RN7 Circuit

When you have the time and want to avoid spending money on expensive domestic flights, drive the RN7 up and down. There are so many things to see and do along the way, that you can make your way down the coast completely different from your way up to Tana again. It also allows to stop at hidden gems, less visited. 

Along the way, you will find plenty of restaurants to have lunch and lodges, guesthouses and campsites in all price ranges. Scroll down below to see the day-to- day route with tips on places to stay, so that you can book the accommodation yourself. These are lodges we like to stay 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

Your start on the famed RN7! Expect asphalt, windy roads passing rice paddies and small highland villages. You can have a terrific lunch stop at Coin de Foie Grass in Behenjy, the foie grass center of Madagascar. Or try an authentic paella ( we're not kidding) at El Torro in Ambutulampy.

180 km | 4,5 hours

Our favourite picks in Antsirabe: 

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

Mid-range: Trianon € 26, Madalief € 26

Deluxe: Couleur Café € 37

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

Day 2 of 16

Explore Antsirabe town and surroundings. 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. 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 welcomed. 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

Drive to Ranamofana National park. It's again a lovely windy road, passing highland villages, rice paddies and rainforest covered hills. Ambositra makes a good coffee stop. For those interested in community tourism and highland culture, this is an interesting region to linger around for longer or on your way back again. If you do, stay at Betsileo Country Logde ( mid-range), or Grand Hotel or Motel Violette (both budget).

227 km | 6 hours

Our favourite picks in Ranamofana: 
Budget: Camping allowed at park entrance, Ihary bungalows € 15
Mid-range: Setam Lodge € 30-50
Restaurant: Manja

Day 4 of 16

Ranamofana is a small and lively tropical town with a stunning riverside setting surrounded by rainforest covered hills and the lovely scent of flowers in the air. It reminded us of Bali, but then 20 years ago.

It is the place to search for the golden bamboo, only discovered in 1986. We were lucky on our hike, as we saw the greater bamboo lemur, of which there are only two in the park. Furthermore, we saw the Golden bamboo lemur, Red fronted brown lemur, Sifaka Eduardo, Leaf tailed gecko, Brookesia chamelon, Paradise bird, Queen fisher, a type of snake and, leeches :)

Day 5 of 16

Drive to Andringitra National Park. Perhaps the most scenic drive thus far, especially beyond Ambalavao when the highland plateau give sway to far horizons, deserted grassland with big sandstone massifs. 

The exit to Camp Catta and Tsara Tented Camp is 20 km after Ambalavao. Than its 1 hour off road driving towards the park with some rough parts, so drive carefully. 

153 km| 5,5 hours 

Our favourite picks: 

Budget: Camping allowed at Camp Catta 

Mid-range: Camp Catta, has a natural pool  (€27-€55), Tsara Tented Camp € 40, Varangue Betsileo € 47 ( close to Anja National Park) has a pool. 

Day 6 of 16

If you like hiking, this is a breath taking area. Several hikes are 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

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

450 km| 8 hours

Our favourite picks around Tulear: 

Mid-range: Famata Lodge, pool € 35, Residence Eden Lodge in Sarodrano fishing village, € 35

Deluxe: Bakuba Concept ( see picture)  € 115-175. 

Our favourite picks in Ifaty

Mid-range: Paradisier, Belle Vue

Deluxe: Dunes 

 

 

 

Day 8 of 16

The beach at Ifaty| Mangily 24 km north of Tulear is nicer, but we prefer the vibe at St Augustine's Bay, southwards 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 shown at the picture. (4 hours off road driving, Nissan Double Cab required)

 

Day 9 of 16

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 you make your way up again. 

Day 10 of 16

It is a gentle, 4 hour drive to Isalo National Park. As you saw on your way coming, you pass through sapphire ''boom'' towns. We thought it was impressive, confronting, makes you think. At Ilakaka, you can take a tour through the mines with Color Lines.

225 km | 4 hours

Roadtrip Madagascars favourite picks in Isalo

Budget: ITC lodge ( Momo Trek) € 15, camping allowed

Mid-range: Isalo Ranch, pool, camping allowed € 42 

Deluxe: Le Relais de la Reine with Spa & pool ( € 72- €105). 

Day 11 of 16

Isalo is Madagascar's most popular national park and for good reason. The combination of sandstone rocks cut by deep canyons, natural pools, rare endemic plants and several species of lemur ( sifakas, ring-tails and brown lemur), make this a wonderful place to explore. The Piscine and Cascade track can become crowded during peak season. Consider a more off the beaten track experience with Momo Trek for multiple day camping trips  into remote corners of Isalo. Further activities: horse riding or climb the Via Ferrate (enquire with Relais de la Reine

Day 12 of 16

On your way to Ambalavao. There are various community tourism initiatives developed in this culture rich region. You could visit a paper factory, see silk production, a winery, visit the largest cattle market at Ambalavao or do a homestay. Enquire with the lodge. Anja National Park is a small park with good maintained hiking trails where you can see the ring-tailed lemurs. 

228 km | 4 hours

Mid-range: Varangue Betsileo, pool - € 47

Day 13 of 16

Drive to Antsirabe.

300 km | 5,5 hours

Our favourite picks in Antsirabe

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

Mid-range: Trianon (see picture) € 26, Madalief € 26

Deluxe: Couleur Café € 37

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

Day 14 of 16

We're going to leave the RN7 and switch to the RN2 from Tana onwards. The scenery 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. 

319 km | 8 hours

Our favourite picks in Andasibe:

Budget: Feon' Ny Ala| €12-23. 

Mid-range: Grace Lodge|  € 28

Restaurants: Feon' Ny Ala, especially their Chinese dishes

Day 15 of 16

Andasibe is the prime location to search for the Indri Indri. With it's 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 for sure 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 cost them so much energy. It is really mind blowing to be a witness of this ritual. 

You can do between 2 - 4 hour walks in Andasibe to search for the lemurs. It is not strenuous. Mantadia National Park is 20km up north, much bigger and more for the hiking enthusiast. On our hike with guide Hermann, whom 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 ghecko, Paradise fly cather, Red fronted cova.

 

 

Day 16 of 16

Explore Antananarivo and eat at one of the 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 is hopeless trying to get into the old town centre around rush hour (starting around 3-4 PM already).

180 km | 3,5 hours

Roadtrip Madagascars 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 Susies Place 

Deluxe: Au Bois Vert. With 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

16 day car rental is recommended to follow this route. 

On a travel day, you drive between 4 - 6 hours without factoring in time for lunch, pictures etc. On average, you spend two nights at one location. If you like hiking and want to do a multiple day track, you will need more time in Andringitra and Isalo National park.

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

Road conditions are good. The only off road driving is to get to Andringitra and Isalo National Park. More tips at the on the road section.

The RN7 is possible to travel year-round. Most rain falls between Jan-March. More info at when to go section. 

Go to Travel time and road conditions on the RN7

Prices

Rest of year  

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

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

Want to do the RN7 Circuit with the company of a driver & guide? Add € 400.

  Nissan X-trail Nissan Double Cab 
Per car  € 1,104 € 1,584

Peak season | July - September  

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

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

Want to do the RN7 Circuit with the company of a driver & guide? Add € 400.

  Nissan X-trail Nissan Double Cab 
Per car  € 1,264 € 1,744

Create & Book

Follow the RN7 Circuit as described, or use it as a starting point, 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