Natural cliff erosion at Isimila Stone Age site in Iringa, Tanzania.


Isimila Stone Age Site

Southern Highlands

Here, in the late 1950s, amid a dramatic landscape of eroded sandstone pillars, archaeologists unearthed one of the most significant Stone Age finds ever identified. Tools found at the site – hammerstones, axeheads, flints and scrapers – are estimated to be between 60,000 and 100,000 years old. There’s a museum with small, well-captioned displays highlighting some of the discoveries. Isimila is signposted off the Mbeya road to the left, about 21km southwest of Iringa.

The main pillar area is accessed via a walk down into a steep valley (about one hour round-trip), for which you’ll need a guide. Visits are best in the morning or late afternoon, when the sun is not at its zenith. There’s also a covered picnic area (bring your own food). Unexpectedly, the dusty museum has an excellent small shop selling colourful men's shirts and a few other items.

With a bit of endurance for heat and traffic, the site is straightforward to reach by bicycle from Iringa. Via public transport, take an Ifunda or Mafinga dalla-dalla from the Iringa town bus station and ask the driver to drop you at the Isimila junction (Tsh1500), from where it’s a 15-minute walk to the site. Taxis charge from about Tsh25,000 for the return trip.

A possible detour on bicycle or with private vehicle is to nearby Tosamaganga, a pretty hilltop mission station established by Italian missionaries in the early 20th century. It’s reached via the unsignposted ‘Njia Panda ya Tosamaganga’ turn-off from the main road, 4km northeast of the Kalenga turn-off. Follow the wide, unpaved road for about 5km, first past cornfields and then along a eucalyptus-lined lane to the red-tile roofs and imposing church of the mission.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Southern Highlands attractions

1. Kalenga Historical Museum

6.56 MILES

This tiny museum in nearby Kalenga – the former Hehe capital – contains the skull, personal effects and other relics of Chief Mkwawa. It was here that he…

2. Ismaili Mosque

10.06 MILES

This unique German-built mosque is a visual highlight of Iringa's colonial centre – it was built in 1932 but, with its clock tower and arcaded galleries,…

3. Maji Maji Uprising Monument

10.14 MILES

Next to the police station, this rugged stone obelisk is a memorial to those who died in the Maji Maji Uprising between 1905 and 1907.

4. Market Area

10.16 MILES

Iringa’s atmospheric covered market is piled high with fruit and vegetables, plus other wares, including large-weave, locally made baskets.

5. Iringa Boma

10.34 MILES

This excellent EU-funded museum is a great new development, as is its small cafe and quality gift shop. Located between Uhuru Park and Neema, Boma is…

6. Neema Crafts

10.38 MILES

This acclaimed vocational training centre for young deaf and disabled people sits just southeast of the Clock Tower roundabout. Operated by the Anglican…

7. Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery

10.48 MILES

At the eastern edge of town beyond Neema, this tranquil and well-tended cemetery contains the graves of the deceased from both world wars.

8. Gangilonga Rock

11.97 MILES

This large rock northeast of town is where Chief Mkwawa meditated and where he learned that the Germans were after him. Its name, gangilonga, means …