Madagascar: a travel guide

A vast, beautiful island off the coast of southern Africa, Madagascar offers an abundance of sights to discover from stunning landscapes to beautiful beaches, secluded wildernesses to the island’s unique biodiversity.

The ultimate Madagascan travel guide: Isalo National Park

The ultimate Madagascan travel guide: Isalo National Park

The Malagasy people

Settled around 2,000 years ago by Indonesians, then later by Africans and other ethnic groups including Arabs, Indians and Europeans, Madagascar is a country where religious beliefs, traditions and even ethnicity alter from region to region.

Beliefs and customs

Most Malagasy people hold traditional beliefs about the importance and worship of their ancestors, even when these have become bound up with the traditions of more mainstream religions.

But whatever their religious beliefs, most Madagascans live their life according to a series of ‘fadys’, rules governing what is allowed and acceptable. Fadys vary from region to region, and from village to village.

The Malagasy language

Although the culture and people of Madagascar can vary greatly from region to region they are connected by the Malagasy language. French may be the other official language but if you’re going off the beaten track it might be worth learning a phrase or two in Malagasy.

See our guide to the rich culture of Madagascar for some key phrases.

Must-see sights

Discover the tsingys found at Ankarana National Park

Discover the tsingys found at Ankarana National Park

• Ankarana National Park

A spectacular landscape of Jurassic limestone eroded into jagged needles known locally as ‘tsingy’ characterise this northern national park which also features dense tropical jungle and deep caves.

• Montagne d’Ambre National Park

Volcanic hills shrouded in dense rainforest featuring beautiful waterfalls, the Montagne d’Ambre National Park is home to a number of species of lemur.

• Bermaraha

A UNESCO World Heritage Site is a moonscape land of limestone needles, canyons and mountains. Its protected forests and mangrove swamps are home to a variety of rare wildlife.

• Isalo National Park

Deep sandstone canyons mark the dramatic semi-arid landscape interrupted only by natural pools, caves and waterfalls in this beautiful park in central Madagascar.

• Andringitra Mountains

High altitude biodiversity thrives in the relatively accessible stunning mountain prairies of this national park in the southeast.

The avenue of Baobabs

The avenue of Baobabs

• The Spiny Desert

Home of the ring-tailed lemur the thorny trees here make it a difficult environment for wildlife which has adapted to survive.

• Avenue of the Baobabs

All that is left of a once mighty forest the stunning avenue of Baobabs has trees reaching up to 40 meters tall.

• Kirindy Reserve

This dry tropical deciduous forest in the south is protected and features a stunning array of local wildlife.

Islands to visit

• Constance Tsarabanjina

Located off the northwest of Madagascar, to the north of Nosy Be, this tiny private island resort offers the ultimate in barefoot luxury. Just 25 secluded villas run along two perfect white-sand beaches with uninterrupted ocean views. In the evening enjoy a cocktail in the beach bar before dining on seafood caught by local fishermen that same day. • Ile Sainte Marie

Every year between June and September more than 7,000 humpback whales migrate through the waters of Madagascar and Ile Sainte Marie is a great place from which to watch their acrobatics.

Constance Tsarabanjina, Madagascar

Constance Tsarabanjina, Madagascar

• Nosy Be

A popular spot for travellers to take a break and enjoy the beach, Nosy Be is a laidback beach haven with some great diving opportunities.

Towns and villages

Madagascar has a rich history and bustling culture in its capital city, towns and villages.

• Antananarivo

The buzzing capital is a great place to get a feel for Malagasy life with bustling markets, churches, restaurants, museums and even a botanical garden to explore.

• Antsiranana

The gateway to the Montagne d’Ambre and Ankarana National Parks, this brightly coloured port with its beautiful, crumbling colonial architecture is well worth a visit.

• Ifaty

This is the collective term for two beautiful fishing villages which have become popular with travellers thanks to their long beaches, good surfing and diving.

• Anakao

Another spot popular with travellers are the bustling fishing villages of Anakao A and Anakao B. With their perfect white sand beaches, turquoise water and assortment of accommodation this is a lovely spot to stop and catch your breath.

