Antananarivo, often abbreviated as Tana, is built on three levels. The Queen’s Palace and the associated Royal Village (Rova) are listed monuments. At the lowest level of the city is Analakely Market. Zuma Market is busiest on Fridays; but beware of pickpockets. Tsimbazaza, the zoo and botanical gardens, is open Thurs, Sun and public holidays. The Tourist Information Office is very close by. Don’t stray too far from the hotel after sunset.
Located on the southeastern tip of the island, Taolanaro (formerly Fort Dauphin) was the first French settlement in Madagascar. Parts of the 17th-century fortress can still be seen. The city and its surroundings are known for seafood, orchids and carnivorous plants, which can also be seen at the Mandona Agricultural Center in the Baie de Sainte-Luce. Nearby is Berenty National Park, home to some rare animal species.
Antsirabe (170 km from the capital) is a thermal resort and Madagascar’s largest industrial center. The city is surrounded by volcanic hills with crater lakes. Madagascar ‘s second highest mountain, Tsiafajovona, looms west of the Strait of Antananarivo.
- Andyeducation: Introduction to education system in Madagascar, including compulsory schooling and higher education.
The Central Highlands
The capital and several other important cities lie in the central region of the Hauts Plateaux, a chain of rugged and gorged mountains running north-south through central Madagascar.
Located 80 km from the capital, Mantasoa is a popular picnic and day trip destination. The site includes an artificial lake, pine forests and Madagascar’s first industrial site.
Ampefy (90 km from the capital) is a volcanic area with waterfalls, a volcanic lake and geysers.
Perinet (also Andasibe), 140 km from the capital, is a nature reserve and home to the indri (tailless lemur) and many species of orchids.
Ambohimanga is the birthplace of the state of Madagascar and is located 20 km from the capital. The city is surrounded by forests and is known as the “Blue City”, “Holy City” and also as the “Forbidden City” . There is also a royal palace here. The citadel was once an important Merina fortress and buildings used for ceremonies still stand today. The main gate consists of a stone disc that can only be moved by 40 men.
Ritual veneration of ancestors takes place here on Sundays.
In the barren south, the many strange baobab-like plants are particularly noticeable.
The provincial capital, Fianarantsoa, is an important center of wine and rice production and a good base for exploring the southern highlands. One of the most interesting places in the surrounding mountains is Amabalavao, said to be the “home of the deceased”. Antemore – paper and Lamba-Aridrano – silk are produced here. The bones of the ancestors worshiped here can be seen at the nearby Ambondrome and Ifandana Rocks. Ifandana Rock was the scene of a mass suicide in 1811. In Ambositra and the neighboring Zafimaniny villages produce intricate inlaid wood. Isalo National Park is located in a sandstone mountain range (accessible by 4WD vehicle or on foot with a guide, camping is possible). In Ranomafana is a thermal bath. Don’t swim in the sea at the beach resort of Mananjary on the east coast because of the sharks.
Western Madagascar was once covered with lush deciduous forests, but is now predominantly savannah. This part of the country is sparsely populated, and the region’s largest industry is the breeding of zebu, a species of ox introduced by Southeast Asian settlers in the 8th century.
Mahajanga is the provincial capital at the mouth of Madagascar’s largest river, the Betsiboka. The road to town is only open between July and October. Boats can be taken to Nosy Bé and other islands. The island’s most interesting caves are near Anjohibe, 90 km inland. There is a nature reserve near Ankarafantsika.
Nosy Bé is Madagascar’s main tourist area. The island is surrounded by smaller islands and lies off the west coast. It can be reached in an hour’s flight from the capital. The largest town is Andoany (Hell-Ville). Nearby are the ruins of a 17th-century Indian village.
The cosmopolitan coastal port of Antsiranana (formerly Diégo Suarez) on the northernmost tip of the island overlooks a beautiful gulf. A magnificent landscape with lakes, waterfalls, caves and rainforest unfolds above the city. A permit from the Ministère des Eaux et Forêts (town office) is required to visit the nearby national park at Montagne d’Arbre. Boats go to the island of Nosy Bé. ^ At Ramena there is a nice sandy beach, but sharks are warned here. The road south to the capital is only open between July and October. Ile Ste-Marie
(Nosy Boraha) is an island off the east coast, 150 km north of Toamasina. A number of historical sites can be found here, including Madagascar’s oldest Catholic Church. The provincial capital, Toamasina, is on the east coast and has the largest port in the country. It is an eight-hour drive from Antananarivo and, like the state capital, offers several markets, including the Bé Bazaar. 11 km north of the city are the Ivolina Gardens with numerous plant and animal species.
Further south, Vatomandry is a popular beach resort; Because of the sharks, however, you cannot swim in the sea.
The lush green north of the country is surmounted by two large mountains. The Tsarantanana (2880 m), the highest mountain on the island, is overgrown with giant ferns and lichens, especially in the higher-lying rainforest. The Montagne d’Arbre National Park (1500 m) is home to the famous orchids and numerous species of lemurs. In the east, the monsoon rains fall between December and March.
Toliara is the provincial capital of the south west coast with beautiful beaches, diving, fishing, sailing and other water sports.