Antananarivo, the city of the miles
Antananarivo, or Tana as they say here, is the capital of Madagascar. Why visit Tana? A question that must be asked apparently because some advise to shorten their stay in the capital to better benefit the provinces. Which, to some extent, is not totally wrong. Yet the Malagasy capital is an integral part of the island and the pride of the locals.
Tana, the city wrongly shunned
From your first steps in the city, you first notice the surrounding hills, eclectic buildings ranging from brick houses to concrete buildings, rice fields and oxen in harmony in the city, the old cars 4L and 2 CV, etc. Then, inevitably, the capital will give you a first slap on the socio-economic reality of the Malagasy people.
If in other destinations capitals are popular, we apprehend Antananarivo. In France, for example, we are in Paris, the city of "love or lights" and we take a picture in front of the Eiffel Tower, otherwise it's as if you have not been in France. Same for the United States, if you travel on the East side, you will not miss the opportunity to visit New York is not it? Yes, it's not the capital, but it's the first image that comes to your mind when you hear "the States". Time Square and Lady Freedom, symbols of this city where everything is possible!
But Tana, she remains shunned. First, because it is said that it is polluted and that there is insecurity. But frankly, no more than Paris and New York if we believe WHO. And pickpockets, there are everywhere in the big cities, even on the Champs Elysée or Time Square. It's just that these "fleeting borrowers" are "better dressed" over there and it's less obvious. And today's appearance is everything. Before you indignant, we do not pretend to say that Analakely is worth the Avenue Champs Elysee or that the Queen's Palace is a monument as imposing as the Louvre or the Empire State Building. It is just said that it is no less important because it symbolizes the identity of Madagascar. You would reply that "But we go to Madagascar for nature, to leave the tumult of the cities! ". And you will still be right. Except that the Malagasy capital, you will surely have to spend there. And we'd just like to prove to you that she really deserves more attention if you want to get out of the luxury of her hotel room.
Tana, literally unavoidable!
Must do is not just a banal word game to sell you Tana. Beyond its tourist attraction, the "Renivohitra" (capital), meaning the mother hill deserves its name. Yes, because everything goes through Tana! It is the center of the administrative, economic and social affairs of the island. During your stay, you will avoid it with difficulty, logistically speaking. Given the lack of adequate infrastructure, the Malagasy air and land network generally passes through the capital. Indeed, if recently the Malagasy sky opened thanks to the direct line connecting Addis-Abeba to Nosy-Be, Tana remains the point of call, arrival and departure of the vast majority of domestic and international flights . In addition, all the road networks connecting the 4 corners of the island cross necessarily the city: in the East by the RN2, in the West and in the North by the RN4 and in the South by the RN7. Even if you go through travel professionals, a night at the capital on arrival and / or departure from the island will be necessary because of long distances and often difficult traffic conditions to secure the timing of the program.
Then, Tana is great anyway. With an urban air of more than 2.5 million inhabitants, it is in the region of Analamanga and is the largest city of the island. Depending on your program, you will end up in one of the following 3 rentals:
Antananarivo, the city of discovery miles
You have certainly already read somewhere that Antananarivo translates as "the city of miles", strongly related to its history. Moreover, unlike most African capitals, Tana was already a major city even before colonization. Also, the remains of this royal and colonial period make it the richest city in the history of Madagascar. As a non-exhaustive example, you can visit the Queen's Palace or Rova of Manjakamiadana, littered on the highest hill in the city, visible for miles and the absolute symbol of Malagasy royalty. The white letters spelling Antananarivo that hang just below the palace will evoke a pale Hollywood copy, but they are more reminiscent of the importance of this hill to the capital. All around, the upper town and the district of Antaninarenina retrace the colonial Malagasy history with its tombs, churches and official buildings. You can visit the city either by car or on foot with specialized guides of the Regional Tourist Office of Analamanga (ORTANA). You can also leave the animation of the city center and turn on the RN3 for an excursion on the hill of Ambohimanga, vestige of the Malagasy history and classified world inheritance of UNESCO
Activities & discovery in Antananarivo
The city center
It is the busiest place in Antananarivo. All or almost all the infrastructures of the capital are centered there: bank, hospitals, administration ... It is represented among others by the avenue of independence of Analakely, the very heart of the capital. Beside, you have Behoririka, the commercial district considered as the Malagasy Chinatown considering the number of Chinese immigrants who settled there. The old neighborhoods of Faravohitra and Andohalo overlook the city, known for their historical and cultural interest. There is also the district of Anosy and its artificial lake lined with Jacaranda where was erected a monument in memory of the fighters of the First World War. The districts of Ambohijatovo, Ambondrona, Antaninarenina and Isoraka are famous for its innumerable restaurants and pubs. The city center is ideal because everything is accessible. Staying there will make it easier for you to travel for the next stages of your stay: excursion on the outskirts or going out to the provinces.
