highlights and main attractions of antananarivo

Vibrant, alive and chaotic, Antananarivo, usually termed by its colloquial short hand Tana, is the capital city of Madagascar and its political and economical powerhouse. Located in Antananarivo Province, this commanding city is usually the first stop for visitors to Madagascar, being home to the International Airport. However, to pass through Tana without stopping to explore would be to miss out on understanding the core of Madagascar’s psyche. 

With a population of about 1.4 million, Tana is divided into two distinct regions; Lower Town and Upper Town. Upper Town is shrouded with purple jacaranda trees in the summer, and here you will find arts and crafts markets and intimate jewellers. 

Lower Town is much busier, with more people, shops, restaurants, bars and nightclubs.

where is antananarivo?

culture

Built on a series of hills, peaking at 2,643 metres above sea-level, Tana was once called Analamanga meaning ‘Blue Forest’ and was inhabited by the Vazimba people. This was until the Merina Tribe, headed by King Andrianjaka, overhauled it and placed 1,000 warriors to defend it, hence Antananarivo, ‘Place of 1000 Warriors’. The King occupied a palace on the tallest hill where he could look out over the smaller ones, keeping an eye on his wives. From this, Antananarivo has sprawled down the sides of the hills, becoming a busy but fascinating city. In fact, at first glance it would appear as if the city is literally falling down the hills, its red clay houses interspersed with modern cafes and office blocks. The French have also left their mark with some wonderful cathedrals and beautiful colonial architecture.

Driving from the airport, you will see a fascinating city, dotted with paddy fields where zebu graze, zebu carts are pushed along the road and street sellers peddle almost every product under the sun. We recommend you check out some of the colourful markets, perhaps the Zoma, which is the biggest in Africa.

You can also get your first taste of Madagascar’s unique flora and fauna in the Tsimbazaza Botanical & Zoological Park - you might even see your first lemur here!


Accommodation here varies from luxury hotels to intimate guest houses. We recommend Palissandre Hotel and Spa, an elegant hotel with spectacular views over the city, and Residence Lapasoa, a colonial style villa in a lively area of Tana, just 10 minutes from the city centre.

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