Our recommendation to visit Uganda
Holidays to Uganda
Exoticca Travel Stories
Creating unforgettable memories, one traveller at a time
All in all a wonderful holiday.
We were very impressed with all aspects. The accommodation in all the venues was very good and we were very well looked after. The excursions were varied and interesting.
Uganda Travel advice
Events and festivals in Uganda
Cultural diversity set the tone for the popular festivals of Uganda, a country with a fusion of forty different ethnic groups and which has a mix of cultures and traditions. Its festivals are not only related to its ethnic groups, but also to the Christian religion, to which almost eighty percent of the population belongs.
In order to talk about festivals in Uganda, you need to keep in mind that music is the key element of most events celebrated in this country. Take note of the list of events below if you want to find out about the most popular and emblematic festivals.
Festival of the Ugandan Martyrs
Every 3 June there is a festival to celebrate what is considered to be one of the largest religious gatherings in the world. Almost a million people attend, and the festival is a national event of such importance that it is covered by national television.
The Nile Festival
This celebration lasts a week and is one of the popular Ugandan festivals with the highest attendance. It takes place in early August in Jinja, and it centres on the rich and diverse cultures of the people that live on the shores of the River Nile.
Art and the cultural tradition of Uganda, as well as the cultures from the rest of Africa, mix to offer a great cultural programme which is full of music, dance, theatre, folklore, storytelling and gastronomy, as well as live shows. It also has a parade along the streets, children’s activities and dance workshops. It is, without doubt, a great opportunity to discover the tribes of the whole of Uganda from close up.
International Film Festival of Kampala Amakula
Also known as the Amakula Kampala Cinema Caravan, this festival travels throughout the whole country over a period of four months, from the beginning of September to the end of November. It screens old and new films with themes based around independence.
The festival also offers workshops in cinematography and the creation of soundtracks for silent films. If you like cinema, this is one of the most recommended events for discovering this art during your visit to the country.
International Film, Music and Arts Festival of Bayimba
Of all the popular festival of Uganda, this three day festival, which takes place in the National Theatre of Uganda, attracts thousands of visitors. The festival centres on the art and culture of Uganda and is a must-see for all visitors who want to learn more about the music and art scene of the country.
This has become the country’s number one festival, and the one in which Kampala truly comes to life. The festival gathers together music, cinema, dance, theatre and visual arts under one roof and not only does it present local artists, but also those from other East African countries.
B-Global Indigenous Hip Hop Festival
Also in September, a four-day festival takes place which was created to celebrate hip hop in Uganda. Its vision is to educate the youth through hip hop culture and to teach the Ugandan youth the importance of reconnecting with their roots.
The festival brings together young people with some of the most important leaders of Ugandan hip hop to promote peace, love and fun. Needless to say, that if you like music, this is one of the popular Ugandan festivals that you should not miss.
The Nile Gold Jazz Safari
This one day event takes place every October in Kampala and musicians from all over the world take part. Each year there is a new list of interpreters. But one thing that is consistent each year is the music is fantastic.
The saxophones, bass, drums, keyboards and pianos play for a growing audience of lovers of Ugandan jazz, and of course, for the visitors who are always welcome.
This is Uganda
This annual festival aims to showcase the diversity of cultures in Uganda through art, music, poetry and dance, with an emphasis on women artists. Every December, thousands of people gather at the Kyandondo Rugby Club in Kampala to see some of the phenomenal live acts.
The festival also has a lounge where festival goers can socialise and where there are stalls promoting women’s rights, education and AIDS awareness. If you are planning to go to one of the most popular, social and modern festivals in Uganda, then you need to discover this festival.
Lastly, Christmas, St Stephen’s Day, Good Friday and Easter Monday are also celebrated by Ugandan Catholics. With all these festivals, you can now plan your travel by taking note some of these events.GO TO EVENTS
Food in Uganda
Food specialities in Uganda originate from a mixture of flavours which, in turn, originate from the Arabic, Asian and English cultures. As the country is predominantly agricultural, the ingredients for its dishes are of good quality, which makes their traditional dishes very tasty and healthy.
Most of the population grows its own food, apart from those who live in towns. However, by tradition, the creation of traditional Ugandan dishes mainly falls to the women. Ingredients are varied and you will find fish, different types of meat, yucca, soya, vegetables and other produce such as fruits and nuts.
