Eastern Madagascar is travel the way it used to be. There is a wildness here of primordial allure, from the misty mountains of Masoala, down the huge coastline with its pounding sea and overhanging palms, to the lush waterways of the Pangalanes Lakes. When you arrive back home, it all has the quality of a dream.
Southern Madagascar is a wide-open adventure among some of nature’s most dramatic forms. The stark desert canyons of Parc National de l'Isalo rival those of Arizona. The west coast offers gorgeous coastal settlements that serve as gateways to the fifth-largest coral reef in the world. The cape is the last stop before Antarctica.
If you’re unable to decide between a discovery trip and a ‘lace up your boots and forge a new trail’ kind of trip, you’ll love travel in Northern Madagascar. Activity junkies will be spoilt for choice with everything from diving to kitesurfing, while all travellers will revel in the region’s diverse landscapes.
The classic tourist route from Antananarivo (Tana) takes you south along the RN7 through Central Madagascar, a high plateau stretching all the way to Fianarantsoa. You’ll twist and turn through these highlands, a region of scenic hills and rice paddies that resists generalisation.
Tamatave is very much like its cousin on the western coast, Tuléar (Toliara). It is a hot, dusty and chaotic port town full of decaying colonial buildings, roadside markets and throngs of pousse-pousse carts. The emphasis is on commerce, not tourism, apart from being an important transit point.
Madagascar’s northernmost region is an alluring place: it’s remote, host to weird and wonderful geological sights, and has disarming contrasts between very wet and very dry. Diego Suarez (Antsiranana) is the main gateway town, although it's by no means the only place in which to base yourself when exploring the region.
The south of Madagascar narrows to a wild cape and the sense of isolation here is palpable. This feeling only grows the further south you go, until you finally reach the cliff at Cap Sainte Marie, where there's nothing between you and Antarctica. Then it’s back to civilisation – sort of.
Diego Suarez (Antsiranana)
With its wide streets, old colonial-era buildings, and genteel air, Diego is a lovely base from which to explore Madagascar’s northern region. It's a slow-moving place; nearly everything shuts between noon and 3pm while residents indulge in long afternoon naps.