What are the highlights and attractions you can’t miss while on vacation in Madagascar? Here you will find a list of the top 10 attractions of Madagascar!
At least since the animated film “Madagascar”, the second largest island nation in the world (after Indonesia) is known to most people. For travelers who like to visit exotic countries where mass tourism is still in its infancy, Madagascar should definitely be on the bucket list.
Jungles, lemurs and unpronounceable names: On Madagascar, tombs and palaces of past kings, tropical rainforests with unknown animal species, dreamlike beaches and an untouched underwater world impress. The modern capital Antananarivo is located right next to Ambohimanga, the majestic hill of the king, whose ruins still bear witness to the splendorous buildings of past centuries.
10 Best Places to Visit in Madagascar
The best time to visit Madagascar is between April and October, with the peak season starting in July. From November to March there is the rainy season and especially in January and February the east coast is often hit by tropical storms. Air and water temperatures in Madagascar’s tropical climate are around 30 °C all year round.
Madagascar is a multifaceted country of contrasts and attracts as much to active vacations in the mountains and national parks as to relaxing vacations on the paradisiacal coasts and lonely islets. Equally diverse are our top 10 sights of Madagascar, which will certainly meet every travel taste!
Until 12,000 years ago, Madagascar was a barren rocky island where five volcanoes barely supported life due to regular eruptions. Since calm has prevailed, the tropical island in the Indian Ocean has been overgrown by dense forests with numerous animal and plant species. The remains of volcanic activity from the Pleistocene are unmistakable from five volcanic fields.
For example, around the crater lake Itasy, Madagascar’s third largest lake, there are countless geysers, smoking holes, hot springs and extinct volcanic craters. Likewise, around Ankaratra, the island’s second highest mountain, there are solidified lava and crater lakes to marvel at.
The Ankaizina and Ambre-Bobaomby volcanic fields in northern Madagascar are home to endangered bird species and a variety of lemur species with a boiling hot past. The fifth volcanic field of Madagascar is located on the island of Nosy Be, also in the north of the island. Crocodiles have now settled in its crater lakes, which are considered a sacred ancestral site.
Morondava and the Baobab Alley
Besides the volcanic fields, the giant baobabs are the second sight that makes Madagascar so special. The seemingly inverted tree giants on the west coast of Madagascar near Morondava are particularly spectacular.
Their thick trunks with the characteristic gnarled branches rise into the sky about 45 minutes by car from the coastal town to the left and right of the road to Belo Tsiribihina.
Tip: In February and March, the baobabs (or baobabs) are particularly pretty to look at – that’s when they bloom.
Apart from the Baobab avenue, Morondava (“where the coast is long”) also has paradisiacal beaches with lots of sun in a relaxed vacation atmosphere. Unfortunately, swimming in Morondava is not recommended due to the currents.
Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park
Morondava is also a perfect starting point for visiting the Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park. Its name loosely translates to “where you can’t walk barefoot”. Anyone who gets to see the unique karst landscape of the national park will also immediately know where this name comes from. Countless stone peaks, some of which have been sharpened to a razor’s edge by wind and weather, cover the entire national park like a spectacular forest of rock needles.
Apart from the bizarre rock formations, the flora and fauna in Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park is also unique. Over 80 percent of the plants thrive nowhere else in the world. In the spiny-dry forests of the highlands and the wet lake areas of the valleys live 100 species of birds and 13 different lemurs.
The labyrinths as limestone with their caves, gorges and plateaus can be explored on hiking trails or by scenic flight.
Isalo National Park
The Isalo National Park in the southern highlands of Madagascar also impresses with its bizarre rock formations of Jurassic sandstone. Posh calicoes zip around the vast savannahs and grassy plains, and chameleons can be spotted in the bushes.
The park, founded in 1962, is located directly on the RN7 and is therefore easy to reach by car. The hiking trails through the 80,000 hectare Isalo National Park are all well developed and range from a few hours to several days.
Tip: If you want to explore the national park by car, you should definitely have an off-road vehicle with four-wheel drive!
One of the main attractions of Isalo National Park are its natural pools. Blue Pool, Black Pool and the absolutely picturesque Piscine Naturelle invite you to take a refreshing plunge into the cool water after a hike through the impressive mountain landscape. The park’s canyons, which are up to 200 meters deep, or a hike to one of the waterfalls also provide cooling.
