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Cycling Madagascar: From the Highlands to the South Coast

Cycle from the Malagasy highlands to the south coast of Madagascar and discover the fourth biggest island in the world. Meet local people, learn about their culture and customs, explore fauna and flora and, of course, enjoy your passion, cycling! There is no better way to experience Madagascar's diverse landscapes than cycling its bike-friendly roads as well as off-road trails. Hike in stunning landscapes of the major national parks and marvel at their endemic flora and fauna. Above all enjoy the hospitality of the Malagasy people and gain insight into their history and culture.

 

Highlights of the route: Antananarivo, Ambohimanga, Antsirabe, Lake Andraikiba, Lake Tritriva, Ambositra,  Ranomafana National Park, Fianarantsoa, Ambalavao, Andringitra National Park, Ankaramena, Ihosy, Ranohira, Isalo National Park, Toliara, Ifaty

 

15 nights / 16 days

Land Cost Per Person based on 2 pax

From USD

2,850.-

 

ITINERARY

 

Day 1: Antananarivo
Arrive in Antananarivo, be met and greeted by your tour manager, then transfer to your hotel. The rest of the day is at your own leisure.
By the way, Antananarivo or Tana takes its name from an episode in Malagasy history, but more on all that later.

Day 2: Antananarivo city tour and a ride to Ambohimanga, the Royal Hill
Tour around the city on foot and in comfort of your tour vehicle. Among other sites, visit he Rova of Antananarivo, the royal palace complex. Afterwards continue to the commune of Ilafy.

In the afternoon cycle to Ambohimanga, the Royal Hill, located approximately 24 km northeast of Antananarivo. The hill is considered holy, due to the medieval-times pre-colonial existence of the spiritual capital of the Merina Kingdom at this location, named UNESCO world heritage site in 2001.

 

Cycling distance: 19 km

Day 3: Antananarivo -Antsirabe
Transfer by car along the National Highway to the village of Antanifotsy . On the way visit an
aluminium pot making factory in Ambatolampy. From Antanifotsy cycle to Antsirabe. First bike along an unpaved country road in the highlands, past rice fields and fruit orchards; rest of the distance to Antsirabe we follow the
NH7.  Located at 4500 ft ASL, Antsirabe was during French rule a favourite cooler air destination to escape the heat of lower elevations.

 

Cycling distance: 53 km

Day 4: Antsirabe –Lake Andraikiba-Lake Tritriva- Betafo-Antsirabe
Cycle to the scenic Lake Andraikiba, only 7 km from Antsirabe. From here we continue cycling to another lake, a more spectacular one, the Lake Tritriva, a volcanic lake in an extinct crater. 

After the ride to the two lakes, we will return to Antsirabe by car and commence the city tour during which you'll also have a chance to admire the craft of the local artisans.

 

Cycling distance: 18 km

Day 5: Antsirabe-Ambositra
After breakfast we ride further south on a hilly road to Ambositra, the handicraft capital of Madagascar. The area is best-known for its wood work, namely sculpture, inlays and engravings. The region is populated by the Zafimaniry, the tribe living in the remote craggy valleys of once dense, eastern forests whose fine and delicate woodwork has achieved worldwide acclaim.

Overnight in Ambositra.

 

Cycling distance: 93 km

Day 6: Drive Ambositra to Camp Robin and bike to Ranomafana
A transfer by our vehicle takes us to a small market village of Camp Robin, located between the small towns of Ambatofinandrahana and Ambohimahasoa. From Camp Robin we bike in a very beautiful valley below towering granite boulders to Ambohimahasoa. We ride through small hamlets and eucalyptus forest until we reach the rain forest of Ranomafana National Park. The last 12 km kilometers are downhill to our lodge for the night.
Beyond Ambohimahasoa you'll notice a change from the highland dry air to a tropical humid climate.

Overnight in Ranomafana.

 

Cycling distance: 84 km

Day 7: A day hiking in the Ranomafana National Park
Part of the Ranomafana National Park, east of Fianarantsoa, is the Rainforest of the Atsinanana, a World Natural Heritage site. It contains some rare and endangered species of Lemurs, namely the Varibolomena, a diurnal lemur, and the Grand Hapalemur aka Greater Bamboo Lemur. The park is hilly and the dense forest contains several small waterfalls that fall in stages down a steep rocky slope. Ranomafana offers a dip in sulphuric thermal pool, a hot spring believed to have a therapeutic effect.

 

Cycling distance: none, a day of rest from cycling; today we hike in the NP instead

Day 8: Ranomafana: Bike tour to Sahambavy
First cycle mostly uphill to Andovaka, where we'll get off the tarmac and continue off
road through a scenic landscape dotted with small hamlets; en route see women weaving baskets and locals selling piles of sand dredged out (often by hand) from the nearby river. The ride brings us to our hotel located in a picturesque tea growing area.

