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Madagascar's Cities, Travel and Lodging Recommendations by Cortez Travel and Tours USA
 
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ABOUT
MADAGASCAR

  Location
  Regions
     The North
     W. Dry Forest
     High Plateau
     The East
     S. Rain Forest
     S. Dry Forest
  National Parks
  Cities
  History

 
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About Madagascar - Cities and Lodging Recommendations by Cortez Travel
About Madagascar - Cities and Lodging Recommendations by Cortez Travel and Tours USA

Madagascar's cities and towns offer a wide variety of activities and sightseeing opportunities, including national parks. The following list describes the cities, means of access, and lodging. This list of lodging possibilities in towns one is most likely to encounter on a first visit to Madagascar does not pretend to be exhaustive; it is simply a list of hotels in areas we have visited recently and reflects only our personal opinion.

AMBALAVAO MANAKARA
AMBOSITRA MANANARA
ANDASIBE – see PERINET MANANJARY
ANTALAHA MAROANTSETRA
ANTANANARIVO (Tananarive) MORONDAVA
ANTSIRABE NOSY BE
DIEGO SUAREZ (Antsiranana) PERINET RESERVE (Andasibe)
FIANARANTSOA RANOMAFANA
FT. DAUPHIN (Tolagnaro) SAMBAVA
ILE. SAINTE MARIE (Nosy Boraha) TAMATAVE (Toamasina)
MAJUNGA (Mahajanga) TULEAR (Toliare)

 
 AMBALAVAO

South of Fianarantsoa (56 kms) on the country's main artery, Route Nationale 7, Ambalavao is the last town of the High Plateau before reaching the "Door to the South". It is the gateway to Andringitra's National Park and is known for the Antaimoro paper and its bustling cattle market every Wednesday.

Access:
by road on Route Nationale 7

Lodging:
Hotel Aux Bougainvillees, Tel: 75 340 01

Protected Areas:
Andringitra National Park

Our opinion: Two days drive from Antananarivo and two days drive to Tulear, Ambalavao is not very accessible and is not on our "A" list for a first visit. Andringitra National Park is another day drive in each direction; it is a hiking and climbing destination with spectacular granite boulders but strictly for the VERY FIT.
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 AMBOSITRA

Located in the High Plateau on Route Nationale 7 (90 kms south of Antsirabe), Ambositra is the compulsory stop en-route when driving from Antananarivo to Fianarantsoa. It is highly regarded for exquisite Zafimaniry style wood carvings as well as an important religious and cultural center.

Access:
By road on Route Nationale 7

Lodging:
Grand Hotel, Tel: 47 710 21: not very grand but for a long time the only game in town
Chez Violette: the annex is new, clean and a good value

Activities:
Wood carvers village

Our opinion: Must see on drive from Antananarivo to Fianarantsoa. Not really a must on a first visit itinerary but interesting for a follow-up trip.
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 ANDASIBE - see PERINET
 
 ANTALAHA

Located on the North East coast of Madagascar, Antalaha has been a prosperous little town since the late 1900's when vanilla was introduced. It is linked by a good road to Sambava (80 kms north) or by air from the capital and other northern cities. It can also be reached on foot with a 5-day hike north from Maroantsetra across the Masoala Peninsula. Prior to the devastating cyclone of April 2000, Antalaha attracted adventurous travelers bound for Madagascar's most easternly point at Cap Est by bicycle or small boat. Residence du Cap set in splendid isolation was totally destroyed but should be rebuilt and operating in the near future.

Access:
by air
by road from Sambava
on foot from Maroantsetra

Lodging:
Ocean Momo, Tel: 88 810 39: best place in town

Protected Areas:
Marojejy National Park

Our opinion: Antalaha is a pleasant little town but not a destination unless one is in the vanilla business or going to Cap Est when the Residence will once again be operational.
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 ANTANANARIVO (Tananarive)

Capital of Madagascar and a city of 2,000,000 located in the High Plateau, "Tana" is a harmonious tumble of earth-red brick houses from grandiose to miserable, lush gardens and garbage dumps, flowers and bustling market places, ante-deluvian automobiles, grid-lock traffic jams, elegant business people and street urchins: love it or hate it but it won't leave you indifferent.

