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Though broadly speaking Madagascar has moderate climate, there are differences from month to month throughout the calendar year. The weather is generally predictable, but you need to be prepared nevertheless – here’s your need-to-know guide.
Arriving during this month probably isn’t the best idea, as January is particularly rainy and prone to hurricanes. Most of the time it rains towards the end of the day, so as long as you’re armed with an umbrella in anticipation for some evening showers you should be fine. For nature and science-lovers, this is the best time to visit the national parks and nature reserves, especially for those who are interested in amphibians. In the capital city of Antananarivo, most attractions will be less crowded than usual even if most businesses are back to their regular working hours from January 2. If you’re looking for sunny weather, head northwest towards Nosy-Be and Mahajanga.
It may still be raining but this is the best time to come if you want to discover the lush greenery found in the mountains and valleys. In the coastal regions in the east and southeast it’s likely to be raining for most of the day. It can get quite cold in the highlands when it’s raining, but generally this month alternates between rainy and sunny. Those who are looking for something different can head north to Antsiranana, northwest towards Nosy-Be or southwest towards Toliara. The weather in these areas is more pleasant and it’s less likely to be raining.
The Malagasy people love March: the weather is beautiful, there’s less rain, and the highlands are back to their full green glory. Visiting Madagascar at this time can be very rewarding as the cost of air ticket and accommodation is much cheaper than later on in the year. During this period the country doesn’t receive many visitors when compared to the summer months from July to early September.
In the highlands most places turn a golden colour. This is the beginning of the harvest season, and rice fields cover the valleys and plains. The landscape looks very different, and the weather is cheerier than in other seasons. This is the official transition time from the rainy, cold season, so it’s a great time to visit the country. For history lovers, March 29 marks the memorial event of 1947 during which hundreds of thousands of Malagasy were killed when they revolted against the French colonial administration.
In May the temperature can fall to 5°C (41°F) or even 4°C (39°F) in Antsirabe (168 km (104 miles) south of the capital Antananarivo). Nosy-Be is worth visiting around this time as it plays host to two great music festivals, the Libertalia Festival and the Donia Festival (traditionally held during the Pentecost weekend). If you stay in the capital, May is an excellent time to explore the bars and restaurants which start getting pretty lively.
The warmth of summer sets in towards the end of the month as the Malagasy people celebrate Independence Day on June 26. It’s a day of fun and festivity with parades in Mahamasina stadium, shows, and fireworks. It’s worth exploring Antananarivo’s liveliest suburbs such as Anosy, Analakely and Antaninarenina at night, as there are colorful lights. During the day, enjoy the Malagasy flags displayed everywhere from the beginning of the month. The Carnival of Madagascar also takes place in June, in Analakely, and sees participants from different regions of Madagascar come to showcase their local products and culture.
In July, the weather is still cold up in the highlands. In Antananarivo, locals will be heading out to the parks as well as places such as the Tsimbazaza Zoo, where visitors can admire a number of amazing endemic species. Some people leave the capital and head to the seaside – the most popular destination is Mahajanga. In the highlands, it’s the beginning of the ‘famadihana’ or ‘the body turning’ ceremony period. These family gatherings lead many locals to move throughout the country. Two not-to-be missed events that take place during July are the Fosa Baobab festival in Morondava in the west, and the Humpback Whale Festival in Sainte-Marie in the east. Both festivals allow visitors to discover the rich local culture and the breathtaking nature the country has to offer.
August is vacation month for locals. The weather can be a bit chilly in some areas, but starts getting milder towards the end of the month. August is the opportune time to visit as there are things to see and do all over the country. In Toliara in the southwest there’s the Vez’tival event, with concerts, conferences and cultural shows. If you choose to stay in the capital, there’s a smaller choice of indoor shows and exhibitions available, though there are many outdoor music events. Be aware that August is a popular month for tourists, so flights are more expensive compared to the rest of the year.
Higher temperatures really get going from mid-September. It’s also the official start of the festival period. The contemporary dance festival, I’Trôtra, takes place in at the end of the month and ends in early October. Traditionally held annually in Antananarivo, some of the festival workshops have been organised in other places like Mahajanga, Antsiranana and Toamasina. Those not particularly keen on outdoor activities can busy themselves with a trip to museums and galleries, as these will be operating as usual.
October is hot, and the rainy season slowly starts up again. Head to the seaside for a cooling breeze or head north and northwest if you’re looking for very hot weather. In the west it can get quite humid, and even in the highlands the temperature is quite high – bear in mind that there is usually only air conditioning in hotels, so be sure to stay hydrated and make good use of the cool evening breeze. In the city of Antananarivo, October is the month of the jazz festival, Madajazzcar, during which you can discover the vibrant Malagasy jazz scene and meet guests from around the world.
The rainy season usually starts in mid-November. The weather becomes increasingly wet, mainly in the highlands. November is probably not the best time to visit, but compared to July or December, prices for flights and accommodation start to decrease. The drop in visitors also means fewer people in the parks and other attractions, which can make all the difference. This is a good month to discover art, visit museums and take in historic sites.
This is a particularly lively month, with Christmas and New Year’s Eve. From the beginning of the month, public places are busy and filled with colourful decorations. The month can bring some unpredictable weather, but it’s a good time to walk around regardless. There are a lot of outdoor and indoor events around the theme of Christmas. Markets are very much alive and crowded from mid-December until the end of the month. Many Malagasy living outside the country head back home to visit family for the celebrations, which can lead to an increase in flight prices.