Antsiranana OverviewAntsiranana is the capital of Madagascar's northernmost province, Diana, and until 1975 it was known as Diego Suarez. The city has a port that has become a site for naval repairs and is the largest in the entire Indian Ocean. The port is mainly used for tinned fish and bottled drinks (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic). The city has a population of a little over 100,000. The French used the city as a military base after independence from 1960 until 1973, after the socialist revolution.
SightsThe town of Antsiranana is very close to d'Ambre National Park and Ankarana National Park, so many people pass through on their way to one of these parks. There are some historic colonial buildings in town worth visiting. The former Hotel de la Marine for seafarers is a good example of one of the buildings, though decaying, that depicts colonial architecture. Another way to see the colonial architecture is by walking down Rue Colbert all the way to Rue Richelieu. At the end of Rue Richelieu is a picture-perfect lighthouse.
The Bay of Antsiranana is one of the largest lagoons in the world and is a stunning sight to see. The bay opens into the Indian Ocean and is shaped like a flower. On the southern horizon of the bay, you can see Sugar Loaf, a mountain that is a popularly photographed landmark. If you are visiting sometime between December and March, you will probably notice large cruise ships sailing through the bay, as it is a popular stop on tourist cruise tours.
NeighborhoodsAntsiranana is the capital of the Diana region of Madagascar. It is the northernmost part of the entire island. Other regions nearby are Sofia (southwest) and Sava (southeast). A popular place to visit that is nearby to the city is Ramena. It is a small village with a beautiful, uncrowded beach. On the way to Ramena, look out for Baobabs, which are a species of trees only found in Madagascar.
ActivitiesExplore the Three Bays of Antsiranana: Pigeons' Bay, Dunes Bay, and Sakalava Bay. All have turquoise water with white sand beaches. Rent a 4x4 and venture out to the extreme tip of Madagascar where you can hike through the village of Ambodimanga and see multiple baobab trees. This is about a four to five hour journey.
There is a rock formation near the town called Windsor Castle. Surrounding the formation are many rare plants that can only be found in this region. There are also some fortifications from World War II that are visible.
Visit Jungle Park, which is camp located a bit outside of town. There are tons of activities offered here; hiking, climbing, and bird watching to name a few. There are bungalows to stay in that are built with completely natural materials; some of them are even built high up in the trees as if you are staying in a tree house!
Something to keep in mind while in Antsiranana is that most places close between noon and three in the afternoon as most residents use this time for napping.
Food and DiningThe national dish of Madagascar is Romazava. It is cooked in a large pot and usually served over rice. It contains beef, pork, and chicken with onions, tomatoes, spinach and garlic. The cuisine in Madagascar is called Malagasy and is influenced by India, Africa, Southeast Asia, China, and Europe.
For Malagasy cuisine, Le Mora Mora is a great place to eat at. It is located on the corner of Rue Montcalm and Sylvain Roux. Le Balafomaga is another great place to get local food. You can enjoy your meal while sitting on a bamboo-covered terrace. A great breakfast or lunch spot is Sant Diego Rock Café, which serves breakfast items, burgers, pizza, milkshakes, crepes and more. Da Ruggero is a fine Italian restaurant in town, which is across from Camp Militare. L'etincelle serves delicious and traditional French cuisine and is near the Grand Hotel on Rue Colbert.
TransportationArrachart International Airport is about ten kilometers from the city. This is the best option if coming to Antsiranana from somewhere off of the island itself. From Antananarivo, another large city in Madagascar, you can take a direct bus, however, it is a three- day journey. It is advisable that you reserve bus tickets in advance to ensure your spot.
Once in the town, you can get around on foot or by taxi. If you wish to visit Ramena beach, a taxi will cost around 50,000AR round-trip.