Antsirabe Destination Guide
With a population of about 220,000 people, Antsirabé is Madagascar's third largest city. If you can ignore the constant hassling of the pousse-pousse drivers, Antsirabé can appear to be quite a charming little town. The joy is in wandering the streets and browsing through the numerous little shops selling a whole range of local handicrafts.
Be sure to bargain hard if you see something you like!
This Antsirabe Destination Guide gives some brief background things to do and see including some of the sights and attractions of the town and surrounding areas. Detailed information can be found by visiting our Antsirabe tours page. For more general information about Madagascar, make sure you take a look at our Madagascar Country Guide.
Things to See & Do in Antsirabe
Antsirabe is reknowned for the precious and semi-precious stones that are sold throughout the city. In certain places you are able to witness as the stones are cut and then polished.
Another feature of Antsirabé is the thermal springs and baths, located near Lac Ranomafana (meaning lake of hot water). There is a whole complex there, which provides body massages and private cubicles, at bargain prices.
A number of other lakes around Antsirabe are also worth visiting. These include Lac Andraikiba and Lac Tritriva, which are both each to get to. One way of getting to them is to hire mountain bikes, although this is only recommended for the relatively fit, as the track can be long, tiresome and hot, with not many refreshment stands along the way.
Lac Andraikiba is a the larger of the two lakes, and is located about seven kilometres from Antsirabé. It is suitable for swimming, and offers a number of shady, peaceful areas on its banks. Lac Tritiva is smaller but more scenic, and tends to get alot busier. Located 20 kilometres away, it is a longer and more difficult journey.
A toll is payable on the road to the lake. Also nearby is the picturesque village of Tritiva, worth a visit. Another village, Betafo, is an example of a typical Merina village, and is quite a popular day trip for tourists coming from Antsirabe.
Some of the key highlights of a trip to Antsirabe include:
- Getting around the city by bicycle. It will give you a great opportunity to really experience the sights and sounds.
- Checking out the bustling Saturday markets, where almost anything you could want to buy is on sale.
- Taking an early morning dip in the thermal baths
- Going on a trip out to Lake Tritriva, a stunning emerald-green crater lake. 4 wheel drive vehicles are required for this trip.
- Visiting Betafo, a small Merina town off the tourist track. It is located 22 kilometres to the west of Antsirabé.
Betafo is a very interesting tourist destination. Situated 22 kilometres to the west of Antsirabé, Betafo actually means ‘many roofs' and you actually see some intricate wrought iron awnings and trimmings here against the backdrop of lush paddy fields.
The most prominent tourist attraction in this Merina town is Lac Tatamarina, a lake formed inside a crater. You can also visit the tombs of the erstwhile kings of this region to the north of this lake. Another interesting place in Betafo is the Catholic Church near the taxi brousse stand, which has some interesting contemporary stained glass that is worth a look.
For the rugged who do not mind walking through muddy fields, a visit to the Chutes d'Antafofo, a 20-metre high waterfall that cuts through basalt rock, is a must.
Betafo has no hotels that facilitate an overnight stay. Small roadside restaurants called hotelys serve some basic food.
Between the months of July and September, the people of Betsileo and Marina conduct an important ritual called ‘the turning of the bones' or Famadihana. This ceremony is conducted every seven years. Members of the family exhume the bodies of their ancestors, change the shrouds and intern them again. The Famadihana is an emotion-filled, joyous celebration with music, dancing and feasting.
It is indeed an unusual experience. Ask your tour operator or the local rickshaw (pousse-pousse) driver to arrange for you to witness this ritual. Local families are most welcoming of tourists, who to their surprise find the Famadihana to be a poignant and unique ceremony devoid of any sadness.
Dos and don'ts at the Famadihana ritual
Do remember to carry along a rum bottle as a gift for the family and don't forget to take their permission before you reach for your camera!
Lac Andraikiba and Lac Tritiva are two lakes of volcanic origin nestled in the Western hills of Antsirabé.
Lake Andraikiba is at a distance of 7 kilometres from Antsirabé, off the road to Morondava. It is larger than Lac Tritiva, but unfortunately not a very pleasant place, thanks to the sewage around the lake. Lac Andraikiba used to be the favourite getaway of Queen Ranavalona II. Local legend has it that the lake is haunted by the spirit of a pregnant damsel who drowned in it and even today she may be seen at dawn, resting on a rock. Despite the sewage, people do flock to Lac Andraikiba for a walk around its shores or even a swim.
Lac Tritiva lies to the southwest, at a distance of 18 kilometres from Antsirabé. This is a very picturesque lake and abounds in mysteries and legends. It is believed that the water level in the lake rises in summer and falls in the rainy season! It is also believed to be home to the spirits of a pair of lovers who jumped to their death off the edge of a cliff because they were not allowed to marry. Their spirits are believed to be residing in two thorn trees that stand entwined on the banks of Lac Tritiva.
Do remember - do not carry pork to this area. Also, do not swim in Lac Tritiva. Both these are prohibited by local taboos (fady).
In Antsirabé, Zidane is not a football player and Air France does not refer to the airlines. These are names of pousse-pousses which carry anything from the local belles to slaughtered cattle and can be found all over the town.
The pousse-pousse, which literally means push push, is not to be missed.
Vividly painted rickshaws with their own names and personalities, pousse-pousses are driven by drivers who are storehouses of information! They are also extremely persistent and hound the tourists for custom by whistling or hissing and of course shouting ‘pousse pousse' because they take their vehicles on rent and have to make a stipulated number of trips to cover their rental costs. If you are in a pousse-pousse and it rains, you will find yourself paying double the fare for a plastic sheet that covers the roof of the vehicle!