Uganda@50: 50 incredible places to see in Uganda

What you need to know:

GIFTED BY NATURE. Last year, Lonely Planets, a travel website, declared Uganda as the top world destination to visit in 2012. As the country celebrates Its Independence golden Jubilee, Life presents 50 amazing and historical places that makes Uganda an incredible tourist destination. Edgar R. Batte introduces the 50 incredible places to visit in Uganda.

There are several reasons for you to put Uganda on the must-visit list. The continent’s prime travel destination is rich in a number of attractions. You will marvel at sprawling landscape, its national parks that have all the wild life, fauna and flora, its beautiful jungles, birding excursions, lake cruises, game drives, unique cultures and culinary adventures. Little wonder Lonely Planet, one of the biggest and oldest guidebooks for travellers chose Uganda as a favourite and top world destination to visit this year. It took them a century to verify Sir Winston Churchill’s fascination.

Bwindi National Park
It’s located at the Uganda-DR Congo border. It is one of the National Parks that is a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site and is within sight of Virunga National Park. This is the home to the half of the world’s gorilla population but with a sizable population of birds and rich and diversified ecosystem.

Lake Mburo National Park
Lake Mburo is home to the eland antelope which is also known as the Southern Eland. It is named after a lake on which tourists can also see crocodiles and herds of hippopotamuses having their swim. There are guided nature walks are available. You can do quad and horse riding while there.

Murchison Falls National Park
Located in Masindi District, there is a variety of game to see advisably on an early morning park drive. The spectacular smoky falls plunge on the southern banks through narrow rocky places. You can also do a boat ride along the Albert delta for a good view of crocodiles, elephants walking by the grassland shoreline, and cobs and lions among other animals.

Nsamizi Hill
It is the place where the Kabakas would go to call on their ancestral spirits. It was located at the place where state house is built.

Uganda National Museum, Kampala
It is the place where you will get art craft and archaeological items that symbolise Uganda’s history and cultural heritage. It is located on Kira Road.

Zika Forest
It is a small forest full of vast mature trees, with luxuriant undergrowth and a thick canopy of leaves. It is located in Entebbe. It is home to a sizable population of birds and butterflies, and a noisy troop of red-tailed and colobus monkeys.

Located in Sembabule, this site still reminds us of the Iron Age site occupied between the 10th and 14th centuries AD. Like Bigobyamugenyi is it also associated with the legendary Bachwezi. It has man-made mounds, and the basin and trenches connected to each other by cause ways.

Kitagata Hotsprings
The two hotsprings are located in Sheema District in western Uganda. Legend has it that one of the springs was used by the former Omugabe (King of Ankole) and is known as Ekyomugabe. The other spring is believed to have healing powers and is known as Mulago, after Uganda’s largest National Referral Hospital.

Nakayima Caves and Tree
The caves and trees are estimated to have existed for over 400 years, the oldest tree in the country. They are located in Mubende District.

Rwenzori National Park
It is located close to the Uganda-DR Congo border and listed as a UNESCO’s World Heritage sites. It has waterfalls, glaciers, lakes and of course the ice-capped third highest mountain peak in Africa. Its beauty is also defined through five distinct vegetation zones, including bamboo, in addition to almost 100 bird species, butterflies and animal life too, of four primate species, forest elephant, chimpanzee, hyrax, black-and-white colobus monkey and other types of monkeys et cetera. If you want to go hiking, this can be arranged.

Karuma Falls
It is a beautiful sight of smoky water that is a result of water hitting a series of natural rock formations at the bottom of the Nile, on the Kigumba-Gulu Highway.

Lutembe bay
This bay is home a large bird population as a migratory stopover site on Lake Victoria. It home to more than 100 species of birds. It is found at Namulanda, on Entebbe Road.

Mabamba Bay
It is an extensive marsh stretching through a long narrow bay, fringed with papyrus towards the main body of Lake Victoria in Mpigi District. It is the closest place to Kampala where Shoebills are regularly seen.

Kagoma Hill/palace
The palace is located in Nabweru atop a hill. Kabaka Ssuna built the palace for his mother. This king was not known to be jealous and shared his wives.

Brothers Amans Mapeera Catholic Church/Kigungu Landing Site
This was the point at which the first Catholic missionaries came into the country, you can call it cradle of the Catholic faith in Uganda. Kigungu landing site is in Entebbe.

Semliki National Park
It is located in Bundibugyo District in western Uganda, seated at the Ituri Forest conservatory, popular for both flora and fauna, particularly the birds. There are 400 species of birds which include unique types such as the Forest Ground Thrush and Sassi’s Olive. Greenbul.

