Accommodation in western and northern Madagascar
Madagascar offers very different, but no less charming or gorgeous, hotels than those you may expect to find in London, Paris or Milan. Our travel Specialist Fiona enthuses about some of her favourite accommodations in the country.
It is difficult to assign star ratings as we know them, to hotels in Africa. To be honest, a five star hotel in one of the world's poorest countries is never going to be the equivalent of one in the 'developed' world. When we tailor-make our itineraries, choosing the right selection of accommodation is really important. While accommodation in Madagascar generally lacks opulence and luxury, this is usually more than compensated by with friendly hospitality, outstanding locations and, as the French say, ‘je ne sais quoi’.
Here are some of my favourite accommodations where I stayed at during my travels around the country's northern and western regions. I can't wait to continue my explorations!
As with any capital Antananarivo is brimming with hotels but the three which made a lasting impression are Relais des Plateaux, Maison Gallieni and Palissandre Hôtel & Spa.
Relais des Plateaux
is the closest hotel to the airport, making it perfect for those late night arrivals and early morning departures. Mirana, the new manager and her staff are extremely helpful and cannot do enough for you. Breakfast times are dependent on the flight schedule of the day to ensure no guests arrive at the airport hungry, the fresh delicious dishes a wonderful send off.
Maison Gallieni and Palissandre Hôtel & Spa
are both situated in the centre of town. Placed between a collection of varying style houses on a street brimming with an energetic atmosphere the Palissandre Hôtel & Spa is a fascinating place to see Antananarivo city life go by, over breakfast watching children rushed to school by parents on their way to work.
The view from Palissandre Hôtel & Spa
Maison Gallieni is a stunningly restored 1879 villa, the four bedrooms each being decorated in modern chic style, and an excellent starting point each morning from where to explore Antananarivo. If you wish to dine in the hotel, meals should be ordered in advance. Alternatively, venture out and try some of the excellent restaurants in Antananarivo such as La Varangue or Cafe de la Gare.
The modern rooms of Maison Gallieni
Arriving at Palissandre Côte Ouest in Morondava, or at Les Soleil des Tsingy at Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park, is an absolute blessing after the bumpy, dusty and long road journeys which are involved in itineraries taking in the Menabe region of central-western Madagascar. The sister hotel of Palissandre Hôtel & Spa, the 30 bungalows of Palissandre Côte Ouest in Morondava are delightfully set along a sunny beach. Walking down the wooden steps onto the sand of Nosy Kely beach makes for a marvellous start to the day. Along with the picturesque surroundings, one of the best features of this hotel is the fantastic location, just 15 minutes from the centre of Morondava and some 30 minutes from the famous 'Alley of Baobabs'.
Palissandre Côte Ouest
Soleil des Tsingy is ideally located to explore the astonishing Tsingy de Bemaraha, a national park that really has the 'wow factor'. Take in panoramic views from the infinity pool, over extensive deciduous woods. Attention to detail is meticulous with all the iron work, door knobs, lamps and curtain rails and many other aspects of the hotel, having been made by local Sakalava craftsmen. Sundowners on the veranda are a wonderful and memorable experience.
Le Soleil des Tsingy
In the north of Madagascar there are two lodges which I would put on every itinerary if I could. Iharana Bush Camp is a diamond in the rough. Getting there doesn't involve the easiest journey, but you will be glad you made the effort once you arrive. The accommodation is in rustic Malagasy bungalows, most with a single bed downstairs and a double bed on the mezzanine floor. While it is quite simple, it is comfortable. With an ambience and attractive appeal hard to translate into words, what makes this lodge so spectacular is its location. Travelling through the wilderness to arrive in the middle of nowhere, just a local village nearby, Iharana Bush Camp is set the edge of a small lake with the dramatic tsingy of Ankarana Ouest rising up on the other side. During my stay, I just could not get enough of the amazing views, especially from the small but perfectly designed swimming pool. There is plently to do here and the lodge certainly merits a two night stay.
Iharana Bush Lodge
The Litchi Tree
is an absolute must for visitors to Montagne d'Ambre National Park!. The owner, manager and chef Herve Dumel has successfully revamped and refurbished a French colonial villa into a six bedroom gem. You will never go hungry here - Herve makes a delicious chocolate pot dessert which I could happily have enjoyed for all three courses!. For a pre or post dinner drink, there is a well- stocked bar with one of the best whisky collections I have yet seen. The Litichi Tree is a terrific place from where to appreciate the beauty of Madagascar. During the day you can see all the way to Diego Suarez, across the bay and out to the Mozambique Channel. At night, sit on the terrace and indulge in some stunning star gazing. All this is right at the magical, forested Amber Mountain National Park.
One final word on accommodation in Madagascar which prospective visitors must bear in mind: most lodges use solar power to heat water and produce electricity, with back-up generators for use at night. While lodges may say they have power from 6pm till 10pm, this may not always be the case with the power often fluctuating. If, however, you are anything like me, this will only add to the charming rural nature of your holiday and encourage you to switch off from your electrical devices and enjoy the night skies dazzling with stars!.