Madagascar-1Madagascar-2
Discover Madagascar
A continent in a miniature
Madagascar is a paradise island that lies in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean

General information

Capital:

Antananarivo

Population:

24 823 539

Official language:

Malagasy, French

Currency:

Malagasy ariary

Territory:

587 041 km²

Geography

Madagascar is divided into six major tourist regions: Antsiranana, Mahajanga, Antananarivo, Toamasina, Fianarantsoa, and Toliara. Each of them has its own unique ecosystem, but where should you start to explore the island?

Map Madagascar

Where to go and what to see

Antananarivo is an unusual and long word, isn't it? The Malagasy people call their capital and main city Tana. The city rests on the high hills inside the island. From dawn to dusk, it is buzzing with dozens of bazaars, where some people try to bring down the price, and others try to sell at a higher price. The ensemble of the palaces of Royal Hill of Ambohimanga, the burial vaults of the Malagasy monarchs, the red walls of the Baroque Andafiavaratra Palace — all of them stand out frighteningly against the mud and poverty of the poor quarters. Lake Anosy is located at the heart of this heady mix. It was designed and artificially created by the English missionary James Cameron in the shape of a heart.

Toliara grew among the desert with its thorny bushes in the cozy Bay of Saint-Augustin. It is a major port city in Madagascar. The 250-kilometer reef protects the city's coast from the dangers of the ocean and is also a mecca for diving and snorkeling enthusiasts. More than 200 species of coral, 760 species of fish, dolphins, turtles, tiger sharks, and ancient Latimeria — this underwater world is admirable. And when you see your fingertips wrinkling from a long stay in the water, go to the Reniala Private Reserve, where hundreds of species of birds will cheer you up — literally and figuratively.

Antsiranana is a region in the north of the country, where hiking enthusiasts go to conquer the shaggy slopes of the mountains and the volcanic mountain range of Tsaratanana. Extreme adventures are waiting for travelers in Mahajanga area as well: narrow paths of the Tsingy de Bemaraha Reserve stone forest with peaks, sharp as a sword's blade, can take your breath away. Relax after active hiking through cool-down volcanoes and mangroves on the sandy beaches of Morondava, in the west of the island. The legendary Avenue of the Baobabs and Kirindy Forest, an ideal spot for observing lemurs, mongooses, and fossas, are all within easy reach.

"Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!" - this is how pirates sang back in the XVII century, burying looted treasures on the island of Nosy Boraha (better known by its former name Île Sainte-Marie). It is unknown whether it is true or not, but no gold deposits have been found on the island so far. But the fact is that the tourists love Ile Saint-Marie very much for its white beaches, clean ocean, and palm trees that slope low above the shore. The Torre del Homenaje, Ozama fortress, the churches of Saint Nicholas and Saint Francis, Alcazar castle — the island's colonial architecture will surely appeal to curious minds. And the cherry on the cake will be the watching of humpback whales: they twirl a flip over the waters of the strait near the island every year from July to September.

In the north-west of Madagascar, there is another paradise place, the island of Nosy Be. It has experienced much during its centuries-long history. It was a refuge for pirates and a living embodiment of a treasure chest; a prison and hard labor for French colonizers; a slave trade center; it even had a fleet of Russian General Rozhestvensky. Today Nosy Be smells of coffee and ylang-ylang. In the forests of Lokobe Strict Reserve, black lemurs are jumping from one tree to another. Cold streams of waterfalls lull the cooled volcano. In the town of Djamandjary, they pour the world-famous Dzama rum. The Omura's whale, the rarest species of these mammals, demonstrate their fountains near the coast. Besides, it offers excellent hotels, gorgeous beaches, the best quality of service Madagascar has, and you won't be able to resist the temptation to book your own ticket to Madagascar.

Things to consider when going to Madagascar

  • The criminal situation in Madagascar leaves much to be desired. A light-minded tourist will be gladly "processed" by pickpockets and overcharged by taxi drivers. It is best to avoid walks after sunset, and it is better not to go without a local guide in some parts of the island.
  • Drinking or using raw water for hygienic purposes is prohibited: you should either boil or buy bottled water in shops.
  • Many tourists buy locally mined gems in memory of Madagascar. Make sure you ask the seller for a certificate of origin if you do not want problems with customs control.
  • Before you are tempted to dive into the warm Indian Ocean, make sure you are allowed to swim on this part of the coast. Sharks often swim into lagoons that are not protected by coral reefs, and you clearly do not want to be their dessert on your vacation. It's also not recommended diving into freshwater bodies, where reptiles, leeches, and disease-causing agents are waiting to enjoy you as a treat.
  • No special vaccinations are officially required to visit Madagascar. If you have followed the vaccination calendar, you may feel relatively safe. Tourists who have stayed in Tanzania, Nigeria, and some other African countries for more than 12 hours may be required to obtain a yellow fever vaccination certificate. Prevention of malaria before and after a trip to the island is also recommended.
  • Local cultures and traditions may seem illogical to foreign people, but you should take them into consideration. For example, do not wear khaki or military uniforms; do not point one finger at a person, only five at a time; it's a bad omen to sing while eating; do not take pictures of locals without permission; do not enter the local cemeteries.

The best time to visit Madagascar

The ideal time to visit the island is from May to the middle of November. That's the period of the Malagasy winter when the water temperature in the ocean drops to 23 degrees, there are practically no precipitations, and it's easier to breathe thanks to the moderate humidity. From January to March, the south-eastern Passat falls on Madagascar with heavy rainfalls. The island becomes stuffy, wet, and even dangerous due to a large number of insects.

Hotels in Madagascar

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Isalo Rock Lodge
from 80 $
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Select Hôtel
from 30 $
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Villas Orchidées
from 54 $
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Le Grand Hôtel Diego
from 80 $
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Hotel Sarimanok
from 81 $
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Anjiamarango Beach Resort
from 45 $
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Tamboho Suites Serviced Apartments
from 100 $
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Tamboho Boutik Hotel
from 118 $
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Relais des Plateaux & Spa– Ivato International Airport
from 105 $
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L'heure Bleue
from 74 $
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The Streamliner Hotel Apartment
from 91 $
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Le Chat'o Park Hotel
from 38 $

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