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Madagascar’s vibrant capital city among the most unusual and attractive in the developing world.

Lying in the centre of the island, at an altitude of between 1,245 and 1,470 metres, Antananarivo is built on a series of hills. Many of the old buildings and narrow, cobbled streets retain an almost medieval quality, creating a city of surprises and a lively and bustling place to visit. A mix of many cultures, neither exclusively African nor Asian, here you will see rice paddies, churches, a mosque, palaces and local markets, or Zomas. There is an incongruous juxtaposition of old and modern as zebu carts laden with produce plod slowly along the same roads as Japanese cars and buses. Architecturally, Antananarivo combines old wooden houses, French colonial style buildings and modern offices.

Steep steps lead to the main Independence Square, in the centre of the town, and the best way to see the city is to walk around it, most people take a taxi to the Upper Town, dominated by the ruins of the Queen’s Palace, which was destroyed by fire, and begin their walk from there. The views from various vantage points are commanding: far below you can see Avenue de l’Independence, the hub of the lower part of town with the impressive old train station at its far end. The main area between the high town and the avenue (known as Isoraka) is the smarter part of the city, where many of the better quality hotels, boutiques and classy, vibrant bars and restaurants are located.

Founded in the early 1600’s, Antananarivo’s (Tana) name means ‘the city of a thousand’ referencing the 1000 soldiers who supposedly protected the city during the reign of the King Andrianjaka.In 1895, the French took over Antananarivo, expanding it greatly, and it was 1960 before Madagascar gained independence. Today, Antananarivo has a population of about 1.4 million people.

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Key info

  • Ideal for viewing: Madagascar pond heron, Humboldt’s heron, sooty falcon, Henst’s goshawk, brown mesite
  • Where: Antananarivo Province, Madagascar

Wildlife trips

This location is featured in the following itineraries:

Madagascar Lemurs

This trip idea visits a variety of Madagascar’s habitats, all brimming with endemic fauna and flora. Enjoy guided day and night walks in the forest to search for a multitude of species, including diademed sifaka, black and white ruffed lemur and the tiny nocturnal Madame Berthe’s mouse lemur.

  • When to go: Jan-Dec
  • Duration inc. flights: 15 days
  • Price inc. flights: From £3,795 pp
  • Trip type: Tailor-made trip idea

Southern Highlights

Journey through the highlands to the dry spiny forest of Ifaty, home to an excellent diversity of birdlife and the most bizarre flora. Staying in comfortable accommodation, this trip also visits the Andasibe-Mantadia rainforest for virtually assured sightings of indri, brown lemur and rufous mouse lemur.

  • When to go: Jan-Dec
  • Duration inc. flights: 15 days
  • Price inc. flights: From £3,245 pp
  • Trip type: Tailor-made trip idea

An Island Apart

Enjoy taking in Madagascar’s extraordinary habitats and unique wildlife on this specialist trip. Travelling with acclaimed wildlife photographer, Nick Garbutt, spend time tracking endangered golden-crowned sifakas, gorgeous diademed sifakas and colourful chameleons in lush, verdant rainforest.

  • When to go: Sep-Nov
  • Duration inc. flights: 21 days
  • Price inc. flights: From £6,795 pp
  • Trip type: Group tour

Endangered Sifakas of the North

This unique safari takes in two of the best, but least visited, areas of northern Madagascar. Marojejy National Park is home to ten lemur species, whilst in Andasibe you can enjoy day and night walking safaris to spot species such as the mouse lemur, dwarf lemur and woolly lemur, as well as chameleons and frogs.

  • When to go: Apr-Dec
  • Duration inc. flights: 15 days
  • Price inc. flights: From £3,395 pp
  • Trip type: Tailor-made trip idea

Madagascar’s South & West Photography

Join wildlife photographer Chris Mattison on a unique trip, taking in the best of Madagascar’s prolific wildlife. Visit prime rainforests at Ranomafana and Andasibe and explore equally spectacular dry habitats, with incredible opportunities throughout to photograph the island’s lemurs and other charismatic endemics.

  • When to go: Sep-Nov
  • Duration inc. flights: 20 days
  • Price inc. flights: From £5,495 pp
  • Trip type: Group tour
Suggested accommodation is shown below. Please contact us for further recommendations.

Le Pavillion de l’Emyrne

This boutique hotel is located in the historic upper part of Antananarivo, occupying a traditional house dating from the 1930s with high ceilings and polished wooden floors. Each of the twelve rooms is quite different and throughout the hotel there are elegant and complementary furnishings.