While you can slice and dice several of these recommended itineraries, the key to visiting Madagascar on a shorter amount of time is travel time itself. If traveling by taxi brousse, the local bus transport, expect every travel day to be just that, a travel day. This can take away from valuable time seeing the country itself. With limited time, it is best to hire a personal car and driver to see more of the country, as the roads are very poor and can take long hours getting just a few hundred kilometers away. Going on a pre-arranged tour can ease some of the travel anxiety, but it comes with a cost. Local transport is incredibly cheap, so this is a great way to travel for backpackers who are planning to spend some time in Madagascar.
Two weeks in Madagascar is a short amount of time. For a trip only to Nosy Be, one week will be enough. But to get out and see some of the spectacular sights, in two weeks, at least one flight is likely in order. Between destinations, hire a private 4×4 to rush through the top things to see in Madagascar. For those on a budget but here for a short stay, it is very easy to find backpackers who are willing to share a driver with you. This will help cut down on costs for transportation. It will still cost more than a taxi brousse, but will cut significant travel time. Domestic flights with Air Madagascar can set you back $300 USD one-way. While it is short, two weeks is enough time to hit our three favorite spots in Madagascar: Tsingy de Bemaraha, Avenue of Boababs, and Ile Aux Nattes, our favorite beach.
Best 2-Week Itinerary Option
East/West Option: Fly to Antanarivo and go West to Morondava. Visit the Avenue of Baobabs and Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park. Head back East to the other coast passing through Tana on your way to Saint Marie and Ile Nattes. Finish your trip with a day in Andasibe visiting the rainforest before heading home. This is a good travel itinerary that hits the two best sights, our favorite beach, and a very accessible rainforest with lots of wildlife and lemurs.
North Option: Fly to Diego Suarez from Tana. Spend 5 days in Diego Suarez and Ramena, then head to Nosy Be for a week stay. Visit Tsingy Rouge, Amber Mountain, Emerald Bay, and some of the islands surrounding Nosy Be.
South Option: Fly to Tana and head south in your private 4×4 hire. Have stops at Antsirabe, Anja Park in Ambalavao, and Isalo National Park. Continue down to Toliara and spend a couple of days at the beach of Anakao or Ifante, then fly back to Tana. The other option is from Isalo, go back to Tana and then to Andasibe for a couple of days at the Rainforest before heading home. A private driver from Tana to Toliara (or vice-versa) costs around 150K Ariary (~$50 USD).
Three or four weeks is a good amount of time to stay in Madagascar. You can mix a combination of private car (4×4) and taxi brousse to lower costs for the trip and can see a lot of the country. Rather than pushing to add a whole new region to your itinerary, it is better to slow your pace and add some extra days to relax at the beach (hello Ile Nattes!).
Best 3-4 Week Itinerary Option
East/West Option: Fly into Antanarivo and go West to Morondava. Visit the Avenue of Baobabs and Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park. Go back to Antsirabe and head south to Ambalavao. Visit Anja Park before going on a 3-day hike in the Andringitra Mountains. After your hike, head back up to Tana on your way to Saint Marie and Ile Nattes. Finish your trip with a day in Andasibe visiting the rainforest before heading home. This is very similar to the two-week itinerary, plus an awesome hike.
West/North Option: From Antananarivo go west to Morondava. Visit the Avenue of Baobabs and Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park. Go back to Antsirabe and head north. Make a quick stop in Andasibe to visit the Rainforest, then head to Diego Suarez and Ramena for a week.
West/South Option: Probably the most common route for tourists, starting from Tana and go west to Morondava. Visit the Avenue of Baobabs and Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park. Go back to Antsirabe and head south to Ambalavao. Visit Anja Park before going on a 3-day hike in the Andringitra Mountains. Continue south to Ranohiro to visit Isalo National Park for 1 or 2 days. Continue on to Toliara, to stay at the beach town of Anakao or Ifante. Hire a private car back to Tana.
Eight weeks is a long time in one country, but to see most places in Madagascar, this is actually the perfect amount of time. With plenty of time, you can check out all the popular sights while cutting down costs by travelling almost entirely by taxi brousse. Because travel takes forever and is frustrating at times, it is good to take a few small breaks during this itinerary. Our favorite spots to just relax for a few days to unwind were in the valley of Tsaronuru (Andringitra Mountains), Anakao, Ile Nattes, and Diego Suarez.
Best 8-Week Itinerary Option
Wild West Tsiribihina River Tour by Pirogue which includes a two days at Tsingy de Bemaraha and a stop at the Avenue of the Baobabs. (9 days)
Take a train ride from Fianarantsoa to Manakara – If it lasts 24 hours instead of 8 hours like it did for us, this might be miserable, but it will always be remembered! (3 days)
Visit Anja Park near Ambalavao (1 day)
Hike for 3 days in the Andringitra National Park to summit Pic Boby (5 days)
Go to Isalo National Park for 1 or 2 days (2 days)
Head to the town of Toliare for a day then move on and relax at a beach town, either Anakao or Ifante (7 days)
Head to the east coast for an excellent stop at Ile Saint Marie and Ile Nattes. Make a 2-day stop to visit Parc Mitsinjo in the Andasibe Rainforest (7 days)
Head north to Diego Suarez and Ramena to visit Tsingy Rouge, Amber Mountain, and Emerald Bay (7 Days)
The remaining days not accounted for is travel time by taxi brousse…yes it actually will account for that much time! (10-14 Days)
Best of Madagascar:
Avenue of the Baobabs, Andasibe Rainforest, Ile Aux Nattes, Andringitra Mountains, and Tsingy Rouge.
EDITOR’S CHOICE: BEST LOCATIONS
Rainforest: Parc Mitsinjo in the Andasibe Rainforest
Beach: Ile Aux Nattes
Cultural Experience: Tsiribihina River Tour
Landscape: Andringitra Mountains
Food: Diego Suarez
Check out the Full Guide on Madagascar
Visited from June and July 2016.