The Route South stretches for almost 1000 km from the capital Antananarivo to the multicultural city of Tulear, an important port on the southwest coast of Madagascar. It is a beautiful and varied route full of towns and villages, each with their own character, and with many to visit including Antsirabe, Fianarantsoa, Ranomafana National Park, Isalo National Park and Ifaty.
The spa town of Antsirabe is located at an altitude of 1,500 metres and has a noticeably different climate to the heat of Antananarivo. It is now a centre for the gem trade, including the trading of amethyst, tourmaline, beryl and aquamarine.
Continue south to Fianarantsoa, which lies at the heart of the country’s most productive agricultural region and it is now Madagascar’s leading wine-producing region as well as the main tea-growing region.
Nearby is Ranomafana National Park, a key destination for viewing rare endemic species such as the golden bamboo lemur. The park also contains 11 other lemur species that are virtually extinct and numerous reptiles and frogs. It is arguably one of the best Malagasy rainforests for bird watching, with brown mesites, Henst’s goshawks and rufous-headed ground-rollers in residence.
Isalo National Park is an ideal walking destination, with its spectacular sandstone rocks bisected by deep canyons and sculpted into unusual shapes. It is also sacred to the Bara tribe, who have used the caves in the canyon walls as burial sites for many years.
About 1 ½ hours from Tulear is Ifaty, a quiet coastal fishing village known primarily for its long beach and for its offshore coral reef. The area is also known for the interesting flora and fauna of the spiny forest, a unique habitat that has adapted to the heat and drought of the region.