The florid edge of Madagascar's capital city Antananarivo.
Travel Guide | Madagascar
Map | Africa Map
Antananarivo, also known as Tana, sits pleasantly at around 1,400 metres ( 4,593 ft) in more-or-less the centre of Madagascar (leaning a bit towards the east) so in spite of its tropical latitude it rarely gets either too hot or cold. May to October is the best season here though it can get a bit chilly.
Few would consider Antananarivo to be a Malagasy attraction but there are a few things to do there en route to the real action out in the wilds or perhaps a luxury beach holiday up north.
Things to do in Antananarivo
• Lemur's Park, just outside the city on National Route nb1. It's quite popular and obviously it's best to see it before visiting the critters in their more natural habitats. The park also comfortably houses chameleons, snakes, radiated tortoises and provides good, educational information.
• Ambohimanga is a walled village that used to be the royal home of the powerful Imerina tribe several hundred years ago. It's reasonably interesting tho' not exactly a must-see. More below.
• Pirate Museum, small but informative.
• Off-road ATV or trail bike tours.
• Crocodile Farm, which actually houses other Malagasy wildlife too. So-so, it's near the airport.
• La Medina massage spa. High quality, but pricey. No sexual favours!
• The Queen's Palace is being restored and views over 'Tana, especially at sunset, are superb.
The Analakely market in central 'Tana. Fascinating mayhem but not very safe so leave valuables in your hotel!
• Stray dogs, especially in packs, that can be threatening. They usually back off if they see their target picking up a stone, but don't hesitate to fling the largest rock you can find. These animals are a pest and frequently aggressive.
• Beggars, particularly children who may just pester but older ones could step up to bag-snatching. Do NOT give them anything, whether it's cash, a pen or sweets. Say firmly "Non, merci" or "Tsy misy (tsee meesh)" or even "Mandehana! (man-day-han)" (Go Away!).
• Do not wander freely around Antananarivo back streets unless you're bling-free, French-speaking and an experienced traveller. Gangs do occasionally rob easy victims.
Tana flower market.
The Royal Hill of Ambohimanga, main gate.
Ambohimanga features seven gates. This one is known as Ambatomitsangana (standing stone) and tradition had it that every evening, a team of twenty soldiers would roll the massive stone disk on the right into position, to seal the entrance and protect the villagers from attack. Not attack from animals of course, since Madagascar has no dangerous animals, the disk kept bandits out.
The wall around this village was constructed in 1847 and the mortar used to hold stones together is composed partly of lime and egg whites.
Ambohimanga is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site containing a few simple wooden buildings, the royal stone bath, royal grave, the Palace which housing a few remainents of royal clothing, old pots and pans and so on. Ambohimanga is about 24 kilometers east of Antananarivo and can be a pain if traffic is heavy. The afternoon is perhaps the best time to go there as the hilltop views are splendid.
A traditional house in Antananarivo's suburb.
A village just outside 'Tana.
Getting around Madagascar
The easy answer is by plane, but of course it's more costly that road travel, you see little and meet no one, so travelers with time should consider car hire, buses ( but limited destinations) or bush taxis (taxi-brousse). The last way is the toughest but cheapest, most interesting and the way to meet real Malagasy folk.
Fetching water home near 'Tana.
Madagascar Photos: Lemurs | Landscapes | Mahafaly Tombs | Chameleons
Travel Guide | Madagascar