Antananarivo (Tana) is the capital city of Madagascar and the largest city on this big island in the Indian Ocean. The city is situated inland, about 90 miles from the East coast. Antananarivo was founded in the early 1600’s and its position on top of a high ridge made it easy to defend against enemy attack. Antananarivo means “the city of a thousand”, a reference to the 1000 soldiers that supposedly protected the newly founded city during the reign of the revered King Andrianjaka.
In 1895, the French took over and expanded it greatly to include many new buildings and roads. Madagascar gained its independence from the French in 1960. Today, Antananarivo has a population of about 1.4 million people.
Antananarivo Claim to Fame
Tana will surprise you with its rice paddies, pollution, Asian looks, numerous stairs up steep hills, palaces, cobbled streets and churches. This is not Africa or Asia, Madagascar is totally unique.
Travel to Antananarivo
Most people traveling to Madagascar will arrive in the capital since the international airport is situated there. Antananarivo is a bustling place with lots of churches, a mosque, a zoo and plenty of markets called Zomas. The capital is basically built on 12 hills and steep steps lead to the main Independence square in the town center. The architecture is a mixture of old wooden houses, modern offices and French colonial style buildings. The best way to see Tana is to walk around and take taxis. Many visitors take a taxi up to the Rova in the Upper Town and walk around from there.
The Tsimbazaza Botanical and Zoological Park houses some of Madagascar’s unique flora and fauna including lemurs. Tana is somewhat typical of many cities in a developing country: lots of poverty, pollution, and crumbling infrastructure interspersed with modern cafes, restaurants and shops selling western goods.
Things To Do in Antananarivo Madagascar
Antananarivo City Tour
The town of Miles, located in the Highlands, is the crossroads of major roads and all the domestic Malagasy airlines. With its site, its avenues, its craft centers, museums, churches, royal palaces, its famous market and its zoological and botanical park, the capital of Madagascar is the tourist destination that should not be missed. Discover various facets of the capital of Madagascar, visiting popular neighborhoods and the less popular ones, passing through administrative districts, the lake Anosy and the Mahamasina Stage, and also the Independence Avenue. Visit the Queen’s Palace which represents the entire history of the island. Visit also the Andafiavaratra Museum and the Botanical and Zoological Park of Tsimbazaza.
Lemurs Park Tour
Lemurs Park is located 22 km from the center of Antananarivo on RN 1 to Imeritsiatosika and Arivonimamo. Nine species of lemurs live freely in this botanical park of 4 to 6 hectares of 6000 planted trees. Lemurs’ Park was created in order to allow people, especially animal enthusiasts, and nature lovers to discover this amazing animal.
The Palace of Ambohimanga
Situated 22 km from Tana, Ambohimanga is the cradle of the Merina dynasty, the Mecca of the Merina Kingdom and the starting point for the unification of Imerina. This ancient royal city was reputed to be a sacred city where no foreigner could enter. There’s a lot to admire in this place. From the entrance of the village, the old stone gate-shaped disc in the chamber, the royal box of Andrianampoinimerina, the summer palace of the queens, the horse park and sacred ponds. The enclosure is surrounded by a wall consisting mainly of egg whites in place of cement. The door to the east has “Ambatomitsangana” inscribed on it, and is actually a large stone disc 4m in diameter rolled closed every night and open every morning by dozens of men.
Located in 60 km from Tana, Lake Mantasoa is a huge dam built in 1937, the dam used to regulate the course of Ikopa. Perfectly integrated in a hilly landscape, the artificial lake is very charming, with its banks lined with shady pine forest, and it provides an idyllic place in the middle of the capital.
Head to the industrial city of Jean Laborde (1837-1857). Located not far from the lake, it used to be the largest and most prosperous industrial complex of the Indian Ocean. It used to be where the manufacturing of weapons and ammunition for Queen Ranavalona I as well as building materials were processed. There is also a tomb called Soamandrakizay or “eternal happiness” that you can visit along the way.
Ampefy and the Region Itasy
Visit Ampefy, a village perched on the edge of the Lily, which feeds a small crater lake, the Kavitaha, which in turn merges with the lake Itasy. It’s a starting point for beautiful hikes in the volcanic region of the Middle West of the Big Island. Two of the more famous sites you’ll get to visit on this tour are the Mount of the Virgin Mary and the Lily waterfall.
Many interesting sites are to be found in this region and it is more than worth it to visit the lake basin and its surrounding areas. In fact, the lake alone is already worth the trip, because its existence is due to a major lava flow that blocked the valley. According to legend, the ground collapsed allowing water to fill a natural basin which ended up being the lake we know of and see today.
This is just a 5-minute drive from the airport Ivato. In this wooded park, visitors can safely observe these strange lizards being fed or basking lazily in the sun. The many different kinds of trees in Madagascar can also be found here.
The snack bar in the park offers specialties such as crocodile steak or other exotic crocodile dishes. It is also the opportunity to see products of leather.
Botanical and Zoological Park of Tsimbazaza
Devote some time to stroll quietly through the lush vegetation on the edge of a small lake where hundreds of birds come to live in the middle of bamboo trees and an arboretum. Most species of lemur living in the island are represented here in semi-captivity and a vivarium houses small mammals and reptiles.
There is also the paleontological and ethnographic museum where you can find a complete skeleton of Aepyornis, archeolemurs of skeletons and bones of dinosaurs. See various species of endemic plants and animals: lemurs, butterflies, reptiles, ranging from smaller chameleons to the dreaded caymans, etc.
This is where there are a lot of salt. Visit this charming city that got its name because of the high level of salt minerals in its thermal waters. It’s called the “Vichy Malgache” and as such, has baths and upgraded facilities for its guests.
We must also mention the presence of crater lakes in the region including Lake Tritriva, which is very impressive because of its dark color and depth (over 160m). You can get around the crater on foot once you’ve reached Mount Tritriva. As Andrakiba Lake is located only 7km to the west of the city, it turns into a veritable seaside resort during the hot season of the year. With a circumference of only 5km, it is easy to walk around on foot there by a small road.
Antsirabe is also an important industrial city and in addition to that, a rich agricultural region conducive to breeding. It is known for its dairy products and meats.
|Languages spoken||Malagasy, French|
|Currency used||Malagasy Ariary|