Antananarivo Travel Guide: 20 Things to Do in Antananarivo, Madagascar

Antananarivo is the vibrant capital city of Madagascar, a beautiful island nation located off the coast of East Africa. It is situated in the central highlands region of Madagascar, surrounded by verdant hills and rice paddies. The city’s name, “Antananarivo,” means “City of the Thousand,” referring to the thousand soldiers who guarded the city during the reign of King Andrianjaka in the 17th century.

The city is home to a mix of traditional Malagasy culture and modern influences, resulting in a unique and diverse atmosphere. It is the economic, political, and cultural center of Madagascar, with a bustling market, several museums, theaters, and cultural institutions, and a vibrant nightlife.

Why Visit Antananarivo?

Visitors to Antananarivo can enjoy exploring the historic Rova Palace, which was once the home of the Merina royalty, and strolling through the colorful Analakely Market to shop for souvenirs and sample local street food. The city also offers opportunities to learn about the local culture, including traditional dance performances and the Malagasy language.

Antananarivo is a gateway to the rest of Madagascar, with easy access to the island’s beautiful national parks, beaches, and wildlife reserves. It is a city full of charm and energy, offering visitors a unique and unforgettable experience.

Antananarivo Travel Guide: Things to do in Antananarivo, Madagascar

Antananarivo City Guide: A Brief History Of Antananarivo, Madagascar

The history of Antananarivo is closely intertwined with the history of the Merina Kingdom, one of the most powerful and influential kingdoms in Madagascar. The Merina Kingdom was founded in the 16th century by King Andrianjaka, who conquered several neighboring kingdoms and united them under his rule. The city of Antananarivo was established by Andrianjaka’s son, King Ralambo, in the early 17th century as the new capital of the Merina Kingdom.

Antananarivo grew in importance and prosperity under the reign of King Andrianampoinimerina in the late 18th century. He centralized the government, introduced a system of taxation, and built a network of roads and canals to improve transportation and commerce. The city also became a center of education and culture, with the establishment of the first Malagasy schools and the development of a written Malagasy language.

The Merina Kingdon

The Merina Kingdom faced several challenges in the 19th century, including conflicts with neighboring kingdoms and European colonial powers. In 1817, the British captured Antananarivo during their campaign to suppress the slave trade. The Merina Kingdom regained control of the city in 1824, but it was later occupied by the French in 1895, marking the beginning of French colonial rule in Madagascar.

Under French colonialism, Antananarivo became the administrative center of Madagascar, and the city underwent significant changes, including the construction of modern infrastructure such as roads, railways, and public buildings. However, the French also imposed forced labor and assimilation policies, which led to widespread resentment and resistance from the Malagasy people.

Madagascar gained independence from France in 1960, and Antananarivo became the capital of the newly independent nation. Today, the city is a vibrant hub of Malagasy culture and history, and it continues to be an important economic, political, and cultural center of Madagascar.

Antananarivo city board sign

Antananarivo Top Attractions and Best Places to Visit in Madagascar

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.

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.

More Attractions

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.

Antananarivo lake view of the city

Other Cultural Attractions: Trip to Antananarivo, Madagascar

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.

Other Attractions

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.

source: Top Tourist Places

Top 20 Things To Do in Antananarivo, Madagascar For Visitors

Here’s a guide to the top 20 things to do in Antananarivo for an unforgettable experience.

Antananarivo epic sunset views with a high vantage point

1. Explore Rova of Antananarivo

The Rova, or Queen’s Palace, is a historical complex that offers panoramic views of the entire city from its highest point. Although much of it was destroyed by fire in 1995, restoration efforts have been ongoing, and it remains a symbol of the Merina kingdom’s past glory. The site includes several royal tombs and the newly restored wooden palace. A visit to the Rova is essential for understanding Madagascar’s royal history and cultural heritage.

2. Stroll Through the Andafiavaratra Palace

Located on a hill opposite the Rova, the Andafiavaratra Palace served as the prime minister’s palace during the monarchy. Today, it houses a museum with a collection of royal artifacts saved from the Rova fire, including crowns and traditional costumes. The building itself is an architectural marvel, featuring a blend of traditional Malagasy and European designs. The museum offers a fascinating glimpse into the 19th-century royal court life.

3. Visit the Lemurs’ Park

Just outside Antananarivo, Lemurs’ Park is a private reserve where visitors can see various species of lemurs in a semi-natural environment. The park is dedicated to the conservation and rehabilitation of these unique primates. Guided tours provide insight into the behaviors and characteristics of each species. It’s an ideal spot for families and wildlife enthusiasts to observe lemurs up close without venturing into Madagascar’s more remote areas.

