The Highlands | The North | The East | The South | The West

Antsirabe to Fianarantsoa

map Antsirabe to Fianarantsoa
  © University of Texas

Ambositra   |   Zafimaniry country   |  Ialatsara forest   |   Fianaratsoa  


What to see and do  |  Guided tours  |  Where to sleep  |  Where to eat  |  Shopping  
Transportation  |  Practical guide

Ambositra’s vicinity to the forest has turned it into the centre of Madagascar's wood carving industry. Its name means “the place of the eunuchs” supposedly because the Merina tribe castrated all defeated warriors of the local tribe, the Zafimaniry. The cultural influence of this tribe can be found in the traditional motifs of the local houses with their intricately carved balconies, panels and shutters. 

Today, tourists have just invaded the city centre, though their presence is limited to a few hours a day. The visitor deciding to prolong his stay will be rewarded with a captivating, rustic highlands town.

What to see and do

  • Woodcarving workshops

There are many specialized workshops in printmaking, woodcarving and marquetry. Artisans usually coming from the nearby Zafimaniry villages, use to work small workshops, though it is very common to observe them working under tree at the street. The market held every Saturday offers a unique opportunity to obtain some quite good shopping deals.

  • Hikes

Numerous types of excursions are offered from Ambositra in the surrounding region, which is developing a tourist infrastructure.

  • The Andrimamovoka Falls

According to tradition, this waterfall which can be reached after our hour hike, is a place of worship and purification. The hike passes through some typical Betsileo villages and crosses rice terraces. It is possible to camp and fish here.

  • Mount Antety (1845)

This mountain preserves the remains of two forts built in 1873 for Queen Ranavalona II

  • Andohariana Forest

This tapia-tree forest located 30 km south-west of Ambositra is a really delight for botanists and plants’ lovers. The tapia-trees, along with the plentiful orchids and aloes make it a worthwhile trip. If you go there, do not miss the  mysterious tombstones (including that of King Romonja).

  • The royal palace

This place located 6 km from the city on the top of a hill preserves some vestiges of the residence of the last Betsileo king.

  • Cultural events

Famadihana or the turning of the bones

Famadihana (literally, the turning of the bones) is the name given to the traditional exhumations of dead ancestors. This custom is a rite of the two tribes of central highlands: the Merina (from Tana province) and Betsileo (from Fianarantsoa) people. Ancestors are worshipped, remaining part of the family after death and playing just as important a role in family life as when they were alive. These are intense occasions which occur in each family roughly every seven years. Amid feasting, drinking, music and dancing the bodies of the dead are disinterred from the family tomb, wrapped in bamboo mats and carried and danced around the tomb. The bodies are then re-shrouded and reburied. The celebration can last up to two days. These ceremonies occur in the region around Antsirabe and Ambositra between July and September only. Local tour operators can help you arranging an invitation. Paying at least Ar 30,000 you can count on the services of an honest guide. Foreigners are asked to greet the family of the dead respectfully and pay a modest monetary contribution of more than Ar 500 (though a rum bottle will also do!). Contrary to the general idea, foreigners are generally welcomed, and their presence is considered mostly as an honour.
  • Nearby villages

Paying a visit to some neighbouring villages may give you a deeper sight into the traditional life of the Zafimaniry people. At Anjoma-Akona, 25 km from Ambositra, there is an interesting Friday market, where some traditional products like baskets, mats and pottery are sold.

At a village called Soatanana you can visit traditional workshops dedicated to the production of products made of natural silk.

  • Silk road trails
Silk Madagascar
© Feedback Madagascar
Explore the traditional silk industry in the beautiful Betsileo countryside of Manandriana. Tours can be organised to the village of Soatanana, 38km southeast of Ambositra (tarmac road for 30km). This is a village specialized in spinning and weaving of wild silk, using traditional methods. This region is home to the greatest surface area of tapia forest in Madagascar. Tapia (Uapaca bojeri) is an endemic plant and constitutes the only original forest in Madagascar’s highlands. Tapia is the staple diet of the wild silkworm (Borocera Madagascariensis), endemic to Madagascar. Feedback Madagascar - Ny Tanintsika oversees a project in this area to reintroduce the wild silkworm to the tapia forest and supports a weaver’s union, ‘Tambatra’, which regroups about 70 people.

