Reviewed on 12 Feb. 2020
Reviewed on 5 Dec. 2019
Reviewed on 10 Mar. 2020
An island nation with a history of migration and colonial rule, Madagascar is also one of the most biodiverse countries on Earth and the majority of the plants that grow here can’t be found anywhere else in the world. Swim in sparkling blue coastal waters, embark on rainforest treks and hike through vast plains in this picturesque, wildlife-rich island.
Colonized at various times by both the French and the English, Madagascar has been an independent nation since 1960. Although locals mainly speak Malagasy, listen and you may also hear French and English, both popular second languages, being spoken.
Antananarivo, the capital city, is also known as “Tana” and is a fascinating place to learn about Madagascar’s history. Visit the palace complex, the Rova of Antananarivo. The palace sits on the city’s highest hill and encompasses a cemetery where past monarchs are buried. Time your visit to coincide with one of the traditional festivals that take place here, such as the Santabary Festival, a celebration of the first rice harvest, which usually takes place in April or May.
Madagascar offers plenty of thrills for adventure seekers. Go whale watching in the open waters of the Indian Ocean, hiking up Mount Tsiafajavona and paragliding in Isalo National Park. Look for lemurs, which are endemic to the island, at the dedicated Lemurs’ Park just outside Antananarivo. Other popular outdoor activities include guided tours to Sakaleona, Madagascar’s tallest waterfall.
Multiple airlines operate flights to Madagascar from Europe, Asia and Africa. Domestic flights are also readily available and are one of the easiest ways to get around the country. On land, join locals in using taxi brousse, also known as bush taxi. These minibuses carry passengers between towns and villages. Dress modestly in respect for the Malagasy culture and drink bottled water to avoid an upset stomach.
For a unique experience, participate in one of Madagascar’s sustainable tourism programmes. These provide opportunities for outsiders to spend time in villages eating, working and learning trades, such as basket weaving, alongside the local residents.