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Situated off the east coast of Africa is Madagascar, the 4th-largest island in the world. Prepare to get wild! Exotic charm pervades this land of rainforests and beaches, which is one of the Vanilla Islands. Both the language and the demonym associated with the nation are Malagasy. The language owes much to French (by way of colonialism), but the culture is steeped with a blend of Indonesian, Bornean, African, and Asian influence. A wonderland of natural beauty is yours to explore here. You’ll soak up the majesty of the forest on bush walks. Savor the rush of a sunrise safari or a game drive deep in the trees!

At night, you'll bed down in a jungle lodge that combines the best of luxury accommodation with the proximity of the untamed jungle. Take a cruise at dusk in a pirogue, the traditional outrigger canoes whose canopies double as fishermen’s tents, and revel in the quaint rustic appeal for which this far-flung paradise is known. By far the best-known residents of Madagascar are the multiple species of lemurs that frolic through its preserves. A massive variety of birds, butterflies, and other fauna thrive alongside them. The flora is no less extraordinary. From the strange, stout baobab trees to carnivorous plants (!), your Malagasy tour is bound to bring you face-to-face with the weird and wonderful.

This is not to say, of course, that Madagascar has no refined pleasures to offer. The Malagasy New Year festivities are lavish and celebrated in several major cities. There are palaces to explore, hot springs in which to dip, and rambling romantic rides down bumpy roads in intercity taxis during which to relax and reflect on the next leg of our journey while the riotous jungle scenery flies by. No matter what your pleasure, you’re sure to find it.

Top Sights in Madagascar


Habitually referred to as “Tana” by locals, the Malagasy capital holds the remains of Rova, the Queen’s residence in the 17th and 18th century, and is well-worth a visit. Local guides will show you around the shell of the palace, which was damaged by arson but still affords some of the best views of the city. A current of French influence flavors the language and architecture, the latter of which is coupled with Indonesian flair. The contrast of the verdant rice paddies with the multihued clay of the buildings makes for fantastic photographs! The palace at Ambohimanga is a World Heritage Site deserving of a visit, as is the high energy crowd of the market at Analakely. Just 45 minutes outside the city center, you’ll discover the quirky personalities of Madagascar’s most famous wildlife at the Lemur Park, or stop in on some of their sharp-toothed neighbors at the Ivato croc park.


Rare orchids and gorgeous waterfalls characterize this protected forestland, located some three hours away from Tana on a paved road. A vast biodiversity of wildlife call the park their home, and viewing these wild beauties in their natural habitat is one of the great joys of a visit! Prominent among the residents is the Indri Indri lemur, the largest in the country. The strange, unique call of these creatures is heard throughout the park all morning long. They are considered sacred to the Malagasy, and consequently receive a lot of attention. The end result is that men of the Indri families are quite used to humans and will dare to come close. Big, colorful butterflies float through the air. You’ll be enchanted by the variety of new friends you make in Andasibe-Mantadia.

Nosy Be

The name means “big island” in Malagasy, but some have joked that “Noisy Bee” would be a more apt moniker for Madagascar’s busiest tourist resort. Exquisite coral reefs, fantastic beaches, and reserves full of lemurs and turtles are all to be found here. Fishing is a big attraction, as is snorkeling! Andilana, the northernmost beach, is the most accessible to sunbathers and swimmers, but don't discount Nosy Tanikely, upon which a scenic marine reserve is located. If soaking in the loveliness of local flora is more your thing, check out the Lokobe Nature Special Reserve or visit a ylang ylang plantation where the fragrant perfume of these tropical flowers fills the air. Alternately, pop in on a rum distillery for a bit of history and a taste of the famed liquor.


Sprawling across a mountainous landscape, Ranomafana National Park is a passageway between the southern and eastern parts of Madagascar. The critically-endangered golden lemur was found living here in 1986, a discovery that prompted the official designation of this area as a national park. Camping in the deep, verdant rainforest is a singular experience, one marked by cozy cabins, close encounters with butterflies, geckos, lemurs, and birds, and long night hikes by torchlight. Native Malagasy tribes have long appreciated the medicinal properties of the many plants growing among the trees, and spotting the wide diversity of greenery is a sport all to itself. The rush of many small rivers are harnessed into hydroelectricity, an intriguing process foreign to many visitors. There are several distinct hiking circuits of the park in varying intensity for those who wish to take in the wonders of Ranomafana by foot.


This old royal city is the cultural capital of Madagascar. The name of the city means “the place where one can learn something good,” and Fianarantsoa accordingly remains the intellectual and educational hub of the nation. The Old Town of “Fiana” is considered an endangered treasure, owing to the continual encroachment of new development on the old markets and alleys. The city’s attractions are both obvious and hidden, promising a generous payoff to the visitor who would take the time to unearth them. Gemstone deals are brokered in the morning down by the train station, and excellent red and white wines are produced on terraced vineyards in the countryside. One can scale the hills up to the old mosque, with its Arabian-style minarets, and gaze upon the entire city spread out below. Truly, Fianarantsoa takes travelers a step back in time, offering the same marvels depicted in sepia postcards from over one hundred years ago.

Tsingy de Bemaraha

Limestone uplands ascend to “tsingy” peaks in this national park located in the Melaky region. Along with the adjacent Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Preserve, this area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The forests, lakes, and mangrove swamps of the park remain untouched, and a bevy of rambunctious wildlife runs rampant. Many species within the area are rare and/or endangered, a fact which weighed heavily in the park’s distinction as strictly protected. The park has strong significance in Malagasy ecotourism. Walking and hiking tours of the park allow an intimate brush with the natural beauty of the tsingy, and the bird watching is unrivaled.

Quick Facts

Capital: Antananarivo
Primary Airports: Ivato Airport (TNR), Antsirabe Airport (ATJ)
Government: Republic
Currency: Malagasy Ariary (MGA)
Population: 21,095,000 (2007 est.)
Language: Malagasy, French
Electricity: 230V/50Hz (Indian or UK plug
Time Zone: UTC + 3

Madagascar Travel Reviews

Amazing but difficult trip to see Lemurs


The trip was amazing...difficult as there is little infra-structure in the upcountry. The roads are rough and there are only a few of them BUT all the hardships were totally worth the trip. The lemurs were amazing as were the lizards and snakes. We sadly did not have a good bird person so birds were few and that was one of the drawbacks of the trip. Also I would say we were not properly prepared for the rainforest treks....perhaps it was unusual weather as friends who went later did not experience the muddy treks that we had. The coast line beaches were a welcome rest stop.

Trip Rating:
Destinations Visited: Madagascar
Tour Operator: Intrepid

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