See the best of Madagascar on this photo tour

Welcome to Madagascar

Some five percent of the world’s species of flora and fauna can be found in Madagascar and nowhere else. That staggering biodiversity, paired with an equally diverse geography of beaches, deserts, rainforests and barrier reefs, make this island nation in the Indian Ocean a favorite among outdoors enthusiasts. Explore some of its highlights through these photos.

Antananarivo, Madagascar’s capital city

Antananarivo (Tana for short) is the capital of Madagascar, and it would be a mistake to overlook this colorful, charming city. Spend a day or two admiring the colonial architecture, shopping in the busy markets or enjoying the modern dining scene where French, Indonesian and African flavors come together.

Avenue of the Baobabs

Perhaps no image captures Madagascar as iconically as that of the Avenue of the Baobabs. These trees, some of them more than 800 years old, line a modest dirt stretch of RN8 between Morondava and Belo-sur-Tsiribihina.

Where one cannot walk barefoot

Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, features a series of serrated peaks and boulders created by erosion over thousands of years. The word “tsingy” in Malagasy translates loosely to “where one cannot walk barefoot” – an apt description of this forest of limestone needles.

The colorful chameleon

Nearly half the world’s species of chameleons live on Madagascar, and 59 of them can be found nowhere else. These reptiles are best known for their ability to change colors as a way to defend their territories, attract mates or hide from predators. You can spot them throughout the island, including within Montagne d’Ambre National Park.

A tropical escape

Île Sainte-Marie (Sainte Marie Island) sits just off the northeastern coast of Madagascar. This thin strip of land offers an idyllic vacation opportunity in the form of white sand beaches, coral reefs and quiet fishing villages. Once a base for pirates plundering in the Indian Ocean, the waters here are now known for visiting humpback whales.

Montagne d’Ambre National Park

Montagne d’Ambre National Park protects one of the most biologically diverse areas of Madagascar in the Diana Region to the north. Park visitors have the chance to spot 75 species of birds, 25 species of mammals and 59 species of reptiles, as well as numerous lakes and waterfalls.

Say “ahh” in Antsirabe

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In the 1800s, Norwegian missionaries to Madagascar established a health retreat around the thermal springs in Antsirabe. French colonists continued developing the area, which is still known as a spa town today.

Rainforest wildlife

Six different areas make up the UNESCO World Heritage-listed rainforests of Atsinanana. Parc National Ranomafana ranks among the most popular thanks to its abundance of wildlife – lemurs, reptiles, frogs and birds. The forests of Madagascar provide a habitat to more than 300 species of frogs, the only amphibian found on the island.

Andringitra Massif

The Andringitra Massif inside Andringitra National Park is the highest accessible mountain in Madagascar (the second highest overall). This region attracts hikers and mountain climbers to its high-altitude granite peaks and scenic trails.

Royal Hill of Ambohimanga

Ambohimanga served as the original capital for the Merina royal family, and while the capital has since moved to Antananarivo, this “Royal Hill” remains an important cultural landmark and pilgrimage point. This UNESCO site includes the former royal city and burial site.

Sun, sand, sea

The coast of Madagascar and some of its smaller islands are dotted with world-class beaches including white sand and the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean. Nosy Be (Big Island) offers the most developed beach escape, though its possible to find your own stretch of sand, like the beaches on the desert island of Tsarabanjina (pictured).

Tsingy Rouge

Come to Tsingy Rouge Park in northern Madagascar for the isolation and for the dramatic red rock pinnacles. Visitors who make the 4WD journey to this remote park are rewarded with some of the island’s most inspiring scenery.

Ifaty and Mangily

The small fishing villages of Ifaty and Mangily on the southeastern coast serve as gateways to Ifaty Beach, with its coconut palm-lined beaches and snorkeling opportunities in the Mozambique Channel.

Isalo National Park

Isalo National Park, one of Madagascar’s most popular natural attractions, protects a collection of high plateaus, arid regions and lush forests filled with cooling swimming holes. It’s also an excellent spot for birdwatching with 77 species able to be seen (well over half are endemic).

Lokobe Special Reserve

Lokobe Special Reserve on the island of Nosy Be protects the only remaining lowland rainforest on the island. Take a guided hiking tour here for the chance to spot a rare black lemur or panther chameleon.

Lemurs of Madagascar

Of all the creatures that call Madagascar home, none is quite so famous as the lemur. These primates are unique to the island. The 112 species range from the tiny Madame Berthe’s mouse lemur to the indri lemur, which is the size of a human child. They’re classified as the world’s oldest primates (and the only ones besides humans to have blue eyes).

Anja Community Reserve

Madagascar has several places to spot lemurs, but the Anja Community Reserve is considered one of the best. Two hiking trails lead visitors through the park, where it’s possible to spot ring-tailed lemurs sitting on boulders soaking up the morning sun.

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