Here is a list of the top places to visit in Isiolo County. Isiolo is a town in the eastern part of Kenya, about 285 kilometres from Nairobi. It is Isiolo County’s capital, situated at the foot of Mount Kenya on the northern bank of the Ewaso Nyiro River.

Isiolo has a mixed ethnic population, primarily Somali, Borana, Meru, and Turkana, as well as a thriving tourism industry due to its proximity to major game reserves like Samburu National Reserve and Buffalo Springs National Reserve. In no particular order, here are the best places to visit in Isiolo County:

Best Places To Visit In Isiolo County

1. Archers Post 

Archers Post is a hidden treasure in the centre of Isiolo, Kenya, and is a famous place to visit in Isiolo. It is renowned for its breathtaking natural beauty and rich cultural legacy, providing travellers with a one-of-a-kind and unforgettable vacation experience.

Buffalo Springs National Reserve, located nearby, is one of Archers Post’s key attractions. Elephants, lions, giraffes, and buffalos are among the animals that call this reserve home. Visitors may fully immerse themselves in the spectacular natural surroundings by joining game drives, guided walks, and bird-watching safaris.

Archers Post is an ideal starting point for adventurers heading to Mount Ololokwe. This tall peak provides hard hiking paths with breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding regions. Nature enthusiasts may also explore the Milgis River, which is known for its beautiful splendour and stunning waterfalls.

Archers Post provides a variety of lodging alternatives to suit all budgets and interests. From luxurious campgrounds and lodges to more affordable guesthouses, guests may find the ideal spot to stay while visiting the region.

2. Isiolo Cultural Museum

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This museum celebrates the rich history and customs of the Samburu, Borana, and Turkana people, displaying their distinctive art, crafts, and antiques. It provides insight into the local way of life and is an excellent opportunity to learn about the region’s history.

3. Shaba National Reserve

The Shaba Reserve in Samburu is one peaceful reserve made famous by Joy Adamson, author of the acclaimed book and film, ‘Born Free.’ Along with Buffalo Springs, Shaba lies on either side of the northern Ewaso Ngiro River. It’s one of the greenest reserves in Samburu County, thus making game viewing less comfortable; however, it’s one of the best places to see some of the rarer species in Kenya, including, the Grevy’s zebra, Somali ostrich, Generuk, and the reticulated giraffe, amongst others.

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It also has a waterfall and some hot springs, so you can always take a diverted root and see the wonders of nature. One of the most recognisable things about Shaba is that it served as the scenery for the book and film ‘Born Free,’ for the ‘Out of Africa’ movie, and the reality show Survivor: Africa. It’s also the home to Joy Adamson’s burial place—a conservationist and writer, and human mother to Elsa the Lioness—who was sadly killed here in 1980.

4. Samburu National Reserve

The Samburu National Reserve stems its name from the local Samburu community and it’s one of the most surreal reserves in Kenya. It hosts some of the most unique animal species and thousands of birds. So if you love seeing nature at its best, watching as the birds dance and chirp in the air, then this is the place to be.

It’s famous for its abundance in rare northern specialist species like the Bushell Zebra, the Somali Ostrich, the Gerenuk, the Reticulated Giraffe, and the Beisa Oryx, also known as the Samburu Special. It’s also popular with more than 900 elephants, and the fiercest predators like lions, leopards, and cheetahs.

Most people visit Samburu Reserve for the popular Kamunyak, the Miracle Lioness, who adopted the baby Beisa Oryx, who is one of the most special residents of the reserve. There’s also the birdlife, which is abundant, with over 450 species recorded. For instance, there are some unique birds in Africa like the Lesser Kestrel and the Taita Falcon, which are species of global conservation concern, and they both use the reserve. There’s also the African Darter, Great Egret, Martial Eagle, White-headed Vulture, and the Yellow-billed Oxpecker.

5. Lewa Wildlife Conservancy

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Lewa Wildlife Conservancy is a 62,000-acre wildlife conservancy and UNESCO World Heritage Site in the corner of Kenya’s Meru County, bordering Laikipia and Isilio counties to the west and north, respectively.  Formerly a cattle ranch, it began to support endangered black rhinos in the 1980s and was officially established as a wildlife sanctuary in 1995.

