The Classic RN7
This classic one-way route will whisk you from Antananarivo down to Tuléar along the famed RN7, a smooth asphalt road. The first stretch up to the colonial town of Antsirabe and rainforest of Ranamofana consists of windy roads. You will pass highland villages, rice paddies and rainforest-covered hills. This is followed up by spectacular mountain scenery in Andringita National Park and desert plains and canyons in Isalo National Park. The sheer variety of national parks dotted along the RN7 is just incredible.
The Classic RN7 route is recommended as a one-way rental trip. Scroll down to see the day-to-day route with tips on places to stay so you can book the accommodation yourself. These are the lodges we like to stay in 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 12
Drive: 180 km | 3,5 hours
Your roadtrip starts on the RN2 to Andasibe. You bypass Antananarivo city centre via the ring road. The RN2 is a smooth asphalt road and the most important road in Madagascar, connecting Tana with the port of Tamatave, so it can be busy with slow trucks. Be aware of dangerous overtaking on the windy roads. It is a lovely drive, through rainforest covered hills. Coq d'Or in Moramanga is a good coffee stop (try their eclairs!) for a lunch break.
Accommodation options in Andasibe:
Budget: Feon' Ny Ala (€12-23/night)
Mid-range: Grace Lodge (€28/night)
High end: Vakona (€100/night)
Restaurants: Feon' Ny Ala, especially their Chinese dishes
Day 2 of 12
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. Even 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.
Day 3 of 12
Drive: 310 km | 8 hours
Today is a long drive to Antsirabe via Antananarivo, from where you'll start your roadtrip on the famous RN7. Expect 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 gras center of Madagascar. Or try a really good paella (we're not kidding), at El Torro in Ambutulampy.
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 and Zandina (best pizza), Trianon (classic French), Vatolahy (classic French) and Conterno (pastries, baguettes)
Day 4 of 12
Explore Antsirabe town and surroundings. Take a pousse pousse (the Malagasy version of the Asian rickshaw) tour to the craft workshops, which arehard 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.
Day 5 of 12
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
Day 6 of 12
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 7 of 12
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.
Our favourite picks:
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 8 of 12
If you like hiking, this is a breath taking 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 to the peak. Bring plenty of water, sunscreen and a hat, as the sun is remorseless. Consider factoring some extra days to complete the Imarivolanitra trekking (2-3 days).
Day 9 of 12
Start: Andringitra National Park
Drive: 212 km| 4 hours
Once you're out of Andringitra National Park again, the drive to Isalo is a smooth journey on good asphalt. No more windy roads, but far horizons and deserted grasslands with some rocky peaks. Bring packed lunch as there are no places to buy or eat something en route!
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 10 of 12
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 11 of 12
Start: Isalo National Park
Drive: 237 km | 4 hours
It's an easy 4 hour drive to Tulear. 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.
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. For the best beaches in Madagascar, you have to go North (Nosy Be), East (Ille Sainte Marie) or West (between Salary and Belo sur Mer).
Mid-range: Famata Lodge, with pool (€35/night), Residence Eden Lodge in Sarodrano fishing village (€35/night)
Deluxe: Bakuba Concept (pictured), with swimming pool (€115-175/night)
Day 12 of 12
Spend a few days at the beach around Tulear before you fly back to Tana, and perhaps onwards to another beach destination (Nosy Be, Ile Sainte Marie, Mauritius, Seychelles). Continue your roadtrip along the West Coast of Madagascar (see the Grand Circuit) or go to Anakao. Combine this route with the following and you have an adventurous, off the beaten track loop: Drive back to Ranohira (Isalo) - visit Zombitse -Vohibasia - exit the RN7 and take the inland RN10 to Anakao (6.5 hours, rough road) -visit Lake Tsiamanapetrosa National Park (50 km south of Anakao) - make your way back to the RN7 (full day drive).
Book your domestic flights with Air Madagascar or Madagasikara Airways. Delays and cancellations can occur, so factor in one additional day in Antananarivo in order not to miss your international flight.
What to expect on this self drive adventure?
Travel time and road conditions
A minimum of 11 car rental days is recommended to follow this route. Time not on your side? Skip Andasibe and start directly on the RN7, shortening this trip to 9 car rental days.
It's possible to drop off your roadtrip rental car in Tulear, with the costs to collect and return the car to Tana forwarded to the hirer. This is €235 (4 day driver fee, bus ticket, fuel) + 2 additional car rental days.
Road conditions on the RN7 are good. It's asphalt pavement, with the occasional pothole. There are few other road users. The only off-road driving is to get to Andringitra (see picture) and Isalo National Park. Check our on the road section for more practical tips.
When is the best time to travel the RN7?
The RN7 is fine to travel all year round.
July - September is peak season. Most lodges will be fully booked, so book well in advance. With a camping gear set in the back of your roadtrip rental car, you'll be more flexible. Secure your car well in advance, as we are fully booked months ahead.
The rainy season in Madagascar is from January to March. The west and east coast are generally most affected by rains and cyclones. Travel along the RN7 is still possible. The landscape is beautifully green, there are few other travellers, car rental and accommodation rates are discounted and there's no need to book you accomodation in advance.
The coolest months are June and July. Winter daytime temperatures are still very pleasant and even warm at the coast, but at night temperatures drop to 5-10C in the highlands (Antananarivo, Andasibe, Antsirabe) and the evenings are cool at the coast.
Low season | Jan - March
Price per vehicle, in Euros. The Nissan X-Trail and Double Cab fit up to 4 adults.
Price includes 11 days car rental, airport pick up, one-way drop off fee (Tuear/Ifaty).
Want to do the RN7 with the company of a driver-guide? Add €330.
|Nissan X-trail||Nissan Double Cab|
|Per car||€ 1020||€ 1410|
Peak season July - Sept | Rest of year
Price per vehicle, in Euros. The Nissan X-Trail and Double Cab fit up to 4 adults.
Price includes 11 days car rental, airport pick up, one-way drop off fee (Tulear/Ifaty).
Want to do the RN7 with the company of a driver-guide? Add €330
|Peak season||Rest of year|
|4x4 Light||€ 1280||€ 1150|
|Nissan Double Cab||€ 1670||€ 1540|
Create & Book
Follow the Classic RN7 route through Madagascar as suggested, or use it as a starting point for travel inspiration, and adjust it to your liking.Secure your vehicle
Included in your roadtrip
- Airport transfers
- Comprehensive car insurance
- Mobile phone with local SIM
- Roadmap and Bradt Travel Guide
- One way rental fee
- Camping gear
- Electrical fridge