Fianarantsoa, located 415 km from Antananarivo is the gateway to southern Madagascar. Royal capital of Betsileo, this city is distinguished by its history and atmosphere. The landscape and the setting are reminiscent of the capital.
The city of Fianarantsoa holds an important place in the history of Madagascar. At the beginning of the 19th century, the town was just a village at the top of Ivonea hill. Following the conquest of it by the soldiers of Imerina, Queen Ranavalona I decided to build an intermediate city between the capital and the South. The governor of the time had the task of educating the inhabitants of the city and teaching them civilized good manners, like the Malagasy capital. Hence the name of the city of Fianarantsoa, literally meaning "the city where the good is learned".
With the number of religious buildings it houses, the city is perceived as a religious home. There are more than fifty cultural buildings, a Lutheran theology faculty, a Catholic seminary and another Presbyterian. To this is added the village of Soatanana, built in the course of the 19th century by a missionary who brought the apostolic religion. This village is rather unusual: every Sunday there are the Fifohazana ceremonies during which the villagers are dressed in long white tunics. A visit to this area will allow you to attend the ceremonies and get acquainted with the local culture. In addition to the pious aspect of the city, it is also reputed to be the place of formation of intellectuals; a reputation still preserved today. The construction of religious and educational establishments developed mainly during the era of royalty and the colonial period.
The city center is rather large and consists of three levels: "the lower city", "the average city" and "the upper city". To discover the center, it is interesting to start the walk through the "low city". It is made up of very lively neighborhoods. It is also a commercial area where brightly colored shops stand alongside bookstores and educational institutions. The station square is transformed into a market of precious stones: sapphires, emeralds, rubies and amethysts are exposed daily.
When you climb, you will reach the "middle town", a very modern aspect of the center. City hall, banks and administrative buildings line the avenues. This part of the city is also distinguished by the influence of the colonial era. Indeed, the colonial architecture of the buildings around the streets will not fail to fascinate you. By winning "the upper town", you can see the famous cathedral nicknamed "the Vatican of Fianarantsoa", impressive by its Tuscan style. This highest level of the center is the seat of religious buildings of all kinds. The Great Mosque, perched at the top of the climb, is also part of the beautiful scenery.
Discoveries will not be missed during a stay in the region. A visit to the Faniahy Museum is to be programmed to become more familiar with the Betsileo culture. Betsileo traditions, their domestic objects, ... are permanently exposed. Also interesting, a detour in the famous workshop Berma you will discover the manufacture of ceramics in the region. This factory is located on the road to Mitongoa and sportsmen will not be left out, a hike to explore the caves of Mitongoa is to be expected in the ride for more sensations. A walk to the top of Mount Kianjasoa and the side of the Virgin and Child, perched on the heights of the city, will surprise you with the beautiful panorama opening onto the city center and its surroundings.
In addition, Fianarantsoa is famous for its wines: white, pink, gray, red or rosé. A wine route will take you to the heart of the vineyards of Famoriana and Isandra with the possibility of visiting the cellars. In addition to wine, tea is a flagship of the region. A day of discovery can be enriched by a bike trip or a trekking tour to the tea plantations of Sahambavy. This village is less than an hour from Fianarantsoa and the setting is very pleasant, ideal for a weekend where relaxation will be the order of the day.
The region still has surprises for real adventurers. The surroundings of the city will project you in a setting worthy of the Wild West. The 90 km trail leading from Fianarantsoa to Ikalamavony passes through grandiose mountainous landscapes and some captivating villages. A small stop in the village of Fanjakana will make you discover copies of raised stones, dating from the reign of King Andriamanalina. Continuing, you will reach the village of Solila, in the heart of a setting of western beauty. Once in Ikalamavony, the panorama opens on tombs with original architectures and a rather wild landscape.
Like any other city in Madagascar, Fianarantsoa is rich in biodiversity. A visit to Ranomafana Park, 60 km from the city, is an excursion not to be missed. The park is covered by a dense tropical forest and is home to a hot spring. The park offers five more or less sporting circuits to admire the beauty of the landscapes and observe different plant and animal species: the Varibolo, Varijatsy, Sahamalaotra, Vohiparara and Soarano circuits. Some of these circuits are passable both day and night.
Each circuit allows to meet an endemic fauna: lemurs, birds, amphibians, etc. The lemurs Hapalémur aureus and Hapalémur Simus are the flagship species of the park. Alongside this, the lush forests of the park are home to many endemic plants including orchids Arangis madagascariensis that bloom from September to November. The landscapes of the reserve are enhanced by waterfalls, waterfalls, a natural pool and some historical and cultural sites. The course of the site looks pretty sporty but is worth it. The visit to the reserve is an exciting experience and will immerse you in an exceptional setting.