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

Places of interest

Map Madagascar
The topography of Madagascar forms the basis of the classic division of the country into five parts. This division is due to the very different ethnic groups that populate each region along with the very diverse climatic conditions dominating each of the main five geographical areas of the island.  
  • The Highlands

Madagascar central Highlands constitute the main core of the island and here is where the capital, Antananarivo, together with other important cities are located. The landscape is dominated by terraced rice fields that attest the Asian origin of the Merina people, the main ethnic group, that share this territory with the Betsileo. Along Route Nationale 7 from Antananarivo to Fianarantsoa we also find some of the most visited tourist attractions of the island. Due to its relative altitude temperatures are pleasant during the austral summer, though they can drop a lot in the winter months

highlands of Madagascar
 Typical landscape from the central part of Madagascar © Madagascar Travel Guide
  • The North

The North of Madagascar is scarcely populated and with the exception of Nosy Be Archipelago and Diego Suarez, also very little known. Despite its relative inaccessibility, this region holds a rich mix of ethnic groups and features nature wonders of extraordinary beauty like the karst pinnacles of the Ankarana national park or the untouched and very little explored rainforests of the Majorejy national park that will reward every visit. The dry season is particularly long excepting the Northeast forests where persistent rainfalls are expected the whole year around.

Marojejy National park
  Evening light at Marojejy National Park  © Madagascar Travel Guide
  • The East

The lowlands of the East Coast are home to one of the major ethnic groups of the island, the friendly and hospitable Betsimisaraka. The lifestyle of this ethnic group of Madagascar East Coast retains the traditions and customs of ancient times. The pristine postcard beaches of Sainte Marie island are the major tourist attraction of the area, though the awesome variety of flora and fauna of the largely unexplored rain forests of the Masoala Peninsula make the visit of this national park a must for any serious nature lover. Best months to visit this region are  October until December, before the cyclone season and after the rainy winter.

Sainte Marie
 Girl collecting mussels during low tide in Sainte Marie  © Madagascar Travel Guide
  • The South

The remote, harsh, desolate landscapes of South have turned this inhospitable, arid area into one of Madagascar's most appealing regions.  The dry desert  of the Southwest  Madagascar provides shelter to the Antandroy people, whose name ‘people of the thorns' testifies about the exotic flora that grow in this region: the spiny plants. The area from Onilahy River in the north to the Menarandra River in the south is occupied by Mahafaly etchnic group, known for their unique funerary art. The endless beaches of immaculate sand dunes of the Western south coast are home to the nomadic Vezo fishermen. Climate is hot and almost no rainfalls are expected excepting around Fort Dauphin.

mussel at Salary bay
 Such big mussels are pretty common on many beaches © Madagascar Travel Guide
  • The West

The West is a vast region dominated by baobabs, spectacular tsingy formations and a jagged coastline with countless harbours that were used by pirates as refuge.  The region is inhabited by the Sakalava people, a large ethnic group that keeps alive ancient beliefs in the possession of spirits and preserves the cult of royal relics in magnificent feasts. Climate is dry and pleasant during the winter months. Tsingy of Bemaraha is closed from November coinciding with the begin of the rainy season.

  Baobab forest  © Madagascar Travel Guide