RN7 circuit

When you have the time and want to avoid spending money on expensive domestic flights, drive the RN7 up and down. There are so many things to see and do along the way, that you can make your way down the coast completely different from your way up to Tana again. It also allows to stop at hidden gems, less visited.

Travel time?

  • A minimum of 18 days is recommended to cover this circuit
  • including 16 days Roadtrip Madagascar car rental

On a travel day, you drive between 4 - 6 hours without factoring in time for lunch, pictures etc. On average, you spend two nights at one location. If you like hiking and want to do a multiple day track, you will need more time in Andringitra and Isalo National park. If you're interested in highland culture and community tourism initiatives, take the time to explore the region around Ambalavao. 

Road conditions are good. It is asphalt pavement, with an occasional pothole and speed bumps. There are very few other road users. The only off road driving is to get to Andringitra National Park and Isalo National Park, for which a high clearance vehicle is needed. All the mentioned lodges are the places we like to stay when we are roadtripping ourselves; small-scale, good price-quality ratio and owner-managed when possible.

Arrival

If you start your roadtrip the next day, it is recommended to spend the night in suburb Ivato, as down town Antananarivo (Tana) is completely congested. Ivato, some 30 kms from Tana centre, is where our office is located, and is close to airport. 

Roadtrip Madagascars favourite picks in Ivato:

Mid Range: Susies Place B&B  € 60

Deluxe: Au Bois Vert. With good restaurant and swimming pool

Restaurants: Au Bois Vert, Savanna Café, L'Escalle

2 Drive to Antsirabe

Your start on the famed RN7! Expect asphalt, windy roads passing rice paddies and small highland villages. You can have a terrific lunch stop at Coin de Foie Grass in Behenjy, the foie grass center of Madagascar. Or try a real good paella at El Torro in Ambutulampy.

180 km | 4,5 hours

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A proud pousse pousse driver

Roadtrip Madagascars favourite picks in Antsirabe: 

Budget: Camping allowed at Madalief (out of town), Green Park 

Mid-range: Trianon € 26, Madalief € 26

Deluxe: Couleur Café € 37

Restaurants: Chez Jenny ( pizza, lively), Trianon ( classic French), Vatolahy (classic French)

Antsirabe is considered the pousse pousse capital of the country. There are three major ''species''. The basic model is a cart pulled by a man. It may feel uncomfortable to be towed around by someone in this fashion, who may even be barefooted. But this is the driver's living, so your pay is most welcomed. The cyclo-pousse, in which the cab is attached to a bicycle, is a step up, at least as far as the driver is concerned. And on top of the food chain is the kinga, the motorised pousse-pousse. Explore Antsirabe town and take a pousse pousse (the Malagasy version of the Asian rickshaw) tour to the craft workshops which are otherwise hard to find on your own. 

3|4 Ranamofana

Drive to Ranamofana National park. It's again a lovely windy road, passing highland villages, rice paddies and rainforest covered hills. Ambositra makes for a good coffee stop. For those interested in community tourism and highland culture, this is an interesting region to linger around for longer. Stay at Grand Hotel or Motel Violette ( both budget).

227 km | 6 hours

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Village life in tropical Ranamofana

Our favourite picks: 

Budget: Camping allowed at park entrance, Ihary bungalows € 15

Mid-range: Setam Lodge |  € 30-50

Restaurant: Manja

Ranamofana is a small and lively tropical town with a stunning riverside setting surrounded by rainforest covered hills and the lovely scent of flowers in the air. It is the place to search for the golden bamboo, only discovered in 1986. Park entrance cost € 16 pp plus € 31 for the guide for a group up to four, of which half goes to the guide. A tip is still appreciated.

We were lucky on our hike, as we saw the greater bamboo lemur, of which there are only two in the park. Furthermore, we saw the Golden bamboo lemur, Red fronted brown lemur, Sifaka Eduardo, Leaf tailed gecko, Brookesia chamelon, Paradise bird, Queen fisher, a type of snake and, leeches :) 

5 | 6 Andringitra National Park

Perhaps the most scenic drive thus far, especially beyond Ambalavao. Big sandstone massifs dominate the country side. The exit to Camp Catta is 20 km after Ambalavao. Than its 1 hour off road driving towards the park with some rough parts. Enroute, Ambalavao is an interesting highland village to stop. Andringitra is perhaps our favourite park. If you like hiking, this is a breath taking area. Consider spending an extra night, to complete the Imarivolanitra trekking ( 2-3 days). 

