Antananarivo Travel Guide
Introduction to Antananarivo
While Antananarivo is the capital city of Madagascar, you won’t find this place in many tour guides of this country. Due to its bustling nature, perceived lack of attractions, and elevated crime rate, many view it as a place where you can simply fly in and out of the country.
However, those looking for a taste of urban life in Madagascar will find no better place to hang out for a few days. Contrary to what is written about this place, there are worthwhile attractions to visit while you are here.
Cultural Attractions in Antananarivo
Start your time in Antananarivo by paying a visit to Le Palais de la Reine. Commonly known by locals as Rova, this castle served as the Royal Palace for the kingdoms of Madagascar and Imerina stretching back to the 17th century.
Situated on the highest hill in the city as per local tradition, it was from here where the monarchy ruled this portion of the island of Madagascar. While it was on a path to becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site back in the 1990’s, a fire set those ambitions back, though reconstruction works are nearing their completion in the present day.
Highlights include its stone entry gate, which is topped by a bronze eagle, royal tombs where past monarchs are buried, and the Royal Palace building itself, which boasts decorative towers at each corner of the complex.
Another royal highlight in the Antananarivo area that shouldn’t be missed is the Ambohimanga. Located 24 kilometers northeast of the city, this fortified hilltop settlement has more of a spiritual meaning to local residents compared to the political importance of the Rova in Antananarivo.
After the reunification of the kingdom in the late 18th century, this city became the home of rituals conducted by the Royals. Additionally, this city also has tombs containing the bodies of Vazimbas, which were the first inhabitants of this island thousands of years ago.
As a result of these facts, this attraction has a sacred air to it, making it very popular among locals. It has also been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so don’t miss it while you are in the capital region.
If you want to learn more about the backstory of the nation of Madagascar, spend some time exploring the halls of Musée d’Art et d’Archéologie. Within its walls, you will find exhibits containing artifacts found within the various archaeological digs that have taken place across the island of Madagascar over the years.
These include musical instruments, cooking implements, and even grave decorations. In order to gain the most from your time here, be sure to employ the services of a guide, and tip them well for the context that they will supply the exhibits that you will be exploring.
Other Attractions in Antananarivo
Spent weeks in the countryside of Madagascar, but failed in your quest to see a lemur? Making a trip to Lemurs Park will prove to be a worthy consolation prize, as this place contains nine different species of this tree-dwelling mammal.
Situated in its own nature reserve 22 kilometers southwest of Antananarivo, it also contains over 70 species of plants that are native to the island of Madagascar, making this place a worthwhile destination for anyone who is passionate about the outdoors.
Madagascar’s isolation from the African continent, its variety of elevations and climates, and its multicultural population has made its markets very interesting places for the intrepid traveler to visit.
In Antananarivo, Analakely Market is the most visited of these, as it contains crops and food stalls of all kinds, clothing, black market DVD’s, and handicrafts that might make great souvenirs. Be sure to mind your surroundings at all times however, as pickpockets are known to work the crowd here.
While you are in Antananarivo, you may want to visit Lac Anosy, as it figures prominently in pictures of this city. It is an especially beautiful place in October, which is when the trees surrounding the lake break out into brilliant purple blossoms.
However, we cannot recommend walking around this lake alone, as this part of the city suffers from petty crime even during broad daylight. If you want to see the flowering trees in season, we recommend taking pictures from an elevated viewpoint in Haute Ville, where your safety can be better assured.