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Introducing Tuléar (Toliara)

Slightly grimy and definitely sweltering against the humid backdrop of the Tropic of Capricorn, the ‘white city’, so-called by central highlanders because of the light-coloured buildings, is becoming southern Madagascar’s leading town. The approaching views are outstanding: you can see vast sand dunes which run along the coast. Here, you witness a convergence of the savannah, the bush and the grassy plains, meeting with little monotony. It’s a sizzling, dusty place, bustling with brightly painted pousses-pousses, refuse-strewn alleys, and dishevelled architectural remnants from the French colonial facelift – all slipping into heat-drenched languor between midday and 3pm. The city has broad avenues flanked by tamarind and flame trees, sandy crowded alleys concealing narrow corridors and colonial-era buildings ending abruptly in a wall of rubble. Toliara is the end point for those travelling the RN7, and you may very well end up spending a few days here waiting for transport elsewhere (remember: mora mora or ‘slowly, slowly’). If you have a little extra time, however, and are looking for a good-value and up-and-coming beach destination, try the southern beaches around Ifaty. They see fewer crowds than up north, and are starting to gain attention as an upmarket romantic getaway destination. It’s also a good stopping point if you’re starting the long trek to Fort Dauphin by road – you can stock up on supplies.