The center of Madagascar, with the entanglement and diversity of its landscapes is like a dungeon of the island. The wide eroded landscapes where people only seem to be intruders sharply contrast with densely-populated areas, water bodies, and rural areas with their rice paddies’ draught boards as a background. Lands of traditions, rich with historical places, they exhibit a continental trait and are careless of the fact that a plane can throw change within their boundaries, one stretch of wing away from the sea!
- Antananarivo-Ivato is the entry door to the island and is equipped with all commodities and services of a modern airport.
Antananarivo is linked to:
Paris thanks to Air Madagascar and Air France (departing from Roissy CDG) and Corsair (departing from Orly Sud)
Guangzhou (China) and Bangkok (Thailand) thanks to AirMadagascar
L’Ile Maurice thanks to Air Madagascar and Air Mauritius
LaRéunion thanks to Air Madagascar and Air Austral
Dzaoudzi (Mayotte) thanks to Air Madagascar and Air Austral
Johannesburg (Afrique du Sud) thanks toAir Madagascar and Air Link
Moroni (Grande Comore) thanks to Air Madagascar and Comores Aviation
Nairobi (Kenya) thanks to Air Madagascar and Kenya Airways
The capital city is linked to the regions thanks to the world’s densest domestic airlink network », served by Air Madagascar.
Par route, les Nationales partant vers les grandes villes de provinces sont la RN2 (Tamatave), la RN4 (Majunga et jonction avec la RN6 de Diégo-Suarez au niveau d’Ambondromamy) la RN7 (Antsirabe, Fianarantsoa et Tuléar). By road, the national highways to the provinces’ largest cities are the RN2 (Tamatave), RN4 (Majunga and joining Diégo-Suarez’ RN6 at Ambondromamy) ; RN7 (Antsirabe, Fianarantsoa andTuléar).
- The Upper City, as it is locally called, is Antananarivo’s soul. There lie the palaces, the churches in carved stone, the ancient beamed houses, the places where ancient kings and keens left their prints. The rehabilitation of the Queen’s Palace is drawing to a close.
- Antananarivo is inseparable from its hills, 12 of which are sacred. Let us mention Antsahadinta or Ambohidrabiby or Ambohimanga, classified UNESCO World Heritage Site.
FAUNA ET FLORA
- In the Northern part of the city, the Parc Tsarasaotra is famous as a birdwatching site. It is the first private site included in the Ramsar list, a status reserved for wetlands in need of protection.
At the other end of the city, in the Tsimbazaza district after which it is named, the Botanical and Zoological Garden is an institution of its own and was created in 1925. The endemic flora and fauna of Madagascar have built its reputation among which birds, reptiles, frogs and lemurs, including nocturnal species.
- Three must-see sites are located outside Antananarivo : 90 kilometers to the North, along the nice national highway RN3, Anjozorobe is a heaven for birdwatchers. 22 kilometers to te West, on the national highway RN1, the Lemurs’ Park is an outstanding observation site of 9 species of lemurs, and a botanical site. Lastly, 5 minutes from the Ivato airport, Croc Farm’s crocodile farming is impressive. Both ranching from eggs collected in the wild, and farming using onsite breeding technicians are practiced onsite.
Seek information directly from the Analamanga Regional Tourism Office, for which trekking is virtually the main attraction. Analamanga is the name of the Region of which Antananarivo is the chef lieu. Analamanga is endowed with all assets to become a trekking Promised Land: high reliefs, geological formations overlooking breathtaking panoramas, rural and cultural activities, very interesting history…One key feature is that the city is always close. The change of scene is complete and the facilities of modern life at an arm’s length.
The handicrafts market of the Route-Digue, leading to the airport, is the most visited by tourists due to its endless choice of high quality items which reflect artisans’ dexterity. Other markets are available, as well as shops specialising in higher quality or specialised products such as wild silk. Three outstanding handicraft places with out-of-the-ordinary business philosophy are worth mentioning : Roses et Baobab in the Antsahavola district is some kind of grouping of multiskilled artisans ; Analamanga Park, 32 km away along the RN7 is a handicraft production site coupled with a leisure site ; finally, the Ateliers « 3F » on the road to Ambohimanambola is often scheduled by several tourism service providers.
CONFERENCES AND CONGRESSES
The International Conference Centre is located 2 kilometers from the Ivato airport. The main room can accommodate 1000 seats and is equipped with 5 instant translation booths. Two additional rooms are available and can respectively accommodate 108 to 260 seats. The Centre de Presse has its own conference room (200 seats) and displays full communication equipment.
. The Conference Centre is managed by the Ministry of Tourism and Handicrafts.
