Eastern Uganda remains underdeveloped in terms of tourism. It has very few good quality hotels and only two, perhaps, in Mbale that could be considered of international standard.
As many tourists head west after arriving at Entebbe International Airport, this has left the east of Uganda little visited and largely overlooked by foreigners. This is a pity, but there are signs now that this situation is changing, with an upmarket lodge in Mount Elgon National Park and other indications that investment in being channelled into the region.
In fact, Eastern Province’s principal attraction is Mount Elgon, straddling the Uganda-Kenya border, the oldest and largest solitary volcano in East Africa. The extinct volcano covers an area of about 3,500 sq km and is 4,321 metres high at its highest point. A feature of Mount Elgon is its series of spectacular waterfalls, of which the three Sipi Falls are the most notable.
Mount Elgon is an enjoyable climb and is surrounded by national parks on both sides of the border. Mountain biking is popular, but there are no places to hire equipment, so enthusiasts must bring their own bikes. There are tracks to follow and it can be a tough climb on the uphill sections. Day hiking, abseiling, archery and fly-fishing (for trout) are also on the menu.
Close to Mount Elgon is Mount Wanale, a little-known sister volcano rising to 2,320 metres. It’s a three-hour walk to the summit. In mid 2012 Mount Wanale became the base for a new paragliding operation that is bringing tourism to the area for the first time.
Up in the extreme north but still in Eastern Uganda is the hidden gem of Kidepo Valley National Park. Difficult to reach but this is probably Uganda’s best wildlife park.