Fianarantsoa - Abbey Travel, Ireland

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Welcome to Fianarantsoa


The capital of the Haute Matsiatra Region, Fianarantsoa is among the biggest and oldest cities in the country, and a top tourist destination in Madagascar behind Antananarivo.

A vibrant city, Fianarantsoa is the intellectual and cultural heart of Madagascar with a large university and many interesting events and festivals, including the traditional Betsileo folk festivals held between May and September. There are some beautiful sights in Fianarantsoa as well, as the city is home to the oldest cathedrals in Madagascar (a mix of Protestant, Lutheran, and Catholic churches). Strolling around the colourful old town of Fiana (as the locals refer to it), is a great way to soak up local culture, however most of the shops and transportation hubs are located in the new town.

Just 178 miles (287km) south of Antananarivo, Fianarantsoa is the wine capital of Madagascar, surrounded by vineyards. Although experienced wine tourists may be disappointed in the lack of polish at the wineries and shops in town, wine tasting in Madagascar is an increasingly popular activity. Maromby, just north of Fianarantsoa, is a quiet village with a monastery that offers a good selection of Madagascar wines.

Information & Facts

Malagasy is the official language, but French is used in business and government and is widely spoken in the main cities in Madagascar. A few people involved in the tourism industry might be able to speak some English, but it is not widely spoken.

The official currency is the Malagasy ariary (MGA), which has been reintroduced to replace the Malagasy franc. Coins and notes display both currencies, but newer notes display the ariary more prominently than the franc. One ariary is equal to five francs. Foreign currencies can be exchanged at banks and official bureaux de change, but the ariary cannot be changed back into hard currency. Some banks will only accept US dollars or Euro. Travellers cheques can be exchanged at most banks and in major hotels, but some banks refuse to accept them. ATMs are available in Antananarivo. Most major credit cards are starting to be accepted in top hotels and major travel agencies in the capital and other major towns, but have limited usage elsewhere.

An attractive town of about 30,000 people in the Central Highlands of Madagascar, Ambalavao is well-known for paper-making, specialising in the Malagasy Antaimoropaper, made from papyrus and wild flowers; the paper is a popular souvenir from Madagascar, as is the silk produced at a factory in town. Those who travel to Ambavalao find it a thriving town with colourful buildings framed by elaborately-carved wooden balconies and tiled roofs. The twice-weekly Zebu cattle market is an enjoyable spectacle as well, however many travellers miss its 3am start time. Just outside of Ambalavao, the Soavita Vineyards offer free wine tastings of locally-produced Madagascar wines.

Looking for something a bit different?  Check out our selection of cultural & adventure holidays or if you're looking to go it alone then see our selection of solo holidays.

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