Itinerary South Madagascar: a round trip in 3 weeks by self-drive!

Mapping out an itinerary for Madagascar can be quite difficult. In this blog we help you on your way with a 3-week itinerary through the south of Madagascar. This travel itinerary through southern Madagascar covers all the highlights in three weeks!Beaches Madagascar east coast

Itinerary South Madagascar

Creating an itinerary for Madagascar can be quite difficult. This large beautiful island has so many beautiful and unique destinations to see. The travel distances between these attractions are often large and sometimes difficult to reach. We took our time for Madagascar and have seen almost everything of this amazing island in 2 months.

To get you started, with all our experiences about backpacking and self-driving through Madagascar, we created two itineraries: one for the south of Madagascar (this blog) and one for the north of Madagascar. In this way, you can plan your own trip and visit the highlights of Madagascar in 2 to 3 weeks. These itineraries are logically built. So travel time between destinations is limited to a minimum.

Travel Guide Madagascar

The ultimate itinerary for a 3 weeks self-drive through South Madagascar!

In this blog, you will find an itinerary for a 3-week road trip through southern Madagascar. This itinerary is based on a 4WD as a means of transport. You can also rent a normal car, but keep in mind that you cannot make the off-road itinerary between Morondava and Tulear. You need a 4×4 for driving on these dirt roads. If you travel by bus, you absolutely need more time for this itinerary.

Itinerary South Madagascar:  a full impression by self-drive in 3 weeks!

Antananarivo (Tana) –Antsirabe – Morondava – Belo sur Mer – Manja – Andavadoaka – Ambatomilo – Tulear – Isalo National Park – Andringitra National Park – Ranomafana National Park – Antananarivo

Madagascar South itinerary route three weeks

In the above route you will make a road trip along a crater lake, visit the famous baobabs (Adansonia digitata), drive off-road along the beautiful coastline, visit and walk in different national parks. From there you go back to the capital Antananarivo.

Add-ons destinations on this South Madagascar itinerary:

If you have more time or travel faster than our suggested itinerary, consider the following destinations to add to your trip: Tsingy de Bemaraha and Ile Sainte-Marie.

  1. Ile Sainte-Marie is highly recommended for a tour through Madagascar! This relaxed island has everything! Stay here for at least 3 nights.
  2. Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park. This park is known for its razor-sharp limestones where you can make nice hikes. To get here from Morondava you need at least 3 extra days. You also have these types of stones in the North of Madagascar in the Ankarana National park. Both are equally beautiful.

Please be aware! The itinerary from Morondava to Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park can be dangerous! If you are planning to drive this itinerary yourself, make sure you are accompanied by at least 3 other 4wd or accompanied by the police! Stay safe.

Day 1: Arrival in Antananarivo/Ivato

Roadtrip Africa Madagascar

You arrived today or yesterday after a long flight. Take a breath, pick up your rental car and do some shopping at the Shoprite or Jumbo. Your road trip starts early tomorrow!

Tip: we preferred to sleep in Ivato. Ivato is the city near the airport of Madagascar, about 5 kilometres from the capital Tana. Traffic in Tana is extremely busy so it will easily take you a few hours to get from the airport to the city centre. Read here about nice hotels in Tana.

Day 2: Antananarivo to Antsirabe | travel distance: 4,5 hours | 171 km

Madagascar Tana locals

Today, a mid-day of travelling is on the program. Start your day on time, so you avoid the traffic jams of Antananarivo. Chances are that you will arrive in the nice town of Antsirabe around noon! You can start exploring this city on foot.

Day 3: Antsirabe|Cycling around and visiting the gorgeous cater lake!

Your first stop is Antsirabe. This is a nice village in the high mountains of Madagascar. Here you can take a tough bike ride to two lakes. One is a 160-meter deep crater lake (Lake Tritriva). The ice-cold water is deep blue and with a guide, you can take a walk around the lake.

Biking Madagascar

Day 4: Antsirabe to Morondava | Travel distance: 8 hours | 490 km

From Antsirabe you drive directly through Morondava. Morondava has one of the top attractions of Madagascar: Avenue des Baobabs. Make sure to be at Avenue des Baobabs by the end of the afternoon, so you can catch a sunset right away!

Day 5: Visit Avenue des Baobabs for a sunrise!

Get up early today so you can admire the sunrise at Avenue des Baobabs! In the morning it is a lot quieter when it comes to tourists! Use the rest of the day to explore Morondava or just relax at the beach or at your hotel swimming pool.

Free travel guide to Avenue des Baobabs: the scenic trees of Madagascar!

