When building a Madagascar itinerary, there are two kinds of people. The kind who, when they think of Madagascar, think of the cartoon. And the kind who think of David Attenborough. We are the latter.
When we were planning our honeymoon, we knew we wanted to do something unique. “Go big or go home”, my husband always says to me. Galapagos was our first choice, but it was the wrong season and, having paid for a wedding, we didn’t have the budget. Madagascar was a close second and we booked it in without a second thought.
We booked our tour through MTTC in Madagascar. Lalaina was an absolute godsend. I’m not kidding – when I was struck down with a serious illness and our flights messed up, she worked tirelessly to get us home. Aside from that, she planned our itinerary to make sure everything was taken care of for us. No mean feat when we were travelling over Christmas!
Madagascar doesn’t look that big on a map, but it is. Unless stated otherwise, we flew between places and I recommend planning your itinerary the same way.
So without further ado, here are my thoughts on this fascinating country, and my Ultimate Madagascar Itinerary.
Just a note guys: this post contains affiliate links through booking.com. That means if you book, I get a small commission, at no cost to you. And of course I’d never recommend a hotel I wouldn’t 100% stay in myself (or, as the case may be, have already stayed in and loved!)
It’s hard to describe Tana, so you’ll just have to see it for yourself. But without a doubt it is one of the biggest surprises I’ve had while travelling. It has the craziness you’d expect from big African or Asian cities (the traffic, the traffic!) but also some incredibly beautiful buildings and parks. It’s unique in that you can be looking at a bustling market scene on one side of the road, and a rice field on the other. It’s a city teeming with life and everywhere you look, something is happening. Just how I like my cities!
We stayed up on the hill, with gorgeous views over Lake Anosy. Close to our hotel was the Queen’s Palace and the Prime Minister’s Palace (Andafiavaratra), both absolutely worth a look. The Queen’s palace actually burnt down; it has been partially restored and lights up at night, providing an absolutely gorgeous view.
A couple of days in Antananarivo to wander the streets, particularly Presidential Avenue in the city centre, and check out some museums, parks, and palaces should be enough. There’s no need to pack your time here with activities. Just take the time to recover from your flight, stroll the streets, and meet the people. Tana is a people-watching city for sure.
Where to stay:
Lokanga Boutique Hotel. This gorgeous place has a history all of its own but I won’t spoil it – let the staff tell you themselves!
Grand Hotel Urban is gorgeous too – think French Riviera with an African vibe.
Andasibe-Mantadia National Park
So here is where we start to get out in the wilderness. It’s what we’ve come for, folks!
A three-hour drive from Tana, the National Park covers a lot of area. There are different sections inside. In particular, Analamazaotra Reserve, which is one of the best places to find many different species of Lemur, including the Indri with its bizarre call. Organise a guide to help you track the wildlife. I also highly recommend a night hike as there are several nocturnal species of lemur, as well as other wildlife.
Where to stay in Andasibe
Vakona Forest Lodge is great – a calm and pleasant safari lodge right in the heart of the national park. Near the lodge is a lemur sanctuary where you’ll find hundreds of cheeky lemurs waiting to say hello. There’s an island you can row around and they’ll often jump into your boat!
Fly to Morondava for a real adventure. Here you can 4WD to the Tsingy of Bemaraha, a labyrinth of limestone walls and caves. There are smaller ones, and bigger ones for the fitter travellers. Kirindy forest is also nearby, where you can look for the fossa: Madagascar’s feline predator.
But let’s be honest: we know why you’re really heading to Morondava. Avenue des Baoabs. And you’d be right to feel this way: it’s incredible. A short drive from here are the Baobab Amoureux: two baobabs twisted together like they’re having a cuddle! Considering some of these trees are nearly 3,000 years old, the mind boggles at how they happened to grow that way. A truly special sight.
Book your Morondava tour here.
Where to stay In Morondava
For something beachy try the Palissandre Cote Ouest Resort & Spa.
Isalo National Park
Fly into Toliara and explore the city a bit before heading out to explore the surrounding wilderness.
Here is where it gets a little weird: Isalo National Park is like what I imagine exploring the moon would be. The landscape is unreal. But then you turn around and – oh, hey! – palm trees! Each time you think you’ve gotten a grip on what you’re seeing, it changes. Ring-tailed lemurs hop about on the rocky landscape just to make the vision even more surreal.
Beza Mahafaly Reserve is close by, and here you’ll find a sea of super spiky plants. And yes, the lemurs know just how to negotiate the spines as they leap around in search of food!
Where to stay around Isalo/Toliara
Bakuba Lodge is outside the city centre on the southern coast, but totally worth it. A genuine African lodge with a beautiful pool and stunning views.
For something in the city, the Moringa Hotel is great too.
Save Nosy Be for last, as you can rest up after all that busy, busy exploring. Or, you can get straight back into it, your call!
We did two tours while in Nosy Be. The first was a sailing trip out to Nosy Iranja. This island is actually two, connected by a sand bar that you can walk across at low tide. But be careful – if the tide comes up and you aren’t watching, you could end up stranded. Luckily, it’s not overly deep. In fact, we had to walk out hundreds of metres to find a spot we could swim in. A barbeque lunch was served in the village and we were able to explore – we even got to join in on a game of football. The sand is a blistering white and the sun is hot, so be sun smart and drink lots of water.
The second tour was a canoe trip to Lokobe National Park. Word of warning: we booked a canoe trip thinking there would be fit blokes canoeing. Um.. no, we had to row. Seven kilometres doesn’t seem that far, but it is when you’re rowing an outrigger canoe in the hot sun. Was it worth it though? Absolutely! We rowed to a delightful little village where the locals let us explore before serving us a delicious lunch. Then we hiked through the forest encountering lemurs and – gulp – a boa constrictor!
Where to stay in Nosy Be
The options are endless given it’s a beach resort island, but you won’t find the likes of a LUX* or Constance, or other 5-star options popular in the Indian Ocean. The resorts are low-key, friendly and intimate.
More Information On Madagascar
For more information about the culture and practicalities of visiting Madagascar, be sure to read our Madagascar travel guide.
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