The Highlands of Madagascar
The highlands (Hautes Terres)
stretch from North to South along more than 1.000 km of the central
part of the
island. The altitude varies from 800 to 2.700 m at the highest peaks,
main area lies slightly over the 1.000 m above sea level. The landscape
up of a plateau splattered with a succession of large rounded boulders,
and several higher mountains, valleys and rivers, the biggest lakes of Madagascar,
shimmering rice fields and hollow-like depressions. This hilly and
terrain, together with the stable climatic conditions, makes this area
region for rice cultivation. Rice is a basic nutrient in the Malagasy
gastronomy and every single dish is likely to include it.
|Unfortunately, as the Highlands
became the primary irrigated rice
growing region for both subsistence and export under the French
government, most fertile areas were devoted to export crop production,
farmers were virtually forced to clear forested slopes for subsistence,
intensified heavy deforestation. Now, the highlands are often seen as a
frightening example for the consequences of massive deforestation.
Rice is also the crop that dominates daily life of the
villages in the countryside, which still preserve a way of life like in
ancient times. There is a season for every activity: the rice harvest,
the rice planting, natural silk weaving and smoking ovens for clay-
© Madagascar Travel Guide
Villagers usually build
dwellings with a mixture of clay and chopped straw. Those, who
afford it, make them with earth-red brick. Clay-brick ovens smoke
almost uninterruptedly during the season from May to September.
The central highlands are
example of Malagasy's religious believes. Probably the most known
ritual of this Merina region is the "Famadihana" or "Turning of the
Bones". According to the Malagasy’s worship traditions of the
ancestors, living must honour their dead relatives in this ceremony,
where deceased are exhumed, washed and wrapped in new funeral shrouds,
all accompanied by a long procession where family members play music,
sing and even dance with the corpse. The celebration can last up to two
days and ends when the ancestor is again deposited in his tomb together
with many gifts and offers of the family.
you are in Tana or its surroundings on a Sunday afternoon, do not miss
the "Hira Gasy": an open-air music-dance-storytelling performance. Hira
Gasy is an expression of musical theater and folk music introduced by
King Andrianampoinimerina in the late 18th century to encourage
peasants in their works and convey them to follow the royal guidelines.
At some point Hira Gasy bands entered a kind of rivality and their
performances gained in originality and quality. Now, Hira Gasy bands
still perform in some streets of the urban Tana telling the audience
about the do's and don'ts in life.
The altitude of the highlands influences the
temperature and the rainfalls. In general, temperatures are not so hot
in the coastal regions and they can vary up to 20°C between day
and night time
(25°C to 5°C in the coldest nights), specially between
June and September, so
do not forget to bring warm clothes with you! The rainy season starts
November and lasts until March or April and it is also the hottest
the highlands, with an average temperature of 28°-30°C.
- Antananarivo: the capital and biggest city
really nice boroughs to walk with nice views over the city and several
beautiful buildings, like the Queen Palace or
Besides, the old market (Zoma) and the Avenue de l`Independence
in the city centre are always
crowed and are an ideal place to walk around and observe the busy life
this World Heritage Royal city and burial site is proplably the most
construction built by the ancient Merina Kings.
Mantasoa and Alaotra
Lakes: these lakes,
the biggest of Madagascar,
surrounded by spectacular landscapes and traditional villages offer
an impressive scenery.
this pretty old city has a fantastic old town and terrific surroundings.
It is the starting point to every trip to the national parks in the
- Andringitra National
Park: spectacular mountains ideal for
climbers and trekking
lovers, astonishing valleys and one the places with a highest
biodiversity of Madagascar.
- Ranomafana National
Park: located on the eastern side
of the highlands, it is doubtless one of
the most spectacular National Parks of the island. An evergreen dense
ideal for spotting lemurs and many other endemic animals.