Access:
By air - Ivato International airport
By road - from all major cities: Tamatave, Majunga, Morondava, Antsirabe and beyond

Lodging / Hotels:
Hotel Colbert, Tel: 22 202 02: "the place to stay while in Tana." The Colbert has charm, impeccable service and La Taverne, the best restaurant in Madagascar.
Tana Plaza, Tel: 22 218 65: new, comforable but small rooms, good value
Hotel de France, Tel: 22 213 04: entirely refurbished, excellent restaurant
Hilton Madagascar, Tel: 22 260 60: a Hilton with hamburgers and all
Hotel Ibis, Tel: 22 390 00: new, great location, reasonable prices
Hotel Radama, Tel: 22 319 27: a favorite of visiting businessmen
Hotel Mercure Palissandre, Tel: 22 203 00: excellent establishment, great view, unfortunately the location is not entirely desirable
Hotel Sakamanga, Tel 22 358 09: moderate, well located, good restaurant, always booked up, a favorite with French visitors

Lodging / Bed & Breakfast:
Residence Lapasoa, Tel: 22 611 40: comfortable, well located, reasonably priced
Le Relais des Pistards, Tel: 22 291 34: near Tsimbazaza, warm hospitality, great value

Activities:
Tsimbazaza Zoo and Cultural Museum
Croc Farm
Queen's Summer Palace of Ambohimanga
Artisans Market of Androvoahangy

Our opinion: Although many international flights directly connect to domestic destinations, a stop in "Tana" is recommended upon arrival. Not only is it a good idea because of jet-lag (8 hours difference from New York, 11 hours from L.A.), and to adjust to the altitude of the High Plateaux, but mainly as an introduction to the country one is about to discover. Its diverse ethnic groups, rich cultural heritage, colonial past, and dynamic new city administration all blend in the capital, where its attractive, youthful population reflect the hope of a better future for Madagascar. (It should be noted that multiple stops in Antananarivo are the norm on any given itinerary due to the lack of good domestic connections.) Definitely spend a couple of days in Antananarivo… the food and music are great!
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 ANTSIRABE

A pleasant spa-town with beneficial mineral springs, a cool and temperate climate, Antsirabe was quite a sought-after destination and prosperous resort in colonial times. It is now an important commercial and industrial center with breweries, cotton mills, vegetable and dairy farms, and precious stones.

Lodging:
Arotel, Tel: 44 485 73: new, functional, business hotel
Hotel des Thermes, Tel: 44 487 61: magnificent building on the outside, unfortunately dismal and faded inside.

Our opinion: Overnight stop on the road from Antananarivo to Fianarantsoa but not a must for a first time visitor.
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 DIEGO SUAREZ (Antsiranana)

Located in the North, Madagascar's fifth largest town, population 80,000, has a superb location at the extreme northern tip of the island. Once a strategic naval base and bustling cosmopolitan city, Diego has lost its splendor yet retains much of its charm of yesteryear. It has daily flights to and from Antananarivo, has good accommodations with excellent cuisine, and is the gateway to Montagne d'Ambre National Park and the Ankarana Reserve.

Access:
By air
By road from Ambanja

Lodging:
Hotel le Colbert, Tel: 82 232 89: new, clean, not great but still the best place to stay in town
King's Lodge, Tel: 82 225 99: on the outskirts of town, overlooking the Bay of Diego, new and congenial
Residence du Pain des Sucre: 82 294 00: on the road to Ramena, on a hill overlooking Nosy Lonja, new

Protected Areas:
Montagne d'Ambre
Reserve of Ankarana

Our opinion: Definitely should be included in any itinerary of at least 14 days. The town has charm - if somewhat faded - but the Northern baobabs, Amber Mountain and Ankarana Reserve are absolutely worth the detour, except during the rainy season.
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 FIANARANTSOA

Located in the High Plateau, Fianarantsoa is the historical, intellectual and cultural center of Madagascar' elite Betsileo tribe. It has also become Madagascar's wine country with excellent red, white and "grey" wines being produced in the surrounding areas. It is also the gateway to Ranomafana National Park, magnificent example of altitude rainforest.

Access:
By air (two flights a week by small plane)
By road on Route National 7, approximately 8 hours from Antananarivo

Lodging:
Hotel Soafia, Tel: 75 503 53: Questionable "bon gout" when it comes to architecture but very comfortable and spacious rooms. Great bread and croissants at the patisserie and a good reason to avoid the Chinese food at the hotel restaurant
Tsara Guest House, Tel: 75 502 06: PERFECTLY WONDERFUL!

Protected Areas:
Ranomafana National Park

Activities:
Wineries
Market

Our opinion: Interesting town but mainly as the gateway to Ranomafana National Park. Definitely stop overnight if driving from Antananarivo to Tulear or going to Ranomafana as accommodations near the park are still scarce and too rustic for most.
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 FT. DAUPHIN (Tolagnaro)

Located at the edge of both the Southern Rain Forest and the spiny desert to the West (Southern Dry Forest), Ft. Dauphin breathes the fresh, cool air from the Antartic and is the gateway to Madagascar best known Reserve: Berenty.