OUT OF THE ORDINARY … THE ASTROLOGICAL OBSERVATORY
9 kilometers on the Southern Antananarivo exit (at milepost 9), at the level of the Andoharanofotsy market town, turn right, up to the Ankadiefajoro hills, at the top of which an astronomy aficionado, the Professor Charles Ratsifaritana, has set up his observatory. The best observation season is the Southern winter. Be enlightened by Omega Centauri, 47 Tucanae, Magellanic Clouds, Sagittarius or Southern Cross constellations
UNEXPECTED… PERE PEDRO’S
It is neither a site, nor a recreation center; it does not relate to tourism, yet Akamasoa is visited by thousands of tourists every year. Father Pedro built Akamasoa on a waste dump ; his dedication to improve the lives of homeless individuals and to combat poverty is worldwide famous.
Do not miss Sunday morning mass as it is a very poignant moment.
- The blessing and purification day of Alamahady or Malagasy New Year is still celebrated at several locations of the former royal Antananarivo. However, it never occurs at the same date, due to the fact that the calculation of its occurrence date is based on rather complicated astrological formulae. It is a vibrant celebration, illuminated by lanterns to chase evil spirits ; traditional fashion shows, a bathing ritual, formal traditional speeches are also part of the entertainment. The tatao, a traditional dish consistingof rice, milk and honey will also be available.
- Launched in 2004 by the valiha (the bamboo tube zither typical of Madagascar) player Rajery, Angaredona is a « Festival of the vibrant musical styles of Madagascar ». Over 2000 artists and 200 bands, Malagasy and foreign, have contributed since its creation. The 10-day festival takes place in the various districts, so as to reach a large audience. The next one is expected in September in Antananarivo.
- October has undeniably been the Jazz month since 1989. The yearly Madajazzcar Festival boats the Malagasy Jazz masters, as well as those from the United States, Switzerland, Germany, France and South Africa.
WATER SPORTS – HISTORICAL REMAINS -
SIGHTSEEING – TREKKING
A junction at PK 59 (milepost 59) on the RN2 leads to Mantasoa along a good 12 km dirt road. Returning to the National Highway, the cliffs of the Mandraka are visible between PK 62 and 72.
A LAKE, A HISTORY
The 2000 hectare lake, artificially created in 1937 to regulate the flow of the Ikopa River, allows the practice of all water sports. Along with the forest and its paths, the lake is the symbol of Mantasoa. Several holiday homes and hotels, renown for their good food decorate the lake’s shores and surrounding hillsides. It is Jean Laborde, a French adventurer and early industrialist in Madagascar who made Mantasoa famous. Remains of the small industrial units he established in 1837 can still be found.
THE MANDRAKA RIVER, IN-BETWEEN TWO LANDSCAPES
From the top of the Mandraka cliffs, the view of the surrounding flatlands in magnificent. This is where the ancient forest of the Highlands meets that of the East. For the construction of the railway, 15 tunnels had to be bored, 2 viaducts built, as well as 6 metallic and 22 bricklayer bridges.
HIKES – DISCOVERY – WATER CRUISES
Take the national highway RN1, which actually stretches further than Itasy, to Tsiroanomandidy, the largest zebu market in Madagascar. Do linger in Imerintsiatosika (PK 28/milepost 28); a karting circuit is available and the Antongana hill (1500 meters) will satisfy hikkers and visitors interested in cultural tourism. At the top of the hill stand two royal huts and Andriambahoaka’s grave.
Itasy is 400 square kilometers and is located some hundred kilometers away from Antananarivo. Its volcanoes are only 2 million-years old and have thus preserved the purity of their shape.
SAILING FROM ONE LAKE TO ANOTHER
The region exhibits more than 40 lakes of volcanic origin. Some are crater lakes; some are the result of dams formed by lava flows. The following lakes can be seen on the Analavory to Ampefy axis (the tourism center of the region): the Andranoratsy Crater Lake, the Kavitaha lake which happens to be an overflow of the Itasy lake; at the bottom of the Kasigy Mount lies the Amparihy lake. Beware of some challenging road stretches. Alternatively, peaceful speed boat or pirogue rides are on offer over the 45 km² of the Itasy Lake. Discover sites such as the Virgin’s Islet (locally known as Ilot de la Vierge), Avarabohitra, the Wooded Islet (Ilot Boisé), ou the Sacred Islet (Ilot Sacré).
ANTAFOFO , A LEGENDARY PLACE
Despite the challenging access to it, the Lily waterfall, originally called Antafofo, remains one of Itasy’s major attractions. Back in time, several taboos, such as hog and billy goats-rearing and tree-cutting were observed in the area. Nowadays, only the latter is observed, much to ecologists’ content.
