RN7 Circuit

If you have the time and want to avoid spending money on expensive domestic flights, drive the RN7! There are so many things to do along the way that you can make your journey south to the coast completely different from your drive north to Antananarivo. Explore the hidden gems of Madagascar like Andringitra National Park and Zombitse.

Along the way, you'll find plenty of restaurants to have lunch and lodges, guesthouses and campsites for all price ranges. Scroll down to see the day-to- day route with tips on places to stay, where you can book the accommodation yourself. These are the lodges we like to stay at when we are roadtripping ourselves; small-scale, good price-quality ratio and owner-managed when possible.

Check the day to day itinerary

Day 1 of 16

Start: Antananarivo
Destination: Antsirabe
Drive: 180 km | 4.5 hours

Start on the famed RN7! Expect asphalted and windy roads passing rice paddies and small highland villages. You can have a good lunch stop at Coin de Foie Gras in Behenjy, or try an authentic paella (we're not kidding) at El Torro in Ambutulampy.

Where to stay in Antsirabe: 

Budget: Camping allowed at Green Park and Madalief (out of town) 

Mid-range: Trianon (€26/night), Madalief €26/night)

Deluxe: Couleur Café (€37/night)

Restaurants: Chez Jenny and Zandina (best pizza), Trianon (classic French), Vatolahy (classic French) and Conterno (pastries, baguettes)

Day 2 of 16

Enjoy: Antsirabe

Explore Antsirabe town and surroundings. Take a pousse pousse (the Malagasy version of the Asian rickshaw) tour to the craft workshops, which are hard to find on your own. Hike or mountain bike around Lake Tritriva, an emerald-green crater lake.

Antsirabe is considered the pousse pousse capital of the country. There are three major ''species''. The basic model is a cart pulled by a man. It may feel uncomfortable to be towed around by someone in this fashion (who may even be barefooted), but this is the driver's living, so your pay is most welcome. The cyclo-pousse, in which the cab is attached to a bicycle, is a step up, at least as far as the driver is concerned. And on top of the food chain is the kinga, the motorised pousse-pousse. Explore Antsirabe town and take a pousse pousse (the Malagasy version of the Asian rickshaw) tour to the craft workshops which are otherwise hard to find on your own.

Day 3 of 16

Start: Antsirabe
Destination: Ranamofana National Park
Drive: 227 km | 6 hours

Drive to Ranamofana National Park. It's another lovely windy road, passing highland villages, rice paddies and rainforest-covered hills. Ambositra makes for a good coffee stop. For those interested in community tourism and highland culture, this is an interesting region to linger around for longer. Stay at Grand Hotel or Motel Violette (both budget) or continue to Ambalavao and stay at Betsileo Country Lode (mid-range), close to Anja National Park. 

Our favourite picks in Ranamofana:  

Budget: Camping allowed at park entrance, Ihary bungalows - €15/night

Mid-range: Setam Lodge - €30-50/night

Restaurant: Manja

Day 4 of 16

Enjoy: Ranamofana 

Ranamofana is a small but lively tropical town with a stunning riverside setting surrounded by rainforest-covered hills and the lovely scent of flowers in the air. It's the place to search for the golden bamboo lemur, only discovered in 1986. Park entrance costs €16 pp plus €31 per guide for a group up to four. Half of the proceeds go to the guide. A tip is still appreciated.

We were lucky on our hike, as we spotted a greater bamboo lemur, of which there are only two in the park. We also saw the golden bamboo lemur, red fronted brown lemur, Sifaka Eduardo, leaf tailed gecko, brookesia chamelon, paradise bird, queen fisher, a snake and leeches... 

Day 5 of 16

Start: Ranamofana National Park
Destination: Andringitra National Park
Drive: 153 km | 5.5 hours 

Drive to Andringitra National Park. Perhaps the most scenic drive thus far, especially beyond Ambalavao when the highland plateau gives way to deserted grassland with big sandstone massifs and distant horizons. Ambalavao is an interesting village to stop in and a base from which several community tourism initiatives are offered. 

The exit to Camp Catta and Tsara Tented Camp is 20 km after Ambalavao. Then it's 1 hour of off-road driving towards the park, with some rough parts. 