Access:
By air
By road from Tulear (2/3 days on Route Departementale 10 or 4/5 days following the coast)

Lodging:
Hotel Le Dauphin, Hotel Miramar, Hotel Le Gallion, Tel: 92 212 38: All three hotels under same ownership and management as Berenty Private Reserve. Rooms range from dismal to sensational without possibility of advance selection but one would not dare stay anywhere else! Beautiful restaurants in a garden setting or overlooking the Southern Indian Ocean.

Protected Areas:
Andohela National Park
Berenty Private Reserve
Reserve de Nahampoana

Activities:
Saidi Botanical Garden
Cap Ste. Marie
Sainte Luce

Our opinion: A MUST see for first time visitor: almost daily flights, easily accessible rain forest and spiny desert in adjacent areas. Mostly a good road from Ft. Dauphin to Berenty, picturesque scenery, exceptional fauna and flora, good accommodations and guaranteed lemurs. Not totally pristine but still to be included in every first visit to Madagascar. It is important to note that the drive between Tulear and Ft. Dauphin is rough with very basic accommodations and facilities, therefore we recommended flying to Ft.Dauphin in nearly all itineraries.
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 ILE. SAINTE MARIE (Nosy Boraha)

Sainte Marie Island is just 15 miles off the coast of Sonierana-Ivongo (north of Tamatave). With a colorful past as a pirate's haven (1680 to 1720), secluded beaches, soft white sand, warm weather year-round, swaying palms and lush vegetation, Sainte Marie has for three centuries remained the perfect example of a pristine tropical island. It is changing fast however, and the wheel barrow used ten years ago to haul the clients' luggage from the airport to the nearby Hotel Soanambo has been retired. In its place a fleet of spanking new mini-buses shuttle sun-starved European to several new and quite charming establishments on a road still mercifully unpaved.

Access: By air from Antananarivo or Tamatave

Lodging:
Le Cocoteraie, Tel: 57 401 72: supposed to be very nice, isolated and on a gorgeous beach great for R&R but I never made it that far as Madagascar beach resorts are not our priority nor that of most of our clients.
La Crique: spectacular location on a half-moon bay, simple but charming Malagasy bungalows. Very good value and very popular.
Lakana Beach, Tel: 57 401 32: over-the-water bungalows but a bit basic
Princess Boraha, Tel: 032 070 90 10: the newest luxury resort on the east coast of Sainte Marie with an excellent reputation.
Hotel Soanambo, Tel: 22 207 20: one of the oldest and largest holiday complexes on the island. Good food and good service.

Activities:
Diving
Fishing
Snorkeling
Pirate cemetery

Our opinion: Great for Europeans looking for a sun destination and "dolce farniente" . Really not for the American clientele other than shell collectors, fishing enthusiasts or those in need of seclusion and rest.
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 MAJUNGA (Mahajanga)

A large cosmopolitan city on the Mozambique Channel, Majunga on the northwest coast of Madagascar enjoys a hot dry climate year round. It is the gateway to the Ankarafansika Reserve which includes Ampijoroa Forestry Station, one of the last remnants of the dry deciduous forest which once upon a time covered the entire west. It is a prosperous town and a busy harbor with a large Indian population and interesting mix of African, Europeans, Arabs and local Sakalava.

Access:
by air from Tana, Nosy Be and Diego
By road on Route Nationale #4

Lodging:
Hotel La Piscine, Tel: 62 241 72: large city hotel with olympic-size swimming pool and Majunga's best bet.
Zaha Motel, Tel: 62 225 55: on the beach in Amborory, north of town on the way to the airport. Basic but adequate bungalows, good food, swimming pool.

Protected Areas:
Ankarafantsika (Ampijoroa)

Activities:
Baobab Tree
Cirque Rouge
Grotte d'Anjohibe

Our opinion: Very interesting destination, easily accessible, good accommodations and Ampijoroa Forest nearby (two hour drive over good road). A must for birdwatchers and should be included for a first visit in longer itineraries at least 18 days in length.
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 MANAKARA

On the southeast coast of Madagascar, Manakara was once a thriving colonial town with vast coffee plantations but is now pretty much isolated from the rest of the country due to infrequent flights, an erratic train to and from Fianarantsoa, and road access only during the dry season.