MILEPOST 68: AMBATOLAMPY
NATURE-BASED TOURISM – HANDICRAFTS – LOCAL PRODUCE
Ambatolampy is associated with its three most famous attributes: horse rearing, cold winters and mimosa which colors the place in yellow from July to August. But there is more to Ambatolampy than that.
Ambatolampy is the gateway for the exploration of the Massif of Ankaratra, which will reveal the elevated forestry station of Manjakatompo, characterised by its huge pine plantations, its mimosa going in circuits, its arboretum, its trout fish farms, and its Cold Lake, which supplies water to the whole of Ambatolampy. The exploration continues with the climbing (with a good guide only) of Mount Tsiafajavona, the third highest peak on the island.
ARTISANAL IRONWORKS AND CRAFTMANSHIP
The aluminum foundries constitute the main and predominant economic activity in the region. Ambatolampy is famous for its production of kitchen utensils, among which pans; The dexterity of Ambatolampy’s artists and table football and snooker tables makers is also remarkable.
HONEY AND FOIE GRAS
Apiculture forms part of everyday farming practices inAmbatolampy. However, the town’s public image remains its foie gras, which satisfies 80% of national demand. Foie gras production is shared with the little village of Behenjy, located just 20 kilometers away, and which supplies Antananarivo’s caterers with half of its production.
MILEPOST 169 : ANTSIRABE
SPA – LEISURE – TREKKING – SUSTAINABLE TOURISM
Antsirabe is both an industrial and agricultural city. Thanks to the abundance of attractive sites and to its spa, Antsirabe is a high range tourism place. It is the only city in Madagascar hit by snow n 1900, as certified and archived by the Centre d’Histoire et d’Etudes des Troupes d’Outremer in Fréjus…
Antsirabe is tidy, well-maintained and provides a « cultural shock effect » by combining the tranquility of a small European provincial town with the exuberance of typically Malagasy traditional quarters. Among its iconic symbols are :
- The colonial architecture of Hôtel des Thermes, where Mohamed V of Morocco spent his exile years.
- The National Spa Therapy and Spa Treatment Center. Antsirabe boasts approximately 30 spas, the largest of which was discovered in 1878.
- A pleiad of prestigious training establishments, the most famous of which is the Military Academy.
- The Golf Club, laid out in 1935 is the oldest in Madagascar. The course is nicely planted with grass, not too stretchy and rather undulated.. The Tritriva crater lake, with its dull blue-green waters and its legends.
The tours in surrounding villages, secured and supported by certified guides, are real Sustainable Tourism products. Proceedings are partly distributed to the three visited villages, for community development-related activities.
- The « Highlands Farmers » Tour, in a loop in the West of Antsirabe.
- The « Ibity gem_diggers » Tour, in the South, amidst a mineral landscape contrasting with the green agricultural valleys.
- The « Sacred sites and blacksmiths’ villages » tour, in the North among paddy fields, mountains and gorges.
MILEPOST 259 : AMBOSITRA
WOOD-WORK – ETHNOLOGY - TRADITIONS
Here lies the wide Betsileo land, stretching to the deepest part of Andringitra. Ambositra, the gateway to the Zafimaniry land, is the capital of the Zafimaniry wood carving art, declared Immaterial Human Heritage in 2003.
THE CAPITAL CITY OF MARQUETRY
Stop overs in Ambositra are motivated by its famous woodcarving workshops and shops. Creativity and talent are at their best in this place, as demonstrated by the range of available objets : carved wooden boxes, « paintings » depicting scenes of everyday life, portraits, sculpture ranging from the libertine to the religious types, chess sets.
Ambositra’s numerous interesting sites include : the Andriamamovoka waterfall, a purification site located just an hour away on foot ; the Andina road in the South West, offering an impressive landscape of terraced rice fields; the latter tend to be overshadowed by Antoaetra, the Zafimaniry land’s main town, an open window on the social group, also called Zafimaniry’s way of life.
The most visited circuit cuts through Antoetra, Sakaivo, Faliarivo, Ambohimitombo and Ambatolampy.
Zafimaniry huts are entirely built with wood and require no metallic piece. A Zafimaniry house can therefore be dismantled and assembled like a puzzle.
The Zafimaniry started to sell furniture, ustensils and decorative objects after a lean period in the 1950s. As the Zafimaniry people explain, there is no foreign influence in the geometric figures carved on the wood: the ancestors invented the design log a long time ago…
- The Volambetohaka is the traditional Betsileo festival of the Betsileo in the Amoron’i Mania, The sparring matches called sokela are equally spectacular, so are the sakafo velatsihy, meals taken in groups, on a mat, on the floor. These events take place in the harvest season, one town after the other in the region.
