Aptly named the “Pearl of Africa”, Uganda is a landlocked marvel of nature that’s often left off most traveler’s itineraries.

Why?

I couldn’t tell ya’… because this nation where gorillas thrive in lush rainforests, bloats of hippos (my absolute favorite animal) laze about in rivers and lakes, and other Big Game can be easily spotted all over – is a truly not one to miss.

Uganda was easily my favorite country in all of Africa. Aside from all the epic wildlife sightings that probably put it on your radar in the first place, Uganda’s got some seriously amazing local communities that you won’t find anywhere else, waterfalls, massive lakes, and just a sense of real adventure.

But let’s be real – when you get off the beaten path it’s a little tricky to plan your itinerary. I felt hella’ overwhelmed before my East African trip, and my aim now is to keep you from experiencing the same!

So – here are the very BEST things to do in Uganda. Let’s roll.

a huge black mountain gorilla looking right at the camera surrounded by lime green grass in uganda
Get ready for some Facetime with these guys.

The Broke Backpacker is supported by you. Clicking through our links may earn us a small affiliate commission, and that's what allows us to keep producing free content 🙂 Learn more.

13 BEST Things to Do in Uganda

Compared to its neighbors, Uganda is still off the beaten path which means you get to experience all these INSANE activities without the crowds. Go canoeing, trek with gorillas, and immerse yourself in the eclectic capital city.

Now let me drop some more details 😉

1. Go Mountain Gorilla Trekking

Starting off with one of the most popular activities in Uganda: gorilla trekking!

This is one of the only places on the planet where you can actually do this, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s the reason you’re reading this in the first place. The Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is home to some of the world’s last mountain gorillas – there are just under 900 of them left, which is certainly a sobering reminder. You’ll trek for just about an hour through a thick, forested jungle (that I promise is truly unique) to reach the spot where you can observe these majestic giants in sheer wonder.

a huge black mountain gorilla hiding behind huge green leaves in a rainforest in uganda
Up close and personal.
Photo: Inertia Network

It may be short, but the end result makes this one of the best hikes in the world if you ask me.

This was no doubt one of my favorite animal encounters EVER (only beat out by getting to see an entire lake filled with hippopotamuses) but there are some clerical deets you need to be aware of before planning your trip.

Since gorilla trekking (sometimes referred to as gorilla tracking) is only really available in two other places aside from Uganda – Rwanda (super expensive) and DRC (dangerous) – the demand for the required permits is HIGH, and a bit pricey for all my budget backpackers out there. I recommend joining a tour (Inertia Network is my favorite) or at the very least, getting those documents settled at LEAST 6 months in advance.

2. Meet the Batwa people

The Batwa tribe have been hunter-gatherers for centuries, and throughout all that time, lived nomadically in what is now the Bwindi and Mgahinga National Parks. Sadly, they were just about evicted from their ancestral homes in 1991 when the forests became protected areas.

Commonly known as Uganda’s “pygmies,” the Batwa now sustain themselves by farming on the outskirts of the forests and providing immersive experiences for tourists.

3. See Chimpanzees up Close

The mountain gorillas may be famous, but Uganda doesn’t stop there with epic, ethical animal encounters. You can also get face-to-face with chimpanzees, who are our closest living relatives after all.

a close up shot of a black chimpanzee photographed while laying on its side
Our closest living relatives.

Aside from being just as epic to witness, another HUGE plus of going chimp trekking is that it’s extremely budget-friendly in comparison to seeing their gorilla cousins. There are also a few different places where you can do it: Queen Elizabeth National Park, Kibale Forest (which I recommend), and Buduongo Forest.

4. Canoe Around Lake Bunyonyi

Okay, this certainly isn’t the most popular thing to do in Uganda, but it was hands down one of my personal faves. This massive lake is right next to Bwindi National Park so you just about can’t miss it. Filled with lush, forested mini isles, this is one of the most unique lakes I’ve ever seen.

green hills and orange sunset over lake bunyonyi in uganda
Fingers crossed you’ll catch a sunset like this!
Photo: Rod Waddington (Flickr)

The name Bunyonyi even means “little birds” which are something you’ll see flitting all around. Obviously, that makes this just about the best place to visit in Uganda if you’re keen on birdwatching! You can hike around the perimeter, or actually get in the water with a canoe or boat trip.

5. Go on a Safari in Queen Elizabeth National Park

In the far West of Uganda lies one of its most famous tourist attractions: Queen Elizabeth National Park. This 2000 sq km monstrosity is home to all the wildlife of your dreams. Yes, I’m talking about lions, elephants, leopards, and even my lifelong fave: the hippopotamus!

lioness lying on the grass in a national park in uganda

Taking a cruise down the Kazinga Channel is a top tip to ensure more sightings. Plenty of tour companies can help arrange your expedition – which can include safari tent camping if you’re up for it.

6. Explore the Crater Lakes

I love a good lake and the crater kind you’ll find in Uganda are simply fantastic. There are lodges all throughout the area, which is perfect because these guys need more than just one day if you ask me. Situated in the Fort Portal area, I recommend grabbing a bicycle to get around. It’s really the best way to really get to know the landscape.

You can also find some pretty epic crater lakes in Queen Elizabeth National Park, though I do think Fort Portal is super worth it since you can see up to five different ones there. For those that also appreciate a high-quality hippo sighting, Lake Nyabikere is where they’re at.