Ranomafana National Park
In Ranomafana National Park, it’s not the ridges and cliffs that are the attraction, but the lush green mountain rainforests. Nowhere else in Madagascar can hikers better immerse themselves in the island nation’s wild tropical nature. Lemurs scurry through the treetops, geckos snap at butterflies and exotic flowers line the trails, which can be explored on tours lasting up to 4 days.
In the middle of Madagascar’s third largest national park is a spa hotel that makes the natural thermal springs accessible for relaxation and healing purposes. By the way, these gave the national park its name, because Ranomafana means “hot water”.
The best time to visit Ranomafana National Park is all year round, but August has the least rainfall. The tropical hot and humid climate hardly changes.
The island of Nosy Be about 10 kilometers off the northern coast of Madagascar is worth a trip not only because of its turbulent volcanic remains. The “Big Island” is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Madagascar and is also called “Perfume Island” because of its sugar, vanilla, clove and cinnamon plantations.
There are only about 350 guest rooms on Nosy Be, which are booked up well in advance. Whoever gets hold of an accommodation will be rewarded with a dream vacation in paradise far away from mass tourism.
Because Nosy Be is a perfect vacation island, where temperatures range between 20 and 30°C all year round. Nevertheless, thanks to the frequent (mostly nightly) rains, Nosy Be is lush green and can boast breathtaking nature. Beautiful sandy beaches, tropical nature reserves, rushing waterfalls and crater lakes with crocodiles as well as the bars and discos of Ambatoloaka form a colorful mix of activity and entertainment that makes vacationing on Nosy Be so special.
The former pirate island Nosy Boraha on the northeast coast of Madagascar is just like Nosy Be a dreamlike vacation paradise, but much more pristine.
Golden sandy beaches in palm-fringed bays entice visitors to take a beach vacation, and a crystal-clear sea complete with coral reef reveals Madagascar’s fascinating underwater world to divers and snorkelers.
Tip: From June to September even humpback whales pass by here. They leave the cold waters of Antarctica to give birth to their calves further north.
Royal Palace (Rova) in Ambohimanga
About 20 kilometers north of Madagascar’s capital, Antananarivo, is the historic capital of Ambohimanga. The best-preserved palace complex in Madagascar was the seat of the island nation’s kings until the late 18th century. Since 2001, the now sacred site has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
From the 15th to the 19th century, construction took place at Ambohimanga. Around the royal palace, the rather plain “Rova”, the royal bath, a sacrificial place, a court chair and the tombs of the kings were built on the palace grounds. The remains of these can still be seen today and continue to make Ambohimanga an important pilgrimage destination where the Malagasy go to ask their departed rulers for help and advice.
Royal Palace (Rova) in Antananarivo
Also in Antananarivo is a rova, a Malagasy royal palace. It was built in the 17th century, when the seat of government of Madagascar was moved from Ambohimanga to Antananarivo. From then on, the heavily fortified palace was the cultural and political center of the recently unified empire for about 300 years.
The Rova is located at 1,500 meters above sea level about 200 meters above Antananarivo and offers a fantastic view of the city. Palaces, temples, residences, a chapel and the tombs of the royal family can still be seen on the seven sacred hills. Most of the wooden buildings were destroyed by fire in 1995, and it was not until 2010 that the royal palace was reopened to visitors after renovation.
Since 2020, a (controversially discussed) colosseum has been enthroned on top of the royal tombs, providing a fantastic backdrop for cultural events in front of an audience of 400 people.
Analakely Market in Antananarivo
Next to the Royal Palace, Analakely Market is the second famous sight in Antananarivo. It is the largest market in the city and also known as Zoma Market. There is always something going on at Analakely Market, because in the colorful pavilions locals can find everything they need for daily life.
Fruits and vegetables in bright colors, fish, meat (who’s up for grilled lizards?) and clothing make up the bulk of the goods for sale. Household goods, electronics and DVDs are also available, as are African handicrafts.
If you’re looking for souvenirs, this is also the place to go. Haggling and bargaining are the order of the day here – unfortunately, so is pickpocketing, so it’s better to leave your valuables at the hotel.