Ivato, the airport district
This is the obligatory passage for all foreigners or locals who come to Antananarivo by air. Domestic flights can not connect one region to another without a stop at the capital. A transit of two hours between two flights is always possible according to the programming of the national airline. However, the latter is often subject to changes in last minute schedules. Thus, you would be wise to prefer a night in Ivato between your landing at the capital and your next correspondence to avoid any unfortunate inconvenience. Considered a residential area, Ivato is almost a city in the city and displays a high-end status. It is the ideal place for those who love peace and quiet. Depending on your schedule and direction, the journey from Ivato to the city center can easily take you 1 to 2 hours because of the traffic, even if it is only 15 km from the center. Moreover, located at the edge of the RN4, Ivato is its surroundings are the ideal relay if you go west and north by road.
Although not part of the outskirts of Tana or the city center proper, the residential area of Ankorondrano is now considered the new business district. With the recent opening of the road linking it to the airport, Ankorondrano and become the ideal alternative to keep the best of both worlds: the accessibility of the city center, the calm of the peripheries and the practicability to leave Tana. A bit more outside the city, you have the Ambatofotsy district among others if your itinerary continues on the RN7 or the Ambohimanga district on the RN3 for its historical attraction and its exit towards Anjozorobe. Finally, all the surroundings of the RN1 can be practical if you go towards Ampefy.
Basically, Tana, you will have it in your skin, whether you like it or not. Since you must spend there, enjoy the max, because this city is probably the largest roundabout discovery of the island with historical, local, cultural, nature, gastronomy, sports, etc.
A walk along Lake Anosy is a nice relaxing time, especially when the jacarandas are in bloom. The site also houses a monument, erected at the center of the lake, dedicated to the fighters of the First World War. The visit of the Zoological and Botanical Park Tsimbazaza also remains a must. Moment of discovery and relaxation guaranteed! An immense variety of Malagasy flora is represented: tree ferns, aloe, bamboo, pachypodiums, orchids, ... The Malagasy fauna is also a fascinating attraction. Indeed, the zoo is home to lemurs, reptiles, birds including Ankoay, fossas, warthogs, etc. A final section is devoted to archeology, paleontology and ethnology. Although a little dilapidated, it remains a tolerable alternative for those who are passing through and who do not have much time or means to discover the rest of the island.
The urbanization and modernization of the capital have developed considerably in recent years, but some neighborhoods have always retained their old-world charm with their traditional buildings and shady streets. Exploring historical remains scattered throughout the city is a must-see. Athletes will also enjoy a hike through the streets and thousands of stairs to reach these sites.
The climb to the Queen's Palace or the Rova is a particularly pleasant excursion. The route includes the discovery of the cathedral of Andohalo, the house of Jean Laborde and the palace of Andafiavaratra. The Rova overlooks the city and is even a symbol. The breathtaking view of Antananarivo and its surroundings is spectacular. The site is home to several constructions with evocative names dating back to the days of royalty: Manjakamiadana or "where it is pleasant to reign", Mahitsielafanjaka or "the one who is full and long reign", Tranovola or "house of money" and Manampisoa or "extra beauty". Nearby, mausoleums and royal tombs bring a very authentic touch to the site.
The Lemur's Park, located on the RN1 is only an hour's drive from the city center. A private site that has been created for the protection and the extension of Madagascar's lemurs. It also allows you to discover the endemic plants of the island, a true oasis for those seeking fresh air.
A possibility is also to visit Croc Farm, a crocodile and reptile farm located 3 km from the airport. Nestled in Alarobia, the Tsarasaotra Park is the only private RAMSAR site in the world. It brings together around its lake some endangered birds of the island: herons, ducks, crabeater ... an interesting stop for bird lovers or birdwatchers.
Sporting activities are not lacking in Tana that you could combine with the discoveries of the city. Among other things, walking through the city center through the maze of alleys and Tana stairs, trekking and hiking organized by operators specializing in forests and villages around the city.
