Madagascar Towns, Cities, Locations and Districts
(Madagascar, MG, Africa)
It is fairly easy to orientate yourself when exploring Madagascar. The main island, known as the Grande Ile, can be divided into four regions. The lowland east coast is dominated by dense rainforests, while the central highlands are essentially the heart of the main island.
The towns and cities situated in this region make up a great deal of the island's urban life. Madagascar's western area offers plenty in the way of stunning coastal scenery and nature reserves. Finally, the south-western region of Madagascar is characterized by its own desert environment.
Also known as Tananarive or Tana, Antananarivo is the capital city. Situated in the central highland area of the country, it is probably the first view of Madagascar that most visitors will get.
It is worth spending a few days hanging around the city of Antananarivo to get your bearings and to discover the city's rich cultural heritage. More information about Antananarivo
Conveniently placed on the main road that heads south through Madagascar, Route National 7, Antsirabe is a pleasant highland spa town.
It also rates as Madagascar's third-largest city. Whilst the gaseous waters of nearby Lac Ranomafana aren't safe to swim in, they are undeniably a fascinating sight. A canoe trip down the Tsiribihina River makes for an interesting diversion.
Once named Diégo Suarez, this northern coastal town is both the provincial capital and a true beauty spot. Its charm, inherited from a colourful past as a strategic naval base, may be a little worn around the edges, however, visitors can't fail to enjoy the splendour that remains. Antsiranana is the fifth-largest town in Madagascar. From here, boats head off to the island of Nosy Be. Other nearby attractions include Amber Mountain and the Ankarana Reserve.
Fianarantsoa is a sizeable provincial town in the southern part of Madagascar. Primarily a centre for wine and rice, the town also makes an ideal base for exploring this region. Nearby attractions include Amabalavao (home of the departed), the Ambondrome and Ifandana crags (exhumed ancestors), and the Isalo National Park. However, Fianarantsoa is perhaps most popular as a gateway to the Ranomafana National Park.
Sometimes referred to as Andoany, the town of Hell-Ville is situated on Nosy Be Island. In recent years, Hell-Ville has become increasingly busy with tourists, which may not suit everyone. However, it is still worth a visit, if only to take off from a busy itinerary. Hell-Ville can be easily reached by plane from Antananarivo.
Mahajanga (also known as Majunga) is a busy harbour city situated at the mouth of the Betsiboka River in the north-west of Madagascar. Mahajanga is a departure point for boats to Nosy Be Island, as well as being a gateway to the Ankarafansika Reserve.
Manakara is a relatively small town on the east coast of Madagascar. As well as being a port, the town also has a railway station with a busy train service operating from Fianarantsoa to Manakara, although this may be rather too slow and sedate if you are in a hurry. Visitors can enjoy strolling along Manakara's tropical beach or wandering along the town's wide sandy streets. Alternatively, an interesting day trip is a boat journey along the nearby Canal des Pangalanes.
Located on the west coast, Morondava is a popular place for a beach-based holiday.
The town is also ideal for those who enjoy boat trips. Nearby attractions include the Kirindy Nature Reserve and the Avenue of Baobabs
Toamasina, also named Tamatave, is a major seaport based on the eastern coast.
Tourist attractions include its bustling markets, such as the Bazary Be Market, as well as the nearby Ivolina Zoological Park and Botanical Garden. The avenues lined with mature palm trees add to the overall tropical character of Toamasina, and the beaches are particularly appealing, although swimming is not considered safe, due to pollution problems and also the presence of sharks.
Fort Dauphin / Tolanaro (Tolagnaro / Taolagnaro)
Formerly known as Fort Dauphin, Tolanaro is a lively southern port town with a long-established history. First settled in the early 16th century by shipwrecked sailors, today's visitors come to the town to enjoy its beautiful beaches and charming colonial atmosphere. Tolanaro, also known as Tolagnaro, is also ideally situated as the entrance point to some captivating scenery, including the Berenty Reserve
. The town of Tolanaro is best reached by air.
Also going by the name of Tulear, the town of Toliara is situated in an arid area of southern forest. Tulear is an ideal stop-off point for those wishing to explore the nearby Isalo National Park, while soccer fans may be able to catch a game at the Toliara Football Stadium. Other nearby attractions include the Ankasay Arboretum.