Acccommodation in Andringitra: 

Budget: Camping allowed at Camp Catta 

Mid-range: Camp Catta, which has a natural pool (€27-€55/night), Tsara Tented Camp (€40/night), Varangue Betsileo, which has a swimming pool (€40/night). 

Day 6 of 16

Enjoy: Andringitra

If you like hiking, this is a breathtaking area. Several hikes can be organised from the camps in this area, ranging from a few hours to multiple days. We did the real Andringitra, a tough full day walk up the peak. Bring plenty of water, sunscreen and a hat, as the sun is remorseless. Consider spending an extra night, to complete the Imarivolanitra trekking (2-3 days). 


Day 7 of 16

Start: Andingitra National Park
Destination: Tulear
Drive: 450 km| 8 hours

We're heading for the coast today! It's a long drive, so leave very early. No more windy roads, but distant horizons and deserted grasslands, with some rocky peaks. You can have an early lunch at one of the nice lodges around Isalo National Park. After Isalo, it's another 4 hours' drive.

Our favourite accommodation around Tulear: 

Mid-range: Famata Lodge, with swimming pool (€35/night), Residence Eden Lodge in Sarodrano fishing village (€35/night)

Deluxe: Bakuba Concept (pictured) - €115-175/night

Our favourite accommodation in Ifaty:

Mid-range: Paradisier, Belle Vue

Deluxe: Dunes 

 

 

 

Day 8 of 16

Enjoy: Tulear

The beach at Ifaty/Mangily, 24 km north of Tulear is nicer, but we prefer the vibe at St Augustine's Bay, south of Tulear. If you spend a few more days at the beach, consider going a bit more up the west coast towards the remote, yet beautiful Salary Bay (pictured) - 4 hours off-road driving, Nissan Double Cab required.

 

Day 9 of 16

Enjoy: Tulear

Those that have the time might linger around for longer at the beach to completely unwind, otherwise this is probably your last day at the beach before getting on the road again. 

Day 10 of 16

Start: Tulear
Destination: Isalo National Park
Drive: 225 km | 4 hours 

It's an easy 4 hour drive to Isalo National Park. On the way, you'll pass through sapphire ''boom'' towns. We found it impressive and throught-provoking. At Ilakaka, you can take a tour through the mines with Color Lines.

Roadtrip Madagascar's favourite accommodation in Isalo:

Budget: ITC lodge (Momo Trek) - €15, camping allowed
Mid-range: Isalo Ranch, with swimming pool - €42, camping allowed
Deluxe: Le Relais de la Reine (pictured), with pool & spa - €72-105

Day 11 of 16

Enjoy: Isalo National Park

The combination of sandstone rocks cut by deep canyons, waterfalls and natural pools, with all sorts of native plants make Isalo Madagascar's most visited national park. The piscine and cascade hiking trail can become crowded during high season. Consider a more off the beaten track experience with Momo Trek, who organise multiple-day hikes with camping into remote sections of the park. Further activities include horse riding or climbing the Via Ferrate (enquire with Relais de la Reine).  

Day 12 of 16

Start: Isalo National Park
Destination: Ambalavao
Drive: 228 km | 4 hours

Today, you're on your way to Ambalavao. There are various community tourism initiatives being developed in this culturally rich region. You can visit a paper factory, see silk production or a winery, visit the largest cattle market at Ambalavao or do a local homestay. Enquire with the lodge. Anja National Park is a small park with well-maintained hiking trails, where you can see ring-tailed lemurs and other wildlife. 

Accommodation in Ambalavao:

Mid-range: Varangue Betsileo, with swimming pool (€47/night)

Day 13 of 16

Start: Ambalavao
Destination: Antsirabe
Drive: 300 km | 5.5 hours

Drive to Antsirabe.

Our favourite accommodation in Antsirabe:

Budget: Camping allowed at Green Park and Madalief (out of town) 

Mid-range: Trianon (pictured) - €26/night, Madalief €26/night

Deluxe: Couleur Café €37/night

Restaurants: Chez Jenny (pizza, lively), Trianon (classic French), Vatolahy (classic French)

Day 14 of 16

Start: Antsirabe
Destination: Andasibe
Drive: 319 km | 8 hours

We're going to leave the RN7 and switch to the RN2 from Tana onwards. The scenery here is beautifully lush and tropical. The RN2 is the most important road of the country, connecting Tana with the port of Tamatave, so it can be busy with slow trucks. Be aware of dangerous overtaking. Coq d'Or in Moramanga makes a good coffee stop (try their eclairs!) or lunch break. 

