Almost all trips in Madagascar start and end in Antananarivo. Allow 3–4 weeks to cover the north by a mixture of road and air travel – or skip half these stops and do it in 10–14 days.
Give yourself a couple of days to visit the Rova palace compound and the old royal capital of Ambohimanga.
2 Parc National d’Andasibe-Mantadia
Get up early to walk into the indris’ territory and hear their extraordinary call. Then plan a night walk looking for chameleons and mouse lemurs.
3 Île Sainte Marie
Fly or ferry out to this old pirates’ hideaway, then rent a scooter and explore its jungle paths, clean beaches and limpid waters.
4 Nosy Mangabe
Organize a boat and guide to this fabled, forest-stacked island – home to aye-ayes, leaf-tailed geckos and a host of other species, some almost certainly still to be discovered.
5 Parc National de Masoala
Easily visited on the same trip as Nosy Mangabe, you can camp here with locals or stay in a fancy lodge on the beach. Either way, the steep paths of the Masoala rainforest start at your doorstep. Every minute of every hike yields wonderful sights and discoveries, from vangas to boas, from tenrecs to sportive lemurs.
6 Diego Suarez
Cosmopolitan, warm and breezy, Diego Suarez – with its picturesque views and superb watersports – is the perfect rest stop between national parks.
7 Parc National de la Montagne d’Ambre
Much easier to explore than the other rainforest parks, and still bursting with life, the Amber Mountain and the little town of Joffreville are worth a day and a night.
8 Parc National d’Ankarana
If you don’t have time to take a boat trip to the Tsingy de Bemaraha, then this fascinating eroded plateau is the next best thing: lemurs and plenty of reptiles inhabit this rocky fortress. Take good footwear.
9 Nosy Be
Don’t be put off, don’t be intimidated: Nosy Be’s beaches are beautiful, the resort trappings pretty tame and the interior well worth exploring. Don’t forget a trip to the wonderful Lokobé reserve.
10 Parc National d’Ankaranfantsika
Deciduous dry forest meets lakes and erosion gulleys in this enjoyable and accessible park between Majunga and Antananarivo.