A tour of this area provides the opportunity to see all the stages in silk production, from the cocoon to weaving, including dyeing of the threads which is done with exclusively natural dyes. A circuit lasting one day is proposed to visit the villages of Antapia and Soatanana. Language : French / Malagasy.
Please contact Feedback Madagascar (a development environment NGO based in Tana) for more information:
Tel: + 261 20 22 638 11
e-mail: nytk.tnr@gmail.com

Guided tours

Mania Tours of the Mania Hotel and Papavelo in Tana offer excellent hikes in the Zafimaniry region (see below).

A reputed local agency based in Tana offering multi-day expeditions into the Zafimaniry region is 

LOT VII J161 Ambohijatovo, Ivandry 101 Antananarivo
Tel: + 261 20 26 010 07 / + 261 (0)32 41 324 98  
e-mail:  info@indigobe.com
Web: www.indigobe.com

Where to sleep (Hotels in alphabetical order, prices from 2011) 

Grand Hotel
Tel: + 261 40 47 712 62
Dormitories available at Ar 8,000. You get a bed with clean sheets and towels and some drawers. For a room of your own you´ll pay Ar 15,000 with shared toilet and 25,000 Ar with private toilet. All rooms face an internal patio. A budget place special for backpackers. The food at the restaurant is nothing special, though the restaurant is nicely decorated. Sometimes some local musicians play here.

Hotel Mania                                                                     
Lot VG 17 Rue du commerce
Tel: +261 20 47 710 21                                                                           
e-mail : toursmania@moov.mg
Small hotel central located with 17 comfortable rooms with private bathroom and hot water. An excellent breakfast with very tasteful croissants is served. Excellent value for money. Tours to Recommended address for tours in the Zafimaniry region. Ar 30,000 for a double room and 45,000 Ar for a familiar one.

Hotel Prestige
Tel: + 261 40 47 711 35
Suitable, clean, quiet hotel. The cheaper rooms have outdoor toilets with hot water. Camping in the nice garden is possible at Ar 5000. There is no restaurant. Double rooms available at Ar 15,000 (without en-suite bath). With en-suite bath expect to pay at least Ar 25,000.

Hôtel Tsaralaza Angelino                                       
Andrefan'Ivinany VF 25                                                   
Tel: + 261 (0) 32 07 868 81                                                                               
e-mail: Angelino-hotel@moov.mg
Charming hotel in the city centre of Ambositra, surrounded by a garden.
The interior decoration has been designed by a reputed old artisan specialised in marquetry and sculpture. The hotel offers 8 rooms equipped with hot showers and private toilet. At the attached workshop some ancient tools are exhibit.

Motel Violette
Phone: + (261) 20 47 710 84
Mail: motel-violette@moov.mg
6 simple but pretty comfortable rooms and 20 welcoming bungalows, 5 of them new and with more comforts. The restaurant has a terrace with nice views over the rice paddies. It is located at the beginning of Ambositra when coming from Antsirabe.
A double room costs 23,000 Ar, a double standard bungalow 35,000 Ar and the new ones 45,000 Ar. Also 2 familiar bungalows fro 60,000 Ar

L'Artisan Hotel
Phone: + (261) 032 51 996 09
Email: artisan_hotel@yahoo.fr
18 wonderful rooms and bungalows, all of them superb buildt and decorated with traditional materials. A really piece of art! The garden is beautiful, the food good and there is live music sometimes. A very good choice!
A double room for 35,000 Ar and a familiar one for 45,000 Ar. Bungalows have almost the same price as rooms.

Where to eat

Hotely NY Tanamasoandro
Phone: + (261) 20 47 713 65
Best Hotely in town with still fair prices. It is a popular place between travellers. Quite good.

Two restaurants offering dishes from China and Madagascar. A bakery is also located in the same building.


Tel: + 261 40 47 711 92)
A crafts boutique supplied by local craftspeople, including a silk workshop where one can see demonstrations of the different silk production techniques. There is also a bar and restaurant open everyday from 8am to 10pm. This initiative is supported by Ny Tanintsika and Mondo Giusto, providing an outlet for some of the wild silk and domestic silk products produced by women’s associations that they work with.


You can reach Ambositra either with a taxi-brousse from Tana/Antsirabe or with the bus company Madabus.

