The Perfect Travel Itinerary For Madagascar

Madagascar may be the definition of exotic destinations. Nestled in the south Indian Ocean, this island is home to thousands of endemic animal and plant species found no where else in the world. Its landscapes are as different as they are otherworldly, as well as its people, a curious mix of Southeast Asian and African. Of all my travelsMadagascar is still the answer I give to people when they ask me my favorite country. I spent a month in Madagascar which I think was still a bit too short. I could have easily spent three months because there is so much to see. There’s as much geological diversity here as there is in the United States.

I spent just under a month traveling through Madagascar. It’s not an easy place to travel through. Roads and general infrastructure here is some of the worst in the world. The main highways are equivalent to side streets in most other countries, but riddled with potholes and teeming with people walking their ox-carts.

Andringitra mountains

Base of the Andringitra, the tallest mountains in Madagascar. This place is a short detour off the RN7.

I would recommend a minimum of 10 days in Madagascar (not including the flight to get here which can be very long), purely because the road conditions are awful and the sole airline, Air Madagascar, is suspect at best.

Interested yet? If you’re planning to visit Madagascar, make sure to read my Guide to Madagascar for all the little things I picked up along the way. Then read the itinerary below 🙂

 

Where I went

In total, our trip was 28 days and our itinerary included the following

  • Antannarivo
  • Morondava
  • Avenue of the Baobabs
  • Tsingy Stone Forest
  • Ranomafana National Park
  • Isalo National Park
  • Andasibe National Park
  • Ile Sainte Marie & Ile Aux Nattes

If these sights are on your list and you have about a month for your visit, this post is for you! This itinerary can easily be tailored for a two week or three week Madagascar itinerary. Just pick the places you want to go!

 

In depth Madagascar posts

 

 Full Itinerary:

 

Day 1-5: Straight to the Tsingy Stone Forest


We landed in Antananarivo International Airport in the early afternoon on a South African Airways flight. After clearing immigration, which gives all Western passports FREE 30 day tourist visas, we met our driver, Serge, waiting for us at arrivals. We planned on exchanging some Euros at the FX counters at the airport but our driver said he had a guy that would hook us up with better rates. A bit early in the trip for potentially shady practices, but what the hell?

We met with the guy, and he did indeed give us a better exchange rate and we were rolling in stacks of cash (the biggest bill in Madagascar is worth $3-4). We decided to skip Antananarivo (Tana) and drove straight towards Antsirabe where we spent the night.

First baobab sighting!! Very excited.

 

Antsirabe to Tsingy Stone Forest

The next day we headed the Western beach town of Morondava. The drive took the whole day, but not without beautiful rice terraces and otherworldly landscapes. Morondava is a must stop for those visiting the Tsingy Stone Forest because it’s impossible to drive there at night. We would come back to Morondava afterwards for a few nights of R&R.

From the top of Tsingy Stone Forest!

The next day we drove straight to the Tsingy Stone ForestIt was offloading and make shift barge ferries the entire way up but we made it to our guesthouse just before sunset. We stayed here for three nights and hiked the Grand Tsingy and Petite Tsingy. Unforgettable places!

Tsingy Madagascar

Leap of faith suspension bridge. No worries though, this bridge is stable and incredibly well developed.

 

Day 6-8: Morondava and Avenue of the Baobabs


Day 6 was spent entirely on the same road back towards Morondava. We arrived around sunset to one of my favorite places in the world, the Avenue of the Baobabs. This is one of those places that looks amazing in photos, and looks just as magical and special in person. The giant baobab is native only to Madagascar and it’s about as unique of a tree as there is.

avenue of the baobabs sunset

Big baobab with the sunset.

We stayed the next two nights in Morondava. We enjoyed the beach, partied with the locals by drinking copious amounts of Three Horses Beer, and hung out with local fisherman to eat hearty portions of lobsters and prawns.

Morondava

Helping the locals bring in their catch/boat.

Morondava Beach

Morondava Beach

 

Day 9-11: Ranomafana National Park


Day 9 was another all day drive. We had plenty of these because Madagascar is a surprisingly big country, and the roads are so bad, you’re never driving more than 90 km/h. We arrived in Antsirabe (where we also spent the first night), to spend the night.

Ravenala palm tree madagascar

Gorgeous Ravenala tree in Ranomafana.