4. Discover the Analakely Market

The bustling Analakely Market, located in the heart of Antananarivo, is where locals come to shop for everything from fresh produce to clothing and handicrafts. It’s a vibrant and colorful place to experience the daily life of the Malagasy people. Bargaining is part of the shopping experience here. The market is also a great place to try local street food, including mofo anana (bread filled with greens) and varied skewers of meats.

5. Admire the Architecture of Andohalo Cathedral

The Andohalo Cathedral, with its striking Gothic architecture, stands as a reminder of Madagascar’s colonial past. Built in the late 19th century, the cathedral is perched on a cliff overlooking the city, offering magnificent views. Its interior features beautiful stained glass windows and religious artworks. The cathedral’s location has historically been a place where Malagasy royalty addressed the public, adding to its historical significance.

6. Relax at Tsimbazaza Zoo and Botanical Garden

The Tsimbazaza Zoo and Botanical Garden is an ideal place to learn about Madagascar’s endemic flora and fauna. The zoo houses a variety of lemurs, reptiles, and birds unique to the island. The botanical gardens offer a peaceful escape with well-maintained paths and indigenous plants. It’s a great spot for families and anyone interested in the island’s unique biodiversity.

7. Take a Day Trip to Ambohimanga

Ambohimanga is a sacred hill located about 24 kilometers from Antananarivo, known as the birthplace of the Merina kingdom. This UNESCO World Heritage Site features a royal palace and tombs, surrounded by defensive walls and sacred forests. The site offers insights into the traditional beliefs and rituals of the Malagasy people. Ambohimanga is considered one of Madagascar’s most important cultural and spiritual sites.

8. Explore the Piratenmuseum

The Piratenmuseum, or Pirate Museum, offers a fascinating look into Madagascar’s history as a haven for pirates during the 17th and 18th centuries. Exhibits include pirate artifacts, treasure maps, and stories of famous pirates who operated in the Indian Ocean. The museum sheds light on the intriguing relationship between pirates and the local Malagasy people. It’s a unique attraction that captivates visitors of all ages with tales of adventure and intrigue.

9. Enjoy the Nightlife in Isoraka

Isoraka is a trendy neighborhood in Antananarivo known for its lively bars, restaurants, and nightclubs. It’s the perfect place to experience the city’s modern side, with live music, local beers, and international cuisine. The area is popular among locals and expatriates alike, making it a great spot for socializing and entertainment. Don’t miss the chance to taste Madagascar’s rum cocktails while you’re there.

10. Attend a Performance at the Is’Art Galerie

The Is’Art Galerie is a contemporary art space that promotes Malagasy artists and musicians. It hosts regular exhibitions, concerts, and cultural events, showcasing the island’s rich artistic talent. The gallery is also a cafe and meeting place, where visitors can enjoy a coffee while surrounded by inspiring artwork. Attending an event here is a wonderful way to support local artists and immerse yourself in Madagascar’s contemporary culture.

11. Visit the Independence Avenue

Independence Avenue is a major thoroughfare in Antananarivo, lined with shops, cafes, and colonial-era buildings. A stroll down this bustling street offers a slice of city life, with street vendors selling snacks and handmade goods. The avenue leads to the historic Antaninarenina square, surrounded by important government buildings and the luxurious Hôtel de Ville. It’s a great place for people-watching and soaking up the vibrant atmosphere of the capital.

12. Take a Cooking Class in Malagasy Cuisine

Experience the flavors of Madagascar by taking a cooking class in Malagasy cuisine. Local chefs teach visitors how to prepare traditional dishes such as romazava (beef stew with greens) and koba (a sweet banana and peanut cake wrapped in banana leaves). Classes often include a market tour to learn about local ingredients. It’s a fun and delicious way to learn about the culture and bring a taste of Madagascar back home.

13. Wander Through the Mahamasina Municipal Stadium

The Mahamasina Municipal Stadium is not only a venue for football matches and concerts but also a place where important national celebrations and gatherings occur. Visitors can catch a local football game to experience the passion of Malagasy fans. The stadium also hosts independence day celebrations and other major events, offering a glimpse into the country’s national pride. It’s an exciting way to mingle with locals and experience Madagascar’s communal spirit.

