Beaches

With two oceans, 5000km of coastline and dozens of islands, Madagascar’s beaches are one of the country’s top attractions. Many rival the beauty of traditional beach destinations, with the added bonus of fewer visitors.

Anakao A perfect arc of white sand, turquoise water and laid-back atmosphere; the pearl of the Great Reef.

Anjajavy Only accessible by private plane or boat, the beaches on Anjajavy Peninsula bring a whole new meaning to the word remote.

Île aux Nattes (Nosy Nato) A classic tropical island, with curving white-sand beaches, reclining palms and the most inviting sea.

Salary Just one resort for 7km of beach, this is what exclusivity feels like.

Nosy Iranja This postcard-perfect duo of islands becomes one at low tide, when a slim sandbank emerges. Tour companies in Nosy Be arrange day trips.

Wildlife

Famed for its wildlife, Madagascar is to nature lovers what France is to foodies. But you’ll have to be patient, time your visit right and have Lady Luck on your side to see the best it has to offer.

Indri Madagascar’s largest lemur is easily seen – and heard! – at Parc National Andasibe Mantadia.

Aye-aye Famed for its elongated ‘magic digit’, this highly endangered, curious-looking lemur is now a rare sight.

Iconic baobabs Most commonly found in the southern half of the country, the collection on Allée des Baobabs has become one of Madagascar’s signature views.

Humpback whales Every year from July to September, hundreds of whales make the long journey from Antarctica to mate and give birth in the warmer waters of the Indian Ocean and the Mozambique Channel.

Turtles Beloved of divers and snorkellers, turtles thrive all along the Malagasy coast.

Hiking

With such an alluring shoreline, it’s easy to forget that about 70% of Madagascar’s land surface sits at a lofty 1000m to 1500m above sea level. Cue superb mountains, extinct volcanoes, dramatic peaks and, ergo, fabulous hiking.

Massif de l'Andringitra World-class trekking, a hardly visited national park and wonderful accommodation options.

Parc National de Marojejy A trek through the primordial rainforest of the Massif de Marojejy progresses from scenic walk to full-on climbing expedition (turning back is possible!).

Parc National des Tsingy de Bemaraha Scale the weird and wonderful tsingy along the park’s sensational via ferrata (mountain route).

Parc National de l'Isalo Southern Madagascar's trekking destination par excellence, with stunning canyons and gorges.

Parc National de Masoala There are short and long-distance trails through this pristine primary rainforest. They are hard work, but worth it for the exceptional wildlife.

Food & Drink

Madagascar is a culinary delight. Thanks to a mix of cuisines and prime fresh ingredients (plentiful seafood, succulent zebu meat and fruit and vegetables bursting with flavour), you’re certain to eat well wherever you go.

Camarons Try the Malagasy prawn (there are saltwater and freshwater varieties) for a fraction of what you’d pay back home.

La Varangue Antananarivo’s culinary gem. Make sure you treat yourself to outstanding Franco-Malagasy gastronomy.

Société de Rhum Arrangé Flavoured rum is the red island’s signature drink. There are dozens to try (and take back home), from vanilla to lychee, chocolate or ginger, at this shop in Nosy Be.

Vanilla Madagascar’s flagship plant grows in abundance on the northeast ‘vanilla coast’. Visit plantations in Sambava.

Millot Plantations Discover how spices, cocoa and aromatic plants are grown and processed at this beautiful plantation, sampling them as you go.

Diving & Snorkelling

Madagascar is home to the world’s fifth-largest coral reef, which partly explains why diving here is so good. The fauna is exceptional, with sharks, turtles, whales and rays.

Nosy Be Dozens of dive sites within half an hour’s boat ride, with a huge variety of seascapes, from shipwrecks to reefs and spectacular drops.

Nosy Tanikely Now a protected marine reserve, Nosy Tanikely is one of the best and most accessible snorkelling spots in Madagascar (turtles guaranteed).

Ifaty & Mangily A great range of dives, including the famous ‘Cathedral’, a network of stunning rocky arches.

Anakao The best spot on Madagascar's southern reef, with good snorkelling, even better diving and great accommodation to boot.

History & Culture

Although many come to Madagascar for its incredible nature, the island has a rich and diverse culture, influenced by the waves of migrants who gradually populated the island and the colonial powers who hoped to control it.

Ambohimanga The most sacred of Antananarivo’s 12 sacred hills and the long-standing home of Malagasy royalty.

Rova It may be a shadow of its former self, but the queen's palace in Antananarivo's Haute-Ville is steeped in history.

Famadihana Visitors are often welcome at traditional exhumation ceremonies – an opportunity to re-assess our own beliefs about life and death.

Île Sainte Marie’s pirate cemetery Overlooking the Baie de Forbans, where many pirates lived, this cemetery is a fascinating reminder of the island’s lawless past.

Shopping

Finding souvenirs is no hardship in Madagascar: there are woven baskets, gemstones, spices, clothes, rum, silk, leather goods and much more.

Lisy Art Gallery This Antananarivo boutique is like a shopping kaleidoscope of Madagascar. Pretty much everything you have seen in the country is available here at reasonable (fixed) prices.

Soalandy Finding silk at such low prices back home is unthinkable, so make the best of the local production in Ambalavao (and watch the production process, too).

Le Jardin des Sens Essential oils, spices and beauty products in lovely premises in Nosy Be.

Kudeta Etnik Shop A gorgeous boutique with high-end Malagasy clothes and accessories in Antananarivo.

Creature Comforts

If you’ve had enough of trekking, diving, wildlife seeking and bumping around in a 4WD, put your bags down for a few days at one of these wonderful retreats.

Eden Lodge Remote, serene and ecofriendly, Eden Lodge, near Nosy Be, is the place to go to be at one with nature.

Princesse Bora Lodge & Spa Pirogue tubs in the spa, suspended beds in the bungalows and a dizzying wine list…this is as close to perfection as you get.

Le Soleil des Tsingy Understated elegance, stellar service and views to die for, especially from the pool.

Isalo Rock Lodge A triumph of contemporary design in age-old landscapes, with fabulous service, pool and spa.

Epic 4WD Journeys

If this were a TV program, it would open with ‘don’t try this at home’. Far from putting travellers off, though, the challenge that is Madagascar’s roads is something many revel in, so here are our favourite bone-shaking, tyre-bursting, vehicle-bashing road trips.

RN5 from Maroantsetra to Soaniera Ivongo Depending on how you look at it, this is either the country’s worst road or its best 4WD adventure.

Coastal road from Morondava to Tuléar The highlights of this journey are the northern end of the Great Reef and an overnight stay at the serene village of Belo-sur-Mer, ensconced in the dunes.

Coastal road from Tuléar to Fort Dauphin This road is practically a walk in the park between Tuléar and Itampolo – until it disintegrates and virtually disappears. The sealed sections sport craters worthy of the moon.