Sipi Falls, in the foothills of Mt Elgon, is a stunner arguably the most beautiful waterfall in all Uganda. There are three falls separated by steep hillsides. Though the upper two are beautiful, it’s the 95m main drop that attracts the crowds, and most lodges look out on to it. The view of the wide plains disappearing into the distance below is also spectacular. It’s well worth spending a night or two in this peacefully magnificent place, which also allows you time to enjoy some of the excellent walks in the area, including the show-stopping descent to the bottom of the falls.
The mainstay of Rob’s Rolling Rock is a 100m rappel alongside the main falls, providing the undisputed best views in Sipi. It has also bolted in 14 rock-climbing routes (easy to intermediate). There are long-term plans to open accommodation and a bar on the property.
Walks to Sipi Falls
There are some excellent walks on a network of well-maintained local trails with beautiful scenery in every direction. The most popular walk is to the bottom of the falls, during the rainy season it’s an awe-inspiring sight. It’s a steep climb down through villages and crops, and a sweaty, exhausting climb back up. A cave behind the easy-to-reach second falls is really worth the climb. On a clear day, you can see much of Uganda from the ridge at the top.
Locals don’t allow tourists to ramble the trails on their own. Much of the route is private property, with landowners charging for passage. There are also village walks and the forest walking trails at Mt Elgon National Park’s Forest Exploration Center nearby, though you have to pay the national park fees to hike there.
A highlight of visiting Sipi is a coffee tour that walks you through the whole process: from picking the coffee berries to shelling them, grinding them with a traditional mortar and pestle, roasting them on an open fire and, of course finishing with a fine cup of strong Arabic coffee (including a bag for you to take home). Tours involve a village visit to one of the mudbrick houses that have a small coffee plantation plot.
Sipi River Lodge has developed a selection of mountain-biking routes ranging from hard-core technical rocky climbs to downhill sections; bike hire can also be arranged.
Sipi’s original backpacker option, this small, laid-back operation has a good view of the falls from its wonderful rickety terrace and unhindered views of the plains below from a rocky cliff. The bandas are decent, the friendly staff and colobus monkeys often hang around the shady campground. For better or worse, the addition of a bar means music-filled evenings.
Set up by Peace Corps volunteers, these Scandinavian-style log cabins feature some private baths and views of all three waterfalls from their terraces. They can arrange cultural walks that cover hunting traditions and spiritualism.
Sipi River Lodge
A real retreat set in lush gardens with porch rockers and a creek-side trail to the second waterfall. Dorms and bandas use separate bathrooms with individual room locks and plenty of space. Splurge on a cottage with gorgeous batiks, private deck, and shower views of the falls. A great on-site restaurant attracts non-guests for espresso drinks and home-made meals.
Many of the ingredients on the menu come from the on-site vegetable garden. A nightly set menu with a vegan option is served in an atmospheric dining room with a log fire and well-stocked bar. Activities range from Mt Elgon treks to mountain biking, fly fishing, and coffee tours on the lodge plantation.
Sipi Falls Resort
Sublime waterfall views and affordable bandas with open-air private showers ensure a memorable stay. Hosts are friendly but beds can be lumpy and meals service, like in most places, is deplorably slow. Quantities of local French-press coffee is a big plus. The old house was used as a residence by the British governor of Uganda.