The Classic RN7
This classic one-way route will whisk you from Antananarivo down to Tuléar at the Mozambique Channel along the famed RN7, a smooth asphalt road. The sheer variety of national parks that is dotted along the RN7, from rainforest to desert canyons, is just incredible.
- Min stay of 15 days is recommended to follow this one-way road trip.
- Included 11 day car rental plus 2 bring back days
- Time is not on your side? Skip Andasibe and directly start on the RN7 to Antsirabe. If you arrive around lunch time, 1 night is enough, thereby shorten this roadtrip to 12 days.
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 inside 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.
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 € 75
Restaurants: Au Bois Vert, Savanna Café, L'Escalle
2|3 Andasibe Rainforest
Your roadtrip starts on the RN2 to Andasibe. It is a smooth asphalt road. You bypass down town Tana via the ring road. The RN2 is the most important road of the country, connecting the capital with the port of Tamatave, so it can be busy with slow trucks. Be aware of dangerous overtaking on the windy roads. It is a lovely drive, through rainforest covered hills. 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
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.
Today is a long drive to Antsirabe via Tana. From Tana onwards you're on the famous 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.
310 km | 8 hours
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).
Explore Antsirabe town and surroundings. 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. Hike or mountain bike around Lake Tritriva, an emerald-green crater lake.
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.
6|7 Ranamofana Rainforest
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
Our favourite picks:
Budget: Camping allowed at park entrance, Ihary bungalows € 15
Mid-range: Setam Lodge | € 30-50
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 :)
8 |9 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
10 | 11 Isalo National Park
No more windy roads, but far horizons and deserted grasslands, with some rocky peaks. Bring packed lunch, as there are no places to have lunch enroute. 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)
212 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).
12 | 13 To the beach! Tulear
We're heading for the coast today! It's a smooth 4 hours drive to Tulear. You pass through sapphire ''boom'' towns. We were very moved by the sights of it, and it makes you think. At Ilakaka you can take a tour through the mines with Color Lines.
On day 13 your Roadtrip car is picked up at your lodge and driven back to Antananarivo. If you spend a few more days at the beach, go to Ifaty where the beach is better, but the atmosphere less authentic. The most beautiful beaches in Madagascar though, are more up the west coast ( Salary, Andavadoaka Belo sur Mer), East ( Ile Sainte Marie) and North (Nosy Be).
Our favourite picks in Tulear, St Augustin Bay
Mid-range: Residence Eden Lodge, Sarodrano village € 35
Deluxe: Bakuba Concept, pool (€ 115-175).
These two lodges are real pearls! The beach at this part of Tulear is still untouched with a laid-back atmosphere.
Our favourite picks in Ifaty
Mid-range: Paradisier, Belle Vue
More travel tips for Madagascar?
Fly back to Antananarivo or onwards to another beach destination ( Nosy Be, Ile Sainte Marie) or spend a few days at the beach around Tulear or more up the West coast. Air Madagascar is not the most reliable company. Factor in one additional day in Tana, in case your domestic flight from Tulear is delayed / cancelled, in order not to miss your international flight.
Roadtrip Madagascar's favourite restaurants in Antananarivo:
Sakamanga, Varangue, Sakamanga, Les 3 Metis, Kudeta, Petit Verdot, Villa Vanille