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

Fianarantsoa to Tulear (Toliara)

map Fianarantsoa to Tulear
  © University of Texas

Ambalavao  |  Ihosy  |  Ranohira  |  Ilakaka  |  Sakaraha  | Toliara (Tulear)


What to see  |  Where to sleep  

The pleasant town of Ambalavao, the "Door to the South”, is situated south of Fianarantsoa. Here the temperature is considerably warmer as the place is located far away the mountainous regions where Fianarantsoa is set. Ambavalao is remarkably one of the nicest cities of the highlands. Its cosy brightly painted buildings with their steeply tiled roofs and carved wooden balconies invite for a slow-paced stroll. Wednesdays the laidback atmosphere suddenly transforms as the town fills with cattle holders from the whole country that make all the way even from the distant Tulear to attend the biggest zebu market in Madagascar.

What to see

  • Antaimoro paper factory

Ambavalao as well is home to the renowned Antaimoro craft paper, which is beautifully decorated with dried flowers and leaves. The paper factory (Antaimoro Paper Factory, 75 340 01; admission free, 7.30 - 11.30 am and 1-5 pm) is situated near the Hotel aux Boungainvillées and is well worth a visit. Similar to papyrus, this paper is impregnated with flowers and leaves and then used for albums, lamp shades or simply for mural display. Visitors can see how women produce paper by hand from bark of the Avoha tree displaying a centenary tradition that goes back to the times of the first Muslim immigrants who reached Madagascar’s eastern coast and wrote verses from the Koran on this paper, being this the only script known in Madagascar before letters from the Roman alphabet were used to transcript the spoken Malagasy language. Nowadays sisal paste is also used sometimes. The bark is first boiled, sorted and then crushed to form a pulp. The past resulting from this process is then left in the sun to dry in a cotton strainer. Before the sheets of paper completely dry each sheet is decorated by hand with fresh flowers and leaves to beautiful designs, each different according to the manufacturers taste. Dried flowers are then brushed over with a thin solution of the liquid bark to fix them in place. After each visit tourists are expected to purchase some souvenirs from the attached shop.

© Madagascar Travel Guide

What to see in the surrounding area

  • Anja Park

See under parks and reserves

Where to sleep (Hotels in alphabetical order, prices from 2013)

Hotel aux Bougainvillées
Phone: + 261 75 340 01
E-mail: ragon@moov.mg
This is definitely the best hotel in town. Fairly expensive for Malagasy standards, but a good choice for those seeking for some comfort. Nice, clean rooms with a good restaurant.
The hotel shares the same grounds as the paper factory so guests can enjoy their time watching at the manufacturing ladies
Prices range from 22.000 Ar for a double room with shared toilet and 30.000 Ar for a double room with en suite facilities. A familiar bungalow costs 60,000 Ar.

Phone: + 261 75 341 28
A double room with en suite toilet and shower at this pretty new hotel costs 25.000 Ar., a triple room for 35,000 Ar. There is a bakery attached. All in all a recommendable address.

Hotel Le Tropik
Phone: + 261 (0) 33 14 183 83
This midranged hotel offers 30 practical and rather comfortable rooms ideal for a suitable accommodation for an overnight stoppover. Unfortunately it lacks a garden! Prices are about 29,000 Ar for a double and 37,000 for a triple with en suite facilities.


The laidback town of Ihosy is the regional capital of the Bara people and is located at about 800m above sea level. The Bara are still attached to the traditional polygamy social structure, which tends to grant a higher value to cattle than to women. Besides the beautiful spectacle of the blooming jacarandas in October and unless you are a jeweller (sapphire crystals have been recently found here) there is no particular reason to stay. If it however happens that you get stuck here, you can still find usable accommodation at various hotels in town. 
The basic Hotel Nirina (near the taxi brousse station) can do it for one night. Better are the hotel Relais Bara with showers and hot water (near the roundabout) and the Zaha Motel at the end of the village, when you can get a double room for 35,000 Ar.
Ihosy is furthermore the junction point where the RN13 from Fort Daouphin meets the RN7. Taxis-brousse regularly drive between Ihosy and Fianarantsoa (the journey takes between four to five hours) and between Ihosy and Toliara (five to six hous).


The small town of Ranohira, 91 km south of Ihosy, is the base for visiting the nearby and popular Isalo National Park, which is filled with varied and dramatic landscapes and terrains. 

Ihosy    © Madagascar Travel Guide The location of the town is indeed stunning: sandstone formations, impressive gorges and canyons amid vast open grasslands.  Getting to Ranohira is an easy task. If you are coming from Toliara you will just have to get onto one of the many taxi-brousses leaving early in the morning to Tana. Since the route is very popular it is better if you try to book your seat the day before.

