Madagascar: one of the most special countries we have ever visited, one we’d been dreaming of seeing ever since we were kids.
After contacting multiple tour operators, reading other blogs, and researching both Google Maps and TripAdvisor (hint: neither are great in Madagascar), we came to a conclusion: fitting in so much of Madagascar into a 2-week itinerary won’t be easy.
But we went ahead and pushed forward with our plan, mixing and matching routes from here and there, creating our own, and learned so much about the country on the way – both good and bad (mostly good, though).
In the end, we found ourselves exhausted, exhilarated, expended, ecstatic, but absolutely enthralled about how we managed to pull it all off.
So here’s all you need to maximize your 2-week Madagascar road trip. Perhaps it’s madness, but it’s beautiful madness. You will love it.
Must Read Before This Guide: 14 Things You Should Know Before Going to Madagascar
In This Guide
Highlights of this two week Madagascar Itinerary
Day-by day: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 9 | Day 10 | Day 11 | Day 12 | Day 13 | Day 14
National Parks of Madagascar & Why They’re so Special
The Ultimate 2-Week Madagascar Itinerary (Real Costs Included)
This incredible, super-filled 2-week road trip itinerary across Madagascar covers the Central Region, east to west, and even much of the South! The North will be covered in a separate itinerary.
The unique 4000 kilometer itinerary you’re about to experience will enable you to see much more of Madagascar than any other I can find online, combining the best elements of the typical tours you can find with local knowledge, our experience on the ground, and the requirement of a solid 4×4.
What makes this Madagascar Itinerary special
Many of the existing blog articles and foreign tour offices have outdated info. The newly built (by the Chinese) roads enable us to bridge the best routes of the Central Highlands, Tropical West and Southwest Coasts, and even the rainforest-covered East Coast! All in one compact 2-week itinerary.
Not to say that it will all be easy. There will be early wake-ups, long days on bump dirty roads, and some discomfort. But there will also be “off-days” relaxing on the beach, a lazy day being treated like royalty on a canoe eating fresh lobster, and lots of great nights of sleep in awesome accommodations for low, low prices.
So let’s get started. I know you like to move it, move it.
The highlights of this epic 2-week adventure
When we saw this itinerary includes a LOT of Madagascar in just two weeks, we mean it. This covers way more than any other 2-week itinerary we can find. Here’s how to maximize your 2 week adventure across the wonderful country of Madagascar – and just some of what’s included in this itinerary:
- Antsirabe: the third largest city in Madagascar, featuring ivory art, great food, and artisans
- Morondava: enjoying beaches with baobabs and a more mainland Africa feel
- Baobab Avenue: visiting the most epic photo spot in Madagascar
- Tsingy de Bemaraha: climbing and hiking across giant limestone spires and watching black-face white lemurs jump from trees
- Kirindy National Park: jumping “rat” moles, baobab trees, and true Malagasy camping
- Ifaty: riding a pirogue surrounded by jumping humpback whales and feasting on fresh lobster
- Isalo National Park: hiking massive canyons and enjoying spectacular waterfalls
- Ifaty Nature Reserve & Tortoise Sanctuary: meeting endemic tortoises and learning about traditional and amazing herbal medicine
- Anja Private Nature Reserve: getting close to epic chameleons, ring tailed lemurs, and massive granite boulders
- Andringritra NP (Optional): intense hiking, optional camping
- Ramonafana National Park: golden lemurs, endemic bird species, nocturnal animals and insects, and tropical rainforests with waterfalls
- Canales Des Pangalanes: wonderful canals bypassing the rough waters of the east coast, vanilla plantations and local village visits
- Ambavalao: paper-making artisans
- Andasibe National Park (Optional): Dri Dri Lemurs
What you should pack before your 2-week road trip across Madagascar
As this trip is very special, unique, and quite rugged and tough, I do recommend that in addition to what you normally pack for a trip, you consider also taking:
- A GoPro 360 to capture the most incredible scenes, especially at Tsingy de Bemaraha
- Quick-dry travel towels for quick swims in natural pools like at Isalo National Park
- A compressible small travel pillow for added comfort on extremely long drivers
- Non-drowsy motion sickness medicine for windy roads
- Malarone (recommended for malaria prevention – low risk in southern Madagascar)
- A Lifestraw to make water potable anywhere you go
- Anti-diahrrea tablets
- Reef safe sunscreen for when you go whale watching and swimming in Ifaty
Day-by-day 2 week Madagascar Road Trip Itinerary
It’s time to move it move it!
This 2-week Madagascar road trip itinerary, with optional flights inside Madagascar and a mandatory sturdy 4×4 vehicle, will blow your mind. You’ll see hundreds of endemic species of fauna and flora. Thousands of baobab trees. Dozens of lemurs. Every kind of climate system from savannah to dry-as-a-bone desert to lush tropical rainforest and everything in-between. If you’re lucky, you may even see snow.
Day 1: Arrival in Antananarivo (TNR), the road trip begins! (Tana to Antsirabe)
Madagascar Road Trip Day 1 Preview
Welcome to Madagascar! Your journey begins now.
- Arrive at TNR airport, customs & immigrations formalities, grab cash
- Have lunch at Savanna Cafe (or grab takeaway)
- Fuel up and head to Antsirabe, check out artisanal crafts
- Stay at the Couleur Cafe (bungalows available)
Antananarivo Airport Formalities: Customs & Immigration
Most flights arrive at Tana midday or sooner. On arrival, most nationalities (including EU/Schengen and American) will obtain a visa-on-arrival in Madagascar (VOA). Ours cost only 10 Euro per person for a 2-week single-entry visa, and we were able to use credit card to pay. The visa is extendable if you later decide to stay longer.
