5 Beautiful Places in Uganda You Shouldn't Miss

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Hardly anybody would expect beautiful places in Uganda, as its name is often associated with the totalitarian regime of Idi Amin, who is responsible for the lives of thousands of people and crude civil wars. We must bear in mind that this is still a somewhat recent situation and the nation might need even several generations to recover from it.

Therefore, the tourism industry is not as developed as in Kenya. I was very pleasantly surprised by the quiet atmosphere and the openness of everybody around. This country has enormous potential, as many beautiful places in Uganda offer hidden natural treasures and exciting culture.

#1: Kampala, the bustling and dusty capital

The view of the capital of Uganda, Kampala, from the rooftop.
The view of the capital of Uganda, Kampala, from the rooftop.

Kampala, just like Rome, is built on seven hills and is the capital of Uganda. The busy electrifying atmosphere is undoubtedly brought out by the incredible amount of Boda Boda moped taxis and cars cutting through the crowds rushing in all directions. The character of this city cannot be described as beautiful, but it is extraordinary and striking indeed. 

The reasons for that are historical and cultural, as the sense of the city is perceived differently. The roads are dusty, buildings shabby and people, despite being born there, feel more to be parts of their tribes than citizens of Uganda. You can also quite often hear them using their own languages, but English and Swahili play the role of a universally accepted mean of communication.

Read more: How Does It Feel Like to Cross African Borders by Car?

I recommend visiting the Kabaka's Lake that is just down the road from Kampala. It was an incredibly enriching expedition away from civilization. It certainly is everything, but a touristic place. I drove around the lake on a moped taxi and witnessed the simple and ordinary life in its whole authentic beauty. It is astounding that such a paradise of a place is not more famous.

Be very careful not to enter any military zone, because it nearly got me arrested!

My intention to snap a picture of a statue turned out to be more than I thought. Luckily the guarding soldier lets me walk away without arguing. Strange is that not even after closer inspection did I find any sign of a fence.

#2: Jinja, swimming in the White Nile river

Jinja is home to the source of the Nile, and is definitely a must-visit while you're in Uganda!
Jinja is home to the source of the Nile, and is definitely a must-visit while you're in Uganda!

Amongst all beautiful places in Uganda, Jinja might be by far the most tourist friendly. Through action-packed touristic activities along the Nile river, this city has earned its nickname The Adventure Capital of East Africa. The most promoted in Jinja is spine-tingling white water rafting.

Swimming in the longest river in the world, is also allowed and even directly at its source. Yes, the source of Nile is located in Jinja! The only struggle that can foil your travels can be an infection spread by the water snails living in the sand there, but it is not that big deal. Almost all the locals have it, and it is treatable. Take this as a friendly reminder to enjoy, but not a risk.

Check out This Postcard from Jinja!

There are many other options to enjoy the river and to witness its strength from ashore. Visiting the Bujagali Hydroelectric Power Station built just five years ago that transmutes the energy of Bujagali waterfalls is one of them.

For a really peaceful holiday in this district, there are many cozy lodges alongside the river offering hinterland in the middle of the wilderness.

Quite cherished are also the local Nile Breweries that are of course based in Uganda. If you happen to travel there at the beginning of September, consider visiting a promising multi-genre music festival Nyege Nyege. One of the best festivals I have ever been to.

Read more: Colorful and Creative Festivals in Africa

The mixture of different music styles, electronic DJs, and various live performances was of a good level. Another cultural aspect to mention about the festival is ROLEX - omelet rolled into a chapati flatbread. The city itself is not the most appealing judged by its looks but offers a considerable scale of occupation and entertainment.

#3: Hiking the dream in the Sipi Falls area

Sipi Falls, a natural wonder that you shouldn't miss!
Sipi Falls, a natural wonder that you shouldn't miss!

Sipi Falls are the real natural wonder of eastern Uganda, each of them looks a bit different, and they are connected by hiking trails and areas suitable for climbing. After passing a small town of Sipi, the views are undisturbed for kilometers.

Numerous valleys verging into steep hills are fertile ground for hours and hours of hikes and spots ideal for exploring the waterfalls, which in this area is a plethora of. These waterfalls lie on the edge of Mount Elgon National Park, located near the border of Uganda and Kenya.

I chose the adventurous way to experience this place which was abseiling with professional instructors, who make sure, you will get down safely.

