Antananarivo Travel Guide

Plan your visit to Antananarivo with this comprehensive guide, featuring the best attractions, hiking and biking routes, food and drink scene, safety tips, transportation options, and more.

Your Ultimate Guide to Antananarivo, Madagascar

Antananarivo, often simply referred to as Tana, is the capital city of Madagascar. This vibrant city is situated in the central highlands of Madagascar, with sharp hills and deep valleys surrounding it on all sides. The city is well-known for its rich cultural heritage, fascinating colonial history, and friendly people. If you are planning to visit or explore Antananarivo, this guide will help you to make the most of your trip.

Introduction to Antananarivo

Antananarivo was founded in the seventeenth century and has been inhabited for more than 400 years. It was the capital city of Madagascar since the Dutch colonial period and has continued to be the country’s capital, even after obtaining independence in 1960. The city is a bustling metropolis of over two million people, with many historical sites that reflect its past.

List of Places to Visit in Antananarivo

Antananarivo is a diverse city with many excellent tourist attractions, natural scenery, and cultural heritage that draw visitors from around the world. Here are some of the most popular places to visit:

Culturally Important Attractions: Museums and Historical Places

  1. The Rova of Antananarivo – This is a fascinating palace complex that once served as the residence of Madagascar’s sovereigns. This breathtaking palace dates back to the 17th century and features a unique wood and brick architecture design like no other.

  2. The Andafiavaratra Palace – It is another museum port-folio which is a restoration of the old palaces that used to exist on the site during the Merina Kingdom.

  3. The Museum of Photography – Spanning over two floors in a beautiful 18th-century house, this museum showcases old photos of the life of the Merina people, Madagascar’s largest ethnic group.

  4. The Musee de la Photographie de Madagascar – This museum houses a fascinating collection of photographs documenting the country’s history, culture, and peoples.

Natural Attractions of Antananarivo: Outdoor Adventures and Scenic Views

  1. The Palace of the Queen of Madagascar - it’s also known as Manjakamiadana and has been restored recently. You can visit the palace which is on the highest part of Antananarivo and get a great view from the top of the city.

  2. The Lake of Anosy – This lake provides an amazing view of the surrounding landscape and is a great spot for walks and taking photos.

  3. The Parc Zoologique & Botanique – This zoo houses some of Madagascar’s most iconic animals, including lemurs, giant tortoises, and chameleons. Additionally, the botanical gardens feature numerous indigenous plant species.

Hiking/Biking Routes of Antananarivo

Antananarivo presents the opportunity with different routes for cycling and hiking, taking to the fresh air of the city while enjoying the scenery on foot or pedaling. The three most visited hiking and biking routes in Antananarivo are Radama’s Tree, Ambohimanga Rova, and Lake Anosy.

Best Things to Do in Antananarivo: Activities and Tours

There are many things to do in Antananarivo, including exploring the city’s many museums, visiting its famous historical sites, and experiencing its vibrant nightlife. Some popular activities and tours include:

  1. City Tours – Hop-on guided city tours that take you around the city’s famous landmarks.

  2. River Tours – Enjoy a relaxing boat ride down the Ikopa River, passing historical ruins and admiring the beauty of the river’s surrounding nature and landscape.

  3. Nightlife – Tana is famous for its nightlife, with a plethora of clubs, bars, and casinos that come alive when the sun sets.

Week-Long Itinerary for Antananarivo

If you have a week to spend in Antananarivo, here’s our recommended itinerary:

Day 1: Arrival and acclimatization (Rest) Day2: Visit the Andafiavaratra Palace Day 3: Visit the Rova of Antananarivo Day 4: Explore the city center and enjoy the vibrant nightlife Day 5: Visit the Lake of Anosy Day 6: Visit the Park Zoo & Botanical Garden Day 7: Shopping and departure

Food and Drink Scene of Antananarivo

Antananarivo has a diverse and delicious culinary tradition with some unique flavors and dishes specific to Madagascar. Here are some must-try dishes and local beverages you need to taste when in the city:

Must-Try Dishes

  1. Romazava – A tangy beef stew with green leaves and herbs, a traditional Malagasy dish

  2. Ravitoto – Boiled cassava leaves with shredded pork, garlic, ginger, and onion

  3. Koba – A sweet treat made from ground peanuts, rice flour, and sugar

Local Beverages

  1. THB Beer – A refreshing and popular beer that is brewed locally in Madagascar

  2. Ranovola – A local alcoholic drink made from rice, honey, and water

Where to Stay in Antananarivo: Hotels, Hostels, and Guesthouses

Antananarivo has a diverse range of lodging options, ranging from budget-friendly guesthouses to high-end international hotels. The most popular areas for lodging in the city are in Anosibe or Isoraka. Here are some hotel suggestions:

  1. Hotel Colbert – A luxury city center hotel, offering an outdoor pool and other premium amenities.

  2. Lokanga Boutique Hotel – An elegant and intimate guesthouse, with stunning views over the city.

  3. Hotel Brajas – A budget-friendly option with a range of room sizes, all with a private balcony and city views.

What to Buy in Antananarivo: Souvenirs and Local Products to Bring Home

Antananarivo offers several unique souvenirs and local products to bring home. The most well-known shopping areas are the Analakely market and the La Route Digue market, home of Madagascar handicrafts sold at a great price. Here are some ideas for what to bring back:

  1. Malagasy Vanilla Beans – Madagascar is famous for its high-quality vanilla beans, which are exported around the world.

  2. Handmade crafts and textiles – Madagascar has many talented artisans, producing high-quality crafts, jewelry, and textiles.

Local Culture and Customs of Antananarivo

Malagasy culture is unique, with many customs and traditions that are best experienced first-hand. Greetings are an essential part of Malagasy culture; they often take their time before starting any conversation. Also, most people practice ancestor worship, and their culture is widely devoted to rituals and ceremonies.

Best Time to Visit Antananarivo

The best season to visit Antananarivo and Madagascar is from June to October when the climate is cooler, and there’s less rainfall. June is less humid and less crowded, July and August are cool and dry (best conditions to do outdoor activities), and September and October are warm.

Do’s and Don’ts of Antananarivo


  1. Respect the Malagasy customs and traditions
  2. Learn a few basic Malagasy phrases
  3. Be courteous to local people


  1. Do not criticise the government of Madagascar or any ethnic group
  2. Do not leave the city center after dark, it’s important to take care of oneself in foreign environments

Safety and Health

Safety in Antananarivo

Antananarivo is generally safe for tourists, but it’s essential to take some precautions like being vigilant of pick-pockets, be cautious when walking alone at night and avoid travelling alone in secluded areas. It is best to seek advice from the locals and use licensed taxis and ask your accommodation to make arrangements for a taxi.

Health in Antananarivo

Antananarivo also has some health risks, like all cities, it’s important to stay vigilant during the current COVID-19 pandemic. Visitors should also take basic precautions like drinking bottled water or water that has been filtered and avoiding raw vegetables and meat cooked from roadside vendors. It is advisable to visit your GP before travel, to be sure of the recommended vaccines to receive before travelling.

Getting to Antananarivo: Transportation Options and Logistics

Airports Near Antananarivo

The easiest way to access Antananarivo is via the Ivato International Airport. It receives flights from major airports in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.

Bus Stations Near Antananarivo

Traveling around Madagascar by road is possible, but it is advisable to take a taxi-brousse or hire a private car after arriving at the Ivato International Airport or taking a domestic airline.

Other Options

Getting to Antananarivo is possible by train or road, but it’s best to seek advice or travel with a guide.

How to Get Around in Antananarivo

Antananarivo transport options include taxis, which are abundant, and some hotels offer shuttle services to pick guests up from the airport. Many visitors prefer to walk or cycle in the city center because of the notorious traffic jams in the city.

Where to Go Next from Antananarivo: Nearby Destinations and Excursions

There are many interesting and beautiful places to visit nearby after exploring Antananarivo. Here are some of our top picks:

  1. Andasibe-Mantadia National Park - it is famous for its biodiversity and known for its lemur treks where visitors can spot lemurs up close and personal.

  2. Ambositra - Known as the country’s capital of crafts, the town boasts some of the most beautiful traditional houses you can find on the island.

  3. Nosy Be - It’s Madagascar’s beach paradise where you can enjoy swimming, sunbathing and extreme water sports on the island’s amazing beaches.


We hope this guide has provided you with sufficient information for your trip to Antananarivo. This city has an attractive essence that any tourist will enjoy and cherish. To sum up, Antananarivo is an incredible destination packed with stunning landscapes, bustling cities, rich cultural heritage, and friendly people. Indeed, this city is a perfect gateway to exploring the fascinating country that is Madagascar.