Important: If you can arrange to land at TNR and connect same-day on a Tsaradia flight from Antananrivo (TNR) to Morondava (MOQ), you’ll save yourself 15 hours of driving and 2 of the toughest days of this itinerary. In this case, you can skip to the end of day 2, saving time, hassle, and perhaps not costing much extra. I highly encourage you to do this - it save a lot of pain! [TL;DR: Book a same-day one-way flight TNR-MOQ on Tsaradia Airlines and start your trip in Morondava]
Withdrawing money from an ATM in Madagascar on arrival
Make sure to grab cash (Ariary) on the way out. Your driver/guide may request a deposit or the full charge on arrival, and ours asked us to fill the fuel tanks before starting our journey. Because of this, you’ll want to withdraw about 1.5 million Malagasy Ariary (MGA) in addition to your car rental/drive fees to start with. That’s about $360 USD worth.
There’s an ATM at the airport arrivals area (after exiting), and several major banks accepting international cards on the road leaving the airport. The maximum you can take out at once is 800,000 MGA (about $200 USD worth), but you can make multiple transactions. There’s usually about a 8000MGA fee ($2) per transaction.
Open eyes, and an open stomach: driving from Antananarivo Airport to Antsirabe
After our long journey to Madagascar, we were hungry! Luckily, there is a great restaurant minutes outside the airport: Savanna Cafe.
The road trip begins with full stomachs and empty minds, ready to absorb the beauty of this magnificent island-nation.
You’ll make your way towards the first stop: Antsirabe. If you arrive on an early flight, you may have time to stop to visit local artisans and craft shops there. Specialities include zebu (ox) horn art, recycled art (using cans to create vehicles), handmade wooden objects (such as cars/trucks), and more. There are several markets in town you can visit.
Where to stay in Antirabe
A great place to stay is the Coleur Cafe Hotel, which has an onsite (and quite decent) restaurant for both breakfast and dinner. Rates start at 140K MGA ($37 USD) for a well-appointed bungalow with hot water – food not included.
Day 1 costs
Here’s an approximation of our costs on the first day in Madagascar.
- Visa on arrival: 10 Euro per person
- Lunch @ Savanna Café: ~ 90K / 2p ($21)
- Accomodation @ Coleur Cafe: 140K /2p ($37)
- Dinner @ Coleur Cafe or Insolite: 70K / 2p ($15)
- Arts & Crafts: Most items cost 30-50K ($13)
- Pre-trip fuel fill up (requested by driver): 400K ($96)
- Car rental & driver: $55
Total Day 1 Cost (2 people): 750K MGA + $85 USD/EUR = $244 USD
Day 2: The most epic pictures of your life at Baobab Alley (driving directly from Antsirabe to Morondava)
If you flew here from TNR, you saved yourself quite a bit of time – and maybe even some money!
If not, no worries – we didn’t either. But in order to make this itinerary work, you’ll have to leave Antsirabe very early to make it to the famous Baobab Alley before sunset.
Madagascar Road Trip Day 2 Preview
- 530AM: Breakfast at the Couleur Cafe (or your hotel of choice)
- Leave Antsirabe by 6AM to arrive at the Baobab Alley for sunset
- Ask for early breakfast and a picnic sandwich (30-50K MGA pp), Couleur Cafe can usually accommodate your request
- It’s a 9-10 hour drive!
- Stop at an “Hotely” (local restaurant) for lunch to save a LOT of time (food is ready super quick at Hotely’s)
- Arrive at the Baobab Alley by 5PM for the most epic pictures of your life
- Enjoy Baobab-flavored ice cream at the Baobab Alley Cafe
- Head to Le Renala in Morondava for a nice stay at a Bungalow on the beach! Have dinner and drinks at Le Corail.
It’s a 9 hour drive plus any stops, and you definitely want to make it to the Baobab Alley before 5PM or you won’t have time to take some of the most epic pictures probably of your whole entire life. No exaggeration.
Where to stay in Morondava
After finishing up making TikToks and taking selfies, it’s time for a nice night by the water. Our recommendation for lodging tonight is called Le Renala, located right on the beach! You can stay in a room for 140K MGA ($33) or a really nice bungalow steps from the sand for 180K MGA ($48).
Total Costs for Madagascar Road Trip Day 2:
- Breakfast, Picnic, and Lunch: 120K MGA ($45)
- Dinner at Le Corail: 80K MGA ($19)
- Fuel top off: 200K MGA ($46)
- Bungalow at Le Renala: 180K MGA ($48)
- Car rental & driver: $55
Total Day 2 Cost (2 people): 580K MGA + $65 = $193 USD
Day 3: The Road Less Traveled: Driving to Tsingy de Bemaraha from Morondava in one day
Thought you were done with long drives? Not so fast! (Unless you were able to procure yourself a flight and save a lot of time. In that case, bravo.)
You do get to sleep a little bit longer today – leaving Le Renala at 7AM if you want to eat at the hotel, 730AM if you preorder a takeaway breakfast sandwich the night before. Highly recommended.
It’s time to drive up towards the Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park, one of the most unique and epic in the world! But you’re gonna have to work for it.
Madagascar Road Trip Day 3 Preview
- Leave Morondava by 7AM for the long drive ahead (can only be done in daytime)
- Enjoy America Route 1, the road to Tsingy de Bemaraha, and its incredible Baobab scenery
- Have lunch at the Mad Zebu, known internationally for its epic cuisine
- Continue the drive through rough road conditions and another BAC ferry crossing
- Stay the night at the Grand Hotel de Tsingy de Bemaraha, the only one currently open (because of Covid)
The journey from Morondava to the Tsingy of Bemaraha
95% of your journey to the Tsingy is dirt road, and not a good one at that. Many, many cars don’t make it all the way.