14. Admire Art at La Teinturerie

La Teinturerie is a vibrant art gallery and cultural center that focuses on promoting Malagasy textiles and contemporary art. The gallery hosts regular exhibitions featuring the work of local artists, with a special emphasis on textile arts. Workshops and cultural events are also part of La Teinturerie’s program, providing insights into Madagascar’s artistic traditions. Visiting this gallery is an excellent way to appreciate the creativity and skill of Malagasy artisans.

15. Explore the Anosy Lake

Anosy Lake is a peaceful oasis in the middle of Antananarivo, known for its heart-shaped outline and the iconic ‘Love Island’ in its center. The lake is surrounded by jacaranda trees, which bloom into a stunning purple haze in October and November. It’s a popular spot for locals to relax and enjoy leisurely walks. The area around the lake also features several important monuments and buildings, including the War Memorial.

16. Participate in the Zoma Market

The Zoma Market, once considered one of the largest open-air markets in the world, offers an authentic shopping experience. Although it has been downsized and relocated, the market still thrives, selling everything from fresh produce and spices to handicrafts and clothing. Bargaining is part of the experience, and visitors can find unique souvenirs and gifts. The market is a lively place to interact with local vendors and practice your Malagasy or French.

17. Hike to the Top of Antananarivo

For panoramic views of the city, take a hike up to one of Antananarivo’s highest points. Several hills offer vantage points from which to see the sprawling cityscape against the backdrop of rolling hills. The hike provides not only stunning views but also a chance to observe everyday life in the neighborhoods you pass through. It’s a rewarding experience for those looking to explore beyond the city center.

18. Discover the Maison Jean Laborde

The Maison Jean Laborde is a historic house built by the 19th-century French industrialist Jean Laborde, who played a significant role in the development of Madagascar. The house has been restored and is now open to the public as a museum. It offers a fascinating look into the life of one of Madagascar’s most influential figures and his contributions to the island. The surrounding gardens are a tranquil spot to wander and reflect on the complex history of Madagascar.

19. Take a Break at the Botanical and Zoological Garden of Tsimbazaza

The Botanical and Zoological Garden of Tsimbazaza is a place where visitors can learn about Madagascar’s unique flora and fauna. The zoo houses various species of lemurs, reptiles, and birds, many of which are endemic to the island. The botanical gardens showcase a wide array of native plants, including medicinal herbs and orchids. It’s an educational and relaxing way to spend an afternoon, especially for families.

20. Experience the Night Market on Digue Road

The night market on Digue Road is a vibrant event where locals come to eat, shop, and socialize. Stalls offer a wide range of street food, including Malagasy specialties and international dishes. It’s an excellent place to try local snacks.

Romazava is a must try dish in Madagascar

What To Eat and Drink in Antananarivo, Madagascar

Antananarivo, like the rest of Madagascar, has a unique and diverse cuisine that reflects the island’s rich cultural heritage and abundance of fresh ingredients.

Here’s a guide to some must-try foods and drinks when in Antananarivo, promising a culinary journey through the heart of Madagascar.

Must-Try Foods

1. Romazava

Often considered the national dish of Madagascar, Romazava is a hearty stew made with beef, pork, or chicken and a variety of leafy greens. It’s a flavorful introduction to Malagasy cuisine, rich in spices and served with rice.

2. Mofo Gasy

A staple breakfast item, Mofo Gasy are rice flour cakes that are slightly sweet, light, and airy. Cooked in special circular pans over charcoal, these cakes are often enjoyed with coffee in the mornings.

3. Ravitoto

Ravitoto is a traditional dish made from cassava leaves pounded into a paste and cooked with pork or beef and coconut milk. It offers a unique taste of Madagascar’s rich culinary tradition.

4. Voanjobory sy Henakisoa

This popular dish combines bambara peas (voanjobory) with pork (henakisoa), offering a delightful mix of textures and flavors, typically served over rice.

5. Zebu Steak

Zebu, a type of cattle indigenous to Madagascar, is a common source of meat and often served as steak in restaurants across Antananarivo. Its rich flavor and tenderness make it a must-try for meat lovers.

6. Achard

Achard is a tangy salad made from unripe fruits or vegetables, such as mangoes or papayas, finely chopped and mixed with spices and vinegar. It’s a refreshing side dish that accompanies many meals.

7. Koba

A traditional snack, Koba is made from bananas, peanuts, and honey, wrapped in banana leaves and steamed. Its dense, cake-like texture and sweet flavor make it a filling treat.

Must-Try Drinks

8. Ranonapango

Ranonapango, also known as burnt rice tea, is a traditional Malagasy drink made by boiling water with the crust of burnt rice at the bottom of a pot. It’s a simple, comforting beverage often served with meals.