Madagascar Avenue des Baobab

Day 6 until 12: the 4wd self-drive itinerary from Monondave to Toliara in 7 days

Now the adventure begins! Ready to discover the real Madagascar with your 4×4? You drive through rivers, salt plains, many local villages and beautiful bays. You will also have to negotiate with local farmers about the toll you have to pay. We found this itinerary one of the highlights of our trip through Madagascar! This itinerary, which you can make independently without a guide and driver, is difficult to describe in just one paragraph. That is why we have created a separate blog, especially for this exciting itinerary!

Read here everything about the self-drive itinerary from Morondava to Toliara by 4wd!

haircut madagascar

Olo Be Lodge Madagascar

Baobabs Madagascar east coast

Day 13: Tulear to Isalo National Park | Travel distance: 4 hours | 245 km

The road from Tulear to Isalo is beautiful! From the fertile soil near the coast, you drive through a desert landscape where only bright yellow flowers seem to grow, with mountains in the background! If you didn’t know better, you’d think you’re on a road trip across the United States! Slowly Isalo National Park looms up for you!

Once there, arrange a guide for the next day. If you still have time, catch the sunset at La Fenetre. This place is named after a rock formation that looks like a window.  Through the window, you can see how the sun slowly sets.

West coast Madagascar Olo Be Lodge

Day 15: Hiking in the beautiful Isalo National Park!

You can hike beautifully through Isalo National Park. There are several walking routes you can take. One of the highlights here was seeing the ring-tailed lemurs, also known as King Julian from the movie Madagascar!

Isalo Madagascar

Isalo Madagascar

Day 15: Isalo National Park to Andringitra National Park| Travel distance: 3,5 hours | 210 km

Today you drive towards the Andringitra Mountains, a region that looks a bit like the Swiss Alps! The next nights you will probably sleep at the cosy Camp Catta campsite!

RN7 Madagascar

Day 16 & 17: Hiking and camping in Andringitra national park!

A visit to the Andringitra mountains is especially for travellers who love hiking. Here you have hike routes in abundance! Here you find hikes that are suitable for the whole family up to hikes where you descend via ropes from a steep mountain ridge!

Hiking in the mountains of the Andringitra National Park!

Andringitra Mountains - Tsaranoro Valley

Day 19: Andringitra Mountains Reserve to Ranomafana National Park | Travel distance: 6 hours | 350 km

After spending three nights in the Swiss Alps of Madagascar, it’s time to drive on to Ranomafana National Park! This park is the most famous park in all of Madagascar and you will notice that in terms of tourism. Along the way, you pass the nice city of Ambalavao, which is definitely worth a short visit.

Maki Ringtail lemur Madagascar

Day 19: Exploring the rainforest of Ranomafana National Park!

Ranomafana is the last national park you will visit and it is known for the rare Golden Bamboo Lemur. You can also encounter many special insects and of course different types of chameleons! Make sure to arrange a guide for the next day upon arrival.

Madagascar North Roadtrip Africa madagascar

Day 20: Ranomafana National Park to Antananarivo | Travel distance: 8 hours | 390 km

Today you have a long travel day ahead of you. You drive back from Ranomafana National park to Antananarivo. Along the way, you will pass the nice town of Antsirabe. This is an ideal stop for a lunch break.

Ranomafana Madagascar

Day 21: Flight back home

Unfortunately, it is time to travel back home. If you have a day left, a visit to the capital of Madagascar is a nice day activity.

Itinerary tips: Backpacking & travelling through southern Madagascar

The south of Madagascar has some well-paved roads. There are also good bus connections to most cities and destinations. This makes southern Madagascar a great destination for backpacking. You can do this on your own and you do not need a travel agency. The easiest and most comfortable way of travelling through Madagascar is by car. This gives you the freedom to explore this beautiful country at your own pace. If you feel confident yourself, you do not need a driver.

Travelling by bus in south Madagascar

Are you a backpacker and travelling on a budget? Know that Madagascar has a bus system (consisting of Taxi Brousse and regular buses) that can take you to many places. Cotisse is a reliable bus company that runs from Antananarivo to all popular destinations. These are excellent buses and the chauffeurs drive safely. You can even go for a VIP class with this company, although economy seats are just fine.

Low-budget transport in Madagascar: Cheap and adventurous Taxi-Brousse

If you want to backpack on a budget through Madagascar, there are the so-called Taxi-Brousse. These mini buses are the Malagasy version of bush taxis that you encounter in mainland Africa. These local vans drive everywhere and are packed with people, goods, animals and basically anything that can be transported. The big advantage is that travelling with Taxi-Brouse is very cheap. The disadvantage: the chauffeurs often drive like chickens without a head. Moreover, these buses often face mechanical problems. Therefore, travelling by Taxi-Brousse takes more time. Besides, there is no logical transfer system.

