the Sipi Falls (1)
Sipi Falls are a must-see when visiting Uganda. FILE PHOTO

At Sipi Falls there are three waterfalls, each falling from a different height, and they are separated by high hillsides in Kapchorwa district in eastern Uganda.

Sipi Falls are undoubtedly Uganda’s most magnificent waterfalls. They are also one of Uganda’s most popular tourist destinations.

Sipi Falls is made up of three waterfalls, each dropping from a different height, and are separated by high hillsides in eastern Uganda’s district of Kapchorwa. 

The falls are located beyond Mount Elgon National Park boundaries. Rivers that originate on Mount Elgon trickle through narrow cliffs before collapsing at the mountain’s base.

Sipi derives its name from the “Sep” plant that grows along the banks of the river Sipi. Sep is a green and red plant that bears an uncanny resemblance to wild bananas. The plant is useful in the treatment of fever and measles. 

According to legend, some British tourists encountered a local lady harvesting wild Sep plants by the River Sipi and asked her for the name of the lovely falls uphill. 

She said, “Sep,” assuming they were talking about the wild flora. The British travellers mistook Sipi for the name of the waterfalls. From that point on, the waterfalls were dubbed Sipi.

How to get to Uganda’s Sipi Falls

Sipi Falls is around a 4-5 hour drive from Kampala. The main roadway is the Kampala – Jinja highway, which provides possibilities to visit amazing locations such as the Mabira forest and the Nile river. 

After Jinja, the journey continues to Iganga town, where it splits to join the Tinyiri highway that leads to Mbale. 

Alternatively, one may proceed directly to Tororo town and subsequently to Mbale. The Tororo path is longer but more scenic and includes the opportunity to view baboons in the Busitema forest.

Once in Mbale, travellers can opt for private or public transportation in the form of taxis, buses, or even motorcycles (bodabodas). 

To prevent the inconveniences associated with travelling to an unfamiliar location without adequate advice, it is recommended that one use the services of a reputable tour operator. 

International travellers benefit from tour operators because they may simply show up at the airport and find everything taken care of.

Hiking Sipi Falls in Uganda

Hiking Sipi Falls in uganda (1)
Hikers will also have the opportunity to photograph Mount Elgon, Lake Kyoga, and the Karamoja plains. PHOTO/Uganda Tourism Center

Visiting Sipi Falls is a must-do on every Uganda visit. Touring the Sipi Falls is ideal for families, couples, and anybody looking for an adventurous and enjoyable day away from the stress of metropolitan life. 

From the lodges in the vicinity of Sipi, some of the falls are visible from afar. However, hiking to the falls is much different than observing or photographing them from afar. 

International guests will need to hire a local guide for around $5 to take them to the falls. A guide is necessary because the paths are not well signposted and may be confused with village routes. 

Local guides are familiar with the area, and enlisting their assistance will ensure that you do not become disoriented. Their assistance is especially valuable during the rainy season when the trails become more difficult to navigate due to the accumulation of muck. 

The guides can assist you with heavy luggage and navigating the hike’s most difficult stages. They are familiar with local land and can assist you in explaining the history of the falls and facts about the various types of plants along the path. 

There are numerous guides at the lodges and starting places, all claiming to be knowledgeable about the area. 

Take care to avoid being overcharged. To avoid imposters and forgers, request a receipt from your lodging or hire a reputable guide. 

Travellers who plan their vacation through a tour operator can anticipate having everything pre-arranged, including a guide.

It takes between 3 and 4 hours to visit all three waterfalls, depending on your general fitness level. The approximately 7-kilometre journey to the top of the falls entails steep ascents, ladder climbing, and passing past local farms. 

Mount Elgon receives a great deal of rain, and the trails can become slippery due to the mud. It is prudent to invest in strong, robust hiking boots with a secure grip on the ground. The guides usually offer walking sticks to tourists. 