9. Three Horses Beer (THB)

Madagascar’s most famous beer, THB, is a refreshing lager that’s become synonymous with Malagasy social gatherings. Enjoy a cold THB to experience a piece of local life.

10. Litchi Wine

Madagascar’s fertile land produces abundant lychees, which are used to make a sweet, fragrant wine. Litchi wine is a delightful way to enjoy the island’s bountiful produce.

11. Dite Gasy

A local tea made from various plants and herbs, Dite Gasy is believed to have medicinal properties. It’s a soothing drink, perfect for relaxing after a day of exploring Antananarivo.

Ravitoto must try dish

Top Restaurants In Antananarivo, Madagascar

Here’s a list of top restaurants in Antananarivo that promise an unforgettable dining experience.

1. La Varangue

Nestled in the heart of the city, La Varangue is known for its exquisite fusion of French and Malagasy cuisine. With a cozy, elegant atmosphere and a menu that features both local and international wines, it’s a favorite among locals and tourists alike.

2. Le Carré

Offering a modern dining experience, Le Carré presents a menu that creatively blends international flavors with a Malagasy twist. The restaurant’s chic decor and panoramic views of the city make it a perfect spot for a romantic dinner or a special occasion.

3. Villa Vanille

Set in a charming colonial-style villa, Villa Vanille serves traditional Malagasy dishes alongside French and international options. The restaurant’s lush garden setting provides a tranquil backdrop for a leisurely meal.


Located in the trendy Isoraka district, KUDeTA is a stylish restaurant and lounge that offers a contemporary menu with Asian, European, and Malagasy influences. Its vibrant atmosphere and innovative cocktails draw a fashionable crowd.

5. Restaurant Sakamanga

Part of the popular Sakamanga Hotel, this restaurant is a must-visit for those wanting to sample traditional Malagasy cuisine in a quirky and colorful setting. The menu also includes vegetarian and international dishes, catering to all tastes.

6. Chez Mariette

Chez Mariette is renowned for its authentic Malagasy cuisine, particularly its seafood dishes. The warm, welcoming atmosphere and generous portions make it an ideal choice for a casual dining experience.

7. Le Rossini

Le Rossini, a fine dining restaurant specializing in French and Italian cuisine, is known for its elegant setting and impeccable service. The menu, featuring fresh, high-quality ingredients, is complemented by an extensive wine list.

8. Manda Seafood

For seafood lovers, Manda Seafood is a paradise. Offering the freshest catch from the Indian Ocean, the restaurant prepares its dishes with a Malagasy flair, allowing diners to enjoy the rich flavors of the sea.

9. Café de la Gare

Housed in the historic Antananarivo railway station, Café de la Gare offers a unique dining experience with its blend of Malagasy, French, and international cuisine. The restaurant’s elegant decor and inviting terrace make it a popular spot for both meals and cocktails.

10. Lotus Bleu

Offering an array of Asian dishes, particularly Chinese and Vietnamese, Lotus Bleu is a great spot for those craving flavors from the East. The restaurant’s cozy atmosphere and friendly service ensure a pleasant dining experience.

Antananarivo distinct architecture

Tours For Visitors To Antananarivo, Madagascar

For travelers eager to delve into the rich tapestry of this vibrant city and its surroundings, here’s a comprehensive list of tours that promise to make your visit truly unforgettable.

1. Historical and Cultural City Tour of Antananarivo

Discover the soul of Antananarivo with a guided tour through its historical sites, including the Queen’s Palace (Rova), Andafiavaratra Palace, and Ambohimanga Hill, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Learn about the Merina Kingdom and gain insights into the cultural significance of these landmarks. The tour often includes visits to local markets and artisans, offering a glimpse into the daily lives of the Malagasy people.

2. Lemurs Park and Botanical Tour

Just a short drive from the city, Lemurs Park offers visitors the chance to see various species of lemurs up close in a semi-natural environment. This guided tour not only provides insights into lemur behavior and conservation but also includes a botanical walk through the park’s lush gardens, showcasing Madagascar’s unique flora.

3. Culinary Tour of Antananarivo

Embark on a culinary adventure through Antananarivo, sampling traditional Malagasy cuisine and learning about the local ingredients that flavor the island’s dishes. This tour might take you from bustling street food stalls to esteemed local restaurants, offering a taste of everything from mofo gasy (Malagasy bread) to romazava (beef stew).

