The relatively wealthy far northeast coast is Madagascar’s prime region for the cultivation and export of vanilla, local prosperity being tied umbilically to the fortunes of the flavoursome pods on world markets. In the early years of this century this Sava region (named after the initials of its main towns) experienced an unprecedented economic boom as vanilla prices rose steeply – roads and airports were built and thousands of migrants moved here – and then a crash as vanilla prices plummeted. This coast is also notoriously prone to cyclones: in March 2004 it was devastated by Cyclone Gafilo, the most intense cyclone ever recorded in the southwest Indian Ocean, and a string of slightly less devastating storms mangled the region in 2007.

Today, Sava remains a relatively well-off area, with the surfaced road between Antalaha and Vohemar one of the best in the country, though the scruffy signs of bust-after-boom, cyclone damage and subsequent repair are everywhere. Inland, in the mountains west of Sambava, are the remote parks of Marojejy and Andanaharibe-Sud – very worthwhile targets if you have a few days.

Leaving the coast at Vohemar to cross Madagascar towards Nosy Be and Diego Suarez, the RN5A is extremely rough and slow. Part-way along this route, near Daraina, there’s the opportunity to see one of Madagascar’s rarest and most beautiful lemurs.

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