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Located off the east coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean, the fourth-largest island in the world is extraordinarily biodiverse. There are 19,000 types of flora in Madagascar, and 5% of the world’s animal species exist here too. The most recognizable of its mammals is the lemur, while the most iconic plant is the stocky baobab tree. Factor in the country’s thousands of miles of unspoiled coastline, and you have a travel destination that's truly unlike any other.
When is the best time to visit?
Due to its location in the tropics, Madagascar has two major seasons: wet and dry. The rainy season lasts from November to May, and it’s best avoided. Madagascar’s famous cyclones are likely to hit during this time. The dry season lasts from April through October, and the last couple months of it are great for lemur watching and visiting national parks. Come during April if you want to avoid peak tourist season. If you visit between July and September, you can take advantage of the humpback whale migration with a whale-watching tour.
Where should you go?
You’ll likely be flying into the capital of Antananarivo. Worth a visit here is the Rova, which has served as the home of Monarchs in the Imerina Kingdom dating back to the 17th century. The capital is also a great place to enjoy the country's singular cuisine, a blend of African and Malay culinary traditions. Outside Antananarivo you can visit the stunning Parc National de l'Isalo, home to over 300 miles of sandstone massifs, deep gorges, and crystalline pools.
Off Madagascar’s northwestern coast lies the coral island of Nosy Be—think white-sand beaches and wildlife, especially chameleons and lemurs. And if you want some great diving and snorkeling, head to Anakao. To see Madagascar's national tree, visit the famous Avenue of the Baobabs, a dirt road between Morondava and Belon'i Tsiribihina in western Madagascar that is lined with particularly impressive specimens.
How many days do you need?
It’s very difficult to experience Madagascar adequately in under a week. In a week, you can travel the RN7 highway from the capital and make stops at some of the country's many national parks. With two weeks, you can visit the national parks and other highlights, do some lemur spotting, and travel the coastline as well as visit offshore islands.
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