Antsiranana (Diego Suarez)
Once coveted by French and British military powers for its strategic importance, the northern port town of Antsiranana has grown into an eclectic Madagascar holiday destination with a diverse mix of architecture and cultural influences that include Creole, Indian, Colonial, and Arab.
In the middle of the harbor, a small island (nicknamed ‘the sugarcube’) rises out of the water, and the region is ringed by a lush hillscape that’s as dramatic to look at as it is to explore.
There’s a wide variety of accommodation available, from budget backpackers to upmarket beach lodges. With its secluded beaches, bustling nightlife, and extensive adventure activities such as surfing, kitesurfing, and trail running, Antsiranana offers something for everyone.
Hike French Mountain (Montagne des Francias)
For some of the best views of the turquoise bay and colourful town, it’s worth taking the four-hour hike up to the top of French Mountain on your Madagascar holiday.
The trail is well-maintained and set inside a protected area home to lemurs and baobabs. On clear days you can see the island of Nosy Lonjo from the summit.
Go Surfing or Kitesurfing
There are several fantastic bays around the east coast of Antsiranana, and the conditions in Madagascar’s north are perfect for surfing and kitesurfing.
Sakalava Bay and Andovokonko Bay are two notable examples that have increased in popularity over the past few years. New lodges and surfer-friendly facilities have started to garner attention from the international surfing community.
Visit Amber Mountain National Park (Montagne D’Ambre)
This park is home to some of the most pristine montane rainforests in the world. When dry, its beautiful peaks (massifs) can be reached by road, and in general, it’s one of Madagascar’s most accessible parks.
It’s a great place to get close to the enormous ferns, ancient cycads, chameleons, and lemurs that are endemic to the island.
Spend the Night in Ankarana National Park
This unusual park is also home to more than 100km (62mi) of underground caves that wind their way beneath the limestone tsingy (rock pinnacles shaped by the wind).
Many have their own small ecosystems, and some feature underground lakes containing cave-dwelling crocodiles.
The best way to experience this park is to book a few nights at one of the upmarket lodges on its outskirts, as most include transfers via 4×4 from Antsiranana.
- Antsiranana is well connected by air, with weekly flights from Nosy Be and daily flights from Antananarivo. There are also a few direct flights from a handful of international destinations.
- While the weather here is similar to Madagascar’s eastern zone, the region has its own microclimate, and conditions tend to change quickly.
- Taxis are a good way to get around town, but get an estimate of the price before you set out, as unscrupulous drivers sometimes overcharge.