The island nation of Madagascar is located in the Indian Ocean off the coast of East Africa. It brims with a lush land of mountains, pristine beaches, and a diverse range of habitats. Rich in culture and natural beauties, Madagascar beckons travelers to enjoy its tropical climate, amenity-rich resorts, and wealth of things to see and do. With few tourist trappings, Madagascar is a nature lover's paradise.

01Antananarivo

A postcard-worthy view of Antananarivo. pierivb / Getty Images

The capital and largest city of Madagascar, Antananarivo, boasts a diverse population and a wide range of attractions that include universities, art galleries, nightclubs, and markets. When you travel to the capital, don't miss out on the Rova Palace Complex, the Prime Minister’s Palace, the 19th century Anglican Cathedral, the Museum of Art and Archaeology, and the picturesque neighborhoods that feature views of the city’s hilly terrain. All those who visit Antananarivo will enjoy a friendly atmosphere, great food, and a treasure trove of shops.

02Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park

A bridge at Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park airspa / Getty Images

Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park, known as Madagascar’s ‘Badlands,’ is a forbidding landscape.  Its name in Malagasy means “where one cannot walk barefoot.” The park features jagged limestone formations that look like needles pointing upward. The landscape also contains deep fissures, caverns, canyons, and waterfalls. Cable bridges stretch precariously from great heights, allowing intrepid visitors to move from one “tsingy” to another. Aside from the geological wonderland that is Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park, the landscape is home to more than ten species of lemurs, which can be seen darting about. The park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is located near the west-central coast of Madagascar.

03Ile Sainte Marie

An idyllic scene on Ile Sainte Marie. mtcurado / Getty Images

Ile Sainte Marie is situated just off the eastern coast of Madagascar and it's most famous for its postcard-like beaches and lagoon. It has a long maritime history and is even home to an old buccaneer cemetery. The island is also a leading destination for whale watching. Humpback whales, and sometimes southern right whales,  favor the waters of the isle as breeding grounds. Dive into its warm waters, relax on the shore or take a ride between islands and the mainland in traditional dugout canoes.

04Isalo National Park

Isalo National Park's famous ring-tailed lemurs. Goddard_Photography / Getty Images

Isalo National Park is yet another example of Madagascar’s geological diversity. Located in the south-central region of the island, the park features rocky outcrops, deep canyons, plateaus, and vast plains. Patches of palm groves and rivers soften the carved gorges. During the wet season, watercourses meander through the landscape. The closest cities to it are Ihosy and Toliara. If you’re hoping to meet Madagascar’s most famous animal ambassadors, ring-tailed lemurs, this is where you may find them.

05Royal Hill of Ambohimanga

A view of the Royal Hill of Ambohimanga. dennisvdw / Getty Images

The Royal Hill of Ambohimanga is a sacred site for the Meringa people that dates back to 500 years ago, predating colonial visitors to the island. The compound contains stone walls, gateways, and a royal burial ground. Some of the buildings, like a former king’s palace, are surrounded by lush forests and are filled with solid rosewood. There are seven entrances to the complex, and you are welcome to participate in specially organized tours.

06Ranomafana National Park

A lush landscape of Ranomafana National Park. hlansdown / Getty Images

Featuring more than 160 square miles of rainforest terrain, Ranomafana National Park is famous for its more than 130 species of frogs. Located toward the eastern shores of the island, Ranomafana is a cloud rainforest that is home to a myriad of lizard, bat, and lemur species. Its landscape includes lush forests lined with trails and studded with waterfalls. In order to explore the park, however, a guide is required. Guides can be procured at the park office.

07Nosy Be

Nosy Be is a popular Madagascar vacation destination. pierivb / Getty Images

Nosy Be is one of Madagascar’s most famous resort centers, attracting visitors from all over the world. The small volcanic island is situated in Madagascar’s northwest coast and encompasses more than 120 square miles. The waters off the coast feature the rare Omura’s whale, while the island itself is home to lemurs and some of the smallest frog species in the world. With its stunning beaches, crystal waters, and fresh seafood, Nosy Be has all the positives of a resort setting without all the over-commercialized after taste.

08Ifaty

A tranquil scene on the Lagoon of Ifaty. pierivb / Getty Images

What seems like a nondescript fishing village is actually a world-class destination for snorkeling and diving. Ifaty is a small town on the southwest coast of Madagascar. Although it's remote, the town is quite used to tourists who come to enjoy its tranquil atmosphere and great fishing. There is a long 60-mile coral reef located off the coast that protects the beaches from more turbulent waves, but the gentler waters near shore are ideal for undersea exploration.

09Morondava

The Extraordinary Baobab trees of Morondava. pawopa3336 / Getty Images

Located on Madagascar’s western coast, the city of Morondava is famous for its Avenue of Baobab trees. The city’s baobabs are all that remain of a tropical rainforest that once grew there. While the sight of the trees attracts visitors, the city is especially popular with backpackers, owing to its proximity to Andranomena Reserve and Kirindy Mitea National Park. Travelers can expect to find guesthouses and other amenities like restaurants and shops in town.

10Zahamena National Park

A charming lemur resident of Zahamena National Park. michael meijer / Getty Images

Zahamena National Park may be the most difficult protected land to reach, but its emerald green rainforests and enchanting waterfalls are worth the trek. The park’s varying altitude has led to a diverse range of flora and fauna, including 13 species of lemurs, 62 species of amphibians, evergreens, and tree ferns. With its rivers, canyons, and deep slopes, Zahamena beckons experienced hikers. However, keep in mind that this park is virtually undeveloped, so there's no lodging or park infrastructure available. Ask local guides to show you around the park for the best spots.