Take in the must-see, must-do locations in the southern half of Madagascar.
The itinerary will follow Route Nationale 7 south from the capital of Antananarivo, through the mountainous central highlands to the dry spiny forest. This cross section reveals some of the many different aspects of the island: its unique wildlife and birds, its culture and varied topography. Staying at comfortable accommodation throughout, you also visit Andasibe-Mantadia National Park to see more lemurs and the iconic indri.
Arrive Antananarivo and drive to Andasibe-Mantadia, 3 nights
Drive to Antsirabe, 1-night. Visit the capital
Today you set off for Antsirabe, a drive of around 315 kilometres (7-8 hours), skirting the capital, Antananarivo en route. Antsirabe is an industrial and agricultural centre that is also well known for the production of precious and semi-precious stones.
Drive to Ranomafana, 2-nights. Lemur spotting
Today you continue southward along the RN7 to Ranomafana, a drive of around 270 kilometres (7 hours).
Drive to Fianarantsoa, 1-night. Visit the Betisleo capital
Today you continue the drive south along RN7 through the highlands to Fianarantsoa, the capital of the Betsileo tribe.
Drive to Isalo, 2-nights. Walks to look for lemurs and birds
Drive to Ranohira (approximately 8 hours), with plenty of opportunities for photo stops en route at scenic locations such as the South Gate, the Bishop's Hat and the Horombe tableland. Keep a eye out for the Reunion harrier in the skies. Your eventual destination is Ranohira, beside Isalo National Park.
The journey by car from Ranomafana and Fianarantsoa to Isalo takes you through some of the most beautiful scenery in Madagascar, although the wildlife interest of this stretch is limited. As you descend from the highlands there is a fabulous view of the plains of the savannah and huge granite mountains known as inselbergs. You pass through Madagascar’s small wine growing region, where it may be possible to visit a vineyards. The elusive Reunion harrier is sometimes sighted in this area. Plants endemic to the region include the dwarf baobab, Isalo aloe, kalanchoes and pandanus.
Drive to Ifaty, 2-nights. Visit the spiny forest
The final leg of your drive south along Route Nationale 7 to Ifaty takes you through the villages of sapphire miners. Here the landscape changes to savannah dotted with bushes, with the heavily decorated tombs of the southern tribes scattered along the roadside.
Drive to Toliara and fly to Antananarivo, 1-night
Transfer to Toliara airport and take a domestic flight back to Antanararivo, where you will be met and transferred to your accommodation in the city. Depending on the time of your arrival (the flight schedule varies from day to day), there may be time for an afternoon guided tour to see something of the city and visit Ambohimanga, 21 kilometres to the northeast. The royal palace, whose name means blue hill, was the residence of King Adrianamapoinimerina (1787-1810). For many years access was forbidden to Europeans, but it now provides a fascinating insight into life at that time.
Transfer to Antananarivo airport and depart
You should note: You can extend this trip by flying from Toliara to Fort Dauphin to visit Berenty Private Reserve or Ifotaka Community Forest before returning to Antananarivo