Trekking holidays in Madagascar

Madagascar is painted with an astonishing variety of landscapes. Arid deserts, mangrove swamps, thick groves of bamboo and craggy clefts of limestone. Waterfalls that cascade down mountains and plunging gorges, tropical rainforest where lemurs perch, rural backcountry lined with mud-red houses and rice paddies and ‘forests’ of limestone needles. One thing Madagascar trekking holidays are never short of is spectacular views.
The island’s tourist trail is pretty thin as it is, and once you leave it you quickly appreciate why it’s often referred to as the ‘Lost Continent’. Were it not for the rampant, tragic, scale of deforestation here, this would be real prehistoric landscape: sweatily humid, full of bright colours and mysterious noises, and with an incredible wildlife population: crocodiles, chameleons, snakes, butterflies, peregrine falcons and over 30 species of lemurs, as well as orchids, baobab trees and palms.
Most Madagascar trekking holidays focus on the damp east and more arid south of the island, and often involve a few days travelling by river, too. Besides the flora and fauna, you will visit remote rural communities that see few foreigners, and where the positive effects of responsible tourism can ripple a very long way.

Madagascar trekking highlights

Perinet Rainforest Reserve

Part of the Antasibe National Park spanning a swathe of montane rainforest, the Perinet Rainforest Reserve is home to an astonishing level of biodiversity. There are five species of chameleons here, many varieties of endemic orchids, and 11 species of lemur including the largest, the Indri, whose haunting cries echo through the trees in the early morning.

Pic Boby

Madagascar’s second highest peak is a formidable granite massif looming above Andringitra National Park. It’s a strenuous climb up with a steep descent, around 28km in total, that will take you around eight hours – most people make a start before dawn. From the summit you’re surrounded by rows of jagged pillars like the mouth of a Madagascan croc.

River rafting

Many parts of Madagascar are so remote they can only be reached by river, with hundreds of small communities lining the banks. Rafting, or canoeing, is a natural fit with a trekking holiday in Madagascar and will usually involve two or three days on the water. You may encounter rapids – nothing too dramatic – but most of the time you’ll be gently paddling along, exchanging greetings with villagers and fishermen and gaping at the stunning scenery.

Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park

Tsingy means ‘place where one cannot walk barefoot’ and it’s a fitting name for this spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Site where in fact it’s difficult to even walk at all. It’s a strikingly bizarre landscape, great thickets of limestone karst ‘needles’, some as tall as 50m, providing a range of habitats for many endemic species. Ladder, rope bridges and harnesses are used to scramble over rock so sharp that it can make trekking pretty precarious.


How fit do I need to be?

Even for less demanding treks you will still need to be reasonably fit to cope with terrain that can be steep and uneven in places, overgrown trails and often very humid weather. A pair of foldable walking poles may come in handy. You will usually be accompanied by porters who will set up camp and carry equipment so you only need a light daypack. Proper walking footwear is essential because you will regularly leave the main path in search of wildlife – trainers won’t cut it.

Where will I be staying?

Accommodations vary between fixed camps, locally owned hotels and lodges in small towns and villages. You may also erect temporary camps in forest clearings, nature reserves or on sandy river beaches, sleeping under the stars to a night time chorus of Madagascar’s incredible wildlife.

What distances will I be walking?

Trekking can either be the main focus of a trip, or a small part, perhaps a few days, of a longer tour. You can expect to be on the move for between five and eight hours each day, covering distances of seven to 15 kilometres.

Our top trip

Madagascar holidays, The lost continent

Madagascar holidays, The lost continent

Experience the culture and wildlife of Madagascar

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If you'd like to chat about Madagascar or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.

When to go trekking in Madagascar

Madagascar has an equatorial, tropical climate – for the most part hot, wet and humid. Late December to March is the rainy season, with cyclones likely around February, and from November onwards temperatures get sticky hot. Arrive between October and December for your best chance to see lots of cute baby lemurs. July and August, the middle of the Madagascar winter, are the peak months for travel. If you opt for a tailor made trip as opposed to a small group tour then you can conceivably travel at any time of year, but we think the best time for a Madagascar trekking holiday is between April and December before the heavy rains appear. Note however that the area around Pic Boby, a popular destination in the central highlands, can be damp and chilly during this period so you will want to layer clothing and keep waterproofs near the top of your pack.

Our Madagascar walking holiday reviews

Some of the many highlights included seeing so many different kinds of lemurs and chameleons
- Catherine Nursaw
“Not only we saw beautiful landscapes and met very friendly people, but we also developed a connection with our porters and guide as we shared more than just meals. We felt more as a little group and they told us they appreciated it as well. Bring warm clothes! The difference between day and night temperature is huge and evenings can be fairly cold.” - Chiara Vecchi on a Madagascar trekking holiday

“Some of the many highlights included seeing so many different kinds of lemurs and chameleons; the extraordinary limestone Tsingy; staying in the tree-huts in the Montagne des Francais; eating delicious fruit of all kinds fresh from the tree; the amazing friendliness of the locals and the huge smiles on the faces of the children who would run out to wave at us as we went by! I loved the fact that we were off the beaten track - we saw no other tourists after we left Tana for the first 8 days or so, and we were buying provisions from local people and often eating in small local restaurants.” - Catherine Nursaw on a trekking and rafting expedition in Madagascar

"It is physically demanding so those going need to be prepared to trek in rivers and battle the conditions, wet & hot. Take Imodium and plenty of it.” - David Phillips on a trekking and rafting expedition in Madagascar

"Be prepared for the long travelling days and the risk of an upset stomach (take supplies of Imodium and rehydration sachets). Saying that, the rewards are an abundance of wildlife and amazing landscapes that are unique and a once in a lifetime experience.” - Lindsay Challoner on a trekking holiday in Madagascar

Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: BMR & MAM] [Trekking: Frontierofficial] [Rafting: NH53] [Lemur: NH53]