Budongo Ecotourism Site
The forest has high biodiversity with an estimated 24 species of small mammals, nine being primates, 465 species of trees and shrubs, 359 species of birds, 289 species of butterflies, and 130 species of moths.

Entebbe Botanical Gardens
The gardens are a beautiful green patch established in 1898 on the northern shores of Lake Victoria virtually on the Equator. It has an approximated 309 species of plants, 199 indigenous to Uganda, 122 with known medicinal value and 110 exotic.

Elgon National Park
It is located in eastern Uganda and is home to wildlife, painted caves, hot springs and a crater at Budadiri. Within driving distance are the Sipi falls

Sipi Falls
Sipi Falls is a series of three waterfalls in eastern Uganda in Kapchorwa District, northeast of Sironko and Mbale. The waterfalls lie on the edge of Mount Elgon National Park near the Kenyan border.

Sempaya Hotsprings
They are located within the Semliki National Park and a startling ground of boiling water with a temperature of about 500 centigrade. You can boil an egg here.

Ssezibwa Falls
The falls are located in Mukono, on the Kampala-Jinja highway. Science and traditionalists both have theories on the formation of these falls. It is place where Christians and cultural believers go to worship. People visit this spot to have their problems solved. It is said to take nine months for one to get solutions, thereafter one is expected to come back and “give thanks”.
It remains one of Uganda’s untapped tourist sites. One can enjoy bird watching, watch the falls as they violently hit against the rocks or take forest walks.

Mabira Forest Reserve
Mabira is not far off the capital city, Kampala. There are 10 trails within the forest on which you can take a guided or unguided tour to discover the adventurer in you. There are also beautiful lodges within this green jungle, like Rain Forest Lodges which is ideal for an out-of-town experience.

Nyero Rock Paintings
The rocks in Kumi are listed as a UNESCO site, and comprise a three-tiered rocks helter with primitive paintings on their inner surfaces. Archaeologically, the site dates back to the later Iron Age. The makers of the paintings have not been identified, but the ingenuity with which they were painted demonstrates a high degree of appreciation of their aesthetic values.

Amabeere Ga Nyina Mwiru
Hidden away in the heart of the Toro kingdom in western Uganda are the amabeere ga nyina mwiru caves. Directly translated, Amabeere Ga Nyina Mwiru means the “breasts of Nyina Mwiru.”
Toro folklore has it that the caves acquired the name after King Bukuku of Toro chopped off the breasts of his daughter Nyina Mwiru and had them thrown inside these caves, following a prophecy that the daughter would one day get married and have a son, Ndahura, who would kill the king and take over his throne.

Tororo rocks
The rocks are located in the eastern district of Tororo and visible from almost any point in this town. Their highest altitude of Tororo Rock is 4,865 feet

Mgahinga National Park
Mgahinga National Park shares borders on the Uganda, Rwanda and Congo in the South western town of Kisoro, taking its name from Mountain Mgahinga. It is home to the endangered mountain gorillas spectacular Virunga Volcanoes at Mt. Muhavura, Mt. GahInga, and Mt. Sabinyo

Kasubi Tombs
This is where some of the Ssekabakas (fallen kings of Buganda) were buried. It was built by Kabaka Edward Muteesa.

Katereke Prison
Found in Nsangi, Masaka Road, it was constructed, in ditch form, by Kabaka Kalema who was controversially crowned after the deportation of Kabaka Mwanga. This ditch is where the suspected rebel royals were thrown and killed.

Uganda Wildlife Education Centre
Located in Entebbe, Uganda Wildlife Education Centre (UWEC) formerly known as the Zoo, has a variety of animals including lions, crocodiles, hippos, chimpanzees, monkeys, various snake varieties and bird species.

Bugoma Forest Reserve
It is located along Lake Albert which is close by, and another river called Nkusi. A third of the area is mixed forest, with the remainder being poor, hill and colonising forest types. The flora and fauna is diverse and of marked conservation importance. In terms of the conservation value, of the species in the forest, Bugoma is above average for birds, butterflies and large moths.

Mpanga forest reserve
It is located on Masaka Road at Mpambire. It has a rich eco-system where plant life suitably survives alongside animals. There are exploratory trails for butterflies and hornbill, among others.

Ssese Islands
It an archipelago of 84 islands in the world’s largest tropical lake in Kalangala District. Of the 84, 43 of these are inhabited by people. You might want to spend some time with the various fishing communities. Ssese’s Islands such as Bulago are popular get-always and camping sites.

