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Parc National de l'Isalo

Introducing Parc National de l'Isalo

Parc National de l’Isalo (ish-ah-loo) covers 81, 540 hectares of the eroded Jurassic sandstone massif of the same name. It’s a marvel of evolutionary processes, with an unearthly, sometimes eerie landscape that’s home to endemic plants and ringtail, brown and sifaka lemurs, as well as sacred Bara burial sites. Its flaxen plains are dotted with serrated grins of stratified rock reaching to the terracotta horizon. Its interior boasts valleys, waterfalls and canyons. You won’t be alone in admiring l’Isalo’s beauty, however – it’s one of Madagascar’s most popular national parks. If you want to get away from other visitors, you’ll need to do a trek further into the park, which could mean several days of hiking. Alternatively, some of the park can be explored easily by car. The entry fee for l’Isalo is Ar25, 000 per person.

Numerous local fady (taboos) are in effect in l’Isalo and should be respected while trekking. L’Isalo’s rocky cliffs and ridges often shelter concealed Sakalava tombs – remember that it’s fady and disrespectful to point at tombs with your finger outstretched.

A local tradition requires placing a stone on existing burial markers to ask for the fulfilment of wishes and safe passage. It’s said that if your wish comes true, you should return to the site to say thank you. The best time to visit l’Isalo is in the dry season between April and October.

Outside the park, south of town and between Isalo Ranch and La Relais de la Reine is La Maison d’Isalo (admission free; 7am-6pm). It features an interactive eco-museum that’s kid-friendly, with information about the people living around the park and wildlife biodiversity, plus commentary in English, French, and Malagasy. Photos, poems and paintings here illustrate the area’s cultural significance, and there’s a shuttle available from town.