Below, we outline the more traditional and typical dishes to eat when in Uganda. This may not be as easy as you think, keeping in mind that you can find anything from the Hindu samosas right up to white ants.
Without a shadow of a doubt, this is the most famous traditional dish to eat in Uganda. It consists of a stew of chicken and green bananas, seasoned with different spices. To make this dish, a puree is made with the bananas and this is mixed with the chicken and with different vegetables. To prepare it, green pepper, onions, garlic, coriander, curry, ginger, chillies and milk are used. The resulting dish has a delicious flavour and you will be able to try it anywhere in the country.
Another traditional gastronomic dish from Uganda is Luwombo, also known as Oluwombo. Initially, this dish was only prepared for royalty, but today it is part of traditional Ugandan cooking. Chicken, goat or beef meat is used to prepare it. This is slowly cooked in banana leaves over a low heat. The special touch is added by the peanut sauce, which enhances the flavours of the meat chosen for this delicious dish even more.
Ugali is traditional in all the regions of East Africa and is one of the most basic traditional dishes to eat in Uganda. Maize flour is used to prepare it. This is made into a kind of paste or ball which is used to accompany fish or vegetables. It can be served both hot or cold, and if you let it harden, you can serve it cut into pieces.
Without a doubt this is the most unusual dish, as it consists of fried grasshoppers to which salt is added. This is something you can eat in Uganda, if you dare to try something that is truly different. You can find them on street food stalls, as they have become very popular. To prepare them, the legs, antennae and wings are removed before frying. This dish is not suitable for supporters of animal rights, but it is part of the tradition and culture of this country.
We continue with the mini beasts theme and, on this occasion, fried white ants are another dish to try in Uganda, both in street food stalls and in some restaurants. White ants are a real candy treat for the little ones, and an exquisite treat for the more discerning palates.
Mkate Na Mayai
This recipe has Arabic origins and quite literally translates as something like bread and eggs. The dish consists of a dough parcel which is filled with fried minced meat and raw egg. Although a small minority of the population is Muslim, Arabic cuisine is present in many areas of the country. Another example of this is samosas, chapatti and curry made from different types of meat and vegetables.
As an aperitif or between meals, Ugandans tend to eat roasted peanuts, which is a very healthy and delicious custom. They are sold in paper cones and you will find them in pop-up stalls. The custom of eating peanuts is very rooted in Ugandan cuisine.
Traditional Ugandan drinks
Ugandans consume both traditional and international beers, which are one of the most popular drinks in the country. Local beer, known as pombe, is made of fermented millet and banana. Continuing with alcoholic drinks, Waragi is a banana gin which is very popular with tourists and is used as a base for a traditional Ugandan cocktail.
Other drinks that are commonly consumed in Uganda are tea and coffee. As far as tea is concerned, chai style tea is the most popular, for example chai masala, which is clearly of Indian origin. On the other hand, coffee is a more serious matter, as Uganda is the largest producer of all Africa. The Robusta and Arabica varieties are grown by small producers and cooperatives who sell their produce to the export companies.
Now that you know the most representative flavours of Uganda, don’t think about it any longer and try the country’s traditional dishes during your trip.GO TO GASTRONOMY
Shopping in Uganda
Diversity is what marks out this African country, which means there is a lot to buy in Uganda which is very varied. Its typical products and souvenirs are a real attraction for travellers, so you'll have to make room in your luggage when you visit this country.
Most of the typical products which you buy in Uganda come from crafts, be it ceramics, textiles, wood carvings, jewellery, or even works of art by local painters; everything has a special and unique touch.
Let's see below the most successful souvenirs of Uganda among visitors and which ones are the most traditional.
Ugandan people love gold and silver, so it is not surprising that jewellery is widespread in the country. Jewellers craft all kinds of pieces, such as necklaces, bracelets, rings, anklets and pendant amulets, with exquisite designs. Gold and silver are combined with colours which represent the Ugandan flag in many of their creations.
As in any African country, carving wooden figures representing humans and animals is also one of the things to buy in Uganda as a souvenir. However, you can also find bowls, traditional games, representations of deities, and many more utensils. The price of the product will depend on the wood used for its preparation.
