Madagascar in detail

Madagascar is known for

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! – around Andasibe.

Fossa This strange-looking animal, Madagascar's top predator, is a rare sight everywhere, except in Kirindy.

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 snorkelers, turtles thrive all along the Malagasy coast but are best spotted in the turtle sanctuary of Nosy Sakatia.

Chameleons There are big ones, tiny ones, expert camouflage artists and technicolor pros. Andasibe is probably the best for the photogenic Parson's chameleons.

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 Marojejy A trek through the primordial rainforest of the Massif de Marojejy progresses from scenic walk to full-on climbing expedition; if you're not up for a challenge, stop at Camp 2.

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

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

Parc National Masoala-Nosy Mangabe 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.

Société de Rhum Arrangé Flavored 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.

Domaine d'Ambohimanitra Vanilla and a host of spices grow in abundance on the northeast ‘vanilla coast’. See how it's done at this wonderful plantation.

La Chocolaterie Robert Madagascar's best-known chocolatier has shops all over the country. Buy a few to eat on the spot or a bundle to take home.

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 snorkeling, 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 looked 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 product in Ambalavao (and watch the production process, too).

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

Couleur du Monde You'll come in for the chocolate and come out with shell jewellery, a bag of spices and a few more bits and pieces...

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.

Tsara Komba The jewel in the crown that is the tiny island of Nosy Komba, this is one of the finest lodges in Madagascar.

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.

Nosy Be Hôtel & Spa A stunning and highly original decor, three pools, a private beach and a spa make this a winning destination for R&R.

Le Relais de la Reine An oasis of luxury in the surreal landscapes of Isalo, the perfect place to come back to after a day under the hot sun.

Five Senses Lodge Infinite horizons, contemporary design, and one of the best restaurants anywhere along Madagascar's coast.

Epic Off-Road 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 off-road adventure. Motorbikes or very sturdy 4WD only.

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.