The Matsiatra Highlands would be worth a stop-over on the way to the South of Madagascar. Among many unique tourist attractions the name-giving river Matsiatra stands-out.
For the population of the region the river facilitates agricultural production, but as tourist we might be rather interested to ride down the Matsiatra by a traditional pirogue.
The departure will be at Mahasoabe. On our downwards passage, we can watch the life of the Betsileo (ethnic group of this region). During several stops we witness the everyday peasant activities and discover the royal remains of noble Betsileo. Throughout this trip you will enjoy the view of beautiful landscapes at waterfalls. Calculate about 1h 30 for the road, 4 to 5 hours of canoe rafting and 45 minutes to return to Fianarantsoa. You’ll be driven back to the starting point in a light convertible car.
Another destination of sightseeing for a canoe raft is the village of Vohimasina or the sacred hill located 12km north of Fianarantsoa. This tour leads us is from North to South, with the church of Tompomasiaka as starting point. In the old days "Vohimasina" was a place of Madagascan royalty, still marked by a square form of the Royal Tomb built by Prince Ramaharo in the late nineteenth century. The prince’s portrait and that of some descendants are hanging in Royal Palace nearby.
When to go
The climate in Fianarantsoa is moderate and warm, you can go there all year, except during the hurricane seasons between February and April.
How to get there
By car, a 6-hour drive will take you to Fianarantsoa from the Madagascan capital Antananarivo. For a descent to the river, check with your travel agency or the Regional Tourist Office of Upper Matsiatra.
Where to stay
At the Hotel Soafia, located in the heart of the city of Fianarantsoa. Other recommendable options are Zomatel, Soratel, Bed and Breakfast Villa Sylvestre or Le Cotsoyannis.
Where to eat
At the Tsara Guest House restaurant, which offers European specialties or at the restaurant La Surprise Betsileo for typical Malagasy dishes. At Lac Hotel, the chef's specialty is wild duck hunted by the owner himself. Also try the Little Food or the Golden Dragon.
What to see
Take a tour around the village of Vohimasina to discover the workshops of the blacksmiths and the daily life of the villagers. There is folk entertainment or you buy souvenirs such as weaving, basketry and ironwork. Also worth a visit are the craft brickyard or a former military camp of the colonial era.