4. Pereyras Nature Farm and Exotic Gardens

A guided tour to Pereyras Nature Farm exposes visitors to Madagascar’s incredible biodiversity, including chameleons, frogs, snakes, and butterflies, in a conservation-focused setting. The Exotic Gardens nearby further highlight the island’s unique plant species, making this tour a must-do for nature enthusiasts.

5. Artisanal Workshop Tour

Gain insight into Madagascar’s rich tradition of craftsmanship with a tour that visits artisanal workshops around Antananarivo. From intricate woodcarvings and colorful textiles to hand-made paper and recycled art, this tour offers a chance to meet local artisans, learn about their crafts, and perhaps pick up a unique souvenir.

6. Ambohimanga Royal Hill Tour

Dive deeper into the history of Madagascar with a guided tour to Ambohimanga Royal Hill, one of the island’s most sacred sites. This tour explores the ancient royal city, its palaces, burial sites, and the surrounding forests, offering a window into the spiritual and political heart of the Merina kingdom.

7. Antananarivo Night Tour

Experience the vibrant nightlife of Antananarivo with a guided tour that explores the city after dark. From lively bars and nightclubs to evening street markets, this tour showcases the nocturnal activities of the city’s residents, offering a different perspective on the Malagasy capital.

8. Lake Anosy and Zoma Market Tour

Stroll around Lake Anosy, taking in its tranquil beauty and the iconic Anosy Avaratra, then dive into the bustling Zoma market, one of the largest open-air markets in Madagascar. This tour is a fantastic way to observe local life, shop for souvenirs, and enjoy the lively atmosphere of Antananarivo’s street markets.

9. Urban Street Art Tour

Discover the vibrant street art scene of Antananarivo with a guided tour that highlights the city’s murals and graffiti. Learn about the artists behind the works, the stories they tell, and how street art is shaping the visual landscape of the capital. This tour offers a unique and colorful insight into the contemporary culture of Madagascar.

10. Analamanga Region Scenic Tour

Explore the picturesque landscapes of the Analamanga region surrounding Antananarivo. This guided tour can include visits to scenic waterfalls, traditional villages, and panoramic viewpoints, offering a chance to experience the natural beauty and rural life of Madagascar beyond the capital.

Antananarivo epic sunset clouds

Antananarivo Accommodations Guide: Hotels, Guesthouses and Hostels

Here’s a detailed and comprehensive guide to help you find the perfect place to stay in Antananarivo.

Luxury Hotels

1. Hotel Carlton Antananarivo Madagascar

Situated near the heart of the city overlooking Lake Anosy, Hotel Carlton offers luxury accommodations with all the amenities you’d expect from a 5-star hotel, including a swimming pool, fitness center, and several on-site restaurants serving international cuisine.

2. Le Louvre Hotel & Spa

Located centrally, Le Louvre Hotel & Spa features elegantly appointed rooms, a well-equipped spa, and a rooftop terrace that provides panoramic views of the city. Its blend of comfort and convenience makes it an ideal choice for discerning travelers.

Mid-Range Hotels

3. Tamboho Suites

Offering spacious and modern apartments, Tamboho Suites is perfect for travelers looking for the comfort of home with hotel amenities. Situated in a secure and quiet area, it’s close to shopping centers and restaurants.

4. Hotel Les 3 Metis

A charming hotel with a mix of traditional Malagasy and contemporary design, Hotel Les 3 Metis is known for its friendly service, cozy accommodations, and an on-site restaurant that serves a fusion of local and international dishes.

Budget Accommodations

5. Sole Hotel

Offering clean and comfortable rooms at an affordable price, Sole Hotel is located in the city center, making it a convenient base for exploring Antananarivo. The hotel provides free Wi-Fi and a daily breakfast.

6. La Maison du Pyla

This cozy guesthouse provides a warm and welcoming atmosphere for travelers on a budget. With a communal kitchen and a picturesque garden, it’s a great place to meet other travelers.


7. Maison Lovasoa

A boutique guesthouse located near the Presidential Palace, Maison Lovasoa offers beautifully decorated rooms that combine Malagasy craftsmanship with modern comfort. Its central location is perfect for sightseeing and exploring the city’s attractions.

8. Chez Jeanne

Offering a more personal touch, Chez Jeanne is known for its hospitable service, home-cooked meals, and comfortable rooms. It provides an authentic Malagasy living experience in a friendly and homely atmosphere.


9. Madagascar Underground

A favorite among backpackers, Madagascar Underground provides dormitory-style and private accommodations, a communal kitchen, and a vibrant bar area. It’s a great place to connect with fellow travelers and exchange stories.

