One of the last major areas on Earth to be settled by humans, the natural beauty and ecological diversity of Madagascar makes it feel like a country forgotten by time. Located off the eastern coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean, Madagascar is home to thousands of plant and animal species found nowhere else in the world. Madagascar’s extraordinary natural diversity has earned the country the nickname “the eighth continent”. A veneration of ancestry and tradition pervades the national culture, a reverence that is reflected in the country’s architecture, art and social manners. Visit the top tourist attractions in Madagascar to discover for yourself the natural, cultural and historical diversity that is Madagascar.
Located in the southeastern region of Madagascar near the village of Ranomafana, the Ranomafana National Park is one of the nation’s most popular parks. The eastern section of the park is the most scenic, with numerous streams splashing through densely forested hills. The park is home to the endangered golden bamboo lemur, an animal whose diet includes bamboo shoots that contain doses of cyanide that would be lethal to other animals, yet the charming golden lemur feeds on the bamboo with no ill effects.
Situated in the northeast Madagascar, the Masoala National Park covers nearly 250 miles of rainforest and includes three marine parks as well. The park features ten species of lemur, including the Aye-aye, the world’s largest nocturnal primate. The park is also home to a diverse array of birds and reptiles, including the Tomato frog, named for its bright red color. The Tampolo, Ambodilaitry and Ifaho marine parks are ideal for snorkeling and kayaking adventures.
Encompassing around 100 miles of land in eastern Madagascar, Andasibe-Mantadia National Park is home to eleven lemur species, including the country’s largest lemur, the Indri. Located near Madagascar’s capital city of Antananarivo, Andasibe-Mantadia is one of the easiest parks to visit. The park is split into two areas, the Mantadia National Park and the Analamazoatra Reserve. Local guides conduct 1- to 6-hour tours of either area.
Considered one of the country’s most sacred spots by the Malagasy people for 500 years, the Royal Hill of Ambohimanga is a historical village that was once home to Madagascar royalty. The wall that surrounds the village was made in 1847 and was constructed with a mortar made of lime and egg whites. The Mahandrihono compound includes the former home of King Andrianampoinimerina, with walls made of solid rosewood, and artifacts of the island’s great king, including drums, weapons and talismans.
Ifaty is the name given to two dusty fishing villages on the coast of southwest Madagascar. Offshore, a 60-mile long coral reef is a natural barrier to rough sea waves, creating coastal waters that are ideal for diving, snorkeling and fishing. The desert inland area is known for its spiny forest, where the strange-shaped baobab trees have thrived for centuries.
The Avenue of the Baobabs is a group of trees lining the dirt road between Morondava and Belon’i Tsiribihina in western Madagascar. Its striking landscape draws tourists from around the world, making it one of the most visited locations in the region. The Baobab trees, up to 800 years old, did not originally tower in isolation over the landscape but stood in a dense tropical forest. Over the years, the forests were cleared for agriculture, leaving only the famous baobab trees.
The small island of Nosy Be is one of Madagascar’s premier tourist spots attracting thousands of tourists from across the globe year round. Although Nosy Be’s beaches don’t look as picture perfect as some other tropical beaches, they do win points for tranquility, clear turquoise water and excellent seafood restaurants serving seafood diner on the sand.
The Tsingy de Bemaraha Reserve lies in the southern region of Madagascar’s largest natural reserve, Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve. The word “tsingy” refers to the pinnacles that dot the park’s limestone plateau. Located near the country’s west coast, the park features a broad expanse of mangrove forest. The park is home to seven lemur species, including the Deckens sifaka, a genus of lemur notable for its creamy white fur and black face.
The Isalo National Park is notable for is varied terrain. Located in the central southern region of Madagascar, the park includes areas of grassland, steep canyons and sandstone formations, all dotted by occasional pools lined by palm trees. As in many of the country’s national parks, guides are required. Tours can be arranged to last as short as several hours or as long as several days.
The Ile Sainte Marie lies off the east coast of Madagascar. The island’s array of protected bays and inlets drew pirates to Ile Sainte Marie during the 17th and 18th centuries, and the wrecks of several pirate ships can still be viewed from the shallow waters of the Baie des Forbans. Today the island is one of the top tourist attractions in Madagascar. The still, clear waters of the island’s bays make ideal spots for snorkeling. Migrating humpback whales visit the island waters during summer and early fall.