Things to do

Whale watching

Whale watching

There is much more to Madagascar than Lemurs and Baobabs trees so take the time while you’re there to soak up a bit of local culture and colour.

• The Rova

The Rova is the royal palace and burial ground of the Merina royal dynasty set high on a hill outside Antananarivo with views over Lac Anosy.

• Musée Andafivaratra

Also in the old royal quarter, just a short walk from the Rova, is the Musée Andafivaratra a baroque palace full of artifacts from the reign of the Merina Kings and queens.

• Whale watching

If you visit Madagascar between June and November then make sure you take a trip to watch the migration of thousands of humpback whales through the country’s waters. From June to September the best sightings can be made from Ile Ste Marie but from August to November head to Nosy Be or Tsarabanjina to catch this amazing sight. See our guide when to go whale watching in Madagascar

• La Varangue

Experience world-class Madagascan cuisine at the beautiful La Varangue. All the food is organic and locally sourced and can be enjoyed (weather permitting) on the beautiful terrace overlooking the capital.

• Sports fishing

The waters off Madagascar are teaming with big game fish including Marlin, Sailfish, Yellowfin and Dogtooth Tuna. See our guide to big game fishing in Madagascar.

Discover the vibrant colours when scuba diving in the Indian Ocean

Discover the vibrant colours when scuba diving in the Indian Ocean

• Scuba diving

Thanks to the late development of tourism in the country the waters around Madagascar have remained relatively undiscovered by scuba divers. Be the first to explore its stunning coral reefs, huge sponge gardens and dramatic rock formations. See our guide to diving in Madagascar.

Time of year to visit

Madagascar has two distinct seasons but within each there is much local variation of temperature and rainfall.

The wet season runs from November to April while the cooler, drier season runs from May to October. For divers it is the months in which the seasons shift which offer the best underwater visibility.

Getting around

Getting around Madagascar requires part organisation and part Zen-like patience as local public taxis ‘taxi-brousse’ or local minibuses will rarely go at the time promised, preferring instead to wait until they are full.

The larger bus company based in the capital, offers a more comfortable option, ferrying tourists between major points of interest in the south and east.

It is possible to rent a car but as the roads can be difficult most rental companies will insist on you hiring a driver too. Motorcycles and mopeds can also be hired in some places.

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Discover the stunning landscapes of Madagascar

Madagascar is the world’s fourth largest island covering an area of 587,041km2 with a diverse range of startling, stunning landscapes.

From the forested mountains of the north, the rainforest of the east coast, the steppe landscape of the centre to the dry desert of the south with its famous baobabs, Madagascar is an island with many different faces.

The tsingys of Bermaraha

The eerie, otherworldly landscape of Bermaraha with its jagged topography of limestone needles (tsingys) is a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The tsingys of Bermaraha

The tsingys of Bermaraha

A protected UNESCO World Heritage Site

A protected UNESCO World Heritage Site

The Royal Hill of Ambohimanga

A sacred spot for the Malagasy people for over 500 years, the royal city was the religious capital, seat of royal dynasties and the royal burial ground for kings from the 16th to the 19th century.

Ifaty

The collective name given to the picturesque fishing villages of Ifaty-Mangily and Madio Rano on the southwest coast. Behind the villages lies the arid spiny forest of the Reniala Nature Reserve.

Ifaty

Ifaty

The Avenue of the Baobabs

A truly spectacular site the avenue of baobas lines the dirt road between Morondava and Belon’I Tsiribihina in western Madagascar. The trees are around 30 metres tall and more than 800 years old.

The Avenue of the Baobabs

The Avenue of the Baobabs

A baobab sunset

A baobab sunset

Tsarabanjina

The small private island of Tsarabanjina, home to the laidback luxury of the Constance Tsarabanjina resort, is an islet of the Mitsio Archipelago off the northwest of Madagascar. White sand beaches and clear blue water surround an interior of tropical forests. The island is home to the tomb of the Sakalava kings of the Mitsio islands still honoured by locals today.

