Madagascar Holidays, Events, Climate and Sightseeing

Madagascar: holidays, events, national customs

Public holidays

Date Holiday
January 1 New Year
March April Easter Monday
March 29 Anniversary of the anti-colonial uprising of 1947
1st of May Labor Day
May June Whit MondayAscension
June 26 National holiday, independence day from France in 1960
15th of August Assumption Day
November 1 All Saints Day
December 24th, 25th, 26 Christmas
30th of December Anniversary of the second republic
December 31 New Year’s Eve

Source: Countryaah – Madagascar Holidays

Cultural events

Alahamady Be, the Malagasy New Year, takes place in March.

Taralily, a rice harvest festival, is celebrated in May.

– In June, Donia, the festival of traditional music, and Fisemanga Ampasantegniny, the ritual cleansing of the Antankarana, take place.

Fanampoambe is celebrated in July, the cleaning of relics among the Sakalava of Mahajanga.

– From July to September the Madegas celebrate Famadihana, the turning of the dead.

– From September to November Fanamboarana Dady Moasy, the reliquary cleansing of the Antankarana, takes place.

Sporting events

Madagascar offers a variety of sports activities. The country is particularly good for cycling, hiking, climbing and diving. In Madagascar you can also play tennis, golf, horseback riding and practice numerous types of water sports.

National customs

Military and security-related facilities such as airports, bridges and government buildings may not be photographed.

Different places are fady (taboo), which means they are forbidden to foreigners. Fady also come into play in the everyday life of the Malagasy people and regulate their lives. They can vary from region to region. You can prohibit certain foods like turtles, pigs and lemurs, make wearing a certain color or prohibit bathing in a lake.

The respect of the fady is related to the ancestors, to whom the Malagasy people show a deep respect, no matter what religion they belong to. These prohibitions should be taken seriously and respected, even if they seem pointless. Travelers should inform themselves about the common fady before arrival. The attention of the fadys is mostly limited to rural areas and shouldn’t be a problem for tourists as long as they stay in the cities.

In Madagascar, the word tompoko (toom-pook) is used for people who are older or are in an authoritarian position (e.g. police officers, military personnel or civil servants), whose English equivalent would be Sir or Madam. Travelers should memorize this word and use it, because the respect for the elderly and in civil service is very important for Madagascans.

In some regions of Madagascar (e.g. on the island of Sainte Marie) the dead are dug up every few years and their skeletons are cleaned. The skeletons are then – before they are buried again – “familiarized” with the special features that happened after their death. On Sainte Marie, they are also carried through the village by the family.

Fanorona is the Malagasy national board game. Hira Gasy is a Malagasy street theater. The valiha is the traditional musical instrument of Madagascar.

Madagascar: Sightseeing

  • Presents the way that MA stands for the nation of Madagascar as a two-letter acronym.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites

The locations of the UNESCO World Heritage sites are shown in red on the map for better orientation. It should be noted that they are often difficult to reach.

King’s Hill of Ambohimanga (Blue Hill)

The place Ambohimanga is located in the middle of Madagascar about 20 km north of the capital Antananarivo. Ambohimanga is the holy city of the Hovas and is known for its royal hill.

The hill is the birthplace of Andrianamapoinimerina, the most famous king of the Merina people.

His grave, that of his wife and that of other kings, was here until 1898, until everyone was “moved”, i.e. the graves were relocated. The former royal city has remained one of the most sacred places of the Merina and rites are performed at the former tombs and the souls of the ancestors are asked for advice.

The wooden gabled houses made of rosewood give the place a regal appearance, although the residences of the kings are modest. They consist of a room with a fireplace and a bed that was 5 m high so that he could escape there in case of danger. European influence is z. B. to recognize that the walls were covered with wallpaper. The city’s sacred precinct is protected by a thatched tower. The palace can be reached through a stone gate that was previously closed by a huge boulder weighing tons.

The King’s Hill of Ambohimanga, also known as the Blue Hill, has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2001.

Tsingy de Bemaraha Nature Reserve

The Bemaraha National Park is located in western Madagascar in the Antsahavola district north of the coastal town of Morondava. It covers an area of 85,370 ha = 853.7 km².

Due to erosion, bizarre, needle-shaped rock formations have formed from the calcareous rock and coral reefs have also resulted in numerous rock peaks up to 30 m high. The area is still little explored because it is very difficult to reach with its caves and ravines. The gorges are also surrounded by razor-sharp pinnacles. There is a place in the inaccessible area that can only be entered by the “chosen ones”, here oracles are proclaimed.

The place is guarded as sacred by the locals. Overall, the area should not be visited, because there are also temperatures of up to 60 °C in some places, in the gorges it is dark and humid. The Tsingys are the water reservoirs of the area. There is a dry forest, which is replaced by savannah, but the area is barren and inhospitable. Few animals live here – such as chameleons, birds and lemurs.

The Tsingy de Bemaraha Nature Reserve was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1990.