 

Cycling distance: 70 km

Day 9: Drive Sahambavy to Fianarantsoa, then bike to Ambalavao
After breakfast we leave our hotel. Possibly we visit the Sahambavy Tea Estate, the only tea
Plantation in Madagascar. After we cycle through the city of Fianarantsoa, located at 1,200 m ASL, and approximately 410 km south of Antananarivo.  From Fianarantsoa  we continue cycling southward to Ambalavao. The landscape is striking, with great views of vineyards, terraced rice paddies and rocky outcrops. Ambalavao is the de facto Gateway to South of Madagascar. The area is populated by the Betsileo and Bara ethnic groups and know for the production of the  “Antaimoro paper,” a handmade paper made from the Havoha bush. Decorated with fresh flowers and leaves and sun-dried, the sheets of paper are crafted into notebooks as well as lampshades, in style similar to the rice paper designs by the Nepalese.

Overnight stay in Ambalavao, the wine region of Madagascar.

 

Cycling distance: 77 km


Days 10: Cycle
Ambalavao to Andringitra National Park

Andringitra National Park is 47 km south of Ambalavao along the main NH 7, in the Region of Haute Matsiatra. The park shelters Pic Boby, at 2658 m one of the highest accessible summits of Madagascar (the highest mountain in Madagascar is Maromokotro Peak, in the Tsaratanana mountain range in the north of the island. , at 2,876 metres (9,436 ft). Andringitra National Park is well known for its biodiversity of purely Madagascar-endemic species of plants, lemurs, reptiles and birds, including the rare bird, the Lophotibus Cristata, and we are coming here to hike.

 

Cycling distance: 47 km

Day 11: Hike in Andringitra National Park
Hiking in the enchanting landscape of the Andringitra National Park will become one of the highlights of your tour of Madagascar. Taking a day of from cycling, we will hike a circuit called Asaramanitra, a loop hike of 6 km which is typically completed in 4 hours. The Asaramanitra circuit takes you to the foot of the sacred 300 meter-high waterfall of Riandahy. Beneath the plunging waters of the fall, under mist and brilliant water pearls, you will discover its other half,  the Riambavy. Nearby you will find the grotto Ijajofo, the former shelter of dahalo, the thief of zebu, Madagascar’s humped cattle.

Day 12: Bake Andringitra via Ankaramena, Ihosy to Ranohira
As we continue to descent the landscape becomes more arid, gray and red in color. The color is characteristic of the Laterite soil, a soil types rich in iron and aluminium, typically formed in hot and wet tropical areas. The vibrant rusty-red color of the iron oxides dominates the landscape which becomes a vast steppes conducive to the breeding of Zebu, the staple cattle breed of the south  and who has a her is well off and does not is poor. There are many tombs and stele, upright standing stones, dotting the landscape. Houses get increasingly smaller compared to the highlands, dry yellow grass covers the ground, there are frequent bush fires, and the thorny baobabs appear. The asphalt ribbon of the road stops meandering and becomes outright straight. The air becomes very dry and hot. We ride on good tarmac to Ankaramena and beyond to Ihosy, an apparent transition point between the green highlands of central Madagascar and the dry south. In the afternoon we cross the huge and barren Horombe Plateau towards Ranohira where we turn off the main road for an overnight halt at a charming lodge situated right at the foothills of the Isalo National Park.

 

Cycling distance: it is well over 300 km from Andringitra to Ranohira, too far to cycle it all, not to mention that after Ankaramena and in particular after Ihosy the climate becomes increasingly hotter and more difficult to cycle in. On account of the chellenging temperatures, you can cycle as much or as little as you wish; when you feel you had enough, dismount and ride in the support vehicle. For those in great shape the cycling distance of the day can be as much as 187 km.

Day 13: Ranohira - Isalo National Park
Located in the region of Ihorombe, the massif of Isalo is a plateau of continental sandstone dated to the Jurassic geological period. We'll discover some of Isalo National Park's bizarre rock formations and interesting flora on our bicycles. Strongly eroded and cut by deep canyons, the park is an extraordinary ecosystem. It is rich in endemic birds and plants that grow on the exposed sandstone. Bringing your swimwear is a must as you will have a chance to swim in a  natural swimming hole.

Cycling distance: 21 km

Days 14-15: Ranohira - Toliara - Ifaty
Today, on account of the brutal heat, we cycle only until lunch time, then for the rest of the day by car. In the afternoon we reach Toliara, the capital southwestern region of Madagascar. The South offers striking images of light and shadows, of people and their villages, of landscape, of plants, of spiny forest , of pale colors and dry smell. The coast of sand dunes, bays and coral reefs, is inhabited by the Vezo fishermen, who sail the open sea on colorful pirogues.

Stay 2 nights in Ifaty, relax, swim, and enjoy the beach.

 

Cycling distance: up to 108 km, you decide how much you wish to cycle

Day 16: Ifaty – Toliara Airport- Antananarivo
Transfer to Toliara Airport and board a return flight to Antananarivo.
Our agent will await you at the airport to take you to a hotel for the day use or until your time to transfer back to the airport for your flight to your next destination. Depending on the arrival time of the flight from Tulear and your departure time, it may be possible you visit the crafts village, the big traditional market of Antananarivo. Time permitting we'll host you to a farewell dinner, then assist you to the airport.

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