Uganda Glaciers, Volcanoes, Jungles, Savannahs, Semi-Deserts...
Every time a friend or family member asks me which country to visit in Africa, my first choice is always “come to Uganda”. The reason is simple: here you can experience probably the most diverse landscapes on this continent in a relatively short time, all within a very hospitable and friendly culture.
In short 2 weeks, one can visit tropical jungles with primates, hike volcanoes, trek snow capped peaks, enjoy superb savanna wildlife, explore many lakes and rivers (Nile!), as well as reach semi-arid pastoralist areas. Apart from the ocean, Uganda has it all – and it is easy to access. All attractions are accessible in less than one day of driving: this simply is almost impossible in such short time in almost any other country in Africa. Some of my favorite off the beaten path destinations are highlighted below.
Kidepo Valley is the best wildlife park in Uganda with relatively few visitors. Having worked in the landscape for several years, I always love to return here to this unique region. Apart from the best wildlife viewing experiences, it is great to explore the surrounding mountains on foot and colorful traditional pastoralist culture. Several hikes/treks are possible in the region. Walkign safaris are another fantastic activity – one can walk on open plains for hours approaching and seeing giraffes, buffaloes and other animals, while learning about other details of the ecosystem.
Activities: Wildlife Viewing, Hiking/Trekking, Camping, Birdwatching
Recommended Stay: 3-6 days
The best trekking experience of my life: long and green ascending valleys, moorlands and the feeling of having these mountains almost to yourself. ‘Mountains of the moon” could also be harder to scale then Kilimanjaro – due to terrain and lush vegetation (including long ‘bogs’). The visitation has grown in recent years (about 5,000 visitors in 2017) but still it is a sliver compared to Kilimanjaro – you will experience the mountains in quiet.
Activities: Hiking/Trekking, Camping, Birdwatching, Mountaineering, Climbing
Recommended Stay: 5-10 days
Virunga Mountains & Lake Bunyonyi
It is simply stunning how Virunga landscapes impress. The volcanoes rise up dramatically from the fertile valleys. This is one of the most productive regions in Africa agriculturally (e.g. coffee, tea) and also home to primate species (gorillas, chimpanzees) and picturesque lakes. A variety of activities is possible in this relatively small region.
Most visitors come here to see endangered Mountain Gorillas in either Bwindi or Mgahinga National Parks. Nearby Queen Elizabeth National Park offers wonderful savannah wildlife safari experience – the park's grasslands are enclosed by Rwenzori Mountains and Kigezi Highlands.
Activities: Hiking/Trekking, Camping, Birdwatching, Mountaineering, Climbing, Wildlife Viewing
Recommended Stay: 3-8 days
Murchison Falls National Park
Murchison Falls is the most majestic of all the savannah parks of Uganda. Despite its popularity, its size allows a visitor to experience a variety of activities in uncrowded setting. I like to start a day with a beautiful boat ride up the river to see Murchison Falls: one the world's most powerful waterfalls, while seeing lots of wildlife on the banks. One of the best ways to experience this wilderness is to camp near the Nile Delta amongst wildlife, while enjoying stunning view into Congo and West Nile in privacy. The park borders Budongo Tropical High Forest with highly rewarding chimpanzee trekking.
Activities: Wildlife Viewing, Camping, Birdwatching, Nature Walks, River Boating
Recommended Length of Stay: 2-5 days.
Karamoja is a stunning region in Eastern Uganda combining varied landscapes in mostly semi-arid landscapes. The mountains (Moroto, Napak, Mt. Qadam, Morungole) tower over vast plains inhabitated by local pastoralist people Karamojong. These mountains are also refuges of lush forest landscapes and fantastic for hiking and trekking. On the plains of Karamoja, we can explore variety of wildlife in Kidepo Valley, Pian Upe and Bokora Mathenika. The region's proximity to Kenya means some species in Uganda can be only found here (e.g. cheetahs, wild dogs, ostriches, roan antelopes). Culturally, Karamojong are very colorful and ethnically distinct people with strong traditional culture.
Activities: Hiking, Trekking, Wildlife Viewing, Birdwatching
Recommended Stay: 3-10 days
Mt. Elgon (4,321 meters asl) is a massive extinct volcano/caldera; which is possible to trek over 3-4 days. This is easier and more budget trip than Rwenzori Mountain trek in Western Uganda, yet still with similar high altitude ecosystems and vegetation. Although not as high, we were greeted with icy rain on the peak a few times. The area is also famous for quality coffee growing and waterfalls. This mountain is an excellent start of exploration of Eastern Uganda, namely nearby Karamoja.
Activities: Hiking/Trekking, Camping, Birdwatching, Mountaineering, Climbing.
Recommended Length of Stay: 3-6 days
Sights of the Road
Uganda is a very colorful and fun country. Just driving around one can see something interesting almost every few minutes: roadside markets and vendors, smiling people, boda bodas carrying everything on motorbikes from live pigs to loads of pineapples or home furniture. Driving in Uganda is indeed fun though we still wish for better roads in many places!
Questions? Let's Talk about your Adventure Trip
I am Juraj, your Adventure Travel expert for East and Southern Africa. I have worked and lived in Uganda and Zambia for the past 15 years and traveled by road to many corners of this vast and beautiful region. My work in conservation has enabled me to explore unique places, walking across vast savannas teeming with wildlife and trekking mountains. My specialty is always to seek new and less-visited attractive destinations for active adventure travelers to enjoy diverse activities in nature and experience rich local cultures. My passion is to show you this corner of Africa the way most people do not see.