Isiolo is a town in the Eastern Province, Kenya. It is situated in the Upper Eastern sub-region, and lies 285 kilometres north of Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya. The town grew around the local military camps, much of the population being descended from former Somali soldiers who had fought in World War I as well as other Cushitic-speaking pastoral communities and the Ameru community. The town has an estimated population of 80,000 people, most of them living in the rural outbacks of the District. There is an increasing urban population in the recent years, especially from as far as Moyale, Marsabit and mandera. The Isiolo town is also becoming a centre of interest because of the of its newly acquired status as a resort city cashing in on the popular Samburu and Shaba Game reserves and the Meru National Park, which have become preferred destinations after the famed Maasai Mara. Isiolo lies along the long A2 Road, leading towards Marsabit and Moyale much farther north. The town is served by Isiolo Airport, which is set to be upgraded to serve tourism and local exports.
Isiolo is set to become a major part of Kenya's economic development plan Vision 2030. The plan calls for Isiolo to become a tourist center that will include casinos, hotels, upscale retail outlets, a modern airport and transport facilities. Isiolo will also be a transport hub as the location of the fork of the Lamu Port and Lamu-Southern Sudan-Ethiopia Transport Corridor.
Isiolo District was designated as the Headquarters of the Northern frontier Districts by The British East Africa Protectorate in 1922, until the North Eastern was curved out as a separate province in 1963 following the Lancaster House Constitutional conference. Some parts of the districts were lost to the larger Meru District in 1960s during the Shifta war. Some of the famous grazing land such as Bisaan Adi and Bisaan Gurach became part of Meru National Game Reserve and Mulika Lodge. Isiolo is also known for its large market, while jewellry making is a local industry. Isiolo town itself was a part of the Nyambene county council and was transferred to isiolo district since there was no urban centre to serve as district headquarters. The Samburu, Buffalo Springs and Shaba National Reserves lie north of the town, while Lewa Downs reserve is located south of Isiolo. The Meru National Park lies in the North East of the town.
The town of Isiolo is small but cosmopolitan. With a scenic beauty including an eclectic mix of peoples and cultures, Isiolo is home to the Niger–Congo and Nilo-Saharan-speaking Ameru, Samburu and Turkana, as well as the Cushitic-speaking Rendille and Boran. The large Somali population is mainly the result of retired Somali soldiers who settled in the area after World War I.
Daisy Waugh's book A Small Town in Africa (1994) is about six months Waugh spent living in Isiolo.
- International Livestock Research Institute: Urban Poverty Estimates For Kenya's Provinces, Districts, Divisions and Locations
- The Standard, November 7, 2006: Isiolo to get international airport
- Mburu, Solomon (June 10, 2008). "Isiolo on way to becoming leading tourist resort". Business Daily Africa. Retrieved 2008-06-23.