Guided tours sponsor many successful community projects. Young locals show you around, and complement of the whole trip is their engaging stories about the Arabica coffee treatment process, which grows only in certain altitudes – and that is right there. Actually, Sipi Falls are the best place to learn about coffee in Uganda.

Among my favorite lookouts belong Mount Elgon and Moses Campsite offering accommodation in lovely little mud huts near Sipi Falls. I seized the opportunity to sleep there, of course. I would also recommend checking out the Sipi River Lodge that offers authentic experience (it is very near to the foot of Mount Elgon too!).

#4: Lake Bunyonyi, living place with a hungry soul

Lake Bunyonyi is the deepest lake in Uganda. It is a stunning site hidden among rocky mountains.
Lake Bunyonyi is the deepest lake in Uganda. It is a stunning site hidden among rocky mountains.

Lake Bunyonyi is an amazing site with its coves and islands hidden among rocky mountains. No wonder it was chosen to appear on the 5,000 Ugandan shilling note. The truth is that this place has many stories to tell and has played an essential role in the lives of local communities.

Lake Bunyonyi has a depth of 900 meters, making it the second-deepest lake in Africa, just behind Lake Tanganyika!

There is a plethora of accommodation to choose on the islands and shores of lake Bunyonyi! From lodges to resorts, there is something for every taste.

Each of the bigger islands has its fable, and few of them are even approachable on a boat. On Punishment Island, the pregnant unmarried maids were left to die as a warning to others. They usually could not swim back, and their only hope was to be picked by a man too poor to marry anyone else.

Read more: Top 10 Things to Experience at Lake Bunyonyi

This brutal practice was only banned a mere hundred years ago! Bushara Island, on the other hand, has the aura of aid floating above. The residence of a church associated organization is there to help the locals. Another interesting point is the eucalyptus forest that took over almost all the remaining plants.

The wood of the original forest was used as building material and that why the fast-growing eucalyptus was imported. Sharp’s Island had some twist in its recent history when the medical facility for leprosy treatment got turned into a boarding school. Altogether, Lake Bunyonyi is one of the most beautiful places in Uganda.

#5: Kyambura, the tropical cocktail

A magnificent sight, a forest inside a valley in Kyambura Game Reserve.
A magnificent sight, a forest inside a valley in Kyambura Game Reserve.

Kyambura Game Reserve is to be found in the Queen Elizabeth National Park and is famous for its incredible concentration of species. Inexperienced observers might miss quite a number of details, not to mention how easily you can get lost in such an undisturbed natural area. You go there with a guide and a ranger in one person.

Read more: The Best Self-Driving Safari National Parks in Africa

The changing character of nature is very recognizable because the path starts at hill peaks and following the river descends to a real rainforest jungle with plenty of unknown noises. I was surprised how temperature and humidity begin to influence your body and adds a unique atmosphere to the moment.

We saw mostly monkeys and apes, no chimpanzees, unfortunately, although they are usually here.

Those were just some of the beautiful places in Uganda that you shouldn't miss!

A dusty road somewhere in Murchinson Falls National Park.
A dusty road somewhere in Murchinson Falls National Park.

So many beautiful places in Uganda tell moving stories and consist of wild nature. Here, I have seen some of the most remarkable scenes. People are friendly and can combine the love for their home with hospitality. I would recommend taking a car, a strong one, to travel around, it can make things easier.

Don't forget to check out the postcards from my journey in Uganda to see all the beauty this country has to offer in details!

Adrian Sameli founder and editor of aSabbatical.com
Travel mindfully to meet local people around the world and embrace new cultures. Get inspired and inspire others!

You might also like

Queen Elizabeth National Park - game drive to the tree Lions in the oldest national park in Uganda
game drive to the tree Lions in the oldest national park in Uganda
Crater Lakes - hiking up and down scenic hills and overlooking a scenic landscape
hiking up and down scenic hills and overlooking a scenic landscape
Bwindi Forest - driving around the national park with half of the worlds mountain gorillas
driving around the national park with half of the worlds mountain gorillas
Murchison Falls - spotting countless wild animals on my very first independent Safari Game Drive
spotting countless wild animals on my very first independent Safari Game Drive
sesriem canyon near the sossusvlei dune in the namib desert
Saturday, September 23, 2017
Lake Turkana - swimming in the largest desert lake and observing the crocodiles in nature
swimming in the largest desert lake and observing the crocodiles in nature