"Bira or Antsirabe" Antsirabe by Norali

Antsirabe Travel Guide: 43 reviews and 147 photos

En route for Antsirabe

170 km from urban Tana, it epitomizes "Little Europe" in Madagascar. Yet, people there are real Malagasy, Merina indeed, and Antsirabe belongs to Antananarivo province. There are now reported 200 000 inhabitants in this capital city of Vakinankaratra region.

Worth noticing: it is the coldest place in Madagascar and located at an altitude of 1500m.

This kind of landscape is what you would see in your way to Antsirabe. Cultivated plots. Ricefields. Cascade pineapple fields. Rocky mountains. Pinewood & eucalyptus woods.

Along the road, you will see stalls that sell tiny tin cars (made from recycled cans); little brightly-coloured -wood trucks... as well as boiled or grilled corn on cobb in Easter... Yummy! Find there fruits: pineapple, strawberry, quenchy and sweet apples and peaches... as well as poultry :-) The region known as the orchard of Madagascar also sells flower species along its route... Orchids, anthirium types, roses, begonia, rhodos...everything that can grow is here provided it is not from a too cold country (Canadian blue pine doesn't grow here, for instance, let alone in other parts of the island. Tulips neither.).

Anyway, this is a trip I appreciate. Not too long & for a destination that is yet different from urban Tana. 3 hours are enough.

Maybe a personal tie with Antsirabe: though my Dad's family comes from North of Tana (where my place Malaza is), my grand-parents established themselves in this area. They have a house built in Bira. This large family of 15 kids lived there till children (my uncles and aunts) moved to Tana for study or work. Now, they live either in urban Tana either in Malaza where they all have inherited plots of land from my grand-parents. My grand-ma always lived there exception her last months on earth. Only two aunts (out of 15 kids) stayed in Antsirabe... But then, some cousins who lived in Tana have found jobs in the industrial companies in Antsirabe region.

For a sentimental reason, my uncles, aunts and parents use to bring here kids to be baptised in their Anglican church. I admit that this is greatest reason why this family really enjoys returning there, me included. Easter and Xmas are special there. I was there Dec 2005 for Christmas & Apr 2006 for Easter. When is next ? [Update Feb 2008: There was the Sep-Oct 2007 stint] Wanna know the reason for this intro picture ? Hit the General Tips section !

Entering Antsirabe...

Circa 1872, Norwegian missionaries established there to escape from heat in coastal cities. So, later, did the French. They still stand there now, with involvement in agricultural and breeding research. The region uses to welcome Belgian (at least, from Gembloux university), Norwegian academics and cooperation staff members.

This region provides other regions (esp. Tana) with flowers, fresh fruits and vegetables as well as dairy products. Industrial plants produce national brands' products: Tobacco plants, Cotona (cotton fabrics), Hasyma (cultivates and processes cotton, cotton mills), Star (beverage producer and brewer)... You name it, Three Horses Beer, (THB), National beer is theirs. Visy Gasy (or Malagasy Vichy), the sparkling mineral water, has its sources there as well. Another spring water has its source from the mountains on your way to Antsirabe (in the Vakinankaratra region).

Plants and industrial premices are seen at the entries (both when coming from Tana and coming from South)

While Toamasina and Mahajanga welcome great influxes of holidaymakers during winter holidays (July to September), Bira welcomes holidaymakers in Easter holidays.

Go there to relax as the city is really calm, safe, rather clean. Antsirabe is also the trade place for precious stones that are extracted in Southern Ilakaka. You may buy things there but, don't buy in the streets if you are not a connoisseur.. See my tip on that :-)

Tritriva and Andraikiba lakes are worth seeing. Both have their own legend. Ask your guide to arrange a trekking there.

**Picture is of a truly European style villa. This restaurant serves, in fact, Malagasy food. I'll check about the name. Have never tried it there but was told the food is OK...**

Little Europe

Surely, its European style comes from history.

Here and there, you will find many buildings, houses whose styles are European inspired ones. Traditional Highlands houses with balcony (lavarangana) adjoins with French cottage- style house and Scandinavian villas. Gardens in front of houses are of English style. Some buildings just look like mountain huts somewhere in Switzerland... The whole set is rather unified though... Flowers, trees, large avenues are common to most of corners.

Don't miss its daily market in Asabotsy. Great influx there on Saturdays (Asabotsy). You will there products from all over the island.

Thermal spa exists since Norwegian families started exploiting springs of Antsirabe area centuries ago. Later, the French developed this business. Here is the picture of Les thermes, a thermal spa. Antananarivo royal family (Ranavalona II and her sons) used to have a stay at the spa. However, I am not sure it works well at the moment. I know it had to be restaured and was closed for this purpose but I do not have any update of the advancement of works.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Quiet city, rather clean, smooth people
  • Cons:Too quiet if that matters
  • In a nutshell:A place to relax with interesting sightseeing
  • Last visit to Antsirabe: Apr 2006
  • Intro Updated Feb 24, 2008
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Reviews (35)

Comments (15)

  • Jim_Eliason's Profile Photo
    Mar 30, 2010 at 2:51 AM

    Great tips!

  • fabrice's Profile Photo
    Oct 15, 2007 at 12:01 AM

    0°C en hiver ? incroyable en plein océan indien...

  • cadzand's Profile Photo
    Apr 26, 2006 at 1:21 PM

    I love travelling through your eyes. Almost as if I were there.

  • Apr 23, 2006 at 12:15 AM

    Very interesting updates, Norali. Thank you.'njoy what is left of the weekend!:~))

  • gabriellefox's Profile Photo
    Feb 12, 2005 at 3:11 AM

    Excellent tips and pictures of this exotic remote location. Thank you.

  • pepples46's Profile Photo
    Jan 26, 2004 at 5:06 PM

    I would not have thought bringing warm jamies to the Island......superb reading, excellent tips and great pics, from a land I don't knew much about. tanx for sharing

  • ATLC's Profile Photo
    Dec 7, 2003 at 1:01 AM

    Excellent inside information. Thank you.

  • Luchonda's Profile Photo
    Oct 3, 2003 at 11:00 PM

    Thanks for the information about this part of the world ! Rather unknown for me and other VT'rs So thx again -this tips are what VT stands for !

  • Norali's Profile Photo
    Jun 20, 2003 at 12:31 PM

    Yes, King... Hotel des Thermes is not the best but most expensive. My fave is Arotel, both for services and food.

  • Narviking's Profile Photo
    Jun 20, 2003 at 12:30 PM

    I stay at Hotel de Thermes and so it wasnt the best hotel in town after all... :(


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