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The South of Madagascar

General description  |  Climate   |  The highlights

General description
map South Madagascar The South of Madagascar is the most arid region of the island and perhaps also the most unique one in terms of scenery and flora. This bushy extension is spattered with strange baobab forest and it is the only place on earth where travellers can admire the spiny forest, a semi-desert ecosystem formed by huge cactus-like plants which only grow here. The route along the southern coast is full up of huge white-sanded and almost empty beaches which are indeed hard to reach, since the roads here are just a path on the sand. But the effort is worthwhile! The RN7, rebuilt with Chinese assistance and constantly undergoing maintaining works, is the main trunk road leading to the southern region of the country from Antananarivo on an epic 954 km long journey into the southernmost regions of this huge country. This route is the most popular among abroad travellers, surely because the road is entirely paved and, therefore, easy to drive.

The timeless scenery of the Merina region is slowly left behind and being substituted by a gorgeous moonlike landscape of majestic mountains, vast endless deserts and superb vermillion-coloured cliffs and canyons. We are in the central mountain ranges of Andringitra and Isalo. Here cattle herds are likely to block the traffic. Further south, traffic is literally stopped by human crowds that move ahead in enormous numbers.

The road drives through the sapphire-metropolis of the Ilakaka, a town, which has developed almost out of the blue thanks for its recently discovered gem mines and has acquired now all attributes of a Western-town: brothels, anarchy and thousands of fortune seekers. We leave this outlaw place and finally reach the end of our journey: the Toliara province, a pleasant region with stable warm climate, spotless beaches and an abrupt coastline trimmed with countless bays and shelters.

Amazing baobabs grow amongst spiny forest  © Madagascar Travel Guide

To move on you will need a four-wheeled-vehicle and, moreover, a good one that can grapple with the far South’s sanded and potholed trails. Only those really adventurous travellers will undertake this multi-day hardcore journey through the extreme regions of Madagascar’s other side to Fort Dauphin, a charming colonial city that can reward travellers with some supreme national parks and nature reserves, wonderful beaches and some of the best waves for windsurfing.


This arid region has a dry tropical climate with very little rain. The only period when it can rain is from January to March. The rest of the year is almost completely dry, especially on the south-western coast South from Tulear, which is the driest area of the country. On the eastern part around Fort dauphin it rains a little more. Temperatures get really high from February to Mai and between October and December (30° average), so be prepared for a burning sun during this period. The nicest period is during the winter, from June to September, where the temperatures are around 25°C.

The highlights

-     A train ride between Fianarantsoa and Manakara: this is the only passengers train circulating nowadays. The journey passes through beautiful landscapes and stops at several small villages where locals try to sell you al kinds of food. The ride is an experience itself.

-  The coast North and South from Tulear has incredible beaches, tiny tropical islands, well maintained coral reefs and extraordinary landscapes. The beach villages of Ifaty, Salary Bay or Anakao are becoming more and more popular since the beauty of this area is no longer a secret.

- Fort Dauphin (Taolagnaro): this charming city full of colonial buildings and located on a fantastic location, surrounded by mountains, dry forests, nature reserves and enormous beaches is the biggest city in the deep south and the starting point to an adventure in this remote region.

- Isalo National Park: easily accessible all year round, Isalo has become a very popular destination: the bizarre rock formations, canyons and natural pools as well as the lemurs are the main reason why many visitors come here.