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Antananarivo is the capital of Madagascar, located in Antananarivo Province, and is most commonly known by its colloquial short-hand form Tana.

It is situated in the centre of the island length-wise, and 90 miles away from the eastern coast. The city occupies a commanding position, being built on a series of hills. In years gone by the king used to occupy his palace on the tallest hill and from there he would look down over the smaller hills where all his wives lived. The city grew from there and modern day Tana now sprawls across the hills.

History of Antananarivo

Antananarivo was founded about 1625 by King Andrianjaka and takes its name (the City of the Thousand) from the number of soldiers Andrianjaka assigned to guarding it. Until 1869 all buildings within the city proper were of wood or rushes, but even then it possessed several timber palaces of considerable size. The city was captured by the French in 1895 and incorporated into their Madagascar protectorate. Since the French conquest, good roads have been constructed throughout the city, broad flights of steps connect places too steep for the formation of carriage roads, and the central space, called Andohalo, has walks and terraces, flower-beds and trees.

First impressions

Market in Antananarivo, Madagascar
Looking down from the plane window as you approach you can see clusters of red clay houses and steepled churches on hilltops and a mosaic of fields. Dotted in the empty countryside are the white concrete Merina tombs from where the dead will be exhumed in the famadihana ceremony. Driving into town from the airport is fascinating. Whilst there is no doubt that you are in a working African city it is one of the more attractive ones. Taxi-brousses zip along the roads that are also home to zebu-carts, people pushing home-made wheelbarrows, street traders selling everything from bananas to brooms and more.

The city is interspersed with paddy fields where zebu graze and cattle egrets mix with ducks and chickens. There are old colonial houses, cobbled streets, modern office blocks and grand French state houses. The city is very vibrant, very alive and has totally chaotic traffic, yet somehow it manages to look serene in the light of the sunset.

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Audley Travel specialist Chris

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Suggested itineraries featuring Antananarivo

Our itineraries will give you suggestions for what is possible when you travel in Antananarivo, and they showcase routes we know work particularly well. Treat them as inspiration, because your trip will be created uniquely by one of our specialists.

Map of Antananarivo

Places & hotels on the map

    Places near Antananarivo

    Photos of Antananarivo

    Accommodation choices for Antananarivo

    We’ve selected a range of accommodation options for when you visit Antananarivo. Our choices usually come recommended for their character, facilities and service or location. Our specialists always aim to suggest properties that match your preferences.

    • Relais des Plateaux,Antananarivo

      Relais des Plateaux

      Medium

      A convenient hotel for passengers arriving late or departing early from Antananarivo airport and needing a comfortable stay for the night.

    • The garden at Pavillon de l'Emyrne

      Pavillon de l'Emyrne

      Medium

      This hotel is one of the most attractive and elegant in Antananarivo and its location is ideal for exploring the Isoraka area.

    • Pool at The Royal Palissandre, Antananarivo

      The Royal Palissandre

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      We have always enjoyed staying at Le Palissandre as it is one of the friendliest hotels in Tana - the staff cannot do enough to help you. It makes an excellent base for an overnight stop and the stunning spa is well worth a visit.

    Ideas for experiencing Antananarivo

    Our specialists seek out authentic ways to get to know the places that could feature in your trip. These activities reflect some of the experiences they've most enjoyed while visiting Antananarivo, and which use the best local guides.

    • Antananarivo, Madagascar

      Antananarivo City Tour

      Antananarivo

      A guide will take you on a full days tour of Antananarivo and the surrounds. The exact route of the tour and how long it takes varies depending on what you would like to see.