The next day, we drove south along the RN7, Madagascar’s main highway, to Ranomafana National Park. This park is known for their numerous species of lemurs, including the elusive golden bamboo lemur. The contrast in scenery is extraordinary as Ranomafana looks like a tropical rainforest, where the previous segment of our trip was some combination of desert and ocean.

An awesome bamboo lemur not scared to get close to us. The guide gave it some bamboo bark and it stood there eating it in front of us for at least 10 minutes.

We spent two nights in Ranomafana and spent a whole day hiking through the park.

 

Day 11-14: Isalo National Park


Day 13 was another transit day as we drove along the RN7 from Ranomafana National Park to Isalo National Park. The landscape changed yet again to rugged landscapes that reminded me of the American southwest, but with palm trees dotting the horizon. We made the full day drive and stopped at various locations like the base of the Andringitra Moutnains and the Anja Nature reserve, home to numerous ring tailed lemurs.

Windows of Isalo

Isalo National Park is one of the most popular parks in the country and this is where we decided to stay in our “luxury” accommodations”. We spent three nights here, and I could have used another day as I very much enjoyed it here.

Isalo National park sunset

Ya, can’t complain about this view from our accommodations…

We hiked all around the park, including the two canyons, Windows of Isalo, and Piscine Naturelle.

Isalo Hike Madagascar

Beginning of our long day hike in Isalo

 

Day 15-18: Andasibe National Park


After an amazing visit to the Isalo National Park, our next destination was Andasibe National Park. This is the most visited park in all of Madagascar, likely because of its proximity to the capital (3-4 hours drive). It is home to the Indri lemur, the largest species of lemur that is famous for its loud and distinctive howl.

There are numerous luxury lodges here. One of these, the Vakona lodge, has a sanctuary for orphaned and domesticated lemurs of all species. You can play with them as well as they are completely unafraid of jumping on you. I’m not sure if there is some questionable ethics happening at this place, but it was a great experience nonetheless.

 

Day 19-25: Mahambo and Ile Sainte Marie


The last leg of our trip was beach time! From Andasibe, we drove to east towards the port town of Mahambo where we stayed for the night. They had a resident ring-tailed lemur that was also domesticated and followed us around the entire time. It even followed us into our bungalow where we tried (unsuccessfully) to kick it out. It ended up staying the night in our bungalow which in hindsight, was pretty cool.

Mahambo Lemur friend

But in the end, what a badass lemur. Wish I could take him with me

The next day, we drove to Soanierana Ivongo, where we caught the passenger ferry to Ile Sainte Marie. Upon arrival, we took another transport to the smaller nearby island of Ile Aux Nattes. This place was pure paradise. Not only was there the bluest waters and whitest sand, but we had the whole place to ourselves. We did day trips to scuba dive, and took mopeds all around Ile Sainte Marie.

Ile Aux Nattes Beach madagascar

For the best snorkeling around, just walk into the water at this beach and start swimming. Tough life…

Ile aux nattes beach paradise madagascar

Paradise on Ile Aux Nattes

 

Day 25-27: Antananarivo


Alas, the end of the trip. We took the morning ferry back to Soanierana Ivongo, and took a bus to the port capital of Tamatave. From Tamatave, we charted an entire Taxi-Brousse, the local form of transportation as we didn’t want to wait for it to fill up. We had a day to explore Tana which is about all you need.

Antananarivo madagascar views

Views of Tana

Tana offered more to see than I had imagined. There are beautiful viewpoints all around the city as it is in the highlands, as well as nice colonial French architecture.

 

Day by Day Itinerary


Day 1: Land in Tana, drive to Antsirabe
Day 2: Drive to Morondava
Day 3: Drive to Tsingy Stone Forest
Day 4: Hike Grand Tsingy
Day 5: Hike Petite Tsingy
Day 6: Drive back to Morondava, stop at the Avenue of the Baobabs
Day 7: Relax in Morondava
Day 8: Drive to Antsirabe
Day 9: Drive to Ranomafana National Park
Day 10: Hike Ranomafana
Day 11: Ranomafana to Isalo National Park
Day 12: Hike Isalo
Day 13: Hike Isalo
Day 14: Isalo to Andasibe National Park
Day 15: Hike Andasibe National Park
Day 16: Hike Andasibe National Park
Day 17: Andasibe to Mahambo
Day 18: Mahambo to Ile Sainte Marie
Day 19: Ile Sainte Marie / Ile Aux Nattes
Day 20: Ile Sainte Marie / Ile Aux Nattes
Day 21: Ile Sainte Marie / Ile Aux Nattes
Day 22: Ile Sainte Marie / Ile Aux Nattes
Day 23: Ile Sainte Marie / Ile Aux Nattes
Day 24: Ile Sainte Marie to Antananarivo
Day 25: Antananrivo
Day 26: Fly out

