Madagascar is a big Island 400 km east of Africa. It was separated from the African continent more than 100 million years ago and since then became its own lush biodiverse world with flora and fauna that you’ll find nowhere else on this planet.
With a different landscape every few miles and views to die for, you’ll want to put this destination on your bucketlist! Madagascar is truly a world of its own.
Not touristy (yet)
The island is not touristy yet and we doubt it will ever be. But Madagascar has a lot to offer! The people are incredibly nice and there’s so much to see and do here. Whether it’s hiking, wildlife spotting, cultural activities or everything all together. Madagascar is surprisingly also perfect for a huge roadtrip.
The Island’s features
The Island of Madagascar has very diverse landscapes and incredible features.
From north to south you’ll find places like kitesurf heaven Antsiranana, idyllic Nosy Be Island, the busy historical capital of Antananarivo (Tana), Ranomafana rainforest, otherworldly Isalo national park and much more.. oh and let’s not forget the beautiful baobab trees.
Fun fact? Over 80% of Madagascar’s wildlife is endemic, so it’s a major wildlife destination and is even put in the same category as the Galapagos Islands.
Madagascar road trip
A road trip in Madagascar will be quite the adventure. It’s not the first country you think about when planning a road trip, but we did it and we can tell you.. it’s totally worth it!
The roads in Madagascar are basic and unpredictable and with big holes in the asphalt, it makes driving quite exhausting. But, don’t let this scare you off. Madagascar is one of the most amazing countries for a road trip!
Renting a car in Madagascar is getting easier every year. When we were there in 2017, there was only one person in the whole country that would rent out cars without a driver.
The owner, a dutch guy named Coen, made our travel experience in Madagascar unforgettable. He helped when we were in trouble and just took those extra steps to make you feel comfortable in the country.
The company’s name is Cineroutesand they have years of experience in traveling through Madagascar. They even guided various tv-shows through the country.
Also, they have their own bed&breakfast. Very convenient to have a place to stay when starting and ending your roadtrip in Madagascar, like we did.
The perfect Madagascar itinerary
There’s basically one road running through Madagascar that connects the north, east, south and west. The capital, Antananarivo, is right in the middle and therefore a perfect starting point for a road trip.
We recommend the following route when you drive from Antananarivo to the south.
This is the capital of Madagascar. The city sits at 1280m above sea level in the center of the Island, which gives it a unique feel. There’s a lot of old french and asian architecture and there’s always a busy colorful market around the corner.
What to do here
A few things to see in Tana are Lake Anosy, the many historical monuments of old Madagascar and the botanical garden.
Also the Zoo actually holds the incredible skeleton of the Elephant bird.. a flightless bird that was 3m tall (400 kg). Which only lived on Madagascar long long ago!
Antsirabe is a colonial city and after Tana the biggest and most important one of the country. The city is known for its healing thermal baths. Another fun fact is that the city, despite of its thermal baths, is called ‘the coldest city of Madagascar‘. This is because it sits at an altitude of aprox. 1500 m.
Pousse-Pousse’s are a big thing in the city. It’s like a Rickshaw that is pulled by the local people. For us is was quite sad and weird to be pulled by a human, so we didn’t try it. But, a lot of locals depend on income from the Pousse-Pousse’s, so they are happy when you take a ride.
Foodie tip: Grab a much needed good cup of coffee at ‘Conterno’. This is a cute Italian coffee place in one of the small streets of Antsirabe. Oh, and they also have amazing food! Thank us later.
Visit the nostalgic Thermal baths at Hôtel de Thermes, walk around the (north part) city to get the feel of Antsirabe, rent a bike and explore the mountain lakes and old villages. Ambositra is also relatively close (100km) and is a real gem for lovers of craftmanship. They make fenomenal woodart!
Ranomafana national park
This is going to be one of the highlights of your time in Madagascar! This tropical rainforest is mecca for wildlife & plant fanatics. You’ll find al sorts of unique birds, chameleons, lemurs and some weird looking geckos.
The special golden bamboo lemur is what most started the protection of this beautiful rainforest and it became a National Park and UNESCO World Heritage eventually.
The town of Ranomafana is small, but nice. You shouldn’t expect too much of the towns around Madagascar, but you can get the real local experience there. Get some local food or have a beer at one of the bars.