7. Get to Know Kampala

When considering what to do in Uganda, most people don’t have its capital on their shortlist… and even as someone who really isn’t into cities, that’s a mistake. Kampala is one of the largest in all of Africa and surprisingly has quite a nightlife scene.

skyline in the late afternoom of houses and multistory buildings in kampala uganda
There’s a whole lot more to Kampala than meets the eye.
Photo: Omoo (WikiCommons)

A SHARP contrast from the peaceful natural areas that make up most of this list, it’s vibrant, topographically unique (literally built on hills!), and definitely an off-the-beaten-path destination if I’ve ever seen one. While there is an expat scene, don’t be surprised if you don’t see any other tourists.

You can also get a taste of Ugandan cuisine – there’s plenty of street food options and local eateries that really blew my mind. I don’t know what I expected from the food here but wow was it GOOD.

8. Visit Murchison Falls National Park

Uganda’s largest national park has something that my fellow waterfall chasers will love – the most powerful waterfall on the planet. Murchison Falls is one that can be seen from both above and from the river itself if you opt for a well-worth-the-money Victoria Nile cruise.

the murchison falls pouring into the nile river in uganda

Aside from its unusual aquatic features, Murchistan NP is a fab place to see 4/5 members of the Big 5 – elephants, buffalos lions, and leopards all the park home. There are a ton of lodges to stay in throughout, which is ideal because I think you’re really missing out if you only make it into a day trip!

9. Stop at the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary

Somewhere in between Kampala and Murchison Falls, Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary is the ONLY place in Uganda where you can see white rhinos in their natural habitats. These majestic creatures have previously gone extinct in the country, so getting to observe them up close was another one of my absolute favorite things I did on my Uganda trip.

two rhinos at the ziwa sanctuary in uganda laying in the shade
Chilling super hard.
Photo: Venture Uganda Travel (Flickr)

If you stay in the park you may even get to see one rolling around in the grass right in front of you, or perhaps you’ll even get to watch a whole crash (the rhino word for group) of them walk by. The sanctuary has 22 animals which is a massive increase from the original six!

Though I definitely recommend staying in the park, you can make it work as a day trip from Kampala or a stopover on the way to another Ugandan destination.

10. Summit Mount Elgon and Hike Sipi Falls

I bet you didn’t know you could climb a mountain Uganda, but you can and it’s BEYOND epic. This 14,176 ft peak sits on the border with Kenya but actually falls on the Ugandan side.

a lush green view seen while hiking a mountain in uganda
Photo: Kristina Just (Flickr)

The trek itself takes about 4 days (maybe a bit less depending on your experience) and should set you back a couple of hundred dollars.

I know summiting a high peak is pretty epic in and of itself, but this area has something else you’ll love after that hike: being able to swim in not one but three cascades of Sipi Falls.

11. Get Off The Beaten Path at Kidepo Valley National Park

If you’re like me and love offbeat adventures, then boy do I have a national park just for you. Kidepo sits just along the border with Sudan. You’ll get to see the Rothchild’s giraffes, but that’s not all! Aside from 450 species of birds and a whole host of epic safari options, you’ll learn a little about the people who call this region home too.

an elephant running through a national park in uganda

The nomadic Karamojong herdsmen roam the plains with their livestock, and the indigenous Ik people are sadly an endangered indigenous tribe. I highly, highly encourage you to visit at least one of them. Park rangers can act as guides to provide truly authentic experiences. We love to see it!

12. Get Your ‘At the Equator’ Pic

a sign that says uganda equator welcomes you to the 0 lattitude in the pearl of africa hanging from a low roof
This is one of those “must-do” things to do in Uganda.
Photo: Pia Andrews (Flickr)

Though it may just be a few signposts and kinda-touristy restaurants, getting a photo at the equator (which runs through Uganda) is definitely worth the day trip. There’s even some utterly bizarre magic to be seen: spots where water swirls north in one direction and south in the other!

13. Go Whitewater Rafting in Jinja

Jinja may as well be Uganda’s adventure travel capital as it’s where you can get thrown around by the rapids of Africa’s longest river. Now – these can get pretty crazy, but luckily you’ll find plenty of quality rafting companies to execute your experience. 

tourists going river rafting in jinja one of the best things to do in uganda
Photo: Travel Local (Flickr)

If that doesn’t quite sound like your vibe, rest assured that there are many more activities to choose from. Bungy jumping, kayaking, paddle boarding, and mountain biking are just some of what’s on the menu. 

These days, Jinja is super popular and it barely took an hour for me to see why. Don’t skip it!

Getting Insured BEFORE Visiting Uganda

Uganda is not the country to visit without good travel insurance. Protect your peace of mind, you won’t regret it.

ALWAYS sort out your backpacker insurance before your trip. There’s plenty to choose from in that department, but a good place to start is Safety Wing.

They offer month-to-month payments, no lock-in contracts, and require absolutely no itineraries: that’s the exact kind of insurance long-term travellers and digital nomads need.

SafetyWing is cheap, easy, and admin-free: just sign up lickety-split so you can get back to it!

Click the button below to learn more about SafetyWing’s setup or read our insider review for the full tasty scoop.

FAQs About What to Do in Uganda

A few last bits and pieces answering the most commonly asked questions about Uganda…

Final Thoughts on Things to Do in Uganda

I hope you enjoyed this epic list of Uganda’s top tourist attractions. This is a truly special country, and I have absolutely no doubt you’re in for a bloody REAL adventure.

From trekking with mountain gorillas to exploring crater lakes and spotting all of your dream wildlife on safaris, your trip is about to be packed with adventure spots, surreal animal encounters and all-around off-the-beaten-path experiences that most people have never even heard of.

Safe travels and here’s to hoping your Uganda trip is as magical as mine was!

five hippos with their heads visible above the river in uganda
Uganda, home of unmatched wildlife sightings 🙂
Looking for more info on traveling to Africa?

Made it this far?
You get 15% OFF to book a place to stay!
Offer valid exclusively for Broke Backpackers 😉