The best time to visit Madagascar

Updated: 13th March 2019

Baobab trees in Madagascar - Best time to visit
Rainfall is at a minimum in Madagascar between April and December

Seasons and Weather

Madagascar’s climate varies dramatically both by region and by season. From January to March the country, especially the central highlands and north coast, sees a lot of rain and the occasional cyclone. Accommodation prices, of those properties that actually stay open, drop during this time but the weather renders a lot of activities impossible. By April, the storms have begun to taper out and the country takes on a lush, green colour as the thoroughly hydrated plant life flourishes in full force. For nature lovers and those who want to surf, April and May are generally considered good months to visit.

If your purpose for visiting Madagascar is to see some of its spectacular wildlife then it is best to time your trip accordingly. Humpback whales can be spotted from July to September whereas baby lemurs are more common in October and November. The latter part of the year sees temperatures soar, making it excellent for lying on the beach.

Generally, April to December is the best period to head to the island of Madagascar. December can sometimes be the start of the rainy season but at the beginning of the month, rainfall should be at a minimum and lizards, snakes and chameleons are usually quite active during this time. For a combination of great weather and abundant wildlife, October and November are probably the best months to visit.

Thinking of visiting Madagascar? Download a copy of our Africa brochure for inspiration.

Climate | Tana

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Temp Min °C171717151310101011131517
Temp Max °C272727262422212224272828
Rainfall (mm)331281188764741272355160308

Climate | Ifaty

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Temp Min °C232222201715151517192022
Temp Max °C292828272625252626272729
Rainfall (mm)667236241218654962475
Malagasy traditional tomb - Madagascar - On The Go Tours
Traditional Malagasy tombs feature during the celebration of Famadihana

Festivals and Events

It can only be expected that a country as vibrant and colourful and with as rich a history as Madagascar will have festivals and events to match. Often ceremonies will combine traditional customs and cultures with elements of Christianity, delicately blending the two to achieve a unique and fascinating festival that can be enjoyed by everyone.

Alahamady Be

This festival celebrates the traditional New Year for the Malagasy people and takes place during the first new moon of the Malagasy New Year, which occurs in March. During this event, people dress up in their favourite lamba, a colourful piece of fabric that is wrapped around the body, and climb to the top of a local hill to engage in singing and dancing. In Antananarivo, people head to the Royal Hill of Ambohimanga to celebrate.

Zegny Zo

Taking place in May, Zegny Zo lasts a whole week and is a celebration of arts and culture in all its manifestations. This festival takes the form of a carnival and spectators will be able to see all kinds of performances, including street theatre, parades, painting, puppetry, circus acts and more. The aim of the event is to promote the town of Diego Suarez and to nourish the creative talents of its residents.

Donia

Celebrated on Nosy Be, Donia, a week-long festival, transforms this heavenly, tropical island into a cultural hotspot. With live music shows, songwriting competitions, beauty pageants, sporting events and all kinds of other exciting activities, this is one of Madagascar’s hottest events of the year. The main stage at the festival usually sees groups not just from Madagascar but also from Reunion, Mauritius and Comoros who perform a variety of musical genres, including rock, reggae and Creole pop.

Independence Day

On June 26th, the Malagasy people celebrate their independence from French rule, which they were under from 1897 until 1960. After WWII, demands for independence by the natives increased exponentially and despite around 80,000 being slaughtered during uprisings and demonstrations, the pressure continued and eventually the French withdrew. This day is celebrated with a parade by the armed forces, speeches from officials and musical performances.

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Madajazzcar

In case the name didn’t give it a way, Madajazzcar is a huge jazz festival that takes place in Madagascar every year. Originating in what is now Antananarivo, the festival was the brainchild of three young doctors who had a passion for jazz. Jazz artists from across the country, as well as from the US and Europe, gather in the capital to perform and promote jazz music to the masses.

Famadihana

This unusual festival is all about showing respect for your ancestors and only takes place once every seven years. During the event, which translates as “turning of the bones”, family crypts are opened and corpses are brought out to be wrapped in new silk. The living then dance with the body, play live music and sacrifice animals in honour of the dead, dishing out the meat to all in attendance and creating a lavish feast.

2019 Calendar

To help plan your visit to Madagascar, here's an overview of the festivals and events taking place in 2019. This is by no means an exhaustive list so if you are thinking of heading to Madagascar outside of these dates and want to know what's on, check out a more comprehensive list here.

June 5th-9th - Donia (Nosy Be)
June 26th - Independence Day (Nationwide)
Dates TBC - Alahamady Be (Nationwide)
Dates TBC - Zegny Zo (Diego Suarez)
Dates TBC - Madajazzcar (Antananarivo)

There's also a number of national holidays in Madagascar and on these dates many businesses and some tourist sites will close for the day so plan your visit accordingly.

See Also

Check out the following useful resources to help plan your visit to Madagascar:

Best Places to Visit - national parks and more not to be missed
Tourist Visas - what you need to know prior to travelling to Madagascar
Top Travel Tips - information about money, food and vaccinations