Antananarivo enjoys a tropical climate, which means that temperatures are never cold, and usually extremely warm. For those who want to avoid the hottest months, visiting between June and August is a good idea, while the warmest conditions are generally around December and January. With little rainfall and sunny weather, September is a fine time to visit and find cheaper flights.
The capital of tropical Madagascar is a lively city filled with markets, colourful sights and palaces – but its biggest attraction is the natural beauty of the island itself. Make it a gateway to the rainforest and beaches of one of the most beautiful countries in the world.
Antananarivo has long been the centre of Madagascar, and possesses many historical attractions as a result. Head to the sumptuous Palace at Rova, or take a tour of the modern presidential Palace. See the fascinating Piracy Museum, as well as galleries and boutiques selling the latest in Malagasy art.
After seeing the sights in town, use Antananarivo as the ideal jumping off point to explore the forests of Madagascar. Rainforest tours can be easily arranged from operators based in the city, who will organise transport and accommodation. Stay in luxurious forest resorts and see charismatic wildlife like lemurs and chameleons in some of the world’s least spoilt rainforest.
Not far from Antananarivo, visitors can drive to the Isalo National Park, with its dramatic sandstone scenery, fantastic hiking trails and waterfalls which descend to pure blue swimming holes below. Or you can climb to the peak of Mount Boby in the gorgeous Andringitra National Park, which presents truly incredible photography opportunities.
Tourists can even sample the country’s diverse wildlife without leaving the capital. Head to botanical gardens a few miles from the centre where the varied flowers and trees of the island are all laid out, as well as lemurs and other furry inhabitants.
When nature has exhausted its appeal, visitors can wander around Zoma Market, one of Africa’s busiest, most exciting shopping experiences. Here, you can try out every kind of Malagasy delicacy, from fried rice to fish dishes and pick up souvenirs like freshly grown vanilla pods.
Taxis are the most popular way to get around, and are both plentiful and reliable. Leave plenty of time to reach any appointments though, as traffic in the city can be extremely dense. Instead of buses, Antananarivo has semi-official minibuses (“Taxi-bes”). These are cheaper but cramped. However, they provide a great way to get to know the locals.
There will be no shortage of taxi and minibus operators seeking to transport visitors from Ivato Airport (TNR) to the city centre. However, be careful to negotiate a price beforehand, and remember to tip any luggage handlers who give you a helping hand. Luxury resorts may well offer shuttle buses as well, but there are no reliable bus services from the airport.