The road, nicknamed “America Route 1” because it was built in the 60s by Americans to find oil, is littered with gorgeous Baobab trees, including the famous Baobab Alley. Unfortunately, you won’t have the time to make any stops. There are several private ferry/“BAC” crossings that only work in daylight, including one right before arrival. Save the stops for the return journey when you have more time.
The best food in Madagascar (surprisingly)
Lunch will proceed at the Mad Zebu, about half of the way there. The Mad Zebu is known around the entire country for its epic cuisine. Zebu is the local form of cattle/ox that is Madagascar’s main source of agricultural prowess. You can see them wherever you go.
And at the Mad Zebu, you’ll see it on your plate – and much much more than that. Seriously such amazing food.
After that, the road gets a lot tougher and rougher. Not just for the car, but also for you. And for security purposes, it’s recommended to go in a convoy of 2 or 3 vehicles with a guard, as it’s very, very rural and isolated out there.
Adventure of a lifetime
But the private, hand-built ferry “BAC’s” are an adventure of their own. Watching your skilled driver maneuver a three ton SUV on two thin metal ramps over crocodile infested waters as the whole boat tips back and forth, boating through heavy currents with two 1970s engines (which may or may not both be working), and hoping everything goes right for about an hour each way: fun. I loved it.
When you finally get to Bekopaka, the village at the base of Tsingy, you’ll be as beat up as your car is. But if you have the energy, it’s actually a cute, vibrant village with markets and warm festivities to enjoy.
Where to stay near Tsingy de Bemaraha
At the time we went, the only operating hotel in the area was le Grand Hotel du Tsingy de Bemaraha. It’s a bit expensive at 199K MGA ($47) with pretty basic rooms. The showers are warm though, so that’s nice. And the restaurant is pretty good too.
Total costs for Madagascar Road Trip Day 3 Costs:
- Breakfast takeaway from Le Renala: 20k pp
- Lunch at Mad Zebu: 120K/2 people (full 3-course menu)
- Road Tolls/Fees
- 50000 car ferry to Belo
- 30000 car ferry to Bekopaka
- 10000 city tax Bekopaka (2 p)
- Accommodation: Grand Hotel (199K)
- Dinner: 120k/2 people
- Car rental & driver: $55
Total Day 3 Cost (2 people): 569K MGA + $55 = $190 USD
Day 4: The most inSpiring scenery you’ve ever seen! (Tsingy de Bemaraha Half-Day Tour)
Brace yourself – you have an absolutely epic day ahead. Black-face white lemurs, chameleons, ancient fossils, long suspension bridges, cave climbing, giant limestone spires, and the most unique scenery you’ve ever seen await you. So make sure to get up at 6AM to leave by 630 – and get ahead of the crowds.
Madagascar Road Trip Day 4 Preview
- Have breakfast at 6AM to leave your hotel by 630AM
- 3-4 hour hiking tour of the “Big” Tsingy de Bemaraha with lemurs, chameleons, fossils, caves, endemic birds, and more
- Lunch in Bekopaka with your local guide
- A shorter drive down to Belo Tsiribihina (halfway to Morondava)
- Stay at the Caribe Hotel and have delicious dinner at the Mad Zebu!
There are two options for today’s tour at the Unesco World Heritage Tsingy de Bemaraha: Big Tsingy or Little Tsingy. Unfortunately, you don’t have time for both, as it’s planned for you to head to Belo Tsiribihina tonight to get a head start on tomorrow’s amazing adventure.
How to get the most out of Tsingy De Bemaraha in one day
The most recommended tour is the “Big Tsingy”, which takes 3-4 hours through Lemur forest, varied terrain, inside caves, over giant limestone spires, across suspension bridges over massive limestone spires, and back through the forest.
Your driver will pick you up at 630AM, and if he/she is smart, he/she will have already picked up your local guide (required) for the hike through Big Tsingy de Bemaraha. If not, you’ll pick up your local guide on the way.
Make sure to pack snacks and water. A GoPro 360 and your best camera equipment is highly recommended.
After the tour, you’ll head to Bekopaka for lunch at another local Hotely. Enjoy a delicious THB beer (it’s so refreshing) with your local guide before embarking on a decidedly shorter trip down to Belo Tsiribihina. That’s where you’ll stay the night at the Caribe Hotel.
And if you enjoyed lunch yesterday, that’s also where you can find the wonderful Mad Zebu for another great meal!
Day 4 Costs
- Breakfast at Grand Hotel: 70K MGA / 2p ($17)
- Exploration of the Grand “Big” Tsingy with guide for half day
- 55k MGA per person park fees ($26 total)
- 120k MGA for a guide + 15k MGA tip ($32)
- Lunch at Hotely in Bekopaka: 50K MGA / 3p ($13)
- Bekopaka Ferry Crossing: 30K MGA ($8)
- Accommodation at Caribe Hotel in Belo: 50K MGA only! ($13)
- Dinner at Mad Zebu: 120K MGA ($28)
- Car rental & driver: $55
Total Day 4 Cost: 565K MGA + $55 = $189 USD
Day 5: Baobab Your Way Back to Morondava from Belo
Today, you’ll be thankful you stayed in Belo instead of the Tsingy are for the night. Because the first thing you’ll notice is the extra sleep from not having to leave before 730AM! Woohoo!
Madagascar Road Trip Day 5 Preview
- Enjoy your beauty sleep! You can leave Belo from 730-8AM with plenty of extra time.
- Start the drive back to Morondava by riding the adventure 45 minute ferry back from Belo.
- Get your Baobab fix; Stop at the Baobab Sacre (Holy Baobab), Baobabs Amoreux (baobabs in love), Baobab Alley
- Optional: walking tour at the Kirindy Forest NP/Private Reserve, home to the world’s smallest primate, Madame Berthe’s Mouse Lemur!
- Relax at the beach, check out local souvenir markets, and a possible return to Baobab Alley for more sunset pictures.