Atsinanana rainforests

The protected area stretches from the north (Marojeji) to the south (Andohahela).

The area is about 1,000 km long and consists not only of rainforests, but these are interrupted by very different types of landscape, because humans have greatly changed the vegetation through burning and shifting cultivation. Species-poor tree savannas have emerged. In the north is the 2,643 m high Moromokotra – the highest mountain in Madagascar. On the eastern edge is the island’s watershed.

The rivers have constantly different water flow depending on the season. Many rivers are not navigable due to high waterfalls and alluvial banks. Many endemic (native only here) animal species such as birds and insects and 50 different species of lemurs live in the reserve.

There are no big game, monkeys and poisonous snakes on Madagascar.

The rainforests of Atsinanana were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2007.

Cities and villages


The largest city in Madagascar with around 1.4 million residents is the capital Antananarivo, which extends in the central mountainous region of the island at an altitude of 1,435 meters. The city, also called Tana (or earlier Tananarive), whose name translates as “City of a Thousand”, was founded in 1625 and is now the administrative, economic and political center of Madagascar. According to a list by Forbes magazine, the third-healthiest city in the world is home to the state Université d’Antananarivo and has the island’s international airport, Ivato. The city is not an absolute tourist magnet, but offers some interesting highlights such as the old wooden palace Rova, the Zoma Friday market and the pirate museum.


Only a few kilometers from Antananarivo is Ambohimanga, the birthplace of Madagascar. The city, which is provided with numerous historical memorabilia, is also known as the Holy or Hidden City, because it is surrounded on all sides by forest. The old royal palace and the citadel are among the most famous tourist magnets of Ambohimanga.


This tiny, but traditional Vezo fishing and beach village is isolated and spared from mass tourism on the southwest coast of Madagascar. Anakao beach is very spacious, white and ideal for fishing, diving and surfing.


In Antsirabe (German: where there is a lot of salt), the capital of the Vakinankaratra region in the Antananarivo province, about 201,000 people currently live. The most important center of the Betsileo country after Fianarantsoa was called Vichy Madagascar during colonial times because of its thermal springs.


Fianarantsoa has about 170,000 residents and is often used as a starting point for tours to the south and the east coast.

Fort Dauphin

Right by the sea in the south of Madagascar is Fort Dauphin, a town that is ideal for excursions to some national parks. Another plus point for Fort Dauphin are the secluded beaches that stretch for miles along the water.


In the west of Madagascar and directly on the Mozambique Channel, the coastal town of Morondava spreads out, which is connected to Antananarivo via regular flights from Air Madagascar.

The city is a rather relaxed and touristically relatively well developed place, especially in direct comparison to the Malagasy capital, because Morondava is less crowded, cheaper and cleaner.

The city attracts with its spacious, clean beach, good overnight and dining options and is an excellent starting point for trips to the picturesque fishing village of Belo sur Mer, the avenue of the baobabs and the Kirindy nature reserve.

Toamasina (French: Tamatave)

About 206,000 people currently live in Toamasina, the main seaport of Madagascar, which handles around 70% of Malagasy shipping. The city, unfortunately destroyed by a hurricane in 1927 and later completely rebuilt, experienced the next devastation in 1986 when a cyclone swept over it. Toamasina is connected to the Malagasy capital Antananarivo by a railway line and has a forest station with a zoo, the Parc Zoologique d’Ivoloina, which is 12 kilometers away in Ivoloina.

Special structures

Anglican Church in Anatirove

The very attractive Anglican Church in Anatirove was built between 1869 and 1881.

Antsirabe train station

The Malagasy rail system goes back to colonial times and so does the imposing train station in Antsirabe. The architecturally extremely interesting building is a good example of the building techniques used by the colonial rulers, but has unfortunately been closed since 2007.

Royal residence Anatirove

The royal residence Anatirove contains the most important shrine of the Malagasy religion, namely the tombs of all previous Merina kings.

Palace of the Kings

The Palace of the Kings was built in 1839. A single rosewood trunk 1 m wide and 39 m long serves as the central support pillar.

Rova in Antananarivo

The former royal palace of Madagascar rises at an altitude of 1,462 meters on the Analamanga (German blue forest), the highest mountain in the Malagasy capital Antananarivo.

The Rova, almost 200 meters above the lower town, functioned as the headquarters of the kings of Madagascar until the end of the 19th century and was therefore the center of power for the entire island. The palace area that can be seen today covers an area of around 13,000 m².

Since the Rova fell victim to a devastating fire in 1995, only the facades of the Queen’s Palace and the temple can be seen today.


Musée de l’Art et de l’Archéologie Malgache

The museum of art and archeology is dedicated to the culture of the Malagasy people.

Opening times: Monday – Friday from 2:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Pirate Museum in Antananarivo

In 2008 the very interesting pirate museum was opened in Antananarivo. It tells the story of piracy and goes into the historical events connected with the establishment of the Madagascan pirate republic Libertalia.