Lewa is home to a variety of wildlife, including the Big Five (lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard, and rhino), as well as many other animals and birds. Visitors can embark on thrilling game drives or guided walking safaris to get up close to the incredible wildlife in its natural habitat.

The Conservancy is renowned for its rhino conservation efforts. Lewa has the highest concentration of East African fine-striped zebras and critically endangered black rhinoceros and plays a vital role in their conservation and breeding. Visitors can learn about these conservation initiatives and even contribute to the cause by visiting the Lewa Game Reserve.

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Apart from thrilling wildlife encounters, Lewa offers a range of other activities to cater to different interests. Thrill-seekers can explore the vast savannah on horseback or camelback, while birders can enjoy the incredible diversity of birds that call Lewa home.

6. Buffalo Springs National Reserve

Buffalo Springs National Reserve is a protected area in Isiolo County, northern Kenya. The reserve was established in 1948 as part of the Samburu-Isiolo Game Reserve, and the present boundaries were established in 1985. Buffalo Springs, Samburu, and Shaba are a trio of similar, adjoining reserves. Buffalo Springs offers good wildlife viewing and is one of the more reliable places in Kenya for leopard sightings.

The springs, after which the reserve is named, are a perennial marsh fed by underground water that attracts plenty of wildlife in the dry season. The reserve is home to a variety of wildlife species, including the “Samburu Five,” which are the reticulated giraffe, Somali ostrich, gerenuk, Grevy’s zebra, and Beisa oryx. Other animals found in the reserve include elephants, lions, leopards, cheetahs, buffaloes, and baboons, among others.

Buffalo Springs National Reserve is a great alternate choice for guests who desire a discerning and unfettered safari trip in northern Kenya’s bush country. As one of the several hidden landscapes, the reserve offers a serene setting where you can escape into a vast landscape of remarkable flora and fauna.

For bird-watching guests, Buffalo Springs is a mecca of avifauna, with more than 450 species recorded, including birds that are found in the northern bush country and riverine forests. The lesser kestrels and Taita falcons are globally threatened species that thrive under the protection of the reserve. Other vulnerable species include great egrets, martial eagles, African darters, and yellow-billed oxpeckers. Common species include bee-eaters, yellow-billed hornbills, lilac-breasted rollers, grey-headed kingfishers, and many more. The vegetation at Buffalo Springs is dominated by Acacia woodlands and bushland containing Commiphora. Also favoured in the reserve by the elephants are the toothbrush trees.

Samburu pastoralists live a semi-nomadic lifestyle on the peripheries of the reserve, and a visit to a traditional homestead is a must.

7. Ngare Ndare Forest Reserve

Ngare Ndare Forest is a lush indigenous forest at the northern foothills of Mt. Kenya. Azure pools glisten at the bottom of waterfalls, and 200-year-old trees stretch into the canopy, supporting a rich variety of bird and animal species.

Ngare Ndare Forest lies on the border of two of Northern Kenya’s counties, Laikipia and Meru, and the border of two conservancies, Lewa and Borana. The forest reserve is an elephant corridor that links the Mount Kenya Forest Reserve to Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, and it is one that elephants have been using for centuries. The forest was recently included as an extension of the Mount Kenya UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Owing to fatal human-wildlife conflicts, the forest was fenced off in 1992, and in 2009 it was placed under the custody of the Ngare Ndare Trust after a concession with the Kenya Forest Service. Ngare Ndare Forest is one of the most beautiful places you will travel to in Kenya. Ngare Ndare, which means “Waterfall of the Gods” in Masai, is very rightfully named. This is the closest thing to paradise and by far the most stunning place in Kenya.

You will be shocked by the untouched beauty of this incredible place. Ngare Ndare Forest seems to have been forgotten by tourists, making it one of the best places to visit. Tourists can indulge in various activities offered in Ngare Ndare Forest, such as hiking, canopy walks, bird watching, swimming, ziplining, mountain biking, and animal sighting.

8. Sarova Shaba Game Lodge

Sarova Shaba Game Lodge is a luxury lodge located in a natural oasis in the Shaba National Reserve, a protected area in Isiolo County to the east of the Samburu. The lodge offers complete serenity amidst wild and beautiful surroundings—an elevated safari experience in one of Kenya’s most untamed locations.