- Another night at Le Renala’s wonderful beachfront bungalows.
While everyone that stayed the night in Tsingy paid 4 times more than you and woke up at the crack of dawn to make it to Morondava before sunset, you got to sleep in and enjoy a nice full breakfast at the Caribe Hotel. That’s the genius of this plan.
With the extra time you have, you’ll be able to stop in a cute village and stop for local Malagasy rice pancakes (make sure to ask your driver-guide for this – they’re delicious!) and local coffee.
First thing is the adventurous ferry BAC crossing from Belo, which takes less time with the current behind you.
All the incredible sights you need to see between Tsingy and Morondava
You’ll have time to stop at the Baobab Sacre (Holy Baobab), with free entry. The only thing is you actually have to take off your shoes to enter the surrounding land! After that, you can stop at the Baobabs Amoreux, a pair of Baobab Trees twisted around each other, apparently “in love” – or whatever that means. Maybe they hate each other. Who will ever know?
If you’d like to see more endemic species, ask for a 2-3 hour exploration tour at the Kirindy Forest NP/Private Reserve – where you can check out world’s smallest primate, Madame Berthe’s Mouse Lemur! It’s right off the road back to Morondava.
There’s extra time to stop in Baobab Alley afterwards if you desire, and you’ll reach Morondava for lunch/dinner. Le Corail again, or try something new? There are also local markets for awesome souvenirs – mostly Baobab related.
With the extra time, we relaxed by the beach and asked our drive to bring us back to the Baobab Alley for sunset. Even after 3 times seeing it, we hadn’t had enough! Such an incredible place.
Day 5 Costs
- Breakfast at Caribe hotel: 40K MGA / 2p ($9)
- Rice pancakes: 2k MGA ($0.50)
- Baobab Sacre: Free
- Baobab Amoreux: 5K MGA ($1)
- Ferry from Belo: 50K MGA ($12)
- Lunch @ Le Corail: 110K
- Dinner @ Hotel: 120K
- Bungalow @ Le Renala: 180K
- Car rental & driver: $55
Total Day 5 Costs: 457K MGA + $55 = $162 USD
Day 6: The Memorable Full-Day Drive to Ifaty from Morondava
Madagascar Road Trip Day 6 Preview
- 6AM departure from Morondava towards Ifaty
- Fill up fuel at a station in Morondava before the long drive
- 4 to 5 hour drive on “piste”/dirt road to Manja
- Lunch at Hotel Kanta
- Another 4 to 5 hour drive, with BAC ferry, on mostly paved roads to Ifaty
- Check in for a two night stay at the Bamboo Club!
It’s another long drive today, but worry not – this is the fun part! Make sure to leave around 6AM to drive all during daytime. Ask for a breakfast picnic the night before if you can.
You’ll pass through rivers – one of which is the widest in Madagascar – drive through sand, pass rural villages, and do all that fun off-roading kind of stuff.
And this is where our recent knowledge and experience come in handy. Today’s drive is possible only due to recent roadwork done by the Chinese. Because the second half of today’s drive is actually paved and mostly amazing (best road in Madagascar!), you can comfortably do this drive all in daytime.
The first half of the trip, headed towards Manja, is… well no other way to put it than brutal. We watched 2 cars break down on our way there. The road passes through many private areas, and negotiations will ensure by villagers attempting to collect tolls. It took us about 5 hours of rough road.
The toughest road in Madagascar?
We ended up paying a total of only 40K MGA for 3 tolls on our way to Manja, but some villagers demanded 200K for passage. It’s all about negotiation skills, which you can leave up to your driver.
Once at Manja, you’ll stop for lunch at Hotel Kanto. It’s nothing to write home about.
The next part of the drive is paved for an hour, followed by a quick ferry across a river to a long sandy (and beautiful) riverbank. It’s tough for 5-10 minutes, but quickly re-becomes paved for basically the entire drive to Ifaty. Total time from Manja to Ifaty now is 5 hours or less.
There is plenty of thoroughly cooked/fried street food for snacks on the way there.
Your reward will be an awesome TWO NIGHT (I know right?) stay at an awesome beach in an awesome bungalow at the Bamboo Club. And much relaxing at the beach.
Day 6 Costs
- Breakfast picnic: 20K pp
- Fuel fillup: 500K MGA
- BAC ferry crossing: 40K
- Private Tolls: 40K for entire drive, stopped 3 times for tolls
- Lunch at Manja at Hotel Kanto: 70K
- Street food: 10K
- Dinner @ Bamboo Club: 90K
- Accommodation: Bamboo Club 150K / night
- Car rental & driver: $55
Total Day 6: 940K MGA (with fuel) + $55 = $276
Day 7: Whales, Tortoises, and Baobabs (Ifaty)
This day will be one you remember for a very long time.
Madagascar Road Trip Day 7 Preview
- 6AM wakeup and early breakfast
- Pirogue sailing adventure to see whales and coral reefs
- Lunch on the beach
- A special baobab forest and endemic rescued tortoise village tour
- Dinner on the beach, and your second night at the Bamboo Club
The day starts young and early, but this time it’s not to sit in a car getting tossed around like a rag doll.
This time, you’re going to go on an epic adventure at sea. Call yourself Odysseus if you want, because you’re going to feel like it today.
Bamboo Club (the hotel) can arrange this, or it can be arranged on the beach (perhaps with better pricing). Morning tours by sailboat canoe (called a pirogue) out into the coral reef protected bay of Ifaty are a must-do when you’re here. Why? Because whales come out here to play every single day!
The coastline here is astounding. Clear, turquoise water surrounds you, white sand beaches go as far as the eye can see, and gorgeous palm trees keep them company.
Usually the beginning of the journey is propelled not by wind, but by oar. However, once you get far enough from the coast, you can start to see the wind-drawn tremors on the water indicating it’s now safe to raise the sails and let Mother Nature take you to the show.