Uganda Martyrs Shrine, Namugongo
This is where the Uganda martyrs were burned to death for their refusal to renounce Christianity. Some of the men were of the Anglican faith and others were of the Catholic faith. It is said that even some muslims were burnt that day. Annually, on June 3, Christians from all parts of Uganda, East Africa and other parts of the world congregate at Namugongo to commemorate the lives of the Uganda Martyrs and their dedication to their religious beliefs.

Naggalabi Buddo Coronation site
It is the official coronation site for all kings of Buganda Kingdom (Kabakas). It is located on Budo Hill, a few metres from King’s College Budo. It is believed that it is here that Buganda Kingdom was born during the 14th century.

Kibale National Park
It is located in south western Uganda and home to the red colobus and L’Hoest monkey. The butterfly species are many and so for flower and plant species. The other animals to look out for are the forest hogs, buffaloes and antelopes on guided forest walks. Birding is the other attraction at the community Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary.

Bigobyamugenyi is a place believed to have harboured the Chwezi around 1500 A.D. It derives its name from the forested enclosure of trees around the former Chwezi palace. There are two-tree pinnacles that welcome you to the about 350 hectare expanse.

Kabaka’s Lake
It is the biggest manmade lake having been built under the orders and supervision of Kabaka Mwanga in 1885. It is located in Mengo.

Kawere African Museum
This is a private museum owned by Godfrey Kawere, in Nsangi, on Masaka Road. The artist and researcher has collected art-pieces, newspaper cuttings and photographs depicting the political history and culture of Uganda, Africa and the world.

Queen Elizabeth NationalPark
Located in south western Uganda, this is Uganda’s most popular tourist destination thanks to its diverse ecosystems, which include sprawling Savannah, shady, humid forests, sparkling lakes and fertile wetlands.This makes it the ideal habitat for classic big game, 10 primate species including chimpanzees and more than 600 species of birds. It is set against the backdrop of the jagged Rwenzori Mountains, which according to Uganda Wildlife Authority makes it a prime destination. This is in addition to its enormous craters carved dramatically into rolling green hills, panoramic views of the Kazinga Channel with its banks lined with hippos, buffalo and elephants, and the endless Ishasha plains, whose fig trees hide lions ready to pounce on herds of unsuspecting Uganda Kob.

Wamala tombs
It is a collection of beautiful tombs located in Nabweru Sub-county, Wakiso District and significantly the burial site of Ssekabaka Muteesa I, the 29th king of Buganda Kingdom.

This place in Mityana District is characterised by many holes which traditional myth in Buganda say is the way through which Walumbe (translated to mean death) is believed to have disappeared to. Walumbe is believed to have been Kintu’s first brother, the first Muganda.

Kidepo National Park
It is located in Karamoja and is one of Uganda’s major parks. There are eye-rousing savannah tree stretches and landscapes that run afar and into the horizon. It is home to 500 plus bird species. This semi-desert park that is also home for over 80 mammal species. These include the black-backed jackal and side-striped jackals, bat-eared foxes, lions, giraffes, spotted hyenas, cheetahs and over 500 bird species. You can also go hiking on Lamoj Mountains just a few kilometres from the Park Headquarters.

Uganda Muslim Supreme Council Mosque/Gaddafi Mosque
Located in Old Kampala, this is the largest and most beautiful mosque in Uganda with a seating capacity of 15,000 people. This mosque was an idea fallen president Idi Amin had that came to pass 30 years later.

Ngamba Island
It is a chimpanzee sanctuary located on Ngamba Island, on Lake Victoria. It offers a close-up experience with the chimpanzees
Set off is at the Zoo in Entebbe from where you will be led to the pier down at the lake. By speed boat, it is an approximately 45-minutes cruise and about one and a half hours by motorised local boats.

Ntebbe Za Mugula
It is a feature in chair-like form, located off the banks of Lake Victoria. It is from this feature called Ntebbe Za Mugula, that Entebbe Municipality gets its name.

Fort Lugard
It is named after a British soldier during the colonial era. The fort, found in Old Kampala was between 1908 and 1910, and was the seat of British government for many years. The ramparts were destroyed during the Amin period in the 1970s.

Sir Samuel Baker Fort
It is located in Patiko Sub-county, in Gulu District and still has the British explorer’s name inscribed on them since 1872 when it was constructed.

Source of the Nile
It is a marvellous sight located in the East in Jinja at the point where the Nile emerges out of the Lake Victoria before embarking on its journey to the Mediterranean.

Lake Bunyonyi
This is Africa’s second deepest lake. Just as its name suggests (place of many little birds), there are a variety of bird specie.There are a number of islands on this lake, scenic views and lodging facilities. You will get a chance to learn about the communities in and around Bunyonyi in addition to nature tours and canoe treks on the lake.