Shaba National Reserve offers breathtaking scenery and a rich diversity of wildlife and enjoys its fame as the land of “Born Free” thanks to the heritage of Joy and George Adamson, who nurtured Elsa the lioness on the grounds of Shaba in the 1950s before setting the lioness free on the plains beyond.

The lodge provides comfortable accommodation in 85 rustic & spacious rooms, all facing the banks of the majestic Ewaso Nyiro River. The Lodge’s architecture stands out for its pioneering spirit and innovative design. Relax by the pool or beneath star-studded skies, dine in the restaurant, or revel in our Boma or bush dining experiences. The lodge also provides safari vehicles that are available with excellent guides.

9. Ewaso Nyiro River

The Ewaso Nyiro River originates from Mount Kenya and the Aberdare Ranges and is the largest river system in northern Kenya. This river has been described as the most scenic river in the country. The waterfalls, Chafa Garfasa and Shariki, which lie along the river, are quite scenic, and visitors enjoy coming to these marvellous sites. Several springs and swamps, such as Gotu and Buffalo Springs, and Ngare Mara Swamp, exist in Buffalo Springs National Reserve and Shaba National Reserve, and attract much wildlife, especially during dry seasons.

10. Mount Kenya National Park

Mount Kenya is located in the former Eastern and Central provinces of Kenya, now Meru, Embu, Laikipia, Kirinyaga, Nyeri, Isiolo, and Tharaka Nithi counties, about 90 kilometres north of the equator, around 150 kilometres north-northeast of the capital Nairobi.

Mount Kenya National Park is a protected area that encompasses Mount Kenya, which is the country’s highest mountain and the second-highest peak in Africa after Mount Kilimanjaro. The national park covers an area of approximately 715 square kilometres and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.

Mount Kenya National Park is known for its diverse ecosystem, ranging from pristine forests to alpine moorlands and glaciers. It provides a habitat for numerous plant and animal species, including several endemic and rare species. The park is a haven for hikers, climbers, and nature enthusiasts who come to explore its breathtaking landscapes and abundant wildlife.

The mountain itself has several peaks, with Batian being the highest at 5,199 metres. Lenana, at 4,985 metres, is the most popular summit for trekkers. Mount Kenya offers various climbing routes of different difficulties, attracting both experienced mountaineers and adventurous beginners.

Within the national park, visitors can enjoy activities such as hiking, trekking, birdwatching, wildlife viewing, and camping. The park is home to diverse wildlife, including elephants, buffalos, leopards, hyenas, antelopes, and various species of monkeys and birds. However, wildlife sightings can be more challenging compared to other national parks in Kenya due to the dense vegetation and rugged terrain.

Access to Mount Kenya National Park is typically through the towns of Nanyuki or Meru. There are several entry gates, including Sirimon, Naro Moru, and Chogoria, each providing access to different parts of the park. It’s important to note that climbing Mount Kenya requires proper planning, permits, and sometimes the assistance of experienced guides.

11. Meru National Park

Meru is magnificent, lonely, mountainous, and remarkably unspoiled, sitting undisturbed in a region little explored but surrounded by unrivalled natural beauty. It is wild and magnificent, straddling the equator and traversed by 13 rivers and countless mountain-fed streams. The environment varies from woods at 3,000 feet on the slopes of the Nyambene mountain range, northeast of Mount Kenya, to wide-open plains with meandering riverbanks studded with doum palms.

The park is home to a diverse range of animal species, including elephants, Grevy’s zebras, lions, cheetahs, leopards, hartebeests, hippopotamus, buffalo, and reticulated giraffes. Meru has a rhino sanctuary that houses the endangered black and white rhino species. Rhinos are critically endangered and are monitored around the clock. The refuge provides one of the greatest rhino-watching experiences in the wild.

The park is well-known as the site for Joy Adamson’s book “Born Free,” which tells the narrative of her life and studies among lions and cheetahs. Elsa, the lioness, was the most well-known, and her tomb is honoured within the park.

Visitors may enjoy game viewing, camping, picnics, hiking, and swimming in the swimming pool adjacent to the Bwatherongi (Kinna) bandas (cottages). The cultural villages, located approximately two hours drive from Meru town and past Maua town, provide tourists with the opportunity to see the rich culture of the Ameru, Borana, and Tharaka groups. Ameru culture at Murera Gate, the park’s main gate; Borana culture at Bisanadi Gate; and Tharaka culture at Ura Gate.