These operators can also arrange bike tours, kayaking or canoeing on the highlands rivers. Equestrian rides, trips on quad or motorbike, tree climbing are all possibilities.
In the city, dance halls, fitness centers and other SPA are not lacking either. Golf enthusiasts can enjoy Malaza Golf Club in Ampitatafika, the large Rova Golf Estate towards the exit of the city on the RN4 or the Galaxy Golf in the center.
The cosmopolitan influence of the Malagasy population is undeniably reflected in your dishes during your stay. The capital is full of all kinds of restaurants: from the most luxurious street restaurants, from the traditional zebu and rice dishes to the world's cuisines: French, Italian, Chinese, Oriental, Caribbean, etc.
A veritable country of fruit and cash crops, local beverages are strongly influenced by them: natural juice, tea and herbal teas, local rums with coffee, vanilla, litchis, etc. flavors.
The chocolate fair held annually in the capital is an opportunity to discover the flavors of internationally renowned Malagasy cocoa. Shops like Pili Pili Dock will make you intoxicating quality spices from Madagascar: all the variations of pepper, wild and endemic, black, pink and white with different aromas of citrus, wood, pink berries, etc. He also sells various essential oils and honey based on baobab, eucalyptus, etc. ideal for your well-being or to offer as a souvenir gift.
Stories & culture
Built on one of the 12 historic hills of Imerina, at an altitude of about 1245 m, Antananarivo dominates the plain of Betsimitatatra, a landscape of paddy fields irrigated by Laniera and Ikopa. The city continues to beautify over the years and presents more and more places of relaxation with landscapes encouraging calm and serenity, even in a very active urban environment.
At the end of the eighteenth century, King Andrianampoinimerina organized the territorial administration of the kingdom. Antananarivo, the capital of the island, played a major role because it was the place of succession to the power of different Malagasy kings. It was also the place of residence of foreigners during the colonial period, and is currently the political and economic capital of Madagascar.
Apart from Antananarivo, six other hills among the twelve sacred also welcomed the royal ancestors. A detour on the side of these sites will not be too much and will further enrich a stay in the region. Like any royal construction in the capital, the name of each site is eloquent: Ilafy or "relatives by marriage", Ambatofotsy or "white stone", Ambatomanga or "blue rock", Ambohidratrimo or "Ratrimo hill" Antsahadinta or "The valley of leeches" and Ambohimanga or "the blue hill". The latter holds a preponderant place in the history of Madagascar because the great king Andrianampoinimerina lived there. It is one of the best preserved sites on the island.
Tana is also a cultural center. The museum of photography will allow you to discover the photographic heritage of yesteryear and the current look that the national and foreign photographers take towards the big island. In addition, various festivals organized at different times of the year will not fail to make you discover the capital in another light.
Madajazzcar showcases national and international jazz musicians, which has become an international reference for music lovers.
The Libertalia Festivalhe promotes current Malagasy music in all its forms and performs in several scenes in the city.
The Short Film Encounter gives an important place to the Madagascan cinema and deals with noble causes: the human rights, the place of the young people in the current society, the sensitization and consciences on the Malagasy realities.
Less known, but not less, the Kolotsaina anaty Elakelatrano Festival, which translates as "Small Alley Festival" brings new life to the slums of the city through drawing, painting, dance, slam, graphic design, recycling, etc. . Local artists perform in cabaret or boxed each weekend.
Madagascar is known for the meticulousness of its crafts. Wood, raffia, ropes, zebu horns, irons and ores, or even recycled cans, you'll find everything in Tana: basket, small cars, jewelry, ornament, sculpture, basketry, weaving, etc. The addresses are numerous.
For the brave, you can visit the art market of Coum or Andravoahangy. Very animated, you will surely be assaulted by the merchants, but you will find cheap items, provided you are an ace of haggling.
There is also the craft market of the dike, halfway between the airport and the city center where you can stroll between the shops specially dedicated to tourists, just like prices elsewhere. The items are however varied and the place is less lively than those of Coum and Andravoahangy.
Then there are specialty shops like the Lisy Art Gallery, which brings together craft cooperatives from all over the island, or the Makis and Baobab companies, big names in Malagasy textiles.
Finally, a little out of the city, a little known address is lost in the middle of rice fields, yet sells their products around the world and has an impressive local impact: the ironwork of Art of Violet and Dieudonné. A very special place worth seeing
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