 

This itinerary might not be for everyone, and it certainly is not the way I would choose to travel if I had it my way. Nevertheless, sometimes you need to make do with the time you have. I met numerous travelers that were spending months traveling through South America, giving each destination the just time it deserved and drawing my envy. With that said, I never felt overly rushed with my trip. Although I definitely want to revisit both countries, I felt like I saw all the highlights in Peru and Bolivia.

Showing 12 comments
  • Emily
    Reply

    Hey Johnny! I just found your site and it seems really helpful. I’m going to southern Africa for 6 weeks before heading up to Kilimanjaro this August/September. I’m starting in South Africa, but I’m interested in going to Madagascar for a little while. I’m primarily interested in Tsingy and the Northern Coast (which I saw wasn’t on your itinerary). I’m travelling alone and slightly intimidated by the difficulties of traveling in Madagascar. How did you set up your driver ahead of time? Do you think it’s safe for a solo female to travel this way in Madagascar? Any tips are greatly appreciated!!

    • Johnny
      Reply

      Hi Emily, super jealous of your upcoming trip! I didn’t go to the north coast but my driver always raved about how the beaches in Diego Suarez were his favorite. I got my driver beforehand by emailing some tour operators. You can read about it Here.

      Also, I think being a solo female is no problem either. I saw a bunch of solo female travelers along the way. I wouldn’t recommend trying to get around with the taxi brousse system. You need a lot more time and patience for that!

      • Emily

        Thanks so much for your response! I’ll send an email to the GMT+3 and see what I can get set up!

      • Johnny

        Awesome. Enjoy your trip!!

    • Louise
      Reply

      Hi Jonny,
      This has been so helpful. I am desperate to get to Madagascar but unfortunately I have only 2 weeks there.
      I really would like to dive, I have never done it before so wandered if there was a place to learn at Ile Sainte Marie as this is the place I have been more geared towards.
      Saying that I am trying very much so to do this trip on a budget! Any recommendations?
      Also did you travel and find places to stay along the way or did you book in advance to stay?
      Any help would be hugely appreciated seen as a few travel agents seem to have very limited knowledge of the country
      Cheers

      • Johnny

        Hi Louise, there are definitely places to learn how to dive. I did my diving at Princess Bora resort and they were fantastic. You can read all about it on my Ile Sainte Marie Post. There are also plenty of cheap accommodations and where I stayed on Ile Aux Nattes was simply paradise.

        As for booking everyhting in advance, you definitely don’t need to do it but since you’re only going for 2 weeks, I would recommend it as it’ll give you more time to enjoy things!

  • Filip
    Reply

    Dear Johnny, how was the weather in Ile Sainte Maire in september? I am planning to go there in the end of august -.september.

    • Johnny
      Reply

      Hi Filip, I went during the end of September and the weather was as you’d expect from a tropical destination during the dry season. Mostly sunny, but sometimes there would be a short storm, and there was one day where it was mostly cloudy. August/Sep is firmly int he dry season so I don’t think you need to worry about any prolonged periods of storms (that’s more Dec-Mar)!

      • Filip

        Thank you for your reply. Mostly, I am interested in temperatures. I have read that the temperatures that time in Ile Sainte Maire in the end of August – early september are around 24.

      • Johnny

        Ah OK, ya the temperatures are most certainly warmer than 24. Maybe that is in the middle of the night but I can assure the temperature is well into the 30s for the day. And it’s humid, so add few more degrees for real feel temperatures!

  • Courtney Blacher
    Reply

    I’ve wanted to visit Madagaskar since I wantched the movie. I hope I’ll get a chance soon. Thank you for sharing this useful post.

    • Johnny
      Reply

      Yes and you definitely should! It’s a wonderful country and you will see plenty of King Julien’s around 🙂

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