Isalo National Park

1041 Reviews

Star Travel Rating


Review type

Things to do


Date of travel

September, 2018

Product name

Product country

Product city

Travelled with


Reasons for trip

Our six-week trip of Madagascar included two hikes in Isalo National Park, whilst staying at “Isalo Rock Lodge”:

We met our guide, Marky, at the park office, where two maps depicted the entire park and the routes of our hikes. It was suggested, and we agreed, that rather than do two half days, we should combine the hikes to give us a full day of rest.

We drove to the start of the trail with Marky regaling us with facts and figures which we found hard to take in due to the bumpy road. But we did note that Isalo is Madagascar’s second largest park.

On arrival, another map showed the 3km route in detail and we both thought “that shouldn’t take too long or be too difficult”. However, the start was steep, up steps and unfortunately several groups were setting off at the same time, so we kept pausing until each found their pace and space.

We stopped at the Bara Tombs built into the rocks and heard how bodies are exhumed a year after the death and reburied in another location. As we got higher, the terrain flattened and widened. We passed numbers created from pebbles in 2001, when there had been a total eclipse. The park, a sacred place, had been overwhelmed with visitors so they’d created a self-guided, numbered trail.

On crossing the flat plain, we noticed tapia trees, a common plant which withstands the effects of fire, and whose leaves are the sole food of the silk worm. Nearing large lichen-covered sandstone outcrops, we spotted various native plants including the distinctive yellow pachypodium, whose trunks resembled elephants’ feet.

On reaching huge sandstone rocks, we climbed steps for better views before continuing through rocky outcrops including one with large pinnacles, said to resemble Arizona’s Monument Valley. More steps followed, and it was very hot, but eventually trees provided welcome shade. We scrambled down steep steps, towards the palm-fringed “piscine naturelle” where we changed into swimwear behind a bamboo screen and had a cooling dip before standing under waterfalls with warm gushing water.
Having dried off, we initially took a slightly different shaded route along the river before rejoining the track. By now, the temperature was over 30 degrees which made even flat terrain arduous.

On returning to the car we drove to the start of the Namaza trail, which we’d understood was the shorter of the two, and would take us to the waterfall, Cascade de Nymphes, and the blue and black natural pools. We decided to visit the pools first. The terrain was hilly, and signs started to indicate it was a longer, more difficult route than we’d envisaged. The path became narrow and steep as we reached a canyon where we eventually hit the river. We scrambled over rocks, criss-crossed the river on stepping stones, negotiated rickety wooden planked bridges, and crawled along narrow ledges above the stream. By this stage we were exhausted but determined not to give up. Then the going got really bad, we were pouring with sweat, and so with 400m of difficult terrain left to go, we reluctantly turned around.

With hindsight, we should have done the hikes over two days as we could have finished before the heat of the day began in earnest.

Helen Jackson

Join the club

Become a member to receive exclusive benefits

Our community is the heart of Silver Travel Advisor, we love nothing more than sharing ideas, inspiration, hints and tips between us.

Come feel the love on a Princess cruise. You’ll enjoy the MedallionClass experience others simply can’t, and it’s exclusively for everyone. Visit incredible destinations and be involved in the best experiences around each one of them.

Experience more with Princess and connect effortlessly with the world around you, spend time away with loved ones, take a moment for yourself, and fall in love with your holiday of a lifetime, every time.

With over 20 years of experience, Wendy Wu Tours has mastered the art of creating exceptional, fully inclusive tours which showcase the very best of each destination.

Each tour is led by a world-class guide, who will highlight the very best of their homeland, and includes authentic cultural experiences so you are not just seeing the sights, but truly immersing yourself in local life.

Say hello to ease at sea. Ambassador’s purpose is simple: they want to inspire every guest to experience authentic cruising, effortlessly and sustainably. Passionate about protecting our oceans and destinations, their ships comply with the highest industry emission standards and there is no single-use plastic on board.

On your voyage, you will receive the warmest of welcomes from the Ambassador community as you sail upon the friendliest ships afloat.

This is a global co-operative co-owned by local partners using real local experts and guides, which supports local communities, environments and wildlife. It offers travellers quirky places to stay, activity holidays and learning experiences. Not In The Guidebooks gets travellers off the beaten track into local culture with day experiences and longer, immersive adventures.

From wild wellness breaks in Wales to painting in Portugal, sustainable adventures in Mauritius to food safaris in Brazil, this is immersive, exciting travel.

Seabourn’s five intimate ships carry guests to the heart of great cities, exclusive yacht harbours and secluded coves around the world, while two new purpose-built expedition ships will combine exhilarating adventures in remote destinations with the sophisticated amenities of the world’s finest resorts at sea.

From the luxury of all suite accommodations to complimentary fine wines and spirits, and a no tipping policy, Seabourn exemplifies the definition of travelling well.