173 km | 5,5 hours

Roadtrip Madagascars favourite picks in Andringitra: 

Budget: Camping allowed at Camp Catta

Mid-range: Camp Catta, with a natural swimming pool. (€27-€55). Tsara Tented Camp € 40

Andringitra National Park is a hikers paradise
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7-9 Heading to the beach!

We're heading for the coast today! It's a long day of driving so leave very early. But it is a smooth journey. No more windy roads, but far horizons and deserted grasslands, with some rocky peaks. You can have an early lunch at one of the nice lodges around Isalo. After Isalo, it is another 4 hour's drive. 

You have made it to the sea! Enjoy the beach and your lodge. Both lodges mentioned below are real pearls. If you spend a few more days at the beach, consider going to Ifaty where the beach is better(but the atmosphere less authentic) or a bit more up the west coast towards the remote yet beautiful Salary Bay (off road driving). 

450 km| 8 hours

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Bakuba Concept, St Augustín Bay

Our favourite picks in Tulear, St Augustin Bay

Mid-range: Residence Eden Lodge, Sarodrano village € 35

Deluxe: Bakuba Concept, pool  (€ 115-175).

Our favourite picks in Ifaty

Mid-range: Paradisier, Belle Vue

Deluxe: Dunes 

10 | 11 Isalo National Park

As you saw on your coming, you pass through sapphire ''boom'' towns. Which is impressive, confronting, makes you think. At Ilakaka you can take a tour through the mines with Color Lines.

Isalo is Madagascar's most popular national park and for good reason. The combination of sandstone rocks cut by deep canyons, natural pools, rare endemic plants and several species of lemur ( sifakas, ring-tails and brown lemur), make this a wonderful place to explore. The Piscine and Cascade track can become crowded during high season. Consider a more off the beaten track experience with Momo Trek ( 2 days). Further activities: horse riding or climb the Via Ferrate (enquire with Relais de la Reine)

225 km | 4 hours

Roadtrip Madagascars favourite picks in Isalo

Budget: ITC lodge ( Momo Trek) € 15, camping allowed

Mid-range: Isalo Ranch.  Pool. Camping allowed € 42 

Deluxe: Le Relais de la Reine with Pool &Spa ( € 72- 105). 

The US route 66 turnes pales compared to driving the RN7 in Madagascar
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12 | 13 Ambalavao

There are various community tourism initiatives developed in this culture rich region. You could visit a paper factory, see silk production, a winery, visit the largest cattle market at Ambalavao or do a homestay. Enquire with the lodge. Anja National Park is a small park with good maintained hiking trails where you can see the ring-tailed lemurs. 

Mid-range: Varangue Betsileo, pool  

228 km | 4 hours

14 Antsirabe

Drive to Antsirabe

300 km | 5,5 hours. 

Lake Andraikiba, close to Andasibe
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15 | 16 Andasibe

We're going to leave the RN7 and switch to the RN2 from Tana onwards. Windy roads through lush, rainforest covered hills.The RN2 is the most important road of the country, connecting Tana with the port of Tamatave, so it can be busy with slow trucks. Be aware of dangerous overtaking. Coq d'Or in Moramanga is a good coffee stop ( try their eclairs! ) or lunch break. 

180 km | 3,5 hours

Our favourite picks: 

Budget: Feon' Ny Ala| €12-23. 

Mid-range: Grace Lodge|  € 28

Restaurants: Feon' Ny Ala, especially their Chinese dishes

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Watch closely - there's an animal on that leaf. It's a leaf tail ghecko!

Andasibe is the prime location to search for the Indri Indri. With it's surprised teddy-bear face it looks more like a gone-wrong panda than a lemur. If you don't see them ( 99% chance you will), you will for sure hear them. They make an eerie, wailing sound that carries for kilometres. Each Indri Indri only cries up to three times a day as it cost them so much energy. It is really mind blowing to be a witness of this ritual. 

You can do between 2 - 4 hour walks in Andasibe to search for the lemurs. It is not strenuous. Mantadia National Park is 20km up north, much bigger and more for the hiking enthusiast. Park entrance cost € 14 pp plus € 15 for the guide for a group up to four. All proceeds go to the guide, but a tip is expected. On our hike with guide Hermann, whom we had to pick because of his Dutch name :) we saw the following animals and birds: Indri indri, Diadeem Sifaka, Brown lemur, Pandanus frog, Elephant ear chameleon, Green day ghecko, Paradise fly cather, Red fronted cova. 

Antananarivo

Drive to Tana (3,5 hours). Explore down town and eat at one of the many good restaurants. 

Roadtrip Madagascars favourite restaurants in Antananarivo: 

Varangue, Sakamanga, Les 3 Metis, Kudeta, Petit Verdot, Villa Vanille. 

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