And my, what a show it is.
The afternoon of this incredible day
After having your breath stolen from your lungs for a bit, having enjoyed the swells and the breeze, you’ll be ready for an early lunch. The Bamboo Club is a great place to go, but there’s a restaurant just about every 15 feet on the beach. And if you want to go local, there’s no shortage of fresh seafood cooking and steaming right on the beach.
Relaxing Afternoon Exploration of Ifaty
In the afternoon, check out the local Baobab forest at the Renala Reserve, filled with local medicinal plants and a local guide to tell you what they are. Here is where you’ll find the best climbing Baobabs in the area, with natural holes made into them perfect to hold onto and get a better view from the top of a 1000+ year old tree.
Almost next-door is the local Tortoise Village, filled with endemic rescue tortoises that only exist on this part of Madagascar. You’ll find plenty of star tortoises – the coolest we’ve ever seen – in all ages and sizes.
This tour can be done on a zebu-drawn chariot, or you can go by foot. Up to you.
Enjoy a nice dinner on the beach at a restaurant of your choosing in the evening, then relax at the wonderful Bamboo club afterwards.
Tomorrow, another long day awaits you.
Day 7 Costs
- Breakfast at Bamboo Club: 35K pp
- Half-Day whale watching pirogue tour: 120K + tip
- Lunch on the beach: 100K ($23)
- Fresh lobster goes for 45-50K ($11-12)
- Fresh grilled fish is usually 20-25K ($5-6)
- You can also buy fresh “street” food on beach, calamari’s, lobster, fish
- Up to your own risk, but seems freshly cooked/fried and caught
- Usually 5-10K/dish
- Afternoon tour of Tortoise Village & Baobab Forest via Zebu/Ox Driven sleigh: 70K + tips
- Dinner on beach: 100K
- Second night @ Bamboo Club: 150K
- Car rental & driver: $55
Total day 7 costs: 610K or less + $55 = $187
Day 8: Exploring the Grand Canyon of Madagascar – Isalo NP
A major, major national park awaits you today. It resembles the Grand Canyon in Arizona, but it’s filled with endemic Malagasy species (even a lichen species found only here) including lemurs, frogs, chameleons, and plenty more.
Madagascar Road Trip Day 8 Preview
- Departure from Ifaty at 0530 with packed breakfast sandwiches
- Short stop at artisan market in Tulear for souvenirs (tortoise-themed)
- Quick early brunch/lunch at an Hotely in Ranohira
- 6-7 hour epic adventure hike of Isalo National Park
- Dinner & accommodation at H1 Hotel for incredible value
It’s a very early departure, because you want to save plenty of time to soak in the incredible scenery on your tour of Isalo National Park. The drive there from Ifaty is only about 4-5 hours, but there’s a great market stop in Tulear on the way there.
Trust me, you’ll want the extra time. Plan to leave at 530AM to maximize your day.
Once you reach Isalo National Park, it’s a 6-7 hour hike through gigantic ancient canyons, turquoise pools filled by gorgeous waterfalls, forests of trees shaken by jumping lemurs, epic views atop massive cliffs, and friendly locals welcoming you to their home.
Once again, it’s a good idea to bring snacks and water, and eating at a local Hotely before hiking will save time to ensure you can complete the hike today.
There are plenty of great choices for hotels around Isalo NP/Ranohira, but we found that H1 Hotel was an extremely great value. Awesome, clean bungalows and great breakfast for super cheap.
Day 8 Costs
- Breakfast box/picnic: 25K pp
- Lunch: 50K /2p
- Isalo 6-7 Hour hike: 240K
- 55K park fee pp
- 120K guide fee
- 10K city tax
- Accommodation (H1 Hotel): 142.5K
- Dinner: 70K
- Car rental & driver: $55
Total day 8 cost: 572.5K + $55 = $190
Day 9: Madagascar shines with its incredible habitat diversity (Isalo to Ranomafana)
Today, you’re going to see something quite remarkable. In the course of one short drive, you’re going to watch the scenery change dramatically.
Madagascar Road Trip Day 9 Preview
- Enjoy an early breakfast at the H1 Hotel – it’s truly great
- Departure at 630AM to drive towards Ranomafana National Park
- Stop at Anja Community Reserve for an incredibly nature visit
- Head to Ambavalao for superb arts and crafts, and lunchtime
- Finish your day in Ramonofana, stay at Chez Gaspard for incredible value
- Optional: nocturnal wildlife visit (must be arranged ahead of time)
You start the day out in basically the Grand Canyon, enjoying the Wild Wild West of Madagascar with its incredible desert scenery. But before long, you’re entering the African savannah with its rolling hills, isolated vegetation, and dryness. But then, you start hitting granite. And not just a little, but a lot. Massive granite boulders littered all over the place, like if a meteorite hit. And giant granite mountains surrounding you.
That’s what you know you’ve made it to the wonderful community reserve of Anja – and you’re not far from the vast and incredible Andringitra National Park.
Our favorite wildlife tour in Madagascar
At Anja Community Reserve, locals with incredible eyesight will find and show you all kinds of chameleons, tiny frogs, diverse species of Lemurs, butterflies, endemic birds, and more. They’ll lead you through forest and caves then on top giant granite boulders for an epic valley view that should only be reserved for drones and helicopters.
After this, you’ll continue onto Ambalavao for delicious lunch at a top rated hotel called La Residence du Betsileo. It’s really quite good.
An artisanal afternoon in Madagascar
Now with your stomach full, it’s crafts time. There’s a truly fantastic local artisanal paper factory, producing high-quality paper the old-fashioned way. It’s called Atelier Antaimoro. You can find postcards, wallets, album covers, and more made out of insanely strong natural paper and often embedded with beautiful flowers.
