In Uganda, cultural tours are not as popular as mountain gorilla treks and game drives. This should not be the case, since Uganda has so much more to offer than just wildlife.
Unlike mountain gorilla trekking and game drives, cultural tours are less common in Uganda. However, this should not be the case, since Uganda offers so much more than wildlife.
The country is culturally diverse with numerous cultural sites and tribes throughout the country.
Visitors can gain an understanding of these indigenous groups’ cultures by visiting a family or attending their cultural performances during a cultural tour.
The largest single ethnic group in Uganda is the Baganda. They occupy the central part of the country which was formerly termed the Buganda province.
The cultural sites in Buganda include:
The Kasubi tombs are one of the Kingdom of Buganda’s greatest treasures and a major tourist attraction in Uganda. The tombs are located six kilometres from Kampala’s city centre.
The tombs are a UNESCO World Heritage site and attract thousands of visitors each year. It is easily accessible from Makerere University via the Rubaga and Mengo roads. The Kasubi Tombs are the primary burial grounds for Buganda’s Kings (Kabakas) and other royals.
The tombs contain the remains of four Buganda kings: Mutesa II, Mwanga II, Daudi Chwa, and Mutesa I.
A couple of years ago, a large portion of the tombs was destroyed by fire set by unknown individuals. This sparked a wave of Baganda loyalist protests and demonstrations. The perpetrators have never been apprehended, and numerous theories persist.
Renovations have been underway to restore it to its former glory, financed by the Ugandan and Japanese governments.
Lubiri or Mengo palace
The Lubiri or Mengo palace is one of the residences of the Kabaka (King) of Buganda. It features striking colonial architecture and occupies a four-square-mile area.
The palace was constructed in 1885 and is thus an excellent place to visit if one is interested in learning more about Baganda history.
The current Kabaka does not reside in this palace, which was attacked by government forces during his father Muteesa II’s reign.
On weekdays, visitors are welcome. Just across the street from the palace is Buganda’s main parliament, known locally as Bulange. You can attend one of the parliamentary sessions to observe how the Buganda elders discuss Kingdom-related issues.
This lake is located on the outskirts of Kampala, close to the palace in Mengo. In 1880, Kabaka Mwanga II ordered that Kabaka’s Lake be established to provide an escape route through Lake Victoria in the event of a civil war.
The lake is approximately five acres in size and is surrounded by calm waters that are home to numerous birds and other wildlife. Kabaka Mwanga used to swim and fish in the lake during his time.
However, the Kabaka’s dream of creating a channel to Lake Victoria was never realized, and the lake remains isolated. Visitors can swim, go sport fishing, or simply relax along the stunning shores.
Although there have been difficulties maintaining the lake’s water level and reducing pollution from nearby businesses, it remains a worthwhile destination.
Uganda Martyrs Shrine in Namugongo
The Uganda Martyrs Shrine in Namugongo is one of Africa’s most visited religious sites. Each year on June 3rd, millions of pilgrims flock to the shrine to commemorate the deaths of 25 Christians, both Anglican and Catholic, who refused to abandon their faith in the face of death.
In 1886, Kabaka Mwanga II of Buganda ordered the execution of a large number of Christians whom he believed had lost respect for him following their conversion to Christianity.
Foreign religions posed a threat to his rule and control over his people, he believed. Numerous Christians of various denominations were brutally murdered on the king’s orders in an attempt to establish his authority.
Uganda observes a public holiday on June 3rd, and both protestants and Catholics visit their respective martyrs’ shrines to pay their respects.
Bigo bya Mugenyi
This cultural site is located in the Ntusi area of the Mubende District. Bigo bya Mugenyi translates as “A Stranger’s Fort.”
The Bachwezi demi-gods are believed to have lived in the area hundreds of years ago. They left behind several artefacts and earthworks that are culturally significant to the area’s residents.
The earthworks are thought to have been constructed in the early thirteenth century. This site is extremely remote and accessing it requires a great deal of perseverance and patience. The roads leading to the site are unpaved and may be dusty or muddy depending on the season.
Bigo bya Mugenyi will attract more visitors in the future if the site’s current state of preservation is maintained.
Visitors are required to cleanse themselves with water from a nearby stream before entering the facility. Self-washing ensures that you do not offend the gods on the site.
