The Central region of Madagascar comprises the Antananarivo Province which encompasses several regions, including: Analamanga, Bongolava, Itasy and Vakinankaratra. Notable cities and towns in the Analamanga region include the capital and largest city in Madagascar, Antananarivo as well as Ambohidratrimo, Anjozorobe, Andramasina, Ankazobe and Manjakandriana. The towns of Fenoarivobe and Tsiroanomandidy are found in the Bongolava region; Arivonimamo, Miarinarivo and Soavinandriana in the Itasy Region.
Ambatolampy, Antanifotsy, Betafo, Faratsiho, and the third largest city in Madagascar Antsirabe is found in the Vakinankaratra region. The climate in the central highlands is noticeably drier since the rain clouds discharge much of their moisture to the east of the highest elevations on the island, and the altitude renders the temperatures lower also. However thunderstorms are common during the rainy season in the central highlands, and lightning can be a serious hazard. During the dry season, the weather is generally pleasant and sunny, albeit relatively chilly in the mornings. During this season, the blue skies of the central highlands are considered by many to be among the clearest and most beautiful in the world.
Central Madagascar offers some of the country's biggest cities and best attractions! This region offers cultural sites, bustling markets, great hotels, stunning lakes and diverse national parks as some of its main attractions. There are a number of places of interest for visitors aside from the capital Antananarivo, including the third largest city of Antsirabe. Antsirabé was established as a spa-town during colonial times and is currently the agricultural and industrial centre of Madagascar. Spending some time in Antananarivo and the region of Central Madagascar will let you experience typical Malagasy culture.
Anjozorobe is a large town in the Analamanga region in the central highlands of Madagascar, approximately 90 kilometres north-east of Antananarivo. The Anjozorobe Forest Corridor is located here and is one of the last high plateau forests in Madagascar. Another high plateau forest is located in the protected area of Ambohitantely.
Ambohidratrimo is a town in the Analamanga region in the central highlands of Madagascar, situated on what has historically been considered one of the Twelve sacred hills of Imerina.
Antsirabe is the third largest city in Madagascar, located in the Vakinankaratra region in the highlands of Madagascar. In 1872, a Norwegian missionary discovered its cool climate, serene environs and therapeutic thermal springs and set up a retreat here. Very soon the French, who were regular visitors to the capital, found Antsirabe to be the ideal getaway from the din and bustle of Antananarivo. Antsirabe's popularity grows still today, with more and more visitors discovering its beauty every year.
Modern Antsirabe is cluttered and chaotic, with people of very modest economic means competing with each other to earn their daily bread from the tourists. Still, it retains a certain old world charm and a distinctive character. As soon as you step off the taxi brousse at Antsirabe, you will be besieged by the pousse-pousse drivers. Pousse-pousses are brightly coloured rickshaws pulled by very persistent drivers who need to pay off their daily rentals and feed their families. They are the best mode of transport in Antsirabe, with their drivers being among the most well informed and resourceful people to take you around the town and the neighbouring tourist spots. The competition between the drivers is stiff, so you might get yourself a very good bargain. Look for a younger driver if time is a constraint for they are quicker, otherwise take an older driver whose experience you can benefit from. Using the local knowledge of the pousse-pousse drivers to explore the town is a great way to take yourself on a self-guided Antsirabe tour.
There are some nice excursion spots and exciting things to see & do in Antsirabe. Palm fringed boulevards, scenic excursion spots, exotic shopping - you can find them all in Antsirabe. Antsirabe has a lot to offer in terms of local handicrafts. Do explore its small streets and discover the numerous small shops in Antsirabe dealing in Malagasy handicrafts and artefacts. The artefacts themselves are unique and exhibit the skill of the craftsmen and their eye for minute detail. The shopkeepers are aggressive in their marketing strategies! You are expected to haggle and since there are many sellers, you can afford to drive a hard bargain. The best way to discover these Antsirabe shops is via pousse-pousse. Antsirabe also offers semi-precious and precious stones which make interesting mementoes and souvenirs. Ask the driver to take you to the street where these sellers are concentrated. Choose your stones and watch the craftsmen cutting and polishing them to suit your specifications.
Experiencing the thermal springs in Antsirabe is a must. Visit Lac Ranomafana and the hot thermal springs nearby. Lac actually means ‘lake' and Ranomafana means ‘hot water'. Small private cubicles in a complex near the springs enable you to have a bath with the spring waters with a massage thrown in at rock bottom prices! Lac Tritiva and Lac Andraikiba are also worth visiting. Lac Tritiva is 20 kilometres away while Lac Andraikiba is only 7 kilometres away. You can hire a mountain bike and bike your way to these lakes. But do remember, the rides could be strenuous and difficult as the roads are uneven and involve steep descents which could be treacherous. The ride is likely to be time consuming and tiring. You will want to start out early as it only gets hotter as the day wears on, and there are only a few booths on the way which also serve only unrefrigerated refreshments.
Lake Tritriva is the smaller but busier of the two as it is more scenic. Lake Andraikiba is larger with numerous small alcoves for resting either after a swim or a bike ride. You have to pay a small fee at the road that leads to the lakes. Antsirabe has adequate tourist infrastructure with many hotels and restaurants available to ensure your get the most out of your holiday.
Betafo is a small town in the Vakinankaratra Region, in the central highlands of Madagascar, situated along the RN34 national road, 191 kilometres from Antananarivo. Visitors can soak up the flavour of a typical Merina village here and view the irrigated rice paddies that are typical throughout the Malagasy highlands and were nominated to the Tentative List of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Madagascar in 1997.
Ambohimanga is found in the central highlands of Madagascar, approximately 24 kilometres northeast of Antananarivo. Ambohimanga is considered to be the birthplace of Madagascar, as it was from here that the first monarchs of Madagascar originated. Ambohimanga is a city with many names, including 'the holy city', 'the forbidden city' and 'the blue city'. Ambohimanga is surrounded by forests, and its location, combined with the strength of the citadel, meant that it was a powerful Merina (the main Malagasy ethnic group) stronghold. There are a number of ceremonial structures built in the Ambohimanga World Heritage Site that can still be seen to this day. The main attraction is the main gate, an enormous stone disc that required 40 men to roll it into position. Ambomihanga was a destination of rest and relaxation for the kings and queens, and today it is a popular scenic picnic area.