Worth a Trip: Zafimaniry Villages

This cluster of villages southeast of Ambositra are famous for their woodcarving, and are a Unesco World Heritage Site. They're a popular homestay destination, where visitors stay with a family and experience life in this rural and remote part of the world.

Accommodation generally includes a bucket shower and composting toilet, a straw mattress, and traditional rice-based meals. There may be little or no English spoken. You may also get the chance to participate in traditional crafts, and to explore the region. The best villages to visit are Sakaivo, Falairivo and Antetezandotra.

GGAM and ORTAM in Ambositra organise three- or four-day circuits in the area, including transfers from Ambositra and stays in two or three villages. Allow about Ar100,000 per person per day.

Another alternative is to stay at the delightful Sous Le Soleil de Mada and explore the region from here. Run with flair by a French couple, this scenic lodge has 15 Zafimaniry bungalows, all built and carved locally. They are a thing of beauty, and Jean-Marc and Brigitte's sense of hospitality is legendary. Evening meals are served on one large table and are joyous occasions (thanks in part to the great collection of rhum arrangé). There is a massage room and a small book exchange.

Sous Le Soleil de Mada is located 12km down the dirt road leading to Antoetra, the biggest (but least interesting) Zafimaniry village. If you don't have your own vehicle, Sous Le Soleil can organise transfers from Ambositra.