Madagascar is known for its endemic wildlife such as lemurs and orchids. Antsirabe, a city located 169km from the capital Antananarivo, has neither dense forests nor particularly endemic animals, but it’s a magnet for people who are looking for a quiet and inspiring place to visit. The city can quite comfortably be explored on foot, by pousse-pousse (human powered rickshaws) or by bicycle. These are the best things to see and do in Antsirabe, Madagascar.
Antsirabe Catholic Cathedral
Notre Dame de la Salette Cathedral is worth a visit when walking around Antsirabe. Situated in the heart of the city, it’s the first of its kind to have been built in Madagascar at the beginning of the 20th century. Open to the public, visitors can sit among the pews and lose themselves in the brilliant blue ceiling that soars overhead and connects with the floor via golden-hued columns and colourful stained-glass windows.
The City of (healing) waters
The Antsirabe Thermal Bath is one of the top reasons the city is visited by thousands of travellers and locals. They appreciate the thermal bath complex for their curative effects. It’s the place to enjoy a special experience with healing waters and to taste the naturally sparkling mineral water, called Vichy Thermal Waters (Eau de Vichy). It’s also the venue of a thermal spa with personal specialised treatments, massages and hydrotherapy among other things.
This old and charming colonial-style hotel located in front of the bath has a fascinating history. The Thermes Hotel is where the Moroccan royal family lived when Mohammed V (the current king, Mohammed VI’s grandfather) was exiled from his country in 1954. Visitors will feel like they’re walking through history with its French Baroque-style architecture and impressive garden.
Elegant railway station
Although train networks stopped working back in the 90s the train station still remains. There are no shops inside, unlike most of the other railway stations in Antananarivo. This building is visited mainly for its colonial architecture and it remains an emblem of Antsirabe. For your selfies or pictures to remember your stay in Antsirabe, visiting this place is a must.
A time and place for beer
If you like beer, especially the Malagasy Three Horses Beer (THB is the country’s most popular beer), then the main brewery (STAR) is located in Antsirabe and free tours can be scheduled. Each visit takes up to 90 minutes and allows you to find out how the beer is fermented, bottled and shipped. Booking in advance is recommended. Visit www.star.mg.
Malagasy lakes are known for being incredibly beautiful, and especially those in Antsirabe. Lake Andraikiba will not disappoint. It’s also among the best places to stumble across the Vakinankaratra countryside. Looking for horse riding around the lake? Andraikiba is the place to go. The lake also offers an enchanting view while sailing.
If you love hiking and want to stumble across an emerald green lake with Shakespearean-like origins, then this is the lake for you. Surrounded by pine trees where two lovers end their romance when their parents didn’t allow them to stay together. This trek to reach the volcanic lake is a must. Located a little further west from Antsirabe (around 15km), Tritriva Lake can be accessed by riding or trekking (from Andraikiba) – a must-see destination.
Biking to Betafo
One of the cooler things that comes with a visit to Antsirabe is its proximity to Betafo, 22km west of the city. It’s worth exploring if you want to discover the crater lake Tatamarina, the three hills Iavoko, the first Lutherian Church, green (or yellow) rice fields, rivers… The thermal bath of Andranomafana can also offer you pleasant experiences in its healing waters. Betafo is also known for its watercress fritters, locally known as “mofo anana.”
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