The Classic RN7

The Classic RN7

This classic one-way route will whisk you from Antananarivo down to Tuléar at the Mozambique Channel along the famed RN7, a smooth asphalt road. The first stretch consists of windy roads, to the rain forest of Andasibe, the colonial town of Antsirabe and tropical Ranamofana. You will pass highland villages, rice paddies and rain forest covered hills. This is followed by spectacular mountain scenery in Andringita National Park and desert plains and canyons in Isalo National Park. The sheer variety of National Parks that is dotted along the RN7 is just incredible. 

Recommended as a one-way rental trip. 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 12

Your roadtrip starts on the RN2 to Andasibe. You bypass Tana city centre via the ring road. The RN2 is a smooth asphalt road and 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 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! ) or lunch break. 

180 km | 3,5 hours

Our favourite picks in Andasibe:  

Budget: Feon' Ny Ala, € 12-23

Mid-range: Grace Lodge, € 28

Vakona: High end, € 100

Restaurants: Feon' Ny Ala, especially their Chinese dishes

Day 2 of 12

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. 

 

Day 3 of 12

Today is a long drive to Antsirabe via Tana, from where you 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 grass center of Madagascar. Or try a real good paella (we're not kidding), at El Torro in Ambutulampy.

310 km | 8 hours 

Our favourite picks:

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 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 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. 

Day 5 of 12

Drive to Ranamofana National Park. It's again a 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. 

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 6 of 12

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 is the place to search for the golden bamboo, only discovered in 1986. Park entrance cost € 16 pp plus € 31 for the guide for a group up to four. Half of the proceeds goes to the guide. A tip is still appreciated.

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 7 of 12

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 far horizons. Ambalavao is an interesting village to stop 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. Than its 1 hour off road driving towards the park with some rough parts. 

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 with pool (€ 40). 

 

 

Day 8 of 12

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 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

Once you're out of Andringitra 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 enroute! 

212 km| 4 hours 

Our favourite picks 

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

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

Deluxe: Le Relais de la Reine ( picture) Pool & Spa, € 72- 105. 

 

 

Day 10 of 12

The combination of sandstone rocks cut by deep canyons, waterfalls and natural pools, with all sorts  of endemic plants make this 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 climb the Via Ferrate! (enquire with Relais de la Reine).  

 

 

Day 11 of 12

It is an easy 4 hour drive to Tulear. On the way you pass through sapphire ''boom'' towns. We found it impressive, confronting and it makes you think. 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, southwards of Tulear. For the best beaches in Madagascar though, you have to go North (Nose Be), East ( Ille Sainte Marie) or West ( between Salary and Belo sur Mer). 

237 km | 4 hours 

Our favourite picks

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

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

 

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 ( see the Grand Circuit) or go to Anakao. Combine it 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 NP ( 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 cancelations can happen. Therefore, factor in one additional day in Tana 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 are recommended to follow this route. Time is not on your side? Skip Andasibe and directly start on the RN7,  thereby shorten this road trip to 9 rental days. 

It is possible to drop off your roadtrip rental car in Tulear. The costs to collect and bring back the car to Tana are forwarded to the hirer. This is € 235 (4 day driver fee, bus ticket, fuel) + 2 additional car rental days. In case another road tripper wants to drive back from Tulear to Tana, we try to lay the puzzle, so there's no delivery/ drop off costs involved. 

Road conditions are good. It is asphalt pavement, with an 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 practical tips.

Go to Travel time and road conditions

When is the best time to travel the RN7?

The RN7 is possible to travel year-round.  

July - September is peak season. Most lodges will be fully booked, so book well in advance. With a camp gear set in the back of your roadtrip rental car, you're still flexible. Secure your car well in advance, as we are fully booked months ahead. 

The rainy season is from January - March. The west and east coast are generally mostly affected by rains and cyclones. Travel along the RN7 is still possible. You will encounter rain, but travelling this time of year surely has its advantages. The landscape is beautifully green, there are few other travellers and 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 night temperatures drop to 5-10C in the highlands ( Antananarivo, Andasibe, Antsirabe) and the evenings are cool at the coast. 

Go to When is the best time to travel 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 11 day car rental, airport pick up, one-way drop-off fee. 

Want to do the RN7 with the company of a driver & guide? Add €275

  Nissan X-trail Nissan Double Cab 
Per car  1,132 1,522

Peak season | July - September

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

Price includes 11 day car rental, airport pick up, one-way drop-off fee. 

Want to do the RN7 with the company of a driver & guide? Add €275

  Nissan X-trail Nissan Double Cab 
Per car  1,262 1,652

Create & Book

Follow the RN7 Classic as described, or use it as a starting point, and adjust it to your liking.

Secure your vehicle

Included in your roadtrip

Included

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

Optional

  • Driver-Guide
  • Camping gear
  • Electrical fridge