Antananarivo: The Central Region of Madagascar, also known as the Central Highlands, Hauts Plateaux
With their old massifs featuring vigorous reliefs, their bowls and broad plains, it's no wonder that the Malagasy Highlands have reminded travellers of the French Massif Central.
But the scarcity of forests, the immensity of the steppe savannas and the terraced rice fields reflecting the Asian ancestry make the Central region unique. The folds and faults of the crystalline primary basement, its generally granitic bars, ridges, perched synclines and inselbergs (islets of hard rocks), intense volcanism and severe erosion have given this region its phenominal characteristics.
There are also the other 'hills', the 12 Sacred Hills of Imerina of historical significance to the Merina people of Madagascar. Located throughout Imerina, the central area of the highlands of Madagascar, the sites mark ancient capitals, the birthplaces of key public figures and the tomb sites of esteemed political or spiritual leaders.
The main city is Antananarivo (Tana), the capital of Madagascar at 1,275m overlooked by the Rova of Antananarivo palace complex, the centre of the Merina kingdom from the 17th century.
Going East is Parc National de Ranomafana, a vast area of rain forest, the home of many lemur species including the Golden Bamboo and Broad-Nosed gentle lemurs.
Andasibe-Mantadia National Park, about 15km North from Andasibe, is also a protected rainforest area in Central Madagascar. The park includes the Analamazaotra Reserve, home to the largest lemur, the Indri, which is known for its distinctive loud call. The Park is the habitat of many native species including the big Parson's chameleon, plus rare orchids and ferns. Trail circuits weave through dense forest, past lakes and the stunning Sacred Waterfall.
Antsirabe, 170km to the South of Tana is a spa town, the name meaning 'place of much salt' and hence its relaxing theraputic baths. Equally relaxing, perhaps, is the produce of The Star Brewery in Antsirabe, the popular THB (Three Horses Beer).
MAJOR CITIES/TOWNS: Antananarivo, Moramanga, Andasibe, Antsirabe, Ambatolampy, Ambositra
NATIONAL PARKS AND RESERVES:Analamazaotra Reserve, Mantadia-Andasibe National Park, Ranomafana National Park.
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