Practical guide


Rue du Docteur Ramamonjy
Tel: + 261 44 47 711 29/30
Mo-Fr from 8 am to 11 am and from 2 pm to 6 pm

Lot IVV C6, Alakamisy Ambohimiadana
Tel: + 261 47 713 85

The Zafimaniry region

In the rolling hills of the south of Ambositra there lives a group of people known as the Zafimaniry, or the "the people of the forest”. The Zafimaniry community is the sole remaining repository of a unique woodcraft culture previously widespread on the island. For generations, Zafimaniry foresters, carpenters and craftworkers have developed a body of practical knowledge and skills revolving around wood. Practically all wooden surfaces – walls, window frames, posts, beams, stools, chests, tools – display elaborate ornamentation. 
Zafimaniry village
Zafimaniry village © Madagascar tourisme
Zafimaniry Artisan
Zafimaniry artisan © Unesco
These motifs carry rich symbolic significance related to Zafimaniry beliefs and values. For example, the tanamparoratra (spider’s web) symbolizes family ties, while the papintantely (honeycomb) represents community life.
For several decades, the Zafimaniry have sold statuettes, decorative pieces and everyday objects in nearby towns to ensure their survival. But recently  the process of deforestation threatens the Zafimaniry’s principal source of income. Once encircled by vigorous forests, some Zafimaniry villages are now more than a day's trek from the nearest natural wood source. As a result, over the past decade, the Zafimaniry have increasingly looked toward tourism as an answer to their economic plight. The unmoderated flow of tourists into these remote and delicate communities menaces the integrity of their unique culture.

Typically a multi day trekking starts from Antoetra, the capital of Zafimaniry, located 40 km from Ambositra. Here visitors are expected to make a 2000 Ariary payment (around $1) to the town before heading out to the smaller communities.

On the way, visitors pass some Betsileo graves topped with carved wooden posts called teza (heart wood), some of which can measure several metres high. This Betsileo funerary art is now on the verge of extinction. The trek usually heads to Ifasina, which nestles in a hollow between two mountain ranges, along the way several tombs of Tsangambato overcome Zafimaniry, or Tatao (stele) are shown. The town is known for its intricately carved homes. Other trails lead to Andikio and Faliaivo (5 hour walk from Antoetra), where the presence of tourists is remarkably less and the children smiles brighter (you can easily combine the visit of these too villages with two overnights). From Faliarivo you can continue your trek to Vohitandriana (45 min) and Andraitokanana (2 h). On the following day you can visit the falls of Fanandrano (2h30) and then continue to Sakaivo (3 h), where a further night will be spent. In the third day it gets back to Antoetra in about 3 hours.

Where to sleep

Relais Zafimaniry
Tel: + 261 (0) 22 007 65 / (0) 32 02 177 07
e-mail: papavelo@malagasy.com
Web: www.papavelotrekking.com
Philippe has opened this guesthouse extremely nice for hikers. Guests eat together and sleep either in rooms (Ar 7000), chalets (Ar 20,000) or small houses (Ar 15,000).

Sous Le Soleil de Mada
Ambaladingana, on the road to Antoetra
Tel: + 261 (0) 33 07 344 14
e-mail: souslesoleildemada@gmail.com resa.souslesoleildemada@yahoo.fr
Web: http://souslesoleildemada.monsite-orange.fr
Mark and Brigitte, the owners of the Grand Hotel in Ambositra have opened this intimate  guesthouse, buildt in the traditional style of the Zafimaniry houses, offering accommodations for Ar 32,000. It is a great way to get to know the culture and traditional way of living of the local people. Half board included.


During the high season there are taxi-be heading to Antoetra from Ambositra.

 Ialatsara forest "beautiful forest"

Lemur Forest Camp Ialatsara
Tel: + 261 20 75 620 10
Mobile: + 261 (0) 33 07 434 81
e-mail: kimbaforest@mel.moov.mg   reservation@madagascar-lemuriens.com
Web: www.madagascar-lemuriens.com
Admission: Ar 15,000
Guided tours (half day, price based on the participation of 4 guests): Ar 20,000

This forest, privately managed since 2001, is located at the edge of the RN 7 north of the towen of Ambohimasoa. The original primary forest occupies an area of 835 ha and offers guided tours where it is possible to discover the six lemurs species as well as other fauna endemic to the cloudy forest in their natural habitat.

This private run reserve is a worthy alternative to the existing Ranomafana national park. The several pro points are: fauna and flora are similar, there are not so many visitors and it rains less during July and August, what increases the chances of animal viewing.

The private reserve also offers a camp where accommodation under simple bungalows is available at Ar 25,000 for a double one. Ideal for nature lovers who are looking for a quiet but basic place, where showers are had in the open air (bush shower available). At the common table, a homemade meal is prepared with local products.


  Go here: Fianarantsoa