Places to visit in Madagascar
Madagascar is a large country with a poor infrastructure. It’s therefore not possible to include everything on one trip. Here we have described some of the highlights but please call us to discuss how best to combine these on your tour.
The capital of Madagascar, Antananarivo, is known locally as Tana and doesn’t have a huge amount to offer the visitor. However, you will usually end up with a few nights here either at the start or end of the trip or in the middle when flying from one location to another. (All flights pass through Tana, and it’s not usually possible to combine two in one day).
There is a good handicraft market where you can spend an enjoyable afternoon, or select a hotel with a nice pool where you can relax before or after the rigours of the road!
One of the highlights of any visit to Madagascar, the various parks in and around Andasibe offer superb wildlife sightings. Both Diadem sifaka and Indri are found here, two of the largest and most rewarding lemur species to spot. Start your explorations early in the morning to maximise your chance of seeing them leap seemingly impossible distances from one branch to the next, and watch the young as they play fight with each other.
The rainforest here is also very beautiful, both during the day and also as a backdrop to a night walk when the haunting call of Indris and the chirruping of frogs and crickets provide the backing track to your nocturnal ramble.
Also, a highlight is Lemur Island, where many pet lemurs are being slowly reacquainted with the wild. As they are very habituated you can get quite close, which the children will hugely enjoy.
Antsirabe & Ibity Highlands
Antsirabe is on the journey south from Tana, following Route 7. The scenery in the area is endlessly rewarding, with beautiful rice terraces covering the mountainsides and small traditional villages. There are wonderful hiking opportunities in this area and a comfortable village gite where you can spend a few nights.
In Antsirabe itself, there are a number of craft workshops that are worth a stop.
Ranomafana National Park occupies a sensational location, nestled within a fold in the hills on the bank of the Namorona River. As you approach the village, you pass by a dramatic waterfall, where the hills narrow and the river thunders down over the rocks in a dramatic display. This sets the scene for your time in Ranomafana, with a glorious range of different landscapes. In the national park you will enjoy lush secondary rainforest (with great lemur sightings) whilst outside the park, the hillsides are carved into terraces of rice paddies that glint in the sunlight. You’ll also have wonderful opportunities for exploring local villages.
This small town is situated in the region where the verdant highlands begin to transition to the drier mountains of the south. There are large rounded granite hills here, connected by ochre red paths that cut through the vegetable fields.
A zebu market is held here every Wednesday and Thursday and well worth a stop if you are here on the right day. There are also excellent opportunities for hiking (including an ascent of majestic Captain’s Peak), as well as village walks and mountain biking.
Also found here is Park d’Anja, a small community-owned park given over to the conservation and preservation of Ring-tailed lemurs (of King Julian fame, from the film Madagascar. There are a number of different family groups in the forest, and they are relatively habituated to visitors so you can often get quite close.
Isalo National Park
One of Madagascar’s gems, Isalo National Park is a treasure trove of different landscapes, incorporating craggy rocky escarpments, lush oases tucked into hidden river valleys, and endless hills dotted with orange-hued rock spires and strangely plump elephant foot trees.
Best explored on foot, there are a number of different routes through the park depending on the ages of your children and how far you want to hike. We will suggest the best option for your family, trying to incorporate a swimming spot along the way.
In the evening, there are numerous sunset spots offering superb views as the rocky landscape turns a deep red in the setting sun.
The beaches of Ifaty are not on par with those in Nosy Be to the far north. They are a yellowy sand and there are quite a few rocks across the beach, but this is still a welcome sight at the end of a drive along Route 7, with ample opportunity to relax in a welcoming beach-front hotel. There is a reef off the coast here that offers excellent snorkelling, and the opportunity for whale watching from June to September.
The small island of Nosy Be sits off the northwestern tip of Madagascar, one of a series of islands of (in places) exceptional beauty, fringed by white sands and fragrant with the perfume of ylang ylang. This is the perfect place to round off a Madagascar holiday but you do need to be careful with your choice of hotel. Although some have gorgeous white sandy beaches, others (despite what the website may indicate) front on to much less picturesque beaches with a coarse orange somewhat muddy sand. We will suggest somewhere suitable!
There are many idyllic islands near Nosy Be that you can take a boat to; some have hotels whilst others are completely deserted but can be visited for the day, offering superb snorkelling opportunities.
Ile St Marie
This idyllic tropical island offers beautiful turquoise water, brilliantly white sand and an abundance of swaying palm trees. Known as Pirate Island (as during the 17th and 18th centuries, pretty much the entire population of the island were pirates), it’s now a wonderful location for beach time. It’s much less developed than Nosy Be but still has a good range of accommodation from mid-range to luxury options.
Morondava & Baobab Avenue
Baobab Avenue is one of Madagascar’s most iconic locations, where numerous giant baobabs dot the dry desert-like landscape with their swollen trunks and spindly branches. Whilst spectacular, this area is particularly arduous to get to by land, and therefore does not feature on most family itineraries. However, you can fly to the nearby town of Morondava instead of taking the long overland route if you are particularly interested in visiting.
Tsingy Forest of Bemaraha
The Tsingy Forest of Bemaraha is a remarkable landscape of shard-like jagged limestone peaks that are massed together forming a ‘sea of rocks’. There are two different areas to visit, the Big and Little Tsingy. The latter are accessible to most people (although the road access here is particularly poor) but the Big Tsingy are more difficult to visit, requiring an arduous hike with lots of clambering over the rocky spires to reach the suspension bridge that takes you over one of the most impressive sections. This is only possible for fitter teens.
The area where the Tsingy are situated is difficult to get to by land from Tana, situated north of Morondava and Baobab Avenue. It is usually accessed by plane from Tana.
This area is accessible only from April – November.
Call us and we will be happy to provide you with a free-of-charge no obligation itinerary and quotation designed for you.
Madagascar in pictures
Talk with our friendly team about your family travel needs.