Founded in 1869 by Norwegian missionaries attracted by the curative powers of its thermal springs, ANTSIRABE (whose name means “Where there is much salt”, in reference to its mineral-rich waters) is Madagascar’s third-largest town, and one of its most prosperous. Relatively clean and quiet (at least in comparison with the urban free-for-all of Tana) this is a town where many Tananariviens aspire to live, and where a few have holiday pads. Located on a broad, open plain of rich cultivation, it stretches some 10km from north to south, between distant, flanking hillsides. The RN7 passes right through the middle of town, where traffic slows to a crawl, checked by more than three-thousand pousse-pousse operators, trotting through the crowds.

In practical terms, Antsirabe, 170km south of Tana and 250km north of Fianarantsoa, makes a natural and pleasant stopover, and it works as an alternative travel hub to Tana, too. The thermal baths are currently closed, but there’s no shortage of good hotels and restaurants and a number of interesting crafts and jewellery shops. It’s also a key junction town for trips into the remoter reaches of western Madagascar.

The huge Marché Sabotsy takes place (despite its name) not just on Saturdays but daily, at a vast, purpose-built site on the western outskirts of town, while for the many crafts and artisanal outlets, it’s best just to wander; for gemstones, have a browse among the vendors’ stalls opposite the Le Trianon hotel.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Madagascar features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Passport to write: the runners-up!

Passport to write: the runners-up!

After weeks of deliberation, we're thrilled to announce the results of the Rough Guides and Journeys are made @gapyear.com writing competition. The winning p…

03 Jul 2015 • Rough Guides Editors insert_drive_file Article
Incredible forests of the world

Incredible forests of the world

Spiny Forest, Madagascar On an island filled with weird and wonderful living things, the spiny forest has to be Madagascar's most unusual ecosystem. Endemic…

03 Oct 2014 • Alison Roberts camera_alt Gallery
The world's most epic cycle routes

The world's most epic cycle routes

Life on two wheels is a beautiful thing, and travel on two wheels can be epic. Here are a few of the world's greatest cycle routes to consider for your next bi…

15 Apr 2014 • Greg Dickinson camera_alt Gallery
View more featureschevron_right

Weekly newsletter

Sign up now for travel inspiration, discounts and competitions

Sign up now and get 20% off any ebook