Access:
by air from Antananarivo (twice and week) and Ft Dauphin (once a week) by road from Mananjary on Route Nationale 12

Lodging:
If you decide to go to Manakara, you are on your own; we really can't recommend any decent lodging establishment.

Protected Areas:
None

Activities:
Train from Fianarantsoa if working

Our opinion: Really not for most travelers except the totally flexible, laid-back and adventurous on their second or third visit to Madagascar.
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 MANANARA

An affluent little town with an abundance of coffee, cloves, vanilla, and lichee nuts, as well as fish and lobster from the Bay of Antongil, Mananara is north of Tamatave on the East coast of Madagascar. An aborted United Nations Biosphere project and a "could have been good" destination.

Access:
By air
By road

Hotels:
Aye Aye Hotel: basic but best in town; okay for a night

Protected Areas:
None

Activities:
Aye Aye Island

Our opinion: Last on the list; Aye Aye Island is a private garden with transplanted Aye Aye; access is very difficult and only for the extremely hardy.
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 MANANJARY

Located in the Southern Rain Forest, Mananjary is a picturesque fishing village.

Access:
By air
By road on Route National 25

Lodging:
Jardin de la Mer: pleasant beach and garden setting on the outskirts of town.

Protected Areas:
None

Activities:
Relaxation

Our opinion: Not for first-time visitor; need a longer trip
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 MAROANTSETRA

Located on the northeast coast of Madagascar, at the far end of the Bay of Antongil, Maroantsetra is a sleepy, friendly town bathed in the fragrance of vanilla and cloves: Madagascar at its most authentic. Gateway to the awesome wilderness of the Masoala National Park, Maroantsetra is a must for any serious nature lover.

Access:
by air
by road from Tamatave on Route Nationale 5

Lodging:
Relais du Masoala, Tel:20 22 349 93; email: relais@simicro.mg: Set in a lush coconut grove by the bay, overlooking Nosy Mangabe and with the Masoala as a backdrop, Relais du Masoala is an oasis of peace, warmth and charming simplicity acclaimed as an exceptional eco-tourism development and awarded the prestigious 1998 ASTA / Smithsonian Environmental Award.
Coco Beach, Tel: 108: Used to be the best in town and still popular with budget conscious travelers. Great bread at the newly opened bakery on the hotel grounds.

Protected Areas:
Andrifotra Private Reserve
Nosy Mangabe
Masoala Peninsula

Our opinion: Not to be missed still wonderfully un-touristy, a BEST SELLER for one and all. Definitely A MUST!
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 MORONDAVA

Located in the Western Dry Forest, Morondava boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in Madagascar and spectacular forests of baobab.

Access:
By air
By road on Route National 7 and 35

Lodging:
Chez Maggie, Tel: 95 523 47: One of our favorite hotels in Madagascar: charming, delightful, set on an endless white sand beach and service great seafood.
Royal Toera, Tel: 95 520 27: Upscale beach hotel with comfortable bungalows, swimming pool, and "resort" ambience.

Protected Areas:
Kirindy Forest

Activities:
Baobab Alley
Sportfishing

Our opinion: Plant lovers must see Baobab Alley: spectacular!
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 NOSY BE

Located in the North, just off the northwest tip of Madagascar, Nosy Be means Big Island. It boasts 12 months of sunshine, beautiful beaches, the warm waters of the Mozambique Chanel, exuberant tropical vegetation, an ever-growing number of hotels, and aspires to be Madagascar's Riviera.

Access:
By air
By ferry from Ambanja

Lodging:
Hotel Vanilla, Tel: 86 615 23: Nosy Be's best: great setting in a tropical garden, spacious well-appointed bungalows, excellent food and particularly friendly management and staff. Love it!
Nosy Be Hotel, Tel: 86 614 39: comfortable, on the Belle Vue beach, good value compared to other mid-range hotels on the island.
Ylang Ylang, Tel: 86 614 01: Directly on the water, small, friendly, British owned with good food; a very good value.

Resort:
Tsarabanjina L'Hotel, Tel: 22 285 15: beautiful beaches surround this island resort and indeed the setting is idyllic and a perfect honeymoon destination. Accommodations in thatched roof bungalows are excellent and the diving is world class.

Protected Areas:
Lokobe Reserve
Nosy Tanikely
Nosy Komba

Activities:
Fishing
Diving, snorkeling
Sunset view at Mont Passot

Our opinion: too touristy for our taste except for a few days of R&R at the end of an intense tour of discovery.
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 PERINET RESERVE (Andasibe)

Perinet Reserve, rainforest located in the East.

