What to see in Madagascar
Tourist attractions Fianarantsoa
Literally translated as ‘the city of good education’, Fianarantsoa is the cultural and intellectual centre of Madagascar. Situated in the south-central region of Haute Matsiatra, Fianrantsoa is known for its historic churches, traditional houses and abundant vineyards. Many visitors travel to Fianarantsoa as part of a wider Madagascar tour, due to its location at the crossroad of several important cross-country roads.
Set in the highlands at an average altitude of 1,500 metres above sea level, this cultural capital is surrounded by verdant valleys, vineyards and tea plantations for as far as the eye can see. Furthermore, it is considered the gateway to the wild rainforests and wildlife of eastern Madagascar and it is just 65 kilometres from Ranomafana National Park.
The city itself is one of the oldest in the country and relatively large by Madagascan standards. It is split into two parts: the upper town and the lower town. The most interesting architecture, including Protestant and Lutheran churches and old schoolhouses, can be found in the upper town. Fianarantsoa is also considered the centre of Madagascar’s Betsileo ethnic community, making it an important destination for anyone interested in learning more about traditional culture. Finally, wine lovers will also relish a trip to Fianarantsoa, as the surrounding vineyards offer the chance to savour a great variety of unique Madagascan wines.
Things to do in Fianarantsoa
Of all the things to do in Fianarantsoa, exploring the Old Town is sure to be a highlight. The best place to admire the 19th-century architecture, the Old Town, or ‘upper town’ as it is known, is home to up to fifty churches, as well as a wide selection of bookstores, wine shops and curiosity shops. The focal point is the Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral, a Roman Catholic Church, constructed in 1871 in a classical style. If you take a stroll through Fianarantsoa Old Town you’ll also come across a number of important colleges, schools and museums.
Fianarantsoa is not just a cultural capital; it’s also at the centre of Madagascar’s wine-making industry. Wine tourism is becoming increasingly popular and the terraced vineyards surrounding the city are well worth a visit. Clos Malaza is Fianarantsoa’s most prestigious wine producer, producing red, white and rose wines. Most local vineyards continue the ancient traditions of producing their wines completely by hand, making a trip to Fianarantsoa’s vineyards a fascinating experience.
Other things to do in Fianarantsoa include visiting the vast tea plantations of nearby Sahambavavy or taking an excursion to the famous Ranomafana National Park, around 65 kilometres from the city and known for its immense biodiversity and concentration of wildlife.