Dubbed the land of Milk and Honey, Mbarara City, located in southwestern Uganda, has several tourist attractions that visitors can explore. This city located along the Uganda – Rwanda main highway is not only a transit town but a vibrant urban center. It is the largest city in the Western Region and serves as the capital of Mbarara District. Welcome to the home of the long horned cattle with numerous tourists attractions.
Key features and information about Mbarara City:
- Location: Mbarara City is situated approximately 270 kilometers southwest of Kampala, the capital city of Uganda. The city is slightly over 300Kms from Entebbe International Airport, the major entry point for most tourists. It is strategically located along the main transportation route that connects Kampala to the neighboring countries of Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
- Commercial Hub: Mbarara is a bustling commercial hub in the region, with a thriving economy based on agriculture, trade, and services. The city acts as a trading center for various agricultural products such as coffee, tea, bananas, Cows and dairy products. Its the main trading hub for the districts of Kiruhura, Ibanda, Mitooma, Bushenyi, Sheema, Isingiro among others.
- Infrastructure: Mbarara has experienced significant infrastructure development in recent years. It is equipped with modern amenities including hotels, restaurants, shopping centers, banks, and medical facilities. The road network has been improved, making it easily accessible for travelers. Most town roads are paved and fairly lighted. Being a major transit city, the town is host to numerous mid to low range guest houses. Here, for as low as $6 (20,000UGX) you can get a cheap guest house (certainly not recommended for a first time traveler for safety reasons)
- Educational Institutions: Mbarara is home to several notable educational institutions, including Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST), which is renowned for its medical school and research programs. There is also Bishop Stuart University, Makerere University Business School, Law Development Centre, among others. The city also has numerous primary and secondary schools for both local and international curriculum.
- Cultural Diversity: Mbarara is situated in the heart of Ankole Kingdom, which is known for its rich cultural heritage. The city provides opportunities to experience and learn about the traditions, customs, and art forms of the Ankole people. Cultural events and festivals, such as the Ekitagururo Cultural Festival, showcase Ankole traditions. In fact at her entry is the very famouse “Amahembe Gente” (Horns of a cow) A symbol of ankole’s culture and love for cattle.
- Tourism Gateway: Mbarara serves as a gateway to several tourist destinations in southwestern Uganda. The city is close to attractions like Lake Mburo National Park, where visitors can enjoy wildlife and scenic beauty. The city’s central location makes it a convenient base for exploring nearby areas such as Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park, and the Rwenzori Mountains.
Main Tourist Attractions in Mbarara
- Lake Mburo National Park: Located about 30 kilometers east of Mbarara, Lake Mburo National Park is known for its diverse wildlife and beautiful landscapes. The park is very rich with flora and fauna that has for years wowed tourists. Visitors can enjoy game drives to spot zebras, impalas, buffaloes, and various bird species. Boat safaris on Lake Mburo offer an opportunity to see hippos and crocodiles.
- Igongo Cultural Centre: This cultural center provides insights into the rich heritage and traditions of the Ankole region. It features a museum that exhibits artifacts, traditional crafts, and historical information about the region’s people. The center also houses a restaurant where visitors can enjoy traditional Ankole cuisine. Igongo is also host to a 4 star hotel where you can access high end guest services. Located just 12 Kms from the heart of the city, Igongo is also idea for travelers who want to explore the night life of Mbarara. If you are into hiking, this location also has an eclipse where you will do some hiking.
- Ankole Kingdom Palace: The palace of the Ankole Kingdom, located in Mbarara, offers visitors a chance to learn about the Ankole culture and history. The palace compound showcases traditional architecture, artifacts, and cultural displays. It has recently been renovated to give tourists even better cultural safari memories.
- Mbarara Golf Course: Golf enthusiasts can visit the Mbarara Golf Course, which offers a scenic and well-maintained course for players of different skill levels. The course provides a peaceful environment surrounded by beautiful landscapes.
- Nshenyi Cultural Village: Situated about 35 kilometers from Mbarara, the Nshenyi Cultural Village offers an authentic experience of the Banyankole culture. Visitors can participate in activities such as milking cows, traditional dances, and storytelling, as well as enjoy traditional meals.
- Rwizi River: Rwizi River, which passes through Mbarara, provides a picturesque setting for relaxation and nature appreciation. Visitors can enjoy walks along the riverbanks, have picnics, or engage in fishing activities.
Hotels in Mbarara
Without a doubt, Mbarara is home to numerous hotels and guest houses. I will review just a few that you could select from on your next visit to the land of milk and honey.
- Lake View Resort Hotel: Located on the outskirts of Mbarara, Lake View Resort Hotel offers comfortable rooms, a swimming pool, a restaurant, and conference facilities. The hotel overlooks a traditional man made lake and provides a serene and scenic environment.
- Hotel Triangle: Situated 2kms from the heart of the city, Hotel Triangle is a modern hotel with well-appointed rooms, a restaurant, a bar, and conference facilities. It is conveniently located near shopping centers and other amenities.
