Isalo Overview

Isalo National Park, situated in the Ihorombe region of Madagascar, stands as a magnificent showcase of natural beauty and geological wonder. Established in 1962, this park covers an area of approximately 815 square kilometers (315 square miles), making it one of Madagascar’s most visited and celebrated national parks. Isalo’s landscape is characterized by its vast, rugged terrain, encompassing sandstone formations dating back to the Jurassic period, deep canyons, palm-lined oases, and grassy plains.

The park’s dramatic topography is a result of centuries of wind and water erosion, which have sculpted the sandstone into a series of deep valleys, sharp ridges, and impressive gorges. Among these geological formations, the park features unique natural swimming pools, such as the Piscine Naturelle, offering refreshing spots for visitors amidst the arid landscape.

Isalo National Park is not only a geological marvel but also a haven for biodiversity. Despite the seemingly inhospitable environment, the park is home to various species of flora and fauna adapted to its dry conditions. The vegetation includes endemic plants such as the elephant’s foot and several species of aloes. Wildlife in the park includes ring-tailed lemurs, Verreaux’s sifakas, and a variety of bird species, some of which are endemic to Madagascar.

Hiking is the primary way to explore Isalo National Park, with trails ranging from easy walks to challenging treks across the sandstone landscape. These trails offer visitors the opportunity to discover the park’s diverse ecosystems, observe its unique wildlife, and enjoy panoramic views of its majestic canyons and plateaus.

Isalo National Park serves as a testament to Madagascar’s ancient geological history and its remarkable biodiversity. Its breathtaking landscapes, coupled with its ecological significance, make it an essential destination for nature lovers, hikers, and anyone looking to experience the unique beauty of the Malagasy wilderness.

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Park Map
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Isalo National Park Highlights


Isalo is not known for its wildlife, but it does feature a nice collection of wildlife species visitors may witness.  Here is a glimpse:

Ring-tailed Lemur: Known for their iconic striped tails, ring-tailed lemurs inhabit rocky outcrops, displaying social behaviors and emitting loud calls within their troop.

Verreaux’s Sifaka: With striking white fur and leaping locomotion, Verreaux’s sifakas traverse Isalo’s terrain, feeding on leaves and communicating through vocalizations.

Madagascar Fish Eagle: Endemic to Madagascar, this majestic raptor soars over Isalo’s canyons, preying on fish and small mammals with its sharp talons and powerful beak.

Collared Brown Lemur: Agile climbers and social animals, collared brown lemurs are often spotted in Isalo’s forests, foraging for fruits and leaves while maintaining close-knit family bonds.

Common Brown Lemur: Found in various habitats, common brown lemurs thrive in Isalo’s diverse landscapes, exhibiting social behavior and feeding on fruits, leaves, and flowers.

Ring-necked Parakeet: Vibrantly colored with a distinctive ring around their necks, ring-necked parakeets flock through Isalo’s skies, foraging for seeds, fruits, and berries.

Madagascar Harrier: With keen eyesight and agility, Madagascar harriers hunt rodents and small birds in Isalo’s grasslands, contributing to the park’s avian diversity.

Madagascar Kingfisher: Often seen perched near water bodies, Madagascar kingfishers dive for fish and aquatic invertebrates, showcasing their striking blue plumage against Isalo’s backdrop.

Madagascar Hoopoe: Recognizable by their distinctive crest and black-and-white plumage, Madagascar hoopoes probe Isalo’s soil for insects and other invertebrates, adding charm to the park’s ecosystem.

Malagasy Paradise Flycatcher: Graceful and elusive, Malagasy paradise flycatchers flit through Isalo’s forests, catching insects mid-air and enhancing the park’s biodiversity.

Sandstone Formations

Isalo National Park is renowned for its stunning sandstone formations, carved by centuries of erosion into dramatic cliffs, canyons, and natural sculptures.

These unique geological features offer breathtaking vistas and provide a picturesque backdrop for hiking, photography, and exploration.

Piscine Naturelle

This natural swimming pool is nestled within the park’s rugged landscape, surrounded by lush vegetation and towering rock walls.

Fed by crystal-clear spring water, Piscine Naturelle offers a refreshing oasis for visitors to cool off and relax after a day of hiking or exploring the park’s wonders.

Canyon des Makis

Explore the scenic Canyon des Makis, home to a variety of wildlife species, including lemurs, birds, and reptiles. This narrow canyon features towering walls, lush vegetation, and cascading waterfalls, providing a picturesque setting for nature walks and wildlife viewing.

Natural Arch

Marvel at the park’s iconic Natural Arch, a massive sandstone arch that spans a rocky gorge, creating a stunning natural landmark. Visitors can hike to viewpoints overlooking the arch, capturing memorable photos of this impressive geological feature against the backdrop of the park’s rugged terrain.

Isalo National Park Pictures

Engaging Isalo

Isalo National Park offers a network of hiking trails that wind through diverse landscapes, including dramatic canyons, lush oases, and towering sandstone formations.

Visitors can choose from a variety of routes, ranging from easy walks to challenging treks, each offering unique scenic views and opportunities to encounter wildlife and discover hidden gems.

Explore the park’s stunning canyons, such as Canyon des Rats and Canyon des Singes, which feature towering cliffs, lush vegetation, and natural pools.

Guided canyon hikes allow visitors to navigate rugged terrain, scramble over boulders, and discover hidden waterfalls and rock formations while learning about the park’s geology and ecology.

Isalo National Park Trails

Canyon des Makis Trail

Rating: Easy to Moderate

Distance and Elevation Gain: Approximately 3 miles (4.8 km) round trip with minimal elevation gain

Description: This trail leads through the Canyon des Makis, where hikers can spot ring-tailed lemurs and sifakas amid towering rock formations and lush vegetation.

Piscine Naturelle Trail

Rating: Moderate

Distance and Elevation Gain: Around 4 miles (6.4 km) round trip with moderate elevation gain

Description: Hikers will trek to the Piscine Naturelle, a natural swimming pool surrounded by stunning scenery, including waterfalls and colorful rock formations.

Namaza Circuit Trail

Rating: Moderate to Difficult

Distance and Elevation Gain: Approximately 6 miles (9.7 km) round trip with varying elevation gain

Description: This circuit trail explores diverse landscapes, from open grasslands to dense forests, and offers opportunities to discover unique flora and fauna, including endemic species like the Isalo aloe.

Circuit des Rats Trail

Rating: Moderate to Difficult

Distance and Elevation Gain: Varies, typically 5-7 miles (8-11.3 km) round trip with moderate to steep elevation gain

Description: Hikers will venture into the rugged terrain of the Circuit des Rats, encountering panoramic viewpoints, hidden caves, and ancient burial sites along the way.

Cascade des Nymphes Trail

Rating: Moderate

Distance and Elevation Gain: Approximately 4 miles (6.4 km) round trip with moderate elevation gain

Description: This trail leads to the Cascade des Nymphes, a picturesque waterfall nestled within the park’s canyons. Hikers can enjoy the soothing sound of cascading water and relax in natural pools amidst the tranquil surroundings.

  • All Trails, Isalo National Park,, retrieved March 2024.
  • Curious Travel Bug, Isalo National Park,, retrieved March 2024.
  • Travelers of Madagascar, Isalo National Park,, retrieved March 2024.