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!