- Mbarara Travels Hotel: This hotel is centrally located and provides a range of rooms to cater to different budgets. It offers amenities such as a restaurant, a bar, free Wi-Fi, and conference facilities.
- Oxford Inn: Oxford Inn is a boutique hotel in Mbarara known for its cozy and stylish rooms. The hotel features a restaurant, a bar, and a garden terrace.
- Agip Motel: Situated at the entry of Mbarara, Agip Motel offers affordable accommodation options. The motel has a restaurant, a bar, and spacious grounds. The restaurant is a popular option for tourists heading to and from Kampala. Most Safari planners add this motel as a stop over for tourists to refresh before heading to national parks or back to Kampala.
- Lake Mburo Safari Lodge: Although not located directly in Mbarara City, Lake Mburo Safari Lodge is a luxury lodge situated near Lake Mburo National Park, about 30 kilometers east of Mbarara. It offers comfortable cottages, a restaurant, a bar, and stunning views of the national park.
- Emburara Farm Lodge: Emburara firm lodge is located off the Mbarara – Ibanda main road. Its three kilometers from the Nyakisharara Mbarara Airstrip. The hotel is located on vast farm land away from the noise of the city and certainly a great place to relax. This high end tpourist lodge has a reastaurant, bar and cottages. Its ideal for family getaways, honeymoons and city escape.
Restaurants in Mbarara
Whether you are planning to taste the fresh Ugandan Dishes or a continental meal, there is a restaurant for you in Mbarara city. The options are endless and only your limit of food adventure will stop you.
- Igongo Cultural Centre Restaurant: Located at Igongo Cultural Centre, this restaurant offers a blend of traditional Ankole dishes and continental cuisine. It is known for its authentic Ankole delicacies such as Eshabwe (ghee), Akaro (millet bread), and more.
- Lake View Resort Hotel Restaurant: Situated at Lake View Resort Hotel, this restaurant provides a range of international and local dishes. It offers buffet-style dining and a beautiful view of Lake Mburo.
- Endiro Coffee: A popular coffee shop and restaurant chain in Uganda, Endiro Coffee has a branch in Mbarara. They serve a variety of coffee drinks, smoothies, sandwiches, salads, and other light meals.
- Hotel Triangle Restaurant: Located at Hotel Triangle, this restaurant offers a diverse menu with both local and international dishes. It serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner options.
- Cafe Havana: Cafe Havana Restaurant is a lively spot in Mbarara known for its grilled meats, burgers, pizzas, and a wide selection of drinks.
- Global Gardens Restaurant: Situated in the heart of Mbarara, Global Gardens Restaurant offers a pleasant atmosphere and a menu featuring local and international dishes.
- Shooters Grill Restaurant: This restaurant is known for its grilled dishes, including a variety of meats, fish, and vegetarian options. It also offers a range of continental and Ugandan cuisine.
- Ishanyu Food Centre: The Ishanyu food centre is located on the Mbarara – Kasese road, at the bypass roundabout. The restaurant specializes in local Ugandan dishes are their recipes are often boiled or steamed rather than fried. If you want to taste something Ugandan, this might just be the restaurant for you!
- Buffalo Resort: Buffalo resort is a popular restaurant in Mbarara which serves pork. Here you can get star fried pork, vegetable fried pork, roasted pork and baked pork ribs. The restaurant also serves a buffet but its more known for its pork menu. There is an inhouse bar too if you want to catch some drinks. The facility is located right opposite Ishanyu Food Centre that I mentioned above.
Bars In Mbarara
If you are interested in night life while in Mbarara, we review some of the bars you could try out when in Mbarara.
- Vibes Bar: Located in the city center, Vibes Bar is a popular spot known for its vibrant atmosphere. It offers a range of drinks, including local and international beers, spirits, and cocktails.
- Vision Empire: Vision Empire is a trendy bar and restaurant that offers a relaxed and stylish setting. It features a well-stocked bar with a variety of drinks and often hosts events and sometimes live entertainment. This is probably the oldest night club in Mbarara even though it just got a new facelift. Its undoubtedly the A-list night club South Western Uganda.
- Satellite Beach Bar: Situated along the shores of Lake Mburo, Satellite Beach Bar provides a scenic and tranquil setting for enjoying drinks. Visitors can relax on the beach, enjoy lake views, and sip on their favorite beverages.
- Signature Premium Lounge: Signature Lounge is a popular bar and restaurant in Mbarara, offering a comfortable and modern setting. It features a bar with a wide selection of drinks, including local and imported beers, cocktails, wines, and spirits.
- Shooters Bar and Grill: Shooters Bar & Grill, is probably the most youthful bar in Mbarara. Its patronized by the young corporates, trendy University students and city travelers. The bar hosts some of the best DJs in Mbarara and has a good grill if you are a meat person.
- Soho Terrace: Soho is the most attended bar on Sundays in Mbarara. Their themed Backyard Sunday attracts abnormal crowds week in, week out! On other days, Soho is a laid-back bar that offers a relaxed ambiance and a variety of drinks. It is known for its friendly staff.