Rubies, sapphires, emeralds, garnets … the list is long. Madagascar is often associated with lemurs or stunning sandy beaches, but actually, in its craters, the island hides thousands of precious stones: the dream of jewellers from all over the world.
Of a distance of 170km from the capital is the spa town of Antsirabe, a name which means ‘the place where there is a lot of salt and relaxing thermal baths’. In the town, you can buy cut stones, uncut stones and ornamental stones. The most popular market is that of Cercle Mess, a stone’s throw away from the spa hotel of les Thermes, a must for tourists visiting Antsirabe who are interested in precious or ornamental stones.
The ground beneath the region conceals huge wealth and all these stones, essentially semi-precious, are true treasures for anyone taking the trouble to seek them out. There are 30 or so little stalls spaced around inside the walls of the former garrison of Antsirabe, exhibiting stones of different sizes and shapes, that have been worked by craftsmen, ranging from cut and polished stones set in jewellery to industrial stonework, not to forget the famous solitaire sets. Professional jewellers from all over the world come here for their stock.
Very quickly, the vendors will come and invite you to admire stones which, they claim, are of course of the highest quality. The experienced gemologist knows that each needs to be studied very carefully.
This article was featured in Prime-Magazine-March-2019.pdf
Quand y aller?
The market for precious stones is held in the former garrison located in the centre of the town of Antsirabe, a few minutes from the Hôtel des Thermes. The region has a hot tropical climate, with temperatures varying between 6°C and 31°C. Southern winter is often colder here than in the other regions of Madagascar. The best period to visit is between March and October.
Comment s’y rendre?
Apart from renting a car, with or without a driver, the best way to travel to Antsirabe is to take a bush taxi from the bus station of Fasan’ny Karana, in the south of Antananarivo.
Où se loger?
Antsirabe offers a wide range of accommodation. There are the self catering apartments of Marciloui, but also H1 Hotel, the Royal Palace, the Trianon, the Green Land Lodge, Couleur Café, the Hôtel des Thermes or the Vahiny. The list is long and you will be made very welcome wherever you stay in the town.
You will have no difficulty at all finding a good restaurant in Antsirabe and most of the hotels also have their own restaurant. However, a few addresses deserved a special mention: Zandina, Chez Jenny, Le Pousse-pousse, Le Rêve, and La Cabane Chez Cla. You can also find high quality food in town and you will appreciate the warm welcome of the local population.
Visit the spa of Antsirabe then take a stroll along the Avenue de l’Indépendance. If you have the time, the best spa is Betafo and take a trip to appreciate the beauty of the lakes of Andraikiba and Tritriva.