7 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Madagascar

Jul 22, 2021

The Republic of Madagascar is a miniature island, unique in the world. In the southern Indian Ocean it stretches out from the eastern coast of Africa to the Indian Ocean, almost reaching the tip of the Horn of Africa. Its size in area is less than France or Tasmania. In terms of population, it's the fourth largest country in the world with 26 million inhabitants. The country is an amalgam of unique culture, much of it inherited from the legacy of the people who migrated here over millennia, including unique indigenous tribes, of which the most distinguished include the Merina, the Betsileo, the Tsimihety, and the Betsabé.

Madagascar's natural richness provides an extraordinary showcase of wildlife and ecosystem. As if this wasn't enough, the country's appeal as a tourist destination is growing rapidly, with more and more visitors all the time. A visit to Madagascar is not just a trip into the past, but it's also a chance to explore a fascinating country in which there are just some of the world's finest reserves and the rich and vibrant culture that have been part of life here for generations.

Discover the best places to visit in Madagascar with our guide to the top tourist attractions in Madagascar.

Toamasina

Photo of Toamasina
Toamasina: en.wikipedia.org

Located on the island of Madagascar, Toamasina is the largest port city on the island, and has a tropical climate. It is on the southeast coast of the island and is home to the Tampolo Zoo, a large local attraction. With a tropical climate, it is warm year round, and throughout the year it has two seasons: the "hot season" and the "cool season". The dry season, from November to May, is hotter than the rainy season, from June to October. For the vast majority of travelers, the port of Toamasina is their only stop on their journey to Madagascar and is therefore the main attraction. There is a flight to Andohahela Airport, located at Toliara on the south coast, which is also the capital city of Madagascar, where many people will change their flights. The airport is less than 5 miles from the city center. There are many hotels in Toamasina, and there are also some cheaper hotels to rent, which are located just outside the city. Toamasina is a very beautiful city with many attractions, including the Tampolo Zoo. The natural park of Masoala is also worth a visit.

Morondava

Photo of Morondava
Morondava: en.wikipedia.org

The most remote island in the world, Madagascar, is famous for its diverse wildlife and forest-covered mountains. Famed for its lemurs, eagles, wild elephants, and spectacular coastal rainforests, the island is also home to ancient sites, like the oasis-like towns of Fort Dauphin and Fort Dauphin-Manaratra. A trip around the island would take you to the beautiful island of Nosy Be, where you can visit a Tsimihety Reserve and see a large group of birds including the francolin, the Madagascar sunbird, and the sea eagle. Morondava is the main town on the west coast, but for travelers it's more of a passing stop as the only other point of interest is the incredible Fort Dauphin, a 200-meter-long fortress standing on a cliff overlooking the Indian Ocean.

Fianarantsoa

Photo of Fianarantsoa
Fianarantsoa: en.wikipedia.org

One of Madagascar's most significant ancient monuments, the ruins of the old French fortress, Fort Dauphin, are slowly being uncovered by the villagers. And while there is little to see inside the ruins, the site itself is still remarkably well-preserved, having been incorporated into the local Catholic cathedral. The original fortification was built on the site in 1709 and named for the French governor. During the four years that followed, a number of forts were constructed around the island, while local population suffered on rations of only around 300-400 calories a day. Most of these forts had been dismantled by the French during the French Revolution, but others remain including Fort Dauphin. Access to the ruins is free, but at the time of research entry to the site itself was limited to Monday to Friday only between 7:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.

Vakinankaratra

Photo of Vakinankaratra
Vakinankaratra: en.wikipedia.org

Vakinankaratra's sheltered coves and palm-shaded streets are well known among boaters, surfers, and beach-goers for their spectacular white-sand beaches. Located about a three-hour flight from Mauritius, the small island is both popular with foreign tourists and beloved by locals. An excellent place to experience the tropical environment of Madagascar is to visit the beach at St. Joseph's Bay. These white-sand beaches are completely unspoiled and attract an international crowd of surfers, snorkelers, divers, and tourists. Further inland, you can visit Nosy Be and Nosy Hara National Park, a truly natural setting complete with large wildlife. Bird lovers will enjoy seeing both man-made and wild bird sanctuaries on the island.

Mahajanga

Photo of Mahajanga
Mahajanga: en.wikipedia.org

Mahajanga (or Mahajeuna, depending on pronunciation) is the largest city in Madagascar. It's a lovely, low-lying city with a little bay along the coast, which allows it to boast the island's only natural harbor. The city was founded in 1866 by the Merina, a nomadic tribe of Malagasy people who were seeking a better life for their children and managed to establish themselves over the northern part of the island. They founded a fort, which served to protect the city from attacks from the pirates who then frequented the area. Today, the city's landmark is Fort Analakely. As for its layout, Mahajanga is typical of South African cities with a mix of poor, middle class and rich neighborhoods. The city is renowned for its markets, and traders and sellers from the nearby country stock the bazaars of Mahajanga with goods of every description.

Antananarivo

Photo of Antananarivo
Antananarivo: en.wikipedia.org

Antananarivo is the capital of the island nation of Madagascar. Situated on the west coast of the island, it's the largest city in all of Southeast Asia. Often described as the cultural, political, and economic capital of Madagascar, Antananarivo has an unusual and distinctive vibe. Its visitors' center is full of local crafts and art, selling a wide variety of souvenirs. Traditional carvings, masks, and tools of the people are sold openly in the streets. You can also visit the area where the legendary ancient city of Antanarivo once stood, now containing several monuments and museums. Some also enjoy a visit to the National Museum of Antanarivo, which is dedicated to documenting the different cultures that have passed through. Whether arriving by air or by land, be sure to pay close attention to your surroundings when entering Antananarivo. While most visitors to the city don't stray from the downtown area, tourists should exercise extreme caution when going beyond the center, particularly at night.

Fort Dauphin

Photo of Tôlanaro
Tôlanaro: en.wikipedia.org

Fort Dauphin is the capital of Madagascar and one of the most charming towns in the Indian Ocean. With its impressive architecture and impeccably maintained former French colonial mansions, it's a great place to experience the atmosphere of this little known island. Enjoy a view of the charming hillside town from the terrace of the impressive restaurant Hôtel Souvenir des Malgaches, which offers the best view of the city. Stroll through the many alleyways or venture along the river to enjoy a visit to the town's many historic buildings and to appreciate the charm of the French colonial city. Among the city's many attractions is the Petit Marché, the central marketplace where you'll find everything from produce and clothing to fine arts and souvenirs.