The patterns used in the design of traditional Ugandan clothes are very varied; if we add to that the variety of colours, you will have an immense variety to choose from. You will find trousers, skirts, tops, blouses and complete sets of traditional clothing which are very comfortable and beautiful. Depending on the tribe, the style will be one or the other, but the result will be a unique and very practical and original souvenir.
The artisans of leather manufacture different types of shoes in a completely handmade way, from sandals, to shoes and boots, both for men and women. The quality of the handmade shoes is very high, so it could be a perfect gift when you return from your trip.
Typical safari hats
Hats are another souvenir to buy in Uganda, especially if you have visited the country to go Safari. You will find them in different materials, such as banana fibre, straw, cloth or leather. There are hundreds of models, so you will surely find the one which best suits what you are looking for.
Basket weaving is also part of Ugandan crafts, with different fibres, baskets, bowls, bags, and all kinds of accessories and utensils being made. The most commonly used materials are straw, banana fibre and raffia. The weavers sell their products in the craft markets, where you can see them work each piece and buy the one you like the most.
If you're looking for something practical to buy in Uganda, undoubtedly handmade bags will be your main choice. On the markets you can find all kinds of bags: handbags, travel bags, computer bags, backpacks, etc., in all shapes and sizes. Their quality and price are excellent, so surely you'll take advantage of your visit to the country to take one of their handmade bags.
Decorative objects for the home
If you don't know what to buy in Uganda, it's best to go to a home supply store. In these local businesses, you can find all kinds of decorative objects and practical items such as carpets, curtains, pots, lamps, and a host of items which will become the ideal gift you're looking for.
Works of art
For art lovers, what better to take home as a souvenir than a work of art by a local artist. Ugandan artists have a particular style, which is sure to interest you. Not for nothing is Uganda the cultural and artistic centre of eastern Africa. Painting, whose motifs are often landscapes or traditional life, are a clear example of this.
What better souvenir from Uganda than buying one of its traditional musical instruments, such as the drum, the Ugandan flute, a cow horn, or a traditional violin. Music is a very important part of the country's culture, and its instruments are the very essence of Ugandan rhythm and tradition.
Finally, you can also take home spices and snacks which are typical of Uganda. With them you can make a perfect gift for foodies, or keep them to recreate one of the typical dishes of Uganda in your home.
After this tour of the main typical products of Uganda, you can already make room in your luggage, because surely you'll want to take more than one thing.GO TO SHOPPING
Uganda tourist attractions
More information about Uganda
For its modest size, Uganda packs a punch as a travel destination. Most choose a trip to Uganda to come face-to-face with its most mysterious and famous inhabitants: the mountain gorillas of Bwindi, but as the home of the much-contested source of the Nile and the tallest mountain range in Africa, the Rwenzoirs, there’s much to be discovered in Uganda. It’s also a top destination for tracking chimpanzees as well as a good choice for an African safari to see the Big Five. Winston Churchill called it the ‘Pearl of Africa’ and it’s easy to see why.
Stunning landscapes, wandering wildlife and welcoming locals make Uganda a destination not to be overlooked. As tourism is less well-established here you’ll be able to experience a slice of ‘true Africa’ on a trip to Uganda. Aside from the urban sprawl of the capital, Kampala, on the banks of Lake Victoria, Uganda is largely undeveloped. On a tour of Uganda, you’ll pass by picture-perfect terraced hillsides and dense forests as you explore the wild side of Africa. Situated between Kenya, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Tanzania, don’t miss out on visiting Uganda when you travel to East Africa.
History of Uganda
Understanding the history of Uganda is the best way to get to know the heart of the country and how it came to be the fascinating travel destination it is today. Hunter-gatherer communities and tribal groups were the original inhabitants of Uganda. In the 14th-15th centuries, the Empire of Kitara emerged as the first organised state in present-day Uganda, followed by the kingdoms of Buryoro-Kikara, Buganda, Toro, Akole and Busoga. In the 19th-century British explorers arrived in the kingdoms, on their search for the source of the Nile, marking the beginning of the Imperial British East African Company and eventually the Uganda Protectorate.
