Things to Do & Must-See Attractions in Uganda
The British-inspired colonial Lubiri Palace sits on top of Mengo Hill and has long served as the residence of the Buganda King. The sprawling grounds are most famously home to the underground prisons and torture chambers used by the dictator Idi Amin during the 1970s and later by President Obote for the same purpose.
The dark cement tunnels and chambers, originally built for weapons storage, once held political prisoners—sometimes in the hundreds—crammed into small cells raised up on platforms. The channel outside the cells was filled with electrified water to prevent escape attempts. While the water is gone, but the walls still display handprints and messages of despair scrawled in charcoal and mud across the cement—a testament to the atrocities committed by Amin and his secret police.
Kisenyi Slum, located in the heart of Kampala adjacent to the capital's central business district, is a huge area of residence for many impoverished men, women and children. These people, many of whom are refugees of Uganda, live in extremely close quarters, and fewer than half of them have access to water within their homes. Flooding, poor sanitation and eviction are day-to-day threats.
Despite its unfortunate quality of life, Kisenyi has a lively, active atmosphere filled with informal businesses—everything from butcher shops and fruit vendors to furniture and metalworking shops.
Visitors to the Kisenyi Slum have the opportunity to see how local NGOs have started grassroots projects to improve the lives of some of Uganda’s most vulnerable populations. With a local volunteer as a guide, travelers can explore the area and meet some of Kisenyi's residents to gain a clearer understanding of the realities and challenges of life in the slum.
Nearly half the planet’s remaining mountain gorillas live within Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda. It’s one of only three places in the world where travelers can see this critically endangered animals in the wild. Located in Southwestern Uganda, Bwindi covers 124 square miles (320 square kilometers) of plains and mountain forest famous for its biodiversity. Besides the iconic gentle giants, some 120 species of mammals, 348 species of birds and 202 species of butterflies live amid the 200 tree and 100 fern species.
While the park is a birdwatcher’s paradise (sighting 150 species in a single day isn’t uncommon) and has more mammal species than any of Uganda’s other national parks, visitors come to this UNESCO World Heritage site to track mountain gorillas. Each morning, trekkers head out into the forest in search of one of about a dozen gorilla families (between 300 and 400 individuals).
This massive park in the countryside of Uganda is home to the famed Rabonga Forest, the Nile River and plenty of wildlife. Travelers will find hippos, chimps and plenty of crocodiles on a visit to this stunning natural wonderland.
Travelers can take a boat cruise along the Nile and get up close to bathing elephants, water buffalo and massive hippos. Game drives through the vast savannah showcase the best of this country’s wildlife, including giraffes, warthogs, baboons, honey badgers and even an occasional lion! Some tour outfits offer birding adventures for those who want to check winged creatures off their Life List and chimp walks through the landscapes give visitors once-in-a-lifetime access to these incredible primates. Travelers can purchase handmade items and unique souvenirs at nearby Boomu Women’s Group and support this unique female-run collective.
More Things to Do in Uganda
Located in the Kisoro District of southwestern Uganda, scenic Lake Mutanda sits in the shadows of a string of misty volcanoes and is a popular base camp for gorilla trackers, bird watchers and volcano trekkers taking excursions into Bwindi Impenetrable Forest or Mgahinga National Park. Due to its remote location and limited accommodation options, Lake Mutanda remains pristine and tranquil. Located in a region aptly nicknamed “Little Switzerland,” the freshwater lake attracts a wide variety of birds to its shores, including Uganda’s national bird, the grey-crowned crane. Birdwatching boat trips often encounter pelicans, Hadada ibis, African spoonbill, sacred ibis, kites, hawks and buzzards. The unique African clawless otter also calls the lake home. Lake Mutanda is also one of only a few lakes in Uganda safe for swimming (no bilharzia, hippos or crocodiles to worry about), as well as canoeing or paddling in a traditional dug-out canoe.
One of the richest areas of biodiversity in all of Uganda is Kibale National Park, known primarily for its chimpanzees but equally for its tropical forest. Kibale National Park covers just under 300 square miles in southwestern Uganda, with the much larger Queen Elizabeth National Park just to the south of it. These adjacent parks give wildlife lots of room, which makes this part of Uganda particularly popular for safaris.
Chimpanzees are the most sought-after sight in Kibale, but they're not the only wildlife to see. Other animals in the area include elephants, buffalo, warthogs, bushbucks, leopards, mongoose, and more than 375 species of birds. There are also other primates, such as the Uganda mangabey, red colobus monkey, and L'Hoest's monkey.
On the south side of Nakasero Hill, one of the most prestigious neighborhoods in Kampala, sits the huge and chaotic Nakasero Market. While the top half of the hill is dominated by hotels, embassies and elite residential neighborhoods, market and surrounding area offers a completely different and very vibrant atmosphere.
The large outdoor portion of Nakasero Market specializes in fresh local produce, and it’s one of the most colorful food markets in Uganda. It’s also just about the cheapest option for purchasing fruits and vegetables. For travelers with more adventurous appetites, the market is dotted with vendors selling a favorite local snack, grasshoppers. A large warehouse next to the outdoor market sells cheap electronics, clothes and shoes.
Things to do near Uganda
- Things to do in Kampala
- Things to do in Jinja
- Things to do in Kabale
- Things to do in Masindi
- Things to do in Kanungu
- Things to do in Tanzania
- Things to do in Rwanda
- Things to do in Kigali
- Things to do in Lake Nakuru National Park
- Things to do in Nairobi
- Things to do in Arusha
- Things to do in Kilimanjaro
- Things to do in Zanzibar
- Things to do in Mahé
- Things to do in Gauteng