Access:
By road from Antananarivo or Tamatave

Lodging:
Vakona Forest Lodge, Tel: 22 213 94: new, very comfortable, good food and service. First class, always full and difficult to get in.
Feon'ny Ala: the Voice of the Forest. Indeed this establishment is at the very edge of the forest with the Indri indri's haunting "song" as your wakeup call. Good value and the hotel of choice for serious nature lovers as well as budget travelers.
Buffet de la Gare, only as a last resort and only under protest.

Protected Areas:
Perinet Reserve
Mantady Forest (click to Perinet)

Our opinion: definitely a MUST and guaranteed to see the Indri.
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 RANOMAFANA

Ranomafana National Park, located in the Southern Rain Forest .

Access:
By air or road via Fianarantsoa

Lodging:
Centrest: Newest and best option in town: simple clean and very reasonable.
Hotel Domaine Nature: Only for the very sound sleepers, young and hardy travelers. Rustic bungalows on a steep slope overlooking the raging waters of the Namoroko river. Quite charming if somewhat perilous Tarzan tree house type access. Good food.
Hotel Station Thermale: No way!

Protected Areas:
Ranomafana National Park

Our opinion: Fabulous forest but a disappointing destination in every other respect.
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 SAMBAVA

Located in the North, the coastal town of Sambava sits at the mouth of the Bemarivo River on the north, and is the center of the vanilla and coconut growing region.

Access:
By air
By road from Antalaha

Lodging:
Hotel Las Palmas, Tel: 88 920 87: comfortable bungalows, good food and friendly staff.

Activities:
boat trip on Lokoho River
visit to vanilla plantation

Our opinion: very picturesque location with pristine river experience and interesting look at the vanilla industry. Best for longer trips or serious trekkers.
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 TAMATAVE (Toamasina)

Located in the East region, Tamatave is the main port city for Madagascar.

Access:
By air
By road from Antananarivo

Lodging:
Hotel Neptune, Tel: 53 322 26: overlooking the beach and harbor, well-appointed air conditioned rooms, well-run establishment, good food served in a garden setting by the pool. Best in Tamatave and one of the best in Madagascar.
Hotel Joffre, Tel: 53 323 90: central city location a few blocks from the colorful market. Colonial era hotel, recently refurbished. Extensive menu, excellent food. Very reasonable and an excellent value however often booked up.
Hotel Sharon, Tel: 53 304 20: Brand new, very comfortable, well-run if somewhat "soul less".

Protected Areas:
Parc Ivoloina (Duke Primate Center)

Our opinion: Three stars and definitely worth the detour to visit Parc Ivoloina if one is fortunate to meet Andrea Katz and Charlie Welch from the Duke Primate Center, the indefatigable souls of this project for the past 10 years.
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 TULEAR (Toliare)

Located in the Southern Dry Forest, Tulear reminds one of an "old west" town with its dry air and dusty streets. A stopping-off point for those interested in snorkeling and diving in the beach area of Ifaty just to the north, birding in the spiny desert forest outside of town, continuing east to the Isalo National Park or south to the Beza Mahafaly reserve, or stocking up on supplies for the long arduous trip to Ft. Dauphin by road.

Access:
By Air
By road on Route Nationale 7

Lodging:
Tulear:
Motel Capricorne, Tel: 94 428 79: comfortable air conditioned rooms, good oper air restaurant, well run (same ownership as Lakana Vezo in Ifaty, Le Dauphin Miramar, le Gallion in Ft. Dauphin as well as Berenty Reserve), lovely grounds and by fare the best hotel in town.
Hotel Plazza, Tel: 94 419 00: along the muddy waterfront but close to the center of town and the shell market. Adequate accommodations and fare at a reasonable price.

Ifaty:
Paradisier, Tel: 94 429 14: charming bungalows, all the comforts of home, friendly management and staff, very good food and highly recommended.
Lakana Vezo, Tel: 94 462 20: same ownership as Motel Capricorne in Tulear and set in beautiful grounds; always a good choice.

Protected Areas:
Beza Mahafaly
Tsimanampetsotsoa
Zombitsy Forest

Activities:
Arboretum of Mr. Petignant
Birdwatching
Diving - Ifaty
Mahafaly Tombs
Nosy Ve
Shell Market
St. Augustine

Our opinon: Not much more than a stopover to other areas as mentioned; visit to the Arboretum d'Ankasay is a fascinating look at the unique plants of this southwestern area and a must for plant lovers.
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