Evolution has occurred more or less in isolation on this remote island – located 400 kilometres off Africa’s east coast – with the result that much of its indigenous wildlife is found nowhere else on earth. Madagascar’s menagerie of weird and wonderful creatures includes the world’s biggest and smallest chameleons and over 70 species of lemur – long-tailed primates endemic to the island. The Madagascan landscape is no less compelling than the resident wildlife, with terrain ranging from lush jungles and palm-fringed beaches to the knife-edged karst tsingys of the Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park’s ‘stone forests’. Madagascar is an otherworldly paradise where visitors are offered a unique glimpse into a fantastical one-of-a-kind world.
Days 1 - 2
Madagascar’s capital, Antananarivo, is known fondly as Tana and crowns a majestic mountain range at around 1400 metres above sea level. The city boasts a rich historical heritage that is complemented by scenic landscapes and a large network of sublime hiking routes. From here, it is possible to explore several nature reserves (don’t miss Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park, which contains incredible limestone karsts). Known for its vibrant nightlife, Antananarivo features exciting local live music at a variety of clubs and bars. History and architecture enthusiasts have plenty to see - from the remnants of the French colonial era in the old heart of the city to ancient Malagasy palaces and forts. Other bucket-list items include the fascinating Musée de la Photo; the popular Parc de Tsarasaotra (an excellent bird sanctuary), and the vibrant Analakely Market.
Days 2 - 3
Perched in the Central Highlands, Antsirabe serves as the capital of the Vakinankaratra Region. Known as the ‘Malagasy Vichy’ because of its numerous hot springs and thermal baths, Madagascar’s third largest city offers tourists a bustling and gritty atmosphere in a setting reminiscent of the Belle Epoque. The city can be experienced on foot or on one of the many colourful pulled rickshaws - referred to locally as 'pousse-pousses'. The city’s charming attractions include French colonial buildings dating back to the early 20th century, Scandinavian villas, vibrant markets, and artisan workshops. Nno visit is complete without a trip up Ivohitra Hill, where a panoramic view of the scenic highlands awaits.
Days 3 - 4
Resting in the southeastern inland region of Madagascar, the quiet village town of Sahambavy is known for its stunning scenery, picturesque farms and for being a convenient base from which to explore the town of Fianaratsoa. Surrounded by purple mountain peaks juxtaposed against rolling green tea fields, the idyllic charm of the town is undeniable. While renowned for its tea plantation (the only one on the island), the village also produces rice, cassava and potatoes, creating vast hilly landscapes of verdant crops. The famous antique Fianaratsoa-Cote Est Railway makes one of its last stops here, running through Sahambavy from the town centre of Fianarantsoa to the delightful coastal town of Manakara on the Indian Ocean coast. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit neighbouring Fianarantsoa’s historical Upper Town, which features enthralling churches and breathtaking views.
Days 4 - 5
Set along Madagascar's east coast, the city of Manakara serves as the capital of the Vatovavy-Fitovinany region. It makes for a convenient stopover for visitors travelling on the famous Fianarantsoa-Cote Est (FCE) Railway. It provides an excellent base and jumping off point for those wishing to explore the natural riverscapes and waterways of the renowned Pangalanes Canal. Visitors can look forward to exploring the sandy streets of this multifaceted town, soaking up the laidback island-style atmosphere and browsing the daily market.
Days 5 - 6
A quaint farming community surrounded by verdant valleys on the banks of Namorona River, the small town of Ranomafana is situated in the district of Ifanadiana in the Vatovavy-Fitovinany Region of southeastern Madagascar. Just a few kilometres away from town is the famous Ramofana National Park, a 41 600-hectare expanse of thriving rainforest. Nature lovers can enjoy hiking through the mountainous terrain, enjoy a leisurely soak in the thermal hot waters and view the abundant wildlife that inhabits the area including twelve lemur species, varying species of bats, tenrecs, mongooses, chameleons, spiders and over a hundred species of bird. Located east of Ranomafana is the picturesque Ranomafana Arboretum, an impressive botanical garden that boasts over 250 plant species and 36 tree species that thrive in this pristine paradise.
Days 6 - 7
Located in south central Madagascar, the royal 19th-century city of Fianarantsoa has grown over the years to become Madagascar’s cultural and intellectual hub. Serving as Madagascar’s third largest city, Fianarantsoa is home to numerous schools and academic establishments, impressive colonial architecture, and more churches per square metre than any other city in the country. A popular attraction is the old historic centre of Anatirova, where tourists can enjoy panoramic views of the city. Fianarantsoa is also located in the country’s richest wine-producing region, making wine tours and tastings a popular pastime. Visitors can also enjoy browsing the local market and exploring Haute-Ville, with its cobbled streets and great views.
Days 7 - 8
Neighbouring the Andringitra National Park in southern Madagascar, the Tsaranoro Valley is best known for its excellent rock climbing routes and its spectacularly scenic hiking trails. Climbers flock to the valley from all corners of the globe for a chance to traverse the impressive rock walls. Nature lovers can look forward to immersing themselves in the breathtakingly beautiful landscapes, while thrill seekers can look forward to more adrenaline-filled activities such as base jumping and paragliding. The mostly arid valley is dotted with mango trees, open savanna and tropical dry forest meeting the rugged granite walls of the Tsaranoro Massif reaching up to 800 metres in height. Visitors can also look forward to exceptionally scenic day treks, overnight multi-day hiking trails and spotting endemic wildlife such as ring-tailed lemurs and various other species of chameleon, lizard and falcon.
Days 8 - 10
Situated in the south of Madagascar, the small town of Ranohira serves as the gateway to the beautiful Isalo National Park. Surrounded by sprawling grasslands and rocky mountain outcrops, Ranohira is a tranquil outpost that provides an excellent spot to catch your breath before embarking on an adventure into the park, which could last anything from several hours to several weeks. In and around Ranohira, visitors are offered a variety of accommodation options ranging from simple rooms to luxurious bungalows and even camping for the more adventurous. While here, take the opportunity to soak up the authentic rural atmosphere of this unassuming settlement, which is mostly populated by the nomadic farming Bara people.