There’s also a local weaving artisanal crafts place here that uses natural dyes to produce beautiful clothing, tablecloth, scarves, etc.
For a bit more fun, take the slow FCE train from Fianaranstoa through the jungle valleys of the east coast. It passes through incredible areas deep in the jungle with some of the most incredible views on the island. It is very slow with constant stops, but it's totally charming and fun. At the time we were there, they were still on strike.
After this fun little stop, you’ll continue onwards to Ranomafana National Park, arriving in the late afternoon. We stayed at Chez Gaspard, with wonderful little bungalows surrounded by nature for an incredibly good price: only 65K MGA ($17 USD).
Day 9 Costs
- Breakfast @ Hotel: 40K for 2p
- Lunch @ Ambalavao: 70K/2p
- Anja Community Reserve Tour Fees:
- Park fees: 20K MGA/person
- Guided short tour fee: 24K MGA/2p
- Accomodation (Chez Gaspard): 65K
- Fuel Top off: 170K MGA
- Dinner @ Chez Gaspard: 45K
- Car rental & driver: $55
Total Day 9 Cost: 454K MGA + $55 = $163
Day 10: Golden Lemurs and Greener Scenery
Today starts at your leisure, but no later than an 830AM departure. Breakfast at Chez Gaspard is pretty good and economical.
Madagascar Road Trip Day 10 Preview
- Explore Ranomafana National Park and its endemic Golden Lemur (3-4 hours)
- Lunch at Hotel des Thermes
- Swimming in a natural hot spring
- An incredible valley, mountain, river, and lush green forest drive towards Manakara
- Stay the Partheney, enjoy dinner on the beach
Ranomafana National Park, an incredible deep tropical rainforest in the lush green forests of east Madagascar, is home to the Golden Lemur – found only in this area. They’re such beautiful creatures and another reason Madagascar is one of our favorite trips ever.
The hike here takes 3-4 hours, much of it going into the bush for better views on the incredible wildlife. But there’s also a stop at a viewpoint atop the beautiful river valley.
After a wonderful morning of hiking, you’ll be hungry. The Hotel Thermal offers spectacular lunch. Word of advice though, do NOT try the flavored/spiced rum. Everyone in our group, including the guide, who did got food poisoning.
Packed you swimsuit? Hotel Thermal offers a wonderful natural hot spring to swim in!
Driving down the epic east coast of Madagascar
Feeling refreshed, next is the drive to Manakara, a gorgeous east coast town with long beaches, nice waves, great seafood, and epic scenery along the drive. Some of the best views of the trip were on the road between Ranomafana and Manakara.
Stay two nights at the Hotel/Restaurant Parthenay, right on the beach.
Optional: instead of heading to Manakara for a full-day canoe pirogue exploration, drive to Andringitra National Park and spend the next day hiking. Stay two nights.
Day 10 Costs
- Breakfast: 25K /2p
- Ranomafana NP Exploration:
- Park Fees: 55K per person
- Mandatory guide: 110K MGA
- Lunch @ Les Thermes: 90-100K
- Accommodation @ Parthenay: 185k per night (bungalow)
- Dinner: 45k pp
- Car rental & driver: $55
Total Day 10 Costs: 585k MGA + $55 = $192
Day 11: Fresh lobster and the coolest pirogue experience this week (Manakara)
Wanna learn some more fascinating history about Madagascar?
You’re about to do it in a very hands-on kind of way. Today’s activity is rafting along the Canal Des Pangalanes.
The History of Canal Des Pangalanes
Back in the 1960s, some French sailors decided they were too tired of getting beat up by the crazy swells and waves on the east coast of Madagascar transporting cargo down to Port Dauphin. So what did they do?
Turns out they created an array of canals running up and down the coast! And today, those canals make for some awesome, chillaxed exploration of this incredible, laid back area.
Your personal epic Malagasy tour in Manakara
So why not hop on a pirogue (local canoe) with a local fisherman and explore the region a little? Hit up a tribal village, check out a vanilla plantation, and enjoy fresh lobster for lunch!
I’m happy to say that this is exactly the plan for today. And even happier to announce the price: 60K MGA ($15) per person including lunch for the full day! Wow!
Day 11 Costs
- Breakfast: 25K MGA/p
- Full Day Canals Tour: 60K MGA/p
- Dinner on the beach: 40K MGA/p
- Hotel: 185K MGA
- Car Rental & Driver: $55
Total Day 11 Costs: 435K MGA + $55 = $157
Day 12: Swim in Madagascar’s beautiful East Coast
Today is a more relaxed day, with more time to enjoy Madagascar’s incredible lush east coast.
Madagascar Road Trip Day 12 Preview
- Relaxed wake-up
- Leave by 930AM back towards Ramonafana NP
- Local Village Visit 10 km before Ramonafana
- Swim in hot springs
- Nature walk if you didn’t have time previously
Wow. You can actually sleep in today. You can enjoy the beach. And you can have a relaxed breakfast. Surprised right?
Today, our plan is to head back up to Ranomafana. If the train is working, you can take it back up at your liking. If not, enjoy the wonderful scenery by car and make a couple stops on the way.
Optional: wake up early and head all the way to Ambositra today (7h driving vs 4h). Stay at Artisan Hotel. This allows you time to check out Andasibe National Park at the end of the trip, the best place to get close to the “Dri-Dri” Indri Lemurs in Madagascar.
Truly local and authentic village experience in Madagascar
First, make sure to check out a local village with a guide who actually grew up there! You can meet adults and kids and learn about their way of life. See how manioc, vanilla, bananas, and rice are integrated into their day-to-day. Admire their resourcefulness and appreciation for nature. And get to interact with small words here and there. Talk about authentic.
Make sure not to bring candy/bon-bon to kids. This is terrible for their teeth! Warning: bringing gifts guarantees you’ll be swarmed by kids.