Uganda gained independence from Britain in 1962, leading to the abolition of the countries traditional kingdoms as it became a republic. In 1971, a military coup led by Idi Amin spelt the beginning of eight dark years in Uganda’s history. More than 100,000 Ugandans were murdered under the regime, in particular, those who had supported the former president. Furthermore, the large Asian population, many of which were entrepreneurs and business owners, were forcibly expelled during this era.
Such a huge loss of the population caused a decline in infrastructure and put a strain on the economy. In 1978 Amin’s forces invaded neighbouring Tanzania, sparking the Uganda-Tanzania War, which Uganda eventually lost when Kampala was captured the following year. Amin then fled the country. In 1986 political stability was restored under Yoweri Museveni, who remains the president to this day.
Nature in Uganda
Lying in the East African Plateau, Uganda is known for its fantastic natural attractions, such as Lake Victoria, one of the world’s largest lakes and an integral part of daily life for southern Ugandans. Above all else, a trip to Uganda is all about embracing the amazing natural environment and all the amazing sights and sounds that come with it. Murchinson Falls is one of the country’s top natural attractions. This national park is famous for its waterfall, where the Victoria Nile plunges over a massive drop in a spectacular display of the power of nature. River kayaking is a popular activity in the park, as well as day trips on the Nile river itself. Murchinson Falls is also home to a variety of wildlife, such as elephants, hippos and even lions. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is, without a doubt, Uganda’s most desirable destinations.
It’s one of the best places in the world to see mountain gorillas in the wild. A number of gorilla ‘troops’ can be traced within these mist-shrouded mountains and tracking excursions are well worth the expense as expert guides help to guide travellers into the heart of the forest to watch the gorillas in their natural habitat. Queen Elizabeth National Park is a great choice for those looking for an authentic safari experience. Named after Queen Elizabeth, following her visit to Uganda in 1952, the park is similar to other game parks in East Africa but with a greater concentration of animals, ranging from lions to leopards, chimpanzees, hippos and the iconic Ugandan kob.
If you’re keen to see more of the country’s primate population on a tour of Uganda, you cannot miss out on a visit to Kibale National Park. This reserve is famous for its chimpanzee tracking excursions and is home to the highest concentration of primates in the world. It also plays host to a rich and diverse population of birdlife, making it a paradise for avid ‘twitchers’. Finally, if you’re the kind of adventurer that’s pulled to the mystery of the mountains, head to Rwenzori National Park which encompasses the Rwenzori mountain range and acts as a natural border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The highest peak is Mount Stanley, which stands at a staggering 5,109 metres tall.
Culture in Uganda
Due to the diverse range of ethnic groups living within Uganda, the national culture is complex and multi-faceted. In the north of the country, you can find groups such as the Lango, Acholi and Karamojong people, the latter of which is known for their livestock herding traditions. Elsewhere in Uganda, Bantu-speaking groups make up a large percentage of the population. The official languages are Swahili and English, although many different Bantu languages are spoken widely throughout the nation. Christianity is the largest religion and is also a considerable Muslim population, which can be traced back to connections made through East African trade routes during the 19th-century.
If you travel to Uganda you’ll encounter many opportunities to get to know the diverse local cultures. From witnessing the intricate ceremonial dances of Bwindi’s Batwa people, or getting to know the farming practices of local tribes, to discovering the ancient rock paintings of Nyero Rock and meeting urban Ugandans in a busy Kampala bar. There are many special cultural sites worth visiting on a tour of Uganda.
Visiting the ancient Buganda Tombs of Kasubi, the Basilica of the Uganda Martyrs or the sacred Sezibwa Falls can all reveal complex and fascinating elements of Ugandan culture. Coffee is another important part of Ugandan culture, and they make a stunningly good cup as well as growing the beans. On a trip to Uganda, it is worthwhile remembering that the country is relatively conservative and therefore visitors and locals alike are expected to dress modestly.
This beautiful country, known for its mountain gorillas, forests and the great Lake Victoria, is a haven for wildlife lovers and a paradise for any traveller who wants to experience unfiltered Africa. Authentic people, lively cities and untouched natural beauty, means a trip to Uganda needs to be top of your travel list.
Passport with a minimum of six months validity.
A visa is required to enter the country. This must be requested online before travel via the following link: https://visas.immigration.go.ug/
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