Uganda map & highlights

Uganda’s small size is deceiving – not only does it contain a diverse range of landscapes, it also takes longer to travel between them than you might think, thanks to its bone-shakingly awful roads. But the scenery out the window easily makes up for this. Most of Uganda’s attractions are clustered along its western edge – in the Rift Valley – so there is a shifting backdrop of mountains and extinct volcanoes, dramatic craters, sparkling, hippo-filled lakes and dense ancient forest. Passing through towns and villages is a glimpse into daily life as Ugandans spend their days largely outdoors – carrying charcoal on their heads, babies on their backs, serving “rolex” (rolled eggs) hot off the grill, and simply hanging out.
Chimpanzee trekking

1. Chimpanzee trekking

Chimpanzees inhabit several of Uganda’s protected forests, including Kibale – which shelters a total of 13 primate species including some 1,500 chimps; Budongo, where they are best seen from Feb-Sep; and the stunning “underground” forest of Kyambura, set in a deep gorge in Queen Elizabeth National Park. You’ll spot other forest species and learn about the ecosystems on guided treks.
Gorilla trekking

2. Gorilla trekking

Uganda is home to over half of the earth’s 800 or so mountain gorillas, and most of these live in the mist-shrouded forests of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Tracking one of the 11 habituated families is Uganda’s most compelling activity, as a 2-6 hour trek up the steep slopes of the Rift Valley culminates in an eye-to-eye encounter with one of our closest relatives, lasting up to an hour.

3. Ishasha

Two things draw wildlife fans to the southern sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park: tree climbing lions and topis. Three prides of lions here are known to climb and snooze in trees – unusual behaviour observed in only one other location, in Tanzania. Fortunately this makes them easier to spot. And the unusual-looking topi antelopes, with their elongated heads, are found nowhere else in Uganda.

4. Jinja

Jinja is Uganda’s outdoor adventure center, famed for white water rafting on the thundering source of the Nile. You can also kayak, mountain bike and even bungee jump – or take a more leisurely horseback ride through the lush local scenery. Take a trek through nearby Mabira Forest with a birding guide, or explore pleasant Jinja town, with its Indian-influenced architecture and wonderful daily market.
Kibale Forest

5. Kibale Forest

70 mammal species, including 13 primates, inhabit this national park – that’s the highest concentration of primates in East Africa. A highlight is tracking habituated chimpanzees with a trained guide, looking out for mangabey, colobus and L’Hoest’s monkeys along the way. Don’t miss the nearby Bigodi Wetlands – a superb community-run conservation area criss-crossed by wooden walkways.
Lake Bunyonyi

6. Lake Bunyonyi

The “lake of many small birds” – in the local language – is a strikingly beautiful scene, surrounded by bright green, terraced hillsides and filled with the gentle humps of 20 islands. This is a superb spot to relax after a gorilla trek, and is the only safe lake for bathing in Uganda. Canoe, hike, take a birding tour, explore the islands – each with their own histories and legends – or visit local Bakiga and Batwa villages.
Lake Mburo

7. Lake Mburo

One of Uganda’s most diminutive national parks, Lake Mburo is conveniently close to Kampala and often acts as an appetiser at the start of a wildlife vacation. Lake Mburo’s lake, woodlands, wetlands and savannah provide ample habitat for over 350 bird species as well as zebra, hippo, buffalo and several antelope species. Discover them on forest walks, boat rides and day and evening game drives.
Lake Victoria

8. Lake Victoria

Africa’s largest lake is a haven for birdlife. The lakeshore, particularly around Entebbe, is lined with guesthouses and a monkey-filled botanical garden, while the islands act as beach resorts for landlocked Uganda. Ngamba Island (45 mins by boat) is a sanctuary for some 48 orphaned chimps; visitors can observe them interacting and learn about their behaviour in the education center.
Murchison Falls NP

9. Murchison Falls NP

Until a few years ago, Uganda’s parched northeast was out of bounds due to a brutal civil war. This meant its largest national park remained virtually untouched, with wildlife populations flourishing. Now firmly back on the tourist map, it offers sunset Nile cruises, fabulous lodges, epic game drives along its vast savannah – and its magnificent centerpiece: Murchison Falls, where the Nile hurtles though a 7m-wide gap.
Queen Elizabeth NP

10. Queen Elizabeth NP

Queen Elizabeth National Park, flanked by massive mountains and pocked with ancient craters, offers some of Uganda’s most compelling game viewing. Four of the Big Five can be seen here, along with thousands of hippos and over 600 species of birds. Cruise along the Kazinga Channel into Lake Edward for a serene safari experience, or head down to Ishasha to encounter tree climbing lions.
Rwenzori Mountains

11. Rwenzori Mountains

The “Mountains of the Moon” form an impenetrable, rocky chain along Uganda’s western edge, perpetually capped with snow, clouds and fog. Walks in the foothills reveal clear streams, lush vegetation and thriving villages; longer expeditions take you through otherworldy Afromontane forest, bamboo and giant heathers, with the option to summit Margherita Peak – Africa’s third highest, at 5,109m.
Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary

12. Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary

Track white rhino on foot in this fantastic sanctuary, whose successful breeding programme means it now shelters 15 or these enormous but non-aggressive creatures. They are incredibly endangered and these are the only rhinos in Uganda – the hope is to one day release them into the national parks. Standing just feet away from these rare giants in their natural habitat is a moving experience.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Uganda or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.

Uganda itineraries

Gorillas, chimps & game (8 days):
Entebbe > Bwindi Impenetrable National Park > 2 gorilla treks > Ishasha > Queen Elizabeth National Park > Chimps in Kyambura Gorge > Entebbe

Wildlife & activity vacation (15 days):
Kampala > Rafting in Jinja > Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary > Murchison Falls National Park > Chimp tracking in Kibale Forest > Queen Elizabeth National Park > Ishasha > Bwindi Impenetrable National Park > Gorilla tracking > Lake Bunyonyi > Lake Mburo National Park > Kampala

Gorilla express (6 days):
Entebbe > Ngamba Island Chimp Sanctuary > Fly to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park > 1-2 days tracking gorillas > Ishasha > Fly to Entebbe

Sample travel times

The following times give you a rough idea of the travel times between the main attractions in Uganda.

Entebbe – Kampala = 1-2hrs by road
Kampala – Murchison Falls National Park = 7hrs by road
Kibale Forest – Queen Elizabeth National Park = 3-4hrs by road
Queen Elizabeth National Park – Ishasha = 3hrs by road
Ishasha – Bwindi = 4-5hrs by road
Bwindi – Lake Bunyonyi = 4hrs by road
Lake Bunyonyi – Lake Mburo = 4hrs by road
Entebbe – Kihihi (for QENP or Bwindi) = 1hr 15 mins by plane
Written by Vicki Brown
Photo credits: [Page banner: GUDKOV ANDREY] [Chimp: Dror Feitelson] [Gorillas: Hjalmar Gislason] [Lioness: Justin Raycraft] [Jinja:] [Kibale Forest: Rod Waddington] [Lake Bunyonyi: Floschen] [Lake Mbuoro: neiljs] [Lake Victoria:] [Murchison Falls NP: Ruth Hartnup] [Queen Elizabeth NP: Laurent de Walick] [Rwenzori Mountains: Jorn Eriksson] [Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary: Dror Feitelson]