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Rwenzori Mountains National Park

Rwenzori Mountains National Park is a Ugandan national park and UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the Rwenzori Mountains.

Almost 1,000 km² in size, the park has Africa’s third highest mountain peak and many waterfalls, lakes, and glaciers. The park is known for its beautiful plant life.

The Rwenzoris are a world-class hiking and mountaineering destination. A nine- to twelve-day trek will get skilled climbers to the summit of Margherita – the highest peak – though shorter, non-technical treks are possible to scale the surrounding peaks.

For those who prefer something a little less strenuous, neighboring Bakonzo villages offer nature walks, homestead visits home cultural performances and accommodation, including home-cooked local cuisine.

The Rwenzori is not volcanic like East Africa’s other major mountains but is a block of rock up faulted through the floor of the western Rift valley.

The hike will take you through varied vegetation covers which include montane forest, bamboo forest, tree heath, hagenia-rapanea scrub and afro-alpine moorland.

You can reach the park from Kampala via Fort portal or via Mbarara. You can also take scheduled or chartered flight from Entebbe to Kasese Airfield.

The Rwenzoris have also got a very short dry season which is between June and August and the other is between December and February. These are also the best times to visit this national park.

What to do in Rwenzori

Climbing the Rwenzori Mountains

There are two hiking trails that are used by hikers to get to the summit. The first one is the Central Circuit Trail that starts form Mihunga taking 7 days. The Rwenzori Mountaineering Services is the only one that organizes hiking in this route.

The second trail is the Kilembe trail that starts from Kilembe near Kasese town. This is a new route that was recently opened and is run by the Rwenzori trekking services. It takes 5 days to reach one of the peaks.

In order to explore all the three highest peaks, one should set aside at least 9 days. Climbing to the highest summit Margherita offers opportunities to marvel at the snow-capped peaks and alpine vegetation.

Forest and Foothill Hiking: Inexperienced mountain climbers have an option of hiking on the mountain slopes and forest or taking part in activities like hand fishing along some of the streams on the mountain hills.

While in the forest, look out for the three horned Rwenzori chameleon. This rare reptile is only found in Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo. The male chameleon has 3 horns while the female has none.

Bird watching: UNESCO labeled the Rwenzori area a key Birding Area. The park and its mountains support several species including the African Long-eared Owl, Archers’ Robin-chat, Barbets, Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo, Blue-headed Sunbird, Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater, Collared Apalises, Crimson wings, Dusky and Shelley’s Crimsonwings, Dwarf Honeyguide, Evergreen Forest and Bamboo Warblers, Flycatchers, Golden-winged sunbirds, Scarlet-tufted Malachite Sunbirds, Golden-winged Sunbird, Grauer’s Cuckoo-shrike, Greenbuls and more.

Cultural Experiences:

Tourists can go and visit the village of Ruboni to learn about the daily lifestyle and history of the Bakonzo tribe. The Bakonzo people arrange cultural dance performances while sharing information about their history.

The other interesting cultural experience is to go for the Bulemba-Ihandiro Cultural Trail. This trail gives more exposure to the intriguing culture of the Bakonzo. There are opportunities to visit   a traditional healer and local blacksmiths.

Visitors learn how to make fire locally and weave baskets. The Bulemba-Ihandiro Cultural Trail also takes visitors to the Bakonzo traditional Museum.

The local museum has a collection of traditional items of cultural and historical importance to the Bakonzo (Rwenzururu) including art pieces and locally made dresses.

Nature Walks: Nature walks can be arranged near the boundaries of the park by companies like the Rwenzori Mountain Services (RMS) and the Backpackers in Kilembe.

Walks arranged by the RMS usually follow the central circuit zone used for mountain climbing. The area around the starting point for mountain hiking is forested and with beautiful scenery and leads up to the lake Mahooma and the chimpanzee forest of Buraro.

Where to Stay

Rwenzori International Hotel: This mid-range hotel is also built near the mountain foot, three kilometers away from the airstrip in Kasese. The hotel has thirty five self-contained rooms and a place to set up outside tents.

The rooms all have telephone lines, mosquito nets, televisions, comfortable beds and laundry services.

There is also a restaurant, a bar, a court for badminton, a tennis court, parking space, a large garden, a fitness and health center. Residents can go for sauna, body massage and steam baths near the gym.

Katara Lodge: This lodge is located near Queen Elizabeth national park and offers stunning views of the park, the Rwenzori ranges and farmlands of neighboring communities.

All buildings are made of wood with grass thatched roofs to promote the conservation of the environment. The lodge offers both single self-contained rooms and family rooms that can accommodate 5 people.

Hotel Margherita: This mid-range hotel is built at the foot of the mountains and near Queen Elizabeth National Park with wonderful views of the mountains and vast forests.

The hotel offers high quality service and has single, double and family rooms. The area around the hotel and its compound is serene with beautiful gardens that give a relaxed feeling.

There is a children’s playing area, a large conference room, a restaurant, a bar and a club called club rocky for those who love dancing.

Tropical Savannah Guest House: This lodge is found in Kasese town along the road from Kasese to Mbarara. It is perfect for the budget traveler and offers room facilities like Wi-Fi, showers, bathrooms, a Flat TV, wardrobes and nets for mosquitoes. The restaurant serves local and international dishes that can be taken to individual rooms on demand.

Equator Snow Lodge: This luxury lodge is found near the park entrance and at the foot of the mountain with river Mubuku flowing nearby. The lodge is suitable for travelers who desire services and facilities of a higher quality.

The self-contained cottages are uniquely built with round rocks from the river with a balcony and fireplaces to keep residents warm during the cold evenings around the mountains. The rooms are decorated with local art depicting the history of the Rwenzori area and mountains.

Ruboni Community Camp: This budget hotel is built next to the park gate around Nyakalenjija with great views of the Rwenzori Mountains. It is among the oldest lodges in the area of Nyakalenjija and runs as a community project.

Its location at the beginning area of the park allows residents experience the cool air from the mountains. The rooms are built with brick, grass-thatched roofs and are self-contained with showers, toilets, a mosquito net and balconies.

Tours Holiday Inn: This lodge is Located at the trading center of Ibanda on the road leading to Nyakalejija. The lodge is locally owned hotel with 15 rooms that area self-contained.

There is an extension with five extra self-contained rooms. In total, about 40 people can be accommodated in both the main building and extension in a night.

The hotel facilities include heated water in the rooms, a garden, a conference room, a bar and restaurant for breakfast and dinner.