Fianarantsoa is the largest town in the highlands south of Tana and is the capital city of the province of the same name. As with all of Madagascars highland towns, the place is very hilly, so be prepared for some steep walks.
Your most likely introduction to Fianarantsoa will be the dusty, bustling taxi-brousse station along the busy Rue MDRM. Here it is easy to find a ride to your next destination or the way to a nearby hotel.

Hotel Arinofy is located close to the taxi-brousse station and is relatively easy to find, although the short walk does take you up a very steep hill! The hotel is extremely clean and has a nice restaurant on the bottom floor. The double story building has magnificent views overlooking the town and internet access is