dominated society, with most women becoming housewives while the men work - this is particularly true for the more rural areas. Marriages often happen in their teenage years with polygamy being very common. Men in Uganda quite often have more than one wife.
Ugandans are generally happy, friendly people who love a good joke. Personal space however, is not much of a thing here, and you'll find that conversations are usually held in very close proximity. Buses and taxis don't leave until they are filled to the brim, allowing for very minimal personal space while traveling.
In Uganda, it's common to greet each other with a simple handshake. People of the same gender often hold hands as a symbol of their friendship - this is however no implication of their sexual preferences. Ugandans are fond of small-talk when greeting and tend to communicate indirectly rather than being up front about issues. As for clothing, it isn't acceptable in Uganda to wear revealing clothes - that also means that women should steer clear of shorts and short skirts. Ugandan men usually wear shorts as a child and graduate to trousers as an adult.
Uganda is a religiously diverse country with the majority of people following Christianity. 33% of the population in Uganda identify as Roman Catholic, 33% as protestant and 16% as Muslim. The rest of the population believe in various local religions, many of which have a focus on spirits, the deceased and witchcraft.
Uganda is a multilingual country with over forty native languages in three groups - Bantu, Central Sudanic and Nilotic. The official languages of Uganda are English and Swahili. Most literate people in Uganda speak English, being spoken throughout their school year as well as being widely spoken in politics. Around 4 million people, most of which are in the Buganda region, also speak Luganda. Even though Swahili is the country's second official language, more people speak Luganda than Swahili.
History of Uganda.
Henry Stanley discovered Uganda in 1875 when the country was split into kingdoms. In 1877, Anglican missionaries arrived, followed a few years later by the Roman Catholic and Muslim missionaries. Religions were set on converting Ugandans but were met with much hostility, and in 1886 the first bishop in Uganda was murdered.
In 1888 the European powers divided up Africa and gave the British East Africa Company control of Uganda. In 1904, cotton became one of Uganda's largest exports, and by 1920 the country was also growing a substantial amount of tea and coffee. Meanwhile, missionaries were building schools allowing the majority of Ugandans to become literate. In 1929, the first railway line was introduced.
Riots broke out in 1945 and 1949, which led to the first Africans being appointed to the legislative council, their members steadily growing over the next few years.
In 1962, Uganda became independent, and Mutesa, King of Buganda was appointed as their first president with Milton Obote running as prime minister. In 1966 Obote staged a coup to take control, Mutesa fled and Obote became dictator. He ruled until 1971 when Idi Amin staged a coup. Amin was responsible for many horrible acts, torturing and murdering over 100,000 people. Amin then decided that he wanted a piece of the Ugandan Asian's wealth and forced them to sharply leave the country, many of whom left the bulk of their belongings behind. With the shopkeepers and skilled tradesmen being either killed or forced to leave, the economy of Uganda collapsed, and infrastructure deteriorated.
In 1978, Uganda attempted to invade Tanzania but the war quickly turned around and the Tanzanian's invaded Uganda, forcing Amin and his army to flee. He died abroad in 2003.
Obote became prime minister once again, but his opponents formed a guerilla army called the National Resistance Army which soon controlled a significant part of western Uganda. Obote meanwhile tried to become dictator again, imprisoning anyone who opposed him. During this time the National Resistance was growing, and by 1986, they controlled most parts of Uganda, including the capital city. Obote's supporters eventually caved in.
Finally, with political stability, Uganda's economy began to grow, and many of the Asians who were once forced to leave were persuaded to return. Today, Uganda's economy continues to grow steadily. It is predominantly an agricultural country with its main export being coffee.