Tsimbazaza market in Antananarivo

Another market in the Malagasy capital Antananarivo is the Tsimbazaza market. It is very well attended, especially on Fridays.

Zoma in Antananarivo

Because the Zoma, the Friday market in Antananarivo, until the 1990s repeatedly paralyzed the city center, it was divided into several districts. All goods that are manufactured or extracted in Madagascar are offered in the markets.


There are a total of six universities in Madagascar. They can be found in the capital Antananarivo and the provincial capitals. The largest university in the country is the Université d’Antananarivo. There is also the National Institute for Nuclear Sciences on the island.

natural beauties

Baobab avenue The baobab

avenue is an extremely imposing natural spectacle near Morondava in the Menabe region. The avenue, consisting of more than a dozen baobabs, was even a candidate for one of Africa’s 7 Wonders of the World. Some of the trees (Adansonia grandidieri) are more than 800 years old and reach a height of over 30 meters. Among the most impressive features of the avenue are the Les Baobabs Amoureux (German: The Baobabs in Love). These are two trees that have grown intertwined. Legend has it that all women who hug and caress the trees are rewarded with fertility.

Andringitra National Park

47 kilometers south of Ambalavao extends the Andringitra National Park, founded in 1999, which is characterized by a rough landscape.

Deep valleys and rugged cliffs run through this national park, which is one of the most important biological and endemic places on the island:

More than 100 different bird species, over 50 monkey and around 55 frog species are said to live there.

Ankaratra massif

This is a volcanic mountain range in the middle of the central Malagasy highlands. The highest point is the 2,644 meter high Tsiafajavona. The crater lakes and the cinder cones in the south of the massif are very impressive.

Canal des Pangalanes in Toamasina

The both man-made and naturally created Canal des Pangalanes can be explored in conjunction with boat tours that include an overnight stay. For good tours you can turn to the Hotel Joffre in Toamasina or the nearby travel agencies. The boat service is offered by a Frenchman, who only drives when there is enough clientele.

Hauts Plateaux

With their scenic grace and beauty, the picturesque Hauts Plateaux are some of the truly impressive places in Madagascar. The Malagasy mountain range, which by the way also includes many modern and large cities on the island, runs through central Madagascar and is particularly popular with hikers and nature lovers.

Île Sainte Marie (Nosy Boraha)

The island of Sainte Marie, off the east coast of Madagascar, is one of the most beautiful islands in Madagascar. The island, inhabited by around 16,000 people and can be reached by plane or boat from Soanierana-Ivongo, offers excellent conditions for snorkeling and diving (especially the Saine Marie lagoon), lures with secluded bays and (from July to September) Humpback whales off the west coast. The island, 60 kilometers long and up to six kilometers wide, served as a base for infamous pirates in the 17th and 18th centuries, most of whom settled in Nosy Boraha. An old pirate cemetery near Ambodifotara still reminds of this time.

Isalo Nationapark

The Isalo National Park is very well known for its varied landscape. Sandstone formations, deep canyons, grasslands and palm-fringed oases determine its topographical beauty. Local guides are highly recommended for park visitors. You can hire them in the city of Ranohira, for example.

Coral reef off Ifaty and Nosy

The coral reef off Ifaty and Nosy is about. 400 kilometers long and one of the most impressive in the world. Here you will find the ideal conditions for diving.

Labyrinth of Stones

The Labyrinth of Jurassic Stones is another incredible natural spectacle in Madagascar, made up of a large area of breathtaking stone formations that rise like huge towers and hide indented canyons and damp caves.


The Masoala peninsula in the north-east of Madagascar is defined by a hilly, mountainous landscape and large areas of tropical rainforest. The most important areas of the peninsula form the Masoala National Park, which is financially supported by Switzerland.


At 2,876 meters, the Maromokotro is the highest mountain in Madagascar. The mountain in the north rises from the Tsaratanana massif, which is partly of volcanic origin.

Nosy Be

The island of Nosy Be stretches off the northwest coast of Madagascar and attracts with wonderful beaches like Madirokely, Ambatoloaka, Andilana and Belle-Vue. The island is the main tourist magnet of Madagascar for many visitors, which is also related to the fascinating underwater world. For many, however, the beauty is unfortunately more of a sexual nature, because the island of Nosy Be is also known for sex tourism and prostitution, which many minors also pursue.

Nosy Komba

This small volcanic island, located between Nosy Be and the mainland, is also well worth seeing because of its wonderful nature and wonderful bathing opportunities.

Beach of Morondava

The wide, long and clean beach of Morondava goes very flat into the sea, so that it only gets soft waves. These conditions make it suitable for children too. One disadvantage, however, is the lack of diving opportunities, as there are no reefs. To do this, you can take a motor or sailing boat from Morondava to Belo sur mer, where you can marvel at the extensive coral reefs while diving.

Volcanic fields

The most imposing volcanic fields on the island are worth a visit. In Madagascar, volcanoes were active until around 10,000 years ago, leaving behind spectacular landscapes of crater lakes, geysers and smoking holes in the ground.

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