If you didn’t get a chance to swim in the natural hot springs last time you were passing through, you’ll have some time now. You can do this at either the Hotel Thermal or the Station Thermale.
Stay again at Chez Gaspard, or another hotel or your choice. Almost all here are budget friendly and supremely charming. Feel free to go on a guided night walk if you didn’t have the chance last time.
Day 12 Costs
- Breakfast or Breakfast Picnic: 25K/2p
- Local Village Visit: 40K/p
- Lunch in Ramonafana: 45K/p
- Accommodation @ Chez Gaspard: 65K
- Dinner of your choice: 45k/p
- Optional Train: Very Cheap
- Car Rental/Driver Hire: $55
Total Day 12 Costs: 375K MGA + $55 = $143
Day 13: The Malagasy Dance & Souvenir Day
Feel a little low on gifts and souvenirs to take back home with you? Want to add a couple more authentic Malagasy memories? Today is your day.
Madagascar Road Trip Day 13 Preview
- Semi-relaxed wake up, leave Ramonafana by 8AM
- Make it to Artisan Hotel in Ambositra for lunch with a twist: a local folk dance!
- Check out the amazing handiwork at Chez David & Pavillons Artisans. Definitely buy your souvenirs and gifts here.
- Continue up to Antsirabe, stay at Ecolodge des Voyageurs or Couleur Cafe
- Top the night off with an amazing dinner @ Insolite.
Another relaxed day; it’s only about 5 hours up to Antsirabe today. But you’ll make a couple very interesting stops on the way.
Note: if you made it to Ambositra yesterday with the hopes of including Andasibe NP, head all the way to Antananarivo for the night. 6 hour drive, and very early start tomorrow for Andasibe NP as a day trip – assuming your flight leaves late.
First stop is the Artisan Hotel for a wonderful lunch and a local folk dance included as part of the package! The local villagers show off their dance moves as tourists enjoy their lunch. Quite the show!
There’s an absolutely astounding handicrafts shops in Ambositra called Pavillons Artisans. I bought several handmade wooden boxes, created from perfectly cutting a tailoring dozens of smaller pieces to create absolutely amazing pictures/paintings. These make fantastic souvenirs and even better gifts (See: Chez David)
There’s another weaving store here, with phenomenal scarves, table clothes, and more dyed in mostly natural colors.
This time, we stayed at the Ecolodge des Voyageurs. It’s the most expensive place in Antsirabe, but I feel you’re mostly paying for the beautiful gardens surrounding the rooms. The bungalow itself was not any nicer than the one we had at Couleur Cafe. Breakfast was great though!
We also decided to venture out for dinner. We did NOT regret it. Possibly the best meal of the trip, at a cute place called Insolite. Highly recommend.
Day 13 Costs
- Breakfast @ Chez Gaspard: 25K/2p
- Lunch @ Artisan: 45K (2p) + 20K tip
- Bunch of souvenirs and gifts!
- Dinner @ Insolite: 45K (2p)
- Last fuel top off: 170K
- Ecolodge does Voyageurs: 220K MGA
- Car Rental/Driver Hire: $55
Total Costs: 550K MGA + $55 = $185
Day 14: Last but not least
Today will be an epic experience – whether you opted to head to the wonderful Andasibe National Park, or stuck with the original plan and are now heading to Antananarivo for the final couple hours. Enjoy it!
Madagascar Road Trip Day 14 Preview
- Leave by 830AM to get to Tana for lunch
- Buy the best souvenir of your life: a metal baobab tree to take home!
- Consider a dayroom to get some sleep before your flight
- End your incredible, super filled trip with amazing memories! Get to the airport a minimum of 2 hours early.
If you stayed in Tana last night, and have a late flight tonight home, this is where you would do a day trip out to Andasibe National Park to meet the Dri Dri Indi Lemurs. Leave by 6am, as it’s a 3.5-4 hour drive each way.
Saving the best for last – that is if you were looking for the most incredible metal baobab structures in the world – like we were.
It’s another relaxed day, assuming your flight leaves around midnight as ours does.
Note: This plan assumes you’re departing in the evening or close to midnight. Its a 4-5 hour drive to Antananarivo from Antsirabe depending on traffic. Plan to arrive at TNR airport for your flight about 2-3 hours before your flight.
The best artisanal work in Madagascar: Antananarivo
After enjoying breakfast at your beautiful hotel, you can start the drive towards Antananarivo. A great stopping point for lunch after 3-4 hours of driving is Coin du Foie Gras, but there are plenty of great options in Tana for food if you’re not yet hungry.
A must see in Antananarivo is the Ferronnerie D’Art Violette. It’s the ultimate source for handmade metal baobab trees – the best and coolest souvenir you can buy in all of Madagascar. Closest thing you can have to a real Baobab! We bought and brought in all the way back home to Florida (via 3 flights, all checked in!)
After a great shopping experience, a nice lunch, and a lot of driving, you’ve certainly built up some fatigue.
Why not consider a day room before your long flight home? We recommend napping at the Fly Inn near the airport, but there were plenty of options in the area. You may have to call in ask, but you can generally get a much better rate than the nightly price.
Airport Experience at Antananarivo TNR Ivato International
We arrived 2 hours early for our Air France flight. We only had to wait about 20 minutes for checkin, and had nearly no lines for immigration formalities or security. This is just our experience, yours could differ!
There are locals offering wrapping services right outside the airport for about 20K. Inside the airport, there is one little restaurant/stand offering drinks (including beer) and snacks, but not much other than that late at night. Prices are fair despite being in an airport.