Constance Tsarabanjina, Madagascar

Constance Tsarabanjina, Madagascar

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Madagascar uncovered

Madagascar offers visitors a world of adventure and discovery with its unique wildlife and stunning, diverse scenery.

The unique lemurs of Madagascar

The unique lemurs of Madagascar

Here are 5 things you may not know about this beautiful, mysterious island.

1. Lemurs are protected as they are considered reincarnations of ancestors

The Malagasy people are guided by fady or taboos passed down from generation to generation. One such fady protects the country’s lemurs as it is believed they are reincarnations of ancestors.

Read more about Wildlife of Madagascar.

2. The Malagasy word for eating is literally translated as ‘to eat rice’

Rice is the core staple at the heart of Malagasy cuisine so the Malagasy word mihinam-bary which means ‘to eat’ is literally translated as ‘to eat rice’. The culinary influences of settlers from Africa, Middle East, Asia and Europe have combined to form a national cuisine of rich flavours and warm spices with curries and dishes based around fish or ‘zebu’, a kind of African cattle.

Discover 5 unusual foods of Madagascar.

3. The first settlers of Madagascar were from Indonesia

Settlers from the Sunda Islands of Indonesia arrived on Madagascar by canoe around 350BC. They were joined 500 years later by settlers from Africa and then more from Asia and Europe, each bringing their own culture and cuisine which over time have combined to form the completely unique Malagasy culture and people.

Read more about the rich culture of Madagascar

Baobab Trees: a stunning and diverse landscape

Baobab Trees: a stunning and diverse landscape

4. Washing black pots in the rivers of Andringitra National Park is forbidden

Often described as one of Madagascar’s most scenic national parks with areas of deep valley rainforest, mountains and highland forest, Andringitra is also a sacred region where the washing of black pots or mourning clothes is forbidden.

Read about Top 5 walks in Madagascar

5. Prior to colonisation Madagascar was ruled by a queen

Queen Ranavalona III (1883-1897) followed in the footsteps of Queen Ranavalona I (1828-1861) in attempting to ward off foreign influence but in 1897 she was deposed by French colonialists. Visitors can explore the royal palace at Ambohimanga, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and see the queen’s quarters.

See more: Madagascar in photos

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TripAdvisor reviewers praise Constance Hotels and Resorts

At Constance we are passionate about creating holidays that will live in our guests’ memories forever. But don’t take our word for it, here’s what our guests are saying about us on TripAdvisor.

Constance Halaveli's luxurious water villa

Constance Halaveli’s luxurious water villa

Johnny G, stayed at Constance Halaveli, Maldives

‘Luxury Paradise’ – The best hotel we have ever been. Luxury without compromise, perfect service. Water villas are absolutely amazing, with own pool and sea view. Terrace with the pool on each water villa provides 100% privacy.

Read the review in full.

Marvelmann, stayed at Constance Lémuria, Seychelles

‘Constant Constance Luxury’ – This was my first visit to the Seychelles, and I chose the Constance Lemuria because I previously had such lovely experiences of their properties in Mauritius and the Maldives.

I don’t know what it is that make this small hotel chain so outstanding, apart from the locations, the staff and the attention to detail, but whatever it is, if it could be bottled, you could sell it for a fortune.

However, it is the staff that make a stay in this hotel feel as though you’ve joined part of a wonderful family where nothing is too much trouble.

Paradise comes at a price, but when the experience is this good, it’s really worth it.

Read the review in full.

The Legend golf course, Constance Belle Mare Plage

The Legend golf course, Constance Belle Mare Plage

Steve A, stayed at Constance Belle Mare Plage, Mauritius

‘Another wonderful holiday at Belle Mare Plage’ – This was our 4th visit to the wonderful Belle Mare Plage Hotel and that says it all!!!!.

Excellent is an easy word to say but in this case it is not enough to comment on the resort, the accommodation, the food, the golf but most of all the great and caring staff who always go the extra mile, with a SMILE!!!!

Read the review in full.