Our favourite accommodation in Andasibe:

Budget: Feon' Ny Ala (€12-23/night) 

Mid-range: Grace Lodge (€ 28)

Restaurants: Feon' Ny Ala, especially their Chinese dishes

Day 15 of 16

Enjoy: Andasibe

Andasibe is the prime location to search for the Indri Indri. With its 'surprised teddy bear' face it looks more like a gone-wrong panda than a lemur. If you don't see them (99% chance you will), you will definitely hear them. They make an eerie, wailing sound that carries for kilometres. Each Indri Indri only cries up to three times a day as it costs them so much energy. It really is mind blowing to witness this ritual. 

You can do between 2 - 4 hour walks in Andasibe to search for the lemurs. It's not strenuous. Mantadia National Park is 20 km up north, much bigger and more suitable for the hiking enthusiast. On our hike with guide Hermann, who we had to pick because of his Dutch name :) we saw the following animals and birds: Indri indri, diadeem sifaka, brown lemur, pandanus frog, elephant ear chameleon, green day gecko, paradise fly cather and red fronted cova.

 

 

Day 16 of 16

Start: Andasibe
Destination: Antananarivo
Drive: 180 km | 3.5 hours

Explore Antananarivo and eat at one of its many good restaurants. 

Drop off your vehicle in Tana (€30), or at the airport, our office or a lodge in Ivato (free of charge). If you want to drop off your vehicle in Tana, it's hopeless trying to get into the old town centre during rush hour (which starts around 3-4 PM).

Roadtrip Madagascar's favourite restaurants in Antananarivo: 

Varangue, Sakamanga, Les 3 Metis, Kudeta, Petit Verdot, Villa Vanille. 

Roadtrip Madagascar's favourite places to stay in Ivato: 

Mid-Range: Guesthouse Susie's Place 

Deluxe: Au Bois Vert. Good restaurant and swimming pool.

Restaurants: Au Bois Vert, Savanna Café, L'Escalle

What to expect on this self drive adventure?

Travel time and road conditions on the RN7

A minimum of 16 days car rental is recommended to follow this route. 

On a travel day, you'll drive for 4-6 hours, without factoring in time for lunch, pictures, etc. On average, you'll spend two nights at each location. If you like hiking and want to do a multiple day trek, you will need more time in Andringitra and Isalo national parks.

Time not on your side? You can shorten this roadtrip by skipping Andasibe on your way back, reducing your round trip to 14 days. 

Road conditions on the RN7 are good. The only off-road driving is on the way to Andringitra and Isalo National Park. More travel tips can be found in our on the road section.

The RN7 is fine to travel year-round. Most rain falls between Jan-March. More seasonal information can be found in our when to go section. 

Go to Travel time and road conditions on the RN7

Prices

Low season  

Price per vehicle, in Euros. The Nissan X-Trail and Double Cab fits up to 4 adults. 

Price includes 16 days car rental and airport pick up & drop off.  

Want to do the RN7 Circuit with the company of a driver-guide? Add €480 to your total trip amount.

  Nissan X-trail Nissan Double Cab 
Per car  € 945 € 1,425

Peak season July - Sept |  Rest of year 

Price per vehicle, in Euros. The Nissan X-Trail and Double Cab fits up to 4 adults. 

Price includes 16 days car rental and airport pick up & drop off.  

Want to do the RN7 Circuit with the company of a driver-guide? Add €480 to your total trip amount.

  Peak season  Rest of year 
4x4 Light   € 1265 € 1105
Nissan Double Cab  € 1745 € 1585

Create & Book

Follow the RN7 Circuit as suggested, or use it as a starting point for your Madagascar travel inspiration, and adjust it to your liking.

Secure your vehicle

Included

  • Mobile phone with local SIM
  • Roadmap and Bradt Travel Guide
  • Comprehensive car insurance
  • Airport transfers

Optional

  • Driver-Guide
  • Electrical fridge
  • Camping gear