There are various beginning sites, and the one you choose is entirely dependent on the waterfall you plan to hike. If you plan to view all three, it is best to begin at the top to conserve your energy for the main waterfall’s downward. 

Choosing to begin at the highest falls requires travelling from Budadiri up the Sasa trail to the summit and then down the Sipi trail to the waterfalls. 

However, the majority of individuals begin with the first and most significant waterfall, which is what we will discuss for the time being.

The first (main) Sipi falls is around 95m (the highest) in elevation and is where the majority of hikers complete their journey. The majority of lodging options are located within the rapid fall.

While the main drop is the most picturesque and attracts the majority of visitors, hiking to see the other two higher falls is more adventurous. The highest two provide excellent views of Karamoja’s plains, Mount Elgon, and the surrounding area.

The second or middle fall, dubbed Simba Falls, is approximately 74m tall. To reach the second cave, hike beyond the first waterfall and then up a steep track that leads to an ancient cave. 

The caves are home to bats, and humans are believed to have inhabited them for hundreds of years. 

Hikers can stand near the cave’s entrance and safely observe the water from behind. They will take in the magnificent breeze and tranquil ambience of the falls.

The third waterfall requires going up additional steep sections before reaching the highest falls, Ngasire. The hike between the second and third falls is more difficult, but the rewards are larger. 

Nsagire is the tallest waterfall at approximately 85 metres, and you will notice them from afar. The height, force of the flow, and the mist that blankets the area are incredible. 

The mist is so dense that it penetrates the majority of the neighbouring woodlands, turning them a peculiar shade of dark green. The light and mist combine to create beautiful gentle rainbows. 

Additionally, hikers will have the opportunity to photograph Mount Elgon, Lake Kyoga, and the Karamoja plains. Once you’ve taken enough shots, the descent back to the lodge’s starting point is very straightforward and less strenuous. 

If hikers have any remaining time, they can stop at a lodge midway for lunch or rest.

Other activities at Sipi Falls

The area surrounding Sipi Falls is a tranquil haven that cannot be fully appreciated in a single day. 

Apart from hiking to the three Sipi falls, visitors can choose from a variety of other activities in the area, including the following: – Visiting Sisiyi falls, Bugisu Arabica Coffee Tour, Climbing Mount Elgon, Abseiling and Rock Climbing, Bird Watching, Fly Fishing, Nature and Village walks, Mountain Biking and jogging, Visiting the Nyero Rock Paintings, Bull Fighting in Bududa, and cultural visits.

What is the optimal time of year to visit Sipi Falls? 

Uganda has a tropical climate with two distinct seasons: rainy and wet. Throughout the year, temperatures are rather consistent and warm. As a result, the Sipi Falls are accessible throughout the year. 

Visiting the waterfalls during the dry seasons of the year is popular with travellers and tourists seeking a taste of the region’s cool climate. 

The dry season is the greatest time to visit due to the lack of ice on the trail leading to the highest waterfall. However, during the wet season, the waterfalls are larger and more powerful. 

As a result, we encourage guests to visit even during the rainy season to enjoy the waterfalls at their full force.

Accommodation in the vicinity of the Sipi Falls

Crows Nest lodge sipi (1)
Crow’s Nest lodge is an affordable option among the hotels and resorts around Sipi falls. FILE PHOTO

There are numerous hotels and resorts in the vicinity of Sipi falls that provide pleasant lodging in a cool and tranquil environment.

The lodging options range from upscale to moderate to budget-friendly ones. The Crow’s Nest lodge is one of the more affordable options.

Among the mid-priced options are the Lacam lodge and Noah’s ark hotel. Other more upscale options are Sipi Falls Resort, Sipi River Lodge, and Noah’s Ark hotel.

We also recommend visiting Itanda Falls, the Ssezibwa FallsLake Mburo National ParkQueen Elizabeth National Park and Semuliki National Park on our Uganda tour guide for a complete experience.