Manfred M, stayed at Constance Tsarabanjina, Madagascar

‘Robinson Crusoe in luxury’ – After 6 years of abstinence we returned to Tsarabanjina again for our 20th wedding anniversary. It is so amazing how this island and the staff there make you feel welcome.

With only 24 cabins (all recently renovated) set ecologically-friendly just up the North beach and the South beach you get the feeling that you are almost alone on here.

The white beaches and turquoise waters are very tempting and the coral reefs invite you to snorkel or scuba dive at leisure directly from the beach. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are welcome breaks to meet other guests in the completely informal atmosphere of the bar and restaurant.

Staff is very friendly and helpful and does not bother you if you just want your peace.

Read the review in full.

Want to leave a review?

Visit TripAdvisor to leave your reviews of any of our 7 hotels and resorts in Mauritius, Maldives, Seychelles and Madagascar.

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Last minute World Cup escapes

If the idea of a month of World Cup football fever is too much to bear, consider an escape to a quiet corner of the Indian Ocean where you can relax on white sand beaches, escape to the spa or try your hand at watersports.

Diving Indian Ocean, Madagascar

Could the Indian Ocean provide your World Cup escape?

We’re making escaping the World Cup even more tempting with our Constance Diving Offer.

Join us for a diving holiday in Maldives, Seychelles or Madagascar and we’ll throw in a welcome cocktail, two massage treatments, diving orientation and two free dives.

Diving in the Seychelles

With 6 national marine parks and its distinctive granite rock formations and reefs, the Seychelles is one of the world’s top diving destinations.

Set on the African continental shelf the diving of most sites is to a depth of between 12 to 15 metres making it perfect for beginners and advanced divers alike.

Experience the 5* service and facilities of the family-friendly Constance Ephélia on Mahé or the ultimate luxury of the elegant Constance Lémuria, tucked away amidst some of the most beautiful beaches on Praslin.

Read more: Top 6 beaches in Seychelles

Diving in Maldives

The Maldives Ari Atoll is at the top of most divers’ wish lists thanks to its rich marine life, stunning coral reefs and spectacular year-round visibility.

Diving at Constance Moofushi, Maldives

Diving at Constance Moofushi, Maldives

Swim with some of the ocean’s most beautiful creatures including Giant Mantas and Whale Sharks or try your hand at an exhilarating night dive or diver scooter.

Enjoy the laidback vibe at Constance Moofushi where 5* luxury meets barefoot boutique chic or the refined elegance of Constance Halaveli with its spacious deluxe beach and water villas featuring private pools.

Read more: Top 8 reasons to go scuba diving in Maldives

Diving in Madagascar

Explore waters around the private island of Constance Tsarabanjina, north of Nosy Be off the north west coast of Madagascar.

Discover underwater rock formations, coral reefs and sponge gardens home to turtles, jack fish, scorpion fish and grey and white tip sharks in this unique diving destination which has yet to be fully explored.

Chill out in the evening with traditional Malagasy cuisine created by our world-class chefs and gaze at the stars from a hammock hung beside a secluded thatched beach villa. Constance Tsarabanjina is a castaway idyll combining traditional Malagasy charm with a touch of Constance luxury.

Read more: Guide to diving in Madagascar

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Madagascar in photos

Take a glimpse into a castaway world of secluded beaches, laidback Malagasy charm, rare wildlife and oceans teeming with colourful marine life.

Follow the diverse island coast

Follow the diverse island coast of Madascar

Soak up the Madagascan sun

Soak up the Madagascan sun

Traditional Malagasy transport

Traditional Malagasy transport

Experiences words can't describe

Experiences words can’t describe

Embrace the laid back charm of Madagascar

Embrace the laid back  Malagasy charm

Teeming with wildlife: the green chameleon

Teeming with wildlife: the green chameleon

The ring tailed lemur

The ring tailed lemur

The "Organ pipes' rock formation

The magnificent ‘organ pipes’ rock formation

The beautiful coastline of Constance Tsarabanjina

The beautiful coastline of Constance Tsarabanjina

The extraordinary avenue of baobabs

The extraordinary avenue of baobabs

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