This Madagascar travel guide will show you, when to go, how to get around, top attractions and main Madagascar travel tips
Madagascar that is like several continents packed in one country, such is the variety of landscapes and climate. Its a destination that will amaze you as you will also have the chance to see the lovely lemurs in their natural habitat, some of the oldest trees in the world, waterfalls, jungles , rice fields, dream beaches and a vibrant culture.
It is also is the only home of all the lemurs species in the World, not having any other mammal species (no lions, elephants, zebras, giraffes, etc.)
It also possesses the famous local trees called baobabs, with the biggest group of these trees called the “Avenue of the Baobabs”, that is unique and only has 7 out of the 8 species of baobabs, from which 6 are only to be seen in Madagascar), living up to 800 years old and reaching almost 30 meters high.
WHEN TO GO TO MADAGASCAR
The best time to go to to Madagascar is from April to October, just after the hurricane season. Indeed from November to March it’s the rainy season with strong winds and even heavy monsoon rains, that often damage the local infrastructure and roads.
However even in the best time to go to Madagascar, note that there will still big temperature differences from the tropical North, mild Central mountainous area to the very dry South of 10 degrees or more, so you should pack all types of clothes to endure all zones of Madagascar, as you will want to explore this amazing island across regions.
HOW TO GET TO MADAGASCAR AND GET AROUND
The best way to get to Madagascar is via plane to the international airport of the capital Antananarivo. Big international flight companies fly to the main airport such as Air France/KLM. From this airport you can connect to other cities in Madagascar usually the local flight carrier Air Madagascar. Their quality is good and comfortable, also felt safe flying wit them, but don’t expect any treats, its just good value for money.
Driving in Madagascar is possible and legal for foreigners, but its quite rare as the road conditions can be very rough in some areas, navigation is hard and there is a prohibition to drive at night that one must respect. Its an overall safe country in comparison with other African countries, but carjacking and theft are not uncommon, namely outside the capital city. So even if you like self-driving, like I do most of the times, in Madagascar do get a driver – it will get you much easier through the tricky roads, it will save you time and usually the driver can even be almost a guide as it will take you to the right places and communicate with locals and any parks contacts.
My recommendation to get around Madagascar is that you rent a car and a driver to connect between main cities but do fly out to the Northern part of the island or even to the Eastern part where the baobabs alley is located near Morondava. I can connect you to get a good driver if needed.
A mention to the small local buses called “taxi brousses”, that what you would call a true local experience in public transport. These are basically local vans, usually hop on hop off. For rougher roads namely in the south, there will be bigger buses that look like almost Army trucks. They are usually packed and crammed but they will be very cheap! Just be careful
HOW MUCH TIME TO PLAN FOR MADAGASCAR TRIP
The duration of your trip to Madagascar depends on what you want to see but 2 to 3 weeks is the ideal duration, as you have a wide selection of very different landscapes: Paradise Beaches, Wildlife (only 33 species of lemurs alone), Baobabs, Canyons, Waterfalls , Tropical Forests, Old Cities, European heritage places and many amazing experiences
When planning the travel duration in Madagascar, like I wrote before you need also to take into account that the driving times in Madagascar are very long, so the less time you have, the more you need to consider to fly between cities. Therefore, a combination of flying and driving is the best compromise to visit top things to do in Madagascar.
WHERE TO STAY IN MADAGASCAR
The accomodation to stay in Madagascar is usually good value for money and you won’t find many properties above 3-4 stars. The luxury resorts are located in the Nosy Be region in the far Northwest as the main tropical region area.
Madagascar is still a wild and unexplored destination, so of course you can stay in hotels for some comfort but my recommendation is that you also stay in eco-lodges and local guesthouses, some of them actually managed by foreigners. It will be much more heart-welcoming and you will enjoy great conversations at dinner.
Ask me for recommendations based on your accomodation expectations when doing a personalized itinerary.
WHERE TO EAT IN MADAGASCAR
As the accomodation is scarce in many parts of the country, you should eat at your hotel or lodge as quality will be excellent and risks of any food poisoning will be limited. Still it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t venture out and eat like the locals. And you will save a lot of money with really good food quality, but again if you want a certain standard stick to your lodging.
Do use your driver / guide for recommendations as they will know best places and will order some nice local food (do ask them before they order something). My best meals were in a “seafood restaurant” in Anakao island and near Ranomafana in a local snack bar, just great fresh food! Very importantly drink only bottled beverages wherever you go, no tap water consumption.
TOP 10 THINGS TO DO IN MADAGASCAR
The top things to do in Madagascar could be a wide list as you can have very differentiated interests and the island is huge but these are the top 10 you shouldn’t miss in Madagascar
- Alley of the Baobabs (Morondava)
- Ranomafana National Park
- Anakao island (Toliara)
- Isalo national park
- Anja Reserve (Fianarantsoa)
- Kirindy Reserve (Morondava)
- Nosy Be island
- Tsingy de Bemahara (only accessible in dry season)
- Andasibe-Mantdia National Park
I will have some separate posts to describe these top 10 things to do in Madagascar, some even separately
Finally, a mention to the people of Madagascar. they are unfortunately a poor population despite being a huge diamonds and gemstones source (one of the best of the World) and exporting tons of rice to Africa due to fertile lands in the central regions. But they always have a smile on their faces, wave at you when you take a picture and will talk with you, if you take the time (ideally in French, their English is not good outside the main capital and of course hotels). If you can, pay them back with a bottle of water or food, not money, as they have some regions where water is very scarce and famine is still a sad reality (I almost cried when driving in that area and took almost no pictures, it’s really heartbreaking and one should ).
Ask me for a personalized itinerary because Madagascar is one of those places that needs a tailored trip as there are very different regions.
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My name is Renato Azambujo. I live currently in Hamburg, but was born and raised in sunny capital of Portugal, Lisbon. I also lived in Switzerland for some years, before settling in Germany for the last years.
I am huge passionate about travel, photographer and a global explorer, always looking to the next destination.
I have so far visited over 70 countries across the 5 continents, because I really love knowing about new places, interact with different cultures and get to know myself better after each journey.