Travelling by plane through Madagascar

You can always fly to the major destinations of Madagascar. This is often the fastest and most expensive way to travel. Air Madagascar, for example, offers domestic flights to most cities. Besides, you can easily fly to Nosy Be and Ile Sainte-Marie. It is also possible to visit these lovely islands by boat.

travel guide Madagascar

Map of Madagascar: main attractions and highlights

To help you plan your itinerary, we created a map showing almost all the highlights of this 4th largest island in the world. Do you miss a certain destination? Please let us know, and we add this to our travel blog.

Highlights of Madagascar Travel guide Madagascar

South Madagascar vs North Madagascar

A frequently asked question is which itinerary to choose. Especially if you only have 2 to 3 weeks to travel around, you will have to make a choice. From our own travel experience through Madagascar we can tell the following:

Choose an itinerary through the North of Madagascar if:

The North of Madagascar, a region where you have beautiful nature, the most beautiful beaches and the best thing: almost no tourists! This area is often overlooked by travellers, while it is so diverse. You can also easily combine an itinerary through North Madagascar with a visit to the lovely island of Nosy Be!

Roadtrip Africa Madagascar

Go for an itinerary through the South of Madagascar if:

Most people choose an itinerary through the south. South Madagascar has the famous Baobab trees and the better-known nature parks such as Isalo and Ranomafana national park. The roads are often in better condition. You can travel around with a regular car. However, if you want to drive from Morondava to Tulear along the coastal route, you will also need a 4wd car. This itinerary is an absolute must! In both the north and south of Madagascar you can see the Tsingy’s.

Avenue de baobab

Combine your Madagascar itinerary with our favourite island of Ile Sainte-Marie!

We recommend everyone who goes to Madagascar to visit Ile Sainte-Marie! No matter which itinerary you choose, it is easy to add Ile Sainte-Marie to your Madagascar tour. From the capital Antananarivo you can easily fly to this island. You can also go to this paradise by boat. Read more about this in the travel guide about Ile Sainte-Marie!

Whales ile sainte Marie

Best time for visiting North Madagascar

The best time to visit Madagascar is during the ‘dry’ months from April to September. The rainy season starts in mid-December and lasts until March. Some roads may be closed during this time. Keep in mind that due to climate change the weather is sometimes difficult to predict.

How many days do you need for Madagascar?

Based on our experience, we would say you need at least 2 full weeks. Three to four weeks would be better since you can take your time and stay longer on places you really like. And a big plus, if you stay longer than 2-weeks you can visit Ile Sainte-Marie too!

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  1. by akilitravel on 17 December 2020  17:24 Reply

    Nice Article! I’ve really been enjoying your posts, Keep it up.

  2. by Lizzie on 2 September 2022  12:34 Reply

    Hi Charlotte! I'm absolutely loving your posts and have used them for many of my trips! We're currently looking into Madagascar and I was wondering if you rented the same 4x4 for the whole 2 months you were there or whether you had a different car for the southern part of your journey? We read about roadtripafrica before and would love to take their 4x4 and campgear for a few weeks but for the whole 2 months it just seems so expensive!

    • by Charlotte van de Sande on 4 September 2022  16:31 Reply

      Hi Lizzie,
      Thanks for the kind words!! Madagascar is such an amazing country to visit!!
      We rented a roadtrip africa car first for three weeks, then had 3 weeks of traveling by public transportation and then had 3 more weeks of a rental car via the company Ramartour. All great experiences!
      Kind regards,

  3. by lol on 4 October 2022  06:53 Reply

    it always cracks me up when a digital nomad who travels for a living tells people that they need 3-4 weeks for any trip as if most people don't have enough trouble getting a single week off XD

    • by Charlotte van de Sande on 4 October 2022  10:53 Reply

      I really think it depends where you live. Here in the Netherlands, most people have a minimum of 5 weeks of a year. Other people have even more, up to 8 weeks. So then is 3-4 weeks not a long period. I know in for instance the USA, this is different, but it is a bit ignorant to think the whole world is like this :). Also, we don’t encourage people rushing through a country, so we want to give a fair and proper indication of amount you need to really see a good part of the country. Lastly, we are not digital nomads, both have a regular job aside traveling, but we were lucky enough to be able to take multiple times a long period of off work to see much of the world. We are very grateful for that and realize this is not the norm and not something which is possible for many people.

  4. by asdd on 5 October 2022  17:43 Reply

    Even having 5-6 weeks off per year, many people would prefer to take more than one vacation per year rather than shoot their shot all at once

    • by Charlotte van de Sande on 19 October 2022  09:06 Reply

      Yes I agree :-) that's why this guide is for a 3 week self-drive. Not a 5-6 weeks self-drive.

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