Day 14 Costs
- Breakfast: included
- Lunch in Tana: 100K
- Rental Car / Driver Hire: $55
- Optional Day Room: 140K
- Snacks @ airport: 45K
Total Day 14 Costs: 290K MGA + $55 = $134 USD
Total costs of a 2-week road trip across Madagascar for two people
Wondering how much it will end up costing to fulfill this entire journey across east, west, and south Madagascar over the course of two weeks? Here’s the final tally:
Accommodation: 1911.5 K MGA (+140K optional) = $453
Food: 2655 K MGA = $629
Driver/Rental Car: $770
Tours: 1143K MGA = $271
Tolls/Fees: 330K MGA = $98
Fuel Costs: 1750K MGA = $415
So what’s the total estimated full cost for a two week trip across Madagascar for two people? About $2636 for very good accommodation, good food, a great 4×4, and an amazing adventure.
National parks and reserves you need to visit in Madagascar and why
Part of what makes this Madagascar itinerary unique is how it enables you to see the best national parks in the country. Lemurs, chameleons, ancient rock formations, prehistoric fossils, wild limestone spears, endemic bird species, magic frogs, jumping whales, and incredibly picturesque waterfalls are all included.
Here are the best national parks (and reserves) of Madagascar that you need to see – and are included in this itinerary:
Tsingy de Bemaraha Natural Reserve
Made famous by the “Our Great National Parks” special narrated by President Obama on Netflix, Tsingy de Bemaraha features mind-boggling array of eroded limestone spears covering thousands of square kilometers is actually the largest national reserve in Madagascar!
The name roughly translates to “place you cannot walk barefoot”, but black-face white lemurs are definitely the exception to the rule here. Early in the morning, you can witness them jumping from needle to needle, oftentimes clutching onto a newborn baby while doing so!
Of the many treks you can accomplish here (some multi-day!), we chose the half-day best-of-the-best, descending into underground caves and ending up crossing massive suspension bridges hanging over the most incredible and unique formations we’ve ever seen.
Probably our favorite park in all of Madagascar – and it’s been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1990.
Park fees: 55000MGA (~$13) per person, mandatory guide for 135000MGA total (~$30), 10000MGA city tax (~$2) per person, and 80000MGA x2 ($19×2) for ferries
Isalo National Park
The closest thing to the Grand Canyon you can find in Madagascar, Isalo National Park features an incredible display of eroded sandstone formations resulting a deep, truly historic and layered canyons, incredible unique biodiversity, amazing waterfalls and natural pools, and truly fabulous hikes and viewpoints.
Park fees: 55K per person ($13), plus mandatory guide for an additional 120K MGA ($27) + 10K MGA city tax, camping and multi-day hikes available
Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007, Ranomafana National Park is the tropical rainforest you need after 10 days in the dry regions. Located between the lush green East Coast and the dry central plateau of Madagascar, it’s home to over 100 bird species (30 of which are unique to the park) and the golden bamboo lemur.
There are hot springs located here, easily accessible in the town of Ranomafana – such as at the Hotel Thermal.
Park fees: 55K per person ($13), plus mandatory guide for an additional 110K MGA ($25)
Ifaty & the Renala Reserve
The Renala Reserve in Ifaty is one of the best places to witness the vast diversity of baobabs (6 species in one park), medicinal plants, cacti trees, and more. But even better is Ifaty’s local resident whales, just off the coast.
Simply take a local pirogue (canoe) sailboat, made out of one of the special trees you can find at Renala (literally ONE tree!), piloted by local expert fisherman off the insanely gorgeous coastline and onwards to the coral reefs. Soon after, you’ll easily find humpback whales – often jumping in and out of the water!
Absolutely one of the coolest experiences we had in Madagascar.
Whale Excursion Cost: 120K MGA ($29), Renala Forest & Tortoise Village Visit: 70K MGA ($17)
Anja Community Reserve
Actually a private reserve, Anja harbors some totally endemic species of chameleons, frogs, and very beautiful granite rock formations. It’s a totally pleasant 1-2 hour visit (and short viewpoint hike) right off the national road 7 (RN7).
The reserve is dominated by enormous cliffs, boulders, caves, and fallen rocks. It has the highest concentration of Maki Lemurs (ring-tailed) in the country, and that’s the reason why locals here took the initiative to create the reserve. True and amazing story.
Park fees: 20K MGA/person ($5), plus fees varying from 24K MGA ($5) to 80K MGA ($15) for various guided circuits (2 people, shared)
Andringitra National Park
One of the few places in Madagascar that receives snow, Andringitra NP is one of the most biologically diverse places in Madagascar, with many endemic species. It alone features 13 species of lemurs!
The park is located on a geological massif and features tons of incredible beautiful hikes, including an amazing short 4-hour hike to a legendary waterfall. It’s called the Ansaramanitra trail. There are also several on-site camps with established tents, huts, and more available.
Park fees: 45,000MGA per person (about $12) + Guide Fees (Usually 120K MGA total, about $28)
Kirindy National Park & Private Reserve
If you were looking for baobabs, tiny lemurs, giant jumping rats, and chameleons, head to Kirindy. Most notably it’s the only place in the world that you’ll find the world’s smallest primate, Madame Berthe’s Mouse Lemur.
It’s right off the path between Morondava and Tsingy de Bemaraha, and there are campsites and an ecolodge in the area.
Park fees: 40K MGA ($10) per person + circuit fees from 55K ($14) MGA to 250K ($54) MGA.
Accomodation: Dorms from 35K MGA ($9) and lodges for 150K MGA ($35)
Andasibe National Park
Only a couple hours outside of Madagascar’s capital, Antananarivo (‘Tana’), Andasibe NP is world-famous for its Indri/”dri-dri” species of Lemurs, the largest in the world!
There are also 26 Diademed sifakas, black and white ruffed lemurs, red bellied lemurs, and the enormous Parson’s Chameleon.
Park fees: 55K MGA per person ($14) + 120K guide fees (total, $28)