What to see  |  Where to sleep

What to see

  • Isalo National Park

See under Isalo National Park

Where to sleep (Hotels in alphabetical order, prices from 2013)

Budget  |  Middle class |  High end

Budget accommodations
Chez Alice
Set of bungalows 500m from the town centre from 22,000 Ar. Good food, camping permitted.
Maison Jumelle Chez Thomas
Phone: + 261 (0) 32 43 708 69
Basic cheap rooms all with shared facilities.
Middle class hotels
Hotel Orchidee d'Isalo
Phone: + 261 (0) 32 44 676 89
Mail: hotel@orchidee-isalo.com
Web: http://www.orchidee-isalo.com
30 charming and really comfortable rooms of different qualities in the centre of the village. An ideal place for big groups.
Double rooms from 38,000 Ar to 65,000 Ar, 
Motel d'Isalo
Phone: + 261 (0) 22 330 82
Mail: motelisalo@moov.mg
Sixty-five bungalows all comfort, built of stone and local materials All of them have en-suite rooms, solar heating and swimming pool. The hotel is located afar the town's centre.
Hotel Berny 
Phone: + 261 032 05 257 69
Mail: hotelbernyisalo@orange.mg
Web: http://hotel-ranohira-ihosy-isalo.lagrandeile.com
A good hotel with nice and comfortable rooms located in a small chateau and 9 new rooms with all comforts built in stone. Good food.
A double room with cold water and shared toilet for 22,000 Ar, a double room with hot water and private facilities costs 37,000 Ar, a familiar room 47,000 Ar. The new rooms for 64,000 Ar a double and 100,000 Ar the two familiar ones. 

Les Toiles de Isalo
Phone: + (261) 033 11 025 25
Mail: toilesdisalo@moov.mg
Web: http://www.hotel-toiles-isalo.com
Located next to the park entrance and about 1 km from the Ranohira, this welcoming bungalows complex offers cute bungalows with hot water and private bathroom on a beautiful setting. There is a pool and a restaurant serving very good meals with a terrace with views over the massif of Isalo. Excellent quality-price relationship!
A single room costs 19 €, a double 25 € and a triple 38 € with breakfast.

 High end accommodations
Isalo Ranch
Phone: + 261 20 26 011 11
email: info@isalo-ranch.com
Web: www.isalo-ranch.com
Nice place with outstanding views on the Isalo massive and breathtaking sunsets run by a Malagasy-German family located about 5 km from Ranohira village. 20 beautiful, comfortable and impeccable bungalows with a huge swimming pool. Recommendable.
A double bungalow from 32 €, a triple for 37 € and a familiar for 42 €.
La Palme de l'Isalo
Phone: + (261) 032 05 017 64
Mail: contact@groupeaustralhotel.com
Web: www.groupeaustralhotel.com
19 bungalows located on the way to Ilakaka on the RN7, not far from the Isalo Window amid a typical Isalo landscape. All rooms have en-suite bathrooms and hot water. There is a restaurant as well.
Double bungalow for 26 €

Le Jardin du Roy
Phone: + 261 (0) 22 351 65
Mail: mda@mda.mg
Web: www.lejardinduroy.com
This is maybe the best hotel in Isalo. Under the same property than the Relais de la Reine below, the place has only 15 luxury bungalows of the upper class beautifully integrated into the sandstone outcrops. The inner design is made from delicate rosewood furnishings. Rooms with AC and private verandas.

Relais de la Reine
Phone: + 261 20 22 33 623 , Fax: + 261 202235167 
email: info@lerelaisdelareine.com
Web: www.lerelaisdelareine.com
Lovely small hotel 9km southwest of Ranohira. All rooms are set amid a wonderful garden. The rooms are in bungalow style huts, with nice views, minibar, desk and chair, easy chairs, big bed, mosquito net and fan. Water is solar-heated. There are also two swimming pools for  the hot days, a spa center, a riding school and a tennis court. The lounge area has an open fire for cold winters. Booking is indispensable! 

Satrana Lodge
Phone: + 261 20 22 219 74
Mail: satranalodge@cortezexpeditions.mg
Web: http://www.satranalodge.com
New and luxurious lodge consisting of 40 huge bungalows perfectly integrated in the landscape.  All bungalows are charming, with beautiful furniture and nicely decorated, very comfortable. There is a woderful pool, a library, Internet conection and a gift shop. The restaurant serves excellent meals and the staff organizes all kind of trips and excursions.
A double bungalow costs 77 €, breakfast for 6 €, lunch 13 € and dinner 15 €


Ilakaka, located on the road to Tulear, south-western Madagascar on the shore of Ilakaka River, is currently the source of roughly 50% of the world’s sapphire, which converts Madagascar into the number one sapphire exporter in the world. The discovery of sapphire in the current of 1998 transformed the area drastically. The once sleepy tiny village with merely a pack of wooden huts changed rapidly into a constantly growing boomtown with wild west character where men from all over the country and from as far as Sri Lanka and Thailand gather to seek their fortune in the feverish sapphire rush. Modern stone buildings, churches, market stalls, casinos and bars conform now the city corn. This is a great place to glimpse into the nostalgy of the gold rush of the last past century. It is fascinating to watch how the dusty streets fill with dealers, brokers and diggers in the early morning and the late evening before dusk. A huge number of gem shops are open and the main road and are well worth of visiting them.

Insecurity is the major problem in Ilakaka, so adventurous travellers (and buyers of valuable gems) should be very aware of roaming gangs waiting for their next fix. According to several estimations between 20 and 30 people are murdered here each year.

The number of hotels here is very high, though we lack unfortunately of any recommendation.


Sakaraha, which is also profiting from the gem trading in nearby Ilakaka, is the convenient getaway to the Zombitse National Park.

Where to stay

Les Relais de Sakaraha: central located, 8 welcoming and large familiar bungalows with private facilities. There is also a restaurant and a night club. The most comfortable option.
Palace Club: French managed small hotel with shared toilets. Friendly staff, good food and a popular nightclub. 
Hotel Venus10 basic bungalows outside the village with shared or private facilities. Local food served (this place is maybe the best budget option in Sakaraha!)

Toliara (Tulear)

See here: Toliara