Ssezibwa Falls are located in Mukono between the parishes of Kyagwe and Bugerere. For the Baganda people, particularly die-hard royalists, the waterfalls are a significant cultural and spiritual site.
All of Buganda’s kings have visited the Sezibwa Falls to blessings from their forefathers. Apart from the royals, hundreds of people flock to a shrine atop the falls to seek the gods’ blessings and favour.
The falls attract a large number of tourists who are taken aback by the breathtaking scenery that surrounds them.
One can go rock climbing, observe primates, birding, picnic, or camp in the beautiful gardens surrounding the falls.
The Nakayima Tree
The Nakayima Tree is located in the District of Mubende. It is estimated to be over 400 years old and is one of Uganda’s largest trees.
According to legend, the wife of a certain Nduhura named Nakayima planted the tree. People came to the tree to seek blessings and favour from their gods as they faced life’s difficulties.
People continue to visit the tree in search of blessings to this day. On their way to Kibale National Park, tourists can stop at this cultural site.
The primary activity is taking a community walk or ascending the hill to view the main shrine. Expect to meet a large number of people on the site seeking blessings for their children and household.
Additionally, individuals bring local beer and animals to offer as sacrifices to the tree. The site is maintained by witch-doctors who are constantly hypnotized, meditating, and communicating with spirits.
Katereke Prison Ditch
This ditch serves as a constant reminder of some of Buganda’s kings’ brutality. Kabaka Kalema overcame his siblings’ opposition and chose to do the unthinkable.
He abducted all of his brothers and sisters – a total of 30 – and imprisoned them in a ditch until they perished from starvation.
The Katereke Prison Ditch serves as a reminder of this trying time in the Buganda Kingdom, as well as of Kabaka Kalema’s savagery.
Despite its association with the paranoid king’s brutality, the site attracts a large number of international visitors.
Buddo (Naggalabi) Coronation Site
This site is located in Busiro Country on Buddo Hill, approximately sixteen kilometres from Kampala. Naggalabi is where the Buganda Kings are crowned following a series of preparations and rituals.
According to some, the Buganda kingdom was founded here in the early 14th century. While visiting this Coronation site, tourists can walk in the footsteps of Buganda’s current and former kings.
Additionally, visitors can visit some of the area’s other sacred sites.
Tombs of Kanyange and Nnamasole Baagalayaze
These tombs contain the remains of Kabaka Suuna II’s mother, who was buried at the Wamala tombs. Nnamasole Kanyange was her given name.
The tombs are located on a hill adjacent to the Wamala tombs on the highway connecting Kampala and Bombo.
The Nnamasole Tombs also contain the remains of other Kabakas’ mothers. As is the case with other royal tombs, traditionalists frequently perform ceremonies involving rituals. At the tombs, a sacred drum is said to summon the spirit of King Suuna II.
Apart from the Kasubi tombs, Buganda has additional tombs for its earlier kings. Kabaka Suuna 11’s remains are entombed in the Wamala tombs.
Kabaka Suuna is remembered as the first Kabaka to open Buganda’s borders to foreign traders. He was married to over 150 women, who bore him 218 children. The Wamala tombs are situated atop a hill in pleasant surroundings.
Ndere Troupe Cultural Centre
The Ndere Troupe Cultural Centre is located in Ntinda, a Kampala suburb. Ndere is derived from the Kiganda word “endere,” which means “flute.”
The Ndere Troupe Cultural Center is arguably the best location to experience Ugandan culture in its entirety. Here, visitors can enjoy traditional performances by tribes from all over Uganda.
Apart from learning about the tribes of Uganda’s culture, you can order traditional dishes from nearly every region of the country.
The Ndere Troupe Cultural Center receives a high volume of visitors. It is truly the place to be if you are touring Kampala or the rest of the country on a cultural tour. You won’t have to worry about accommodation, as they offer decent facilities at a reasonable price.
Last but not least, for an all-inclusive tour experience in Uganda, view our guide to St Paul’s Namirembe Cathedral, The Uganda Museum, Uganda Martyrs Shrine, The Bahai Temple, White water rafting, Bungee Jumping, Visit Mount Muhabura, Gorillas in Uganda, Ssese Islands, Cost of Gorilla Trekking, Murchison Falls National Park, Lake Mburo National Park and Semuliki National Park.