- The Savika is the local bullfighting or rather zebufighting; it excludes the execution of the animal but can injure the bull-fighter. The aim is for the torero to hold as long as possible onto the zebu’s horns or hump. Several rituals must be performed beforehand; sprinkling one’s body with water containing a silver coin is one of them. The town of Ambositra built an arena of 4000 people capacity, specifically for the Savika. Savika takes place at Easter and Whitsun.
Fianarantsoa was built in 1930 upon Queen Ranavalona I‘s order, and thus exhibits the same characteristics as Antananarivo, namely its set up and old districts up in the hills. Its name means « The place to learn Good (as opposed to Evil) ».
THE OLD TOWN
The old town in Fianarantsoa, a unique site in Madagascar, consists of old houses and buildings dating back from the 19th century. It is a must-see with its old central path, its labyrinths of small paths and stairways which keep it inaccessible to cars. The old houses, built with traditional clay bricks and roofed with tiles are often decorated with creeping flowery shrubs, which give this « Old Town » a vibrant and lively side. In days of yore, a fortified esplanade stood at the top of the hill; today, only a few stone steps of it remain… The protestant church adjoining it is the oldest permanent structure in the city.
Through the years, several churches and congregations have settled in Fianarantsoa, turning it into a very christian city. Nowadays, Trappist monks operate in Maromby and produce (excellent) wine named after the place. The must see in the area is the «Fifohazana » village in Soatanana. The Fifohazana is a fundementalist protestant movement, « endemic » to Madagascar. Laying on of hands, mutual washing of feet and head to toe white clothing are some of their rules. The Fifohazana warmly welcome tourists.
TEA AND WINE
Tea plantations in Sahambavy stretch over 400 hectares and can be accessed from the village of Sambaina, just one hour away from Fianarantsoa. The parallel allies form endless shining green strata. Pedalo rides on the lake can be added to this visit.
The “Fianar” region is also the region of Malagasy wine production; Andriamboasary (7 km North West), Isorana (41 km West), or Soaindrana (9 km South) constitute a real “wine road”. The Fianar grape harvest occurs in January and February.
A LEGENDARY TRAIN
The Fianarantsoa-Manakara railway lineinaugurated in 1936, constitutes a memorable tourism attraction; the ride includes both crossing the tropical forest and clinging to the mountain. Some recommend riding the train in the Manakara-Fianarantsoa direction for even more intense sensations.
MILEPOST 466: AMBALAVAO
HANDICRAFT – MOUNTAINS – SOLIDARITY TOURISM From the Vatoavo saddle point, some forty kilometers South of Fianarantsoa, the breathtaking view reveals a sun-drenched plain, with villages scattered over it, eucalyptus clumps and vineyards. Here stands Ambalavao, a small town straddling the Betsileo, Bara and Tanala lands.
A MARKET TOWN
- One of the striking features to the visitor’s eyes is the architecture of the town’s houses characterised by cranks with varied openwork designs. The best viewpoint on these houses is the market.
- The zebu market, in the Southern part of town is the second largest on the island. Most of its cattle come from Ihosy and the Deep South.
HANDICRAFTS AND WINE
- Ambalavao perpetuates the tradition of weaving lamba arindrano, a bright Betsileo fabric fringed with pearls. Raw silk production is also widespread and sold throughout the island.
The famous antemoro paper has migrated from the South East to Ambalavao around 1940. Entirely handmade fancy stationary paper with inlayed flowers, leaves and petals is made out of it. From simple decorative paper, it is turned into postcards, wall hangings, gift bags, lampshades and many more items.
HIKES AND MOUNTAINS
- It is said that its granitic mountains are Ambalavao’s monuments. They are ever present in all trekking circuits. The most famous are the Three Brothers Massif (Massif des Trois Frères), the Ifandrana Rock and The Laying Woman’s Mountain (Montagne de la Femme Couchée).
- Andringitra and the Tsaranoro Cliff, a famous climbing spot are close by (some fifty kilometers away). Please refer to the “South East” chapter of the Manual for further details.
The rural city of Ambohimahamasina is located 37 kilometers east of Ambalavao. Solidarity tourism is common practice here. Tourists are hosted by villagers and share their everyday life. They take part in rural everyday activities, are initiated to customs, acquire artisans’ know-how in handicrafts or weaving.
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Private organization acknowledged by State, the Madagascar National Tourism Board was created in 2003. It includes all professions, regions and tourist operators and a representative of…