There’s also quite a few bed&breakfast’s and hotels around town if you want to stay a few nights near the National park, like we did.
A picturesque village in the middle of ricefields, vineyards and mountains. Ambalavao is also the village with the largest Zebu-market of the country. Every wednesday and thursday people from all over Madagascar gather here to sell and buy these Malagasy cows. Some shepherds walk all the way from Tulear in the south to Ambalavao!
Ambalavao is also often the starting point of trekkings through the Andringitra mountains. Go stay at great ‘La Residence du Betsileo’ and plan the whole trip with your guide there, while having a delicious breakfast!
Take a walk around the centre of Ambalavao and see a truly different world. Also, the rum is delicious and will cost you about €0,30. You’re welcome!
About 45 km from Ambalavao you’ll find the stunning Andringitra mountain range. It has an eastern humid part and a western dry part, a huge peak sitting at about 2600 meters, extra fluffy ring-tailed lemurs and lots of endemic plants and trees.
Trekking the Andringitra
We did a multiple day trekking through these mountains and felt like we just stepped into another world. Yes, again. Cold nights, hot days and lots of natural pools to jump into.
Ihosy is a town that you’ll cross on your way to Isalo from Ambalavao. Ihosy is also an important crosspoint for the Southern part of Madagascar. From here you can take the RN27 to the east and the RN13 to the most southern towns.
Isalo national park
The most impressive thing Madagascar has travels to offer might be Isalo national park. It’s a true oasis in the middle of the desertlike plains. from the town of Ranohira, you drive a few kilometers into the open wild plains behind Ranohira and there it suddenly is.. a huge 825km² mountain massif, Isalo national park.
The best way to describe Isalo national park is probably by calling it a world full of oases. Arriving at this huge rock massif, you’ll probably won’t be prepared for what you will see within and on top of it. We wish we had our drone with us, because from above it is probably amazing!
With its hot and dry climate it is amazing to see how animals and plants adapted. Palms that can withstand fire and the, endemic to Isalo national park, elephants foot.
There are several gorges in Isalo. Walking into these gorges, you’ll immediately forget that you are in a desert like area. There are blue natural pools, lush green trees and ferns and a lot of wildlife. It’s just pure nature at its best.
A seaside town in the western part of Madagascar. It is the place to stay when you want to visit Allee de baobabs (baobab avenue), Tsingy de Bemaraha and the Kirindy reserve.
The town is split in two main sections, the main centre and Nosy Kely. The second one is where most people stay and it is full of restaurant and places to stay.
Morondava has a long stretched white sand beach with some fun bars and places to chill, but that is not why you should drive all the way to the west. You’ll want to go there for their national treasures!
Allee de Baobabs
You probably know this image: An orange dirt road perfectly lined by huge baobab trees.
Baobab avenue is one of the most known attractions of the country. It is popular by many photographers and travelers, because of its otherworldly look and perfect sunsets!
From Morondava you have to take a dirt road, a bad one, to allee de baobabs. This takes about half an hour to an hour, depending on the car.
Book a tour
Our tip is to book a tour which includes allee de baobabs, Tsingy de Bemaraha and maybe the Kirindy Reserve. Mainly because the road is quite bad and you don’t want to end up with a broken car on a long dirt road in Madagascar.
Only want to visit Allee de baobabs from Morondava? Then it’s just about half an hour to get there and you can take your own vehicle. Mostly, you can book your visit through your hotel in Morondava.
Tsingy de Bemaraha
The karst badlands of Madagascar. It is a huge landscape of grey rock with limestone needles on top. The great Tsingy and the little Tsingy are both UNESCO World Heritage sites and they deserve it! It is remote and not easy to get to by car. Let’s say it was a bumpy ride.
But, it’s all worth it when the adventure really begins inside these limestone badlands. Sharp needle cliffs, suspension bridges and climbing parcours! Adventure all around.
The kirindy reserve is an extremely dense forest which is a true playground for scientists around the world. The most popular reason to visit this reserve for travelers is, the Fossa. The largest predator of Madagascar. The best time to see this animal? November!
Besides the Fossa, this reserve is home to many other special animals that you can only find here. So it’s worth a visit, especially if you are on your way to allee de baobabs or even further to Tsingy the Bemaraha.