Where to walk in Madagascar
Map & highlights
Many walking vacations in Madagascar focus on the south-central and eastern regions, which offer an immense variety of terrains, from the limestone massif of Andringitra and the moonscapes of Isalo, through various types of forest, and up and down valleys and canyons carved into the rock. There are numerous national parks here where Madagascar’s fragile ecosystems remain fairly intact – and several lemur and chameleon species can be observed amid the endemic vegetation. Traveling around Madagascar is tough going, and even in this relatively small area there may be one or two full-day drives, with shorter transfers in between. Domestic flights are notoriously unreliable so it’s best to just see it as part of the Malagasy experience – and know that at least you’ll have ample time to stretch your legs on these walking itineraries.
Andringitra National Park
The limestone Andringitra Massif means that this national park is a contender for Madagascar’s most dramatic landscapes, filled with boulder fields, lush forests, waterfalls and over 100 bird species. A three day trek takes you to the top of Peak Boby, the island’s second highest mountain at 2,658m, staying at simple hotels or campsites along the way. The summit day involves ten hours of trekking.
Walk along paths used by the local Zafimaniry people through rice paddies and villages. Known for their distinctive woodcraft, the Zafimaniry’s exquisitely decorated houses, granaries and tombs are constructed using perfect joinery, without the use of nails. These have been recognised by UNESCO as Masterpieces of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, and each carved pattern tells its own story.
Isalo National Park
Quite a contrast from the deep green landscapes many expect from Madagascar, Isalo is rugged and rocky, with its Jurassic sandstone eroded into gorges and cliffs. While many tourists visit only the fringes, two-day treks take you into the heart of the park to discover moonlike terrain, natural swimming pools and lemurs including ring-tailed and sifaka. But be prepared for some vertigo-inducing ascents.
Perinet Nature Reserve
Perinet’s stretch of virgin rainforest offers the chance to encounter the largest lemur of all: the indri, with its strange, whale-like call. This jungle may be remote but it is one of Madagascar’s most visited, and walkers here can enjoy a couple of days of less challenging trekking, with undulating rather than steep terrain, and porters to carry bags.
Ranomafana National Park
Madagascar’s wildlife hub spans an altitude of 600-1,400m. Walkers can observe the shifting ecosystems, from rainforest to cloud forest, and the vegetation of the high plateau. Walking is more leisurely here, with plenty of opportunities to stop and admire the many lemur species, orchids, chameleons and frogs, as you trek up to an altitude of around 1,000m.
This region of the Andringitra Massif is awe-inspiring, with challenging and thrilling hiking terrain. However, just a handful of visitors ever venture into this isolated region. Three-day treks take you in and out of the Zomandao and Sahanambo Valleys via 1,800m passes and exposed crests and ledges. You’ll pass walls of black granite, wind-sculpted spires, and – hopefully – ring tailed lemurs in the forests.
Madagascar walking vacations advice
TIPS FROM OUR FRIENDS IN MADAGASCAR
Tips on where to go
“I love walking anywhere in the highlands! My absolute favourite place for walking is in and around Andringitra National Park – especially around Tsarasoa. I would emphasise that during many of the hiking trips, you won’t be seeing lots of animals. Most lemurs etc can only be found within national parks, which have to be visited specifically. During multi day hikes these are rarely in areas frequented by fauna.”
MADAGASCAR ADVICE FROM TRAVELLERS
TIPS FROM THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN THERE
Photo Credits: [Highlights image: Frontierofficial] [Andringitra National Park: Chris] [Antoetra: Lemurbaby ] [Isalo National Park: NH53] [Perinet Nature Reserve: Neil Strickland] [Ranomafana National Park: Johan Siegers] [Zomandao: belgianchocolate] [Tips on where to go: Frontierofficial] [Kerry Abiss advice: nomis-simon] [Helpdesk: Frank Vassen]