10. Tana-Jacaranda

This hostel is a budget-friendly option that doesn’t skimp on charm or convenience. Located in the historical center of Antananarivo, Tana-Jacaranda offers simple, clean rooms and a terrace with stunning city views.

Specialty Lodging

11. Rova Hotel

Perched on a hillside with breathtaking views of the city and its surrounding landscapes, Rova Hotel offers a unique stay in a historical setting. The hotel is situated close to the Queen’s Palace, providing easy access to one of Antananarivo’s most significant landmarks.

12. Ibis Antananarivo Ankorondrano

Part of the reliable Ibis chain, this hotel offers modern comforts, an outdoor pool, and an on-site restaurant. It’s a great option for business travelers or those who prefer international standards.

Ambohimanga popular day trip options

Day Trips From Antananarivo, Madagascar

Here are ten day trips from Antananarivo that promise memorable adventures and insights into the beauty and history of Madagascar.

1. Ambohimanga

A UNESCO World Heritage site, Ambohimanga is a hill and traditional fortified royal settlement located about 24 km northeast of Antananarivo. This historical village offers insights into the Merina Dynasty and the island’s pre-colonial past. Visitors can explore ancient royal palaces, sacred sites, and stunning panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. It’s a place where history and spirituality are deeply intertwined.

2. Lemurs’ Park

Just a short drive from Antananarivo, Lemurs’ Park is a private reserve where you can see nine species of lemurs in a semi-natural environment. Besides lemurs, the park is home to more than 70 species of plants native to Madagascar, as well as other wildlife. Guided tours provide valuable information about conservation efforts and the biology of lemurs. It’s an ideal trip for families and wildlife enthusiasts.

3. Andasibe National Park

Although a bit farther away, Andasibe National Park is worth the journey for its lush rainforest and the opportunity to see the indri, Madagascar’s largest lemur, in its natural habitat. The park also features a wide variety of other wildlife, including chameleons, tenrecs, and countless bird species. Guided walks in the early morning offer the best chance to see and hear the indri’s haunting calls. The park’s rich biodiversity and conservation programs provide a deep dive into Madagascar’s unique ecosystems.

4. Lake Itasy

Lake Itasy, in Madagascar’s central highlands, is a peaceful retreat offering a variety of outdoor activities including hiking, bird watching, and boat trips. The region around the lake features waterfalls, geysers, and traditional villages that can be explored on day trips. It’s also an excellent spot for sampling local cuisine with a focus on freshwater fish. The scenic beauty and tranquil atmosphere make it a perfect escape from the city.

5. Peyrieras Reptile Reserve

Located on the way to Andasibe National Park, Peyrieras Reptile Reserve, also known as Madagascar Exotic, is a conservation center focusing on reptiles and amphibians, including chameleons, geckos, and frogs. Visitors can get up close to these creatures, making it an excellent educational experience for all ages. The reserve offers guided tours that explain the importance of Madagascar’s unique fauna and efforts to protect it. It’s a must-visit for those interested in herpetology and conservation.

6. Palmarium Reserve

Although it requires a bit of a journey, the Palmarium Reserve, accessible by boat from the east coast, offers an unforgettable experience with its private forest home to many species of lemurs that roam freely. The reserve also features unique flora, including several species of palm trees and carnivorous plants. Overnight stays are possible in bungalows overlooking the beautiful Lake Ampitabe. The Palmarium Reserve is an excellent option for those wanting to immerse themselves in Madagascar’s natural beauty.

7. Ilafy

The village of Ilafy, located just north of Antananarivo, is known for its historical significance in the Merina Kingdom and traditional craftsmanship, especially stone carving. The area offers a glimpse into rural Malagasy life and traditional architecture. Visitors can explore local workshops and purchase handmade souvenirs. It’s a great way to experience Madagascar’s cultural heritage within a short distance from the capital.

8. Anjozorobe-Angavo Forest Corridor

This protected area, about 90 km from Antananarivo, is a haven for biodiversity, with lush forests home to many endemic species of flora and fauna, including lemurs. The corridor offers guided hikes, bird watching, and the chance to experience the tranquility of Madagascar’s rainforests. Conservation efforts and sustainable tourism practices are highlighted here. It’s an ideal day trip for nature lovers and those interested in environmental conservation.

9. Antsirabe

Though slightly further away, the journey to Antsirabe offers a look at the Malagasy highlands and their unique culture. Known for its thermal springs, rickshaws, and vibrant markets, Antsirabe is a hub for exploring the surrounding countryside, including crater lakes and artisan workshops. The city’s colonial architecture and the surrounding volcanic landscape offer a different perspective on Madagascar’s diverse geography. Antsirabe is perfect for those who enjoy cultural and scenic exploration.

10. Ampefy

Situated on the banks of Lake Itasy, Ampefy is known for its volcanic landscape, including the impressive Geysers of Analavory and the Lily Waterfall. The area’s fertile land produces a variety of fruits and vegetables showcased in local markets. Ampefy is ideal for hiking, bird watching, and enjoying the tranquil lake views. It’s a beautiful example of Madagascar’s volcanic interior and a great spot for relaxation and nature walks.

Antananarivo stadium views

Antananarivo Transportation Guide

Navigating Antananarivo, Madagascar’s bustling capital, can be an adventure. The city’s unique topography, with its hills and valleys, combined with its lively streets, makes getting around an integral part of the Antananarivo experience. Here’s a comprehensive guide to transportation options in Antananarivo, helping you explore the city with ease.


Traditional Taxis: These are readily available throughout Antananarivo. They’re not metered, so it’s essential to negotiate the fare before starting your journey. For longer distances or day trips, you can also hire a taxi for a half-day or full-day rate.

Taxi-Be: The “big taxis” or minibusses are a common sight in Antananarivo, operating on specific routes throughout the city. They’re an economical way to get around, though routes can be complex, and they tend to be crowded.

Rickshaws (Pousse-Pousse)

Especially prevalent in narrower streets and for short distances, rickshaws or pousse-pousses offer a traditional way to navigate the city. Fares should be negotiated beforehand. They’re not suitable for long distances but offer a unique experience for shorter trips.

Rental Cars

For those wanting more flexibility and planning to explore beyond Antananarivo, renting a car can be a good option. Several international and local rental agencies operate in the city. Remember, driving in Madagascar can be challenging due to road conditions and local driving norms, so it’s often recommended to hire a car with a driver.


Exploring Antananarivo on foot can be rewarding, especially in areas like the historic city center, around Lake Anosy, and in the Analakely market. Be mindful of traffic and pedestrian pathways, as sidewalks can be uneven or non-existent in parts.

Bicycles and Motorbikes

Some locals and adventurous travelers use bicycles or motorbikes to get around. While not the most common option for visitors due to the city’s hilly terrain and busy streets, rentals are available for those experienced in navigating urban traffic.

Tips for Navigating Antananarivo

  • Peak Traffic: Traffic congestion is common during morning and evening rush hours. Plan your travel accordingly to avoid delays.
  • Safety: As in any major city, keep an eye on your belongings, especially in crowded areas like markets or when using public transportation.
  • Language Barrier: Not all drivers speak English, so having your destination written in Malagasy or having a local help explain your destination can be helpful.
  • Local Guidance: Don’t hesitate to ask for directions or advice from your hotel staff or local friends on the best transportation options for your planned activities.

Nosy Be is a place to visit next

Where To Visit After Your Trip To Antananarivo?

From the unique fauna and flora of its national parks to the pristine beaches of its islands, here’s a guide to destinations that promise to enhance your Madagascan adventure.

1. Andasibe-Mantadia National Park

Just a few hours from Antananarivo, Andasibe-Mantadia National Park is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts, home to the indri, Madagascar’s largest lemur, whose haunting calls fill the air at dawn. Explore the lush rainforest, which harbors a multitude of lemur species, rare birds, and reptiles. The park also offers night walks to observe nocturnal species, providing a complete immersion into Madagascar’s unique biodiversity. It’s a must-visit for anyone looking to experience the island’s iconic wildlife up close.

2. Nosy Be

Known as Madagascar’s premier beach destination, Nosy Be is an island paradise with turquoise waters, coral reefs, and ylang-ylang plantations. Beyond sunbathing and water sports, visitors can explore Lokobe Reserve to see black lemurs and snorkel around Nosy Tanikely for an underwater spectacle of marine life. The island’s vibrant markets and rum distilleries offer a taste of local life and flavors. Nosy Be serves as the perfect relaxation spot after the hustle of the capital.

3. Isalo National Park

Dramatic landscapes of sandstone formations, canyons, and oases define Isalo National Park in the south of Madagascar. Hiking trails wind through this Jurassic scenery, leading to natural swimming pools and panoramic viewpoints. The park’s unique ecosystem supports a variety of wildlife, including ring-tailed lemurs and endemic birds. It’s an ideal destination for adventurers and nature lovers alike, offering a striking contrast to the lush rainforests of the east.

4. Avenue of the Baobabs

The Avenue of the Baobabs, near Morondava on the west coast, presents one of Madagascar’s most iconic landscapes, where majestic baobab trees line a dirt road, creating a striking silhouette against the sky. This natural monument is especially breathtaking at sunrise and sunset. Nearby attractions include the Kirindy Reserve, where visitors might spot the elusive fossa, Madagascar’s top predator. The avenue is a photographer’s dream and a testament to the island’s ancient natural heritage.

5. Ifaty

Situated along the southwest coast, Ifaty is a collective name for two fishing villages set against a backdrop of baobab trees, offering a tranquil escape with beautiful beaches and a coral reef just offshore. The region is ideal for snorkeling, diving, and whale watching from July to September. On land, the Reniala Reserve allows visitors to explore a spiny forest ecosystem, home to unique flora and bird species. Ifaty offers a blend of marine and terrestrial adventures, showcasing Madagascar’s diverse environments.

6. Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park

A UNESCO World Heritage site, Tsingy de Bemaraha is known for its limestone karst landscapes, towering “tsingy” pinnacles, and deep canyons. The park’s aerial walkways and suspension bridges provide access to this otherworldly terrain, home to diverse wildlife, including several lemur species. It’s a destination for the adventurous, offering challenging hikes and the reward of unparalleled natural beauty. Access is season-dependent, making planning essential.

7. Ranomafana National Park

One of Madagascar’s most famous rainforests, Ranomafana National Park offers the chance to see a variety of lemurs, including the golden bamboo lemur, in a misty, mountainous setting. Guided walks range from easy night walks to challenging day hikes, catering to all fitness levels. The park also houses a research station focusing on conservation and education. Ranomafana is a hotspot for biodiversity and a key destination for eco-tourists.

8. Île Sainte-Marie

Once a haven for pirates, Île Sainte-Marie off the east coast is now a peaceful retreat known for its lush landscapes, beautiful beaches, and rich history. The island’s pirate cemetery and the annual migration of humpback whales add to its allure. Activities include cycling, snorkeling, and exploring the island’s small villages. Île Sainte-Marie offers a quieter, more relaxed alternative to Nosy Be, with its own unique charm.

9. Ankarafantsika National Park

Ankarafantsika National Park in the northwest is a haven for birdwatchers, with more than 120 bird species, including many endemics. The park’s dry deciduous forests also host lemurs, fossas, and the critically endangered Madagascar fish eagle. Lakes and canyons within the park provide scenic spots for hiking and picnicking. Ankarafantsika is ideal for those interested in wildlife and looking to explore off the beaten path.

10. Fort Dauphin (Tolagnaro)

Surrounded by mountains, beaches, and spiny forests, Fort Dauphin offers a diverse set of landscapes to explore. The nearby Berenty Reserve is famous for its accessible populations of ring-tailed lemurs and sifakas. Surfing, kiteboarding, and hiking are popular activities in the area. Fort Dauphin combines outdoor adventure with wildlife viewing, set against some of Madagascar’s most stunning backdrops.

Antananarivo high vantage point views with lush greenery in Madagascar

Antananarivo Travel Guide: Final Thoughts

Antananarivo, the capital city of Madagascar, is a vibrant and bustling city that offers visitors a unique blend of cultures, history, and natural beauty. With its rich history, unique architecture, and delicious cuisine, there are many reasons why Antananarivo is a popular destination for tourists.

From exploring the city’s historic sites and markets to visiting the nearby national parks and wildlife reserves, there is no shortage of things to see and do in and around Antananarivo. Additionally, with a variety of accommodations, restaurants, and transportation options, Antananarivo is a convenient and comfortable base for exploring the rest of Madagascar.

Overall, if you are interested in exploring the diverse and fascinating culture, history, and natural beauty of Madagascar, Antananarivo is a must-visit destination.

Ode To Antananarivo

In the heart of Madagascar’s isle, A city steeped in culture and style, Antananarivo stands tall and proud, A place where history screams aloud.

The winding streets, the crowded squares, The markets selling wares and fares, A blend of cultures from far and near, In this city, all are welcome here.

With ancient palaces and fortresses, And museums filled with treasures, Antananarivo tells its story, Of a people’s pride and glory.

And when the day is done and night falls, The city’s vibrant energy still enthralls, With music, dance, and food so divine, Antananarivo, a true traveler’s find.

So come and explore this unique city, Where the past and present meld so pretty, Antananarivo, a feast for the senses, A place that leaves a lasting impression.

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