East Africa is a collection of 5 countries which include Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Burundi. This region has an estimated 436 million population of people and each country has got unique history, culture and wildlife. Such diversity is attributed to the successful regional economic cooperation and tourism sector has brought all that together as Destination East Africa. The single East African tourist visa allows travelers to visit Destination East Africa including Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya with free entry and exit. Some of the famous safari parks like Bwindi for gorilla trekking, Masai Mara and Serengeti for wildebeest migration, East Africa is now as a single destination.
In this big destination East Africa a city means a lot about a country and the diversity East Africa has to offer as a whole region. Here are the top 5 cities to visit in East Africa.
Vibrant nightlife, culture and heritage sites, friendly people, and food are just few of the reasons to experience Kampala. The capital of city of Uganda, the pearl of Africa, Kampala has one of the most unique locations, set over 21 hills along the shores of Lake Victoria in central part of the country. It is home to Buganda, one the largest traditional kingdoms in Africa with its well preserved heritage sites including the 130 years old Kasubi Royal tombs, a UNESCO world heritage site.
The people that make up Buganda are the Baganda, however Kampala as a business centers, has a growing population of 1.4 million people from all around the country and houses Ugandan parliament and many banks. It is located 40 km away from Entebbe international airport, Uganda safaris begin in Kampala and that is a great opportunity to visit the city before going to any other part of the country.
Ugandans are one of the hospitable and friendliest people in the world. Thus Kampala is a friendly city where foreigners can walk around or live peacefully with people they don’t even know.
The city is best known for its vibrant night life and culture heritage, encompassing the night clubs and cocktail bars in the city center, and sections of the city such as Kololo, Kabalagala, Nakasero. There’s National theatre and various music and live band theatres. Partying and clubbing in this fast paced party city is a custom, it’s hard to resist going out to a club, bar or show and Kampala has been nicknamed the sleepless city of East Africa.
Fun and easy shopping
The city is also great for shopping in Kampala is fun, with plenty of modern shopping malls like Acacia, Aponye, and many supermarkets like Shoprite, food markets like Nakasero, and various craft markets around National Theatre. Visitors will find a wide range of items, products and souvenirs.
Kampala has got modern infrastructure, and though its transport service may not be very efficient, you will never be bored to find lots of Boda Bodas (motor cycles) that can get you through traffic jam and big crowds. You will see what I am talking about as walk around city square or going through downtown to Mengo Royal palace.
A guided tour in Uganda allows visitors to visit some of the interesting attractions including the Uganda national museum, places of worship, tempting shopping craft markets. Sightseeing bus tour is explores some of the great landmarks such as the ivory tower at Makerere university main building, Mengo Palace, the independence monument and Gaddafi mosque set on old Kampala hill has a 50 meters tall tower, a view point which offers views of the entire city.
2. Kigali -Rwanda
The capital of Rwanda, Kigali is one of the fastest growing cities in Africa. In 1962, Kigali had a population of 6,000 people which grew to 1.1 million by 2012. The high population growth rate is attributed to a number of factors ranging from peace and stability, economic development, social and environmental conservation.
Kigali is the 2nd green and clean city in Africa after Windhoek Namibia. Situated in the Albertine rift valley in the heart of Rwanda, Kigali is surrounded by hills such as Mount Kigali and Nyurugenge hill which constitutes the oldest site of the city (now turned into a museum) established in 1907 by Kandt a German imperialist.
Today Kigali Kigali has modern infrastructure and efficient transport service providing easy access to tourist destinations within the country such as volcanoes national park home to gorillas, Lake Kivu as well as those in the neighboring countries like Bwindi impenetrable forest south western Uganda and Virunga national park in easterner DR Congo.
For the business travelers, Kigali city offers world class MICE facilities such as the Kigali convention center with conference facilities along with 5 star accommodation Marriot and Radisson blue hotels.
Kigali international airport is the gateway and a perfect place to embark on Rwanda adventure safari. Travelers upon arrival will be able to find everything from forex bureaus, shops and malls, coffee shops, restaurants, craft markets, as well as get more information at the Rwandan development board offices.
Kigali city tour needs time to enjoy the city’s places of interest such as the Gisozi genocide memorial, natural history museum, art galleries. For the outdoor activities, Nyarugenge Lake has got golf course grounds, biking both on maram and dirt tracks, swimming at Hotel Rwanda.
3. Nairobi- Kenya
Nairobi, the capital city Kenya is near Nairobi national park home to black rhinos and tourists can have wonderful safari memories there. For example, just 10 minutes by car from the city center, a half day tour provides a great safari experience. You can do game drive safari with the guide taking you to particular zone of the park. Depending on the animals you wish to see against the backdrop of the city such as black rhinos, lions, jackals, zebras, giraffes.
If you want to experience Nairobi by a game drive, then you may also want to do a city tour if you have just 4 hours to spare.
Nairobi being the 4th largest city in Africa and with the biggest population of 4 million people in East Africa, the city is established as hub for airlines and business in the region. Due to this economic development, the modern city center has seen its skyline changing. The Jomo keyatta internation convention centers, the parliament building, are examples of modern architecture. You can also find the Nairobi city market filled with colorful souvenirs, the national museum with displays of culture and wildlife, the snake park, the 7th memorial park.
Tourists can get their dinning and shopping fix done right. Some of the great places to do so include the Stanley with restaurants, bars, swimming pools, safari park, and 5 star hotels such as Nairobi Serena.
Of course there are many landmarks and attractions in Nairobi city including the national railway station museum. The one you should never miss is the National achieves museum for those who want to read African books and films. The good modern roads and public transportation makes it easy to get to visit the attraction nearby the city such as the wildlife trust, giraffe center, Bomas of kenya, beads factory and Ngong hills.
If that is not enough, Nairobi international airport is the gate way to most of Kenya’s wildlife destinations such as Masai Mara game reserve famous for the wildebeest migration, the greatest wildlife spectacle on earth.
4. Dar es Salaam
Dar es Salaam is located on the shores of the Indian Ocean and thus offers water adventures including surfing, diving, snorkeling, beach and island hoping.
It is the largest city and economic center of Tanzania. It is a port of trade and a location for Tanzania government big offices, as well as diplomatic embassies including the UN East African region headquarters.
Dar es Salaam is famed for its multiculturalism, including Swahili speaking, Arab, Indian and Thai. Therefore it offers a variety of lifestyles and culture to get immersed in on your vacation. For instance dinning in Dar es Salaam range from restaurants that prepare local cuisine to those that prepare international cuisines such as the thai food restaurant where you can enjoy views of the large and tall buildings that dominate its skyline.
Perhaps the most amazing are the white sand beaches and islands off the coast of Indian Ocean like Zanzibar and Bongoyo, as well as fish markets, residential and industrial areas, nature reserve.
Don’t’ miss a visit to the Azania Lutheran church; beautiful both in and outside. From this church it is easy access to various tourist attractions such as Askari monument, national museum of Dar es Salaam, Karioke market.
Zanzibar town is located 25 km off the main land Tanzania in the Indian Ocean. It is made up of two large islands; Zanzibar and Pemba along with other small islands. Though it is a popular honeymoon vacation destination, Zanzibar has much to offer for the travelers. Its waters are home to dolphins while the forests are filled with monkeys, butterflies. Wildlife lovers can enjoy flora and fauna of the islands.
Beach lovers can unwind on its white sand beaches, cool and romantic tropical island climate. Zanzibar is a water spots adventure paradise with activities ranging from snorkeling, swimming, surfing, scuba diving, deep sea fishing, water skiing, kite surfing.
Zanzibar hosts different cultural backgrounds including African, Arab, Indian and European. It is a great place to experience culture, heritage and religion. Especially in the Stone Town a UNESCO world’ heritage site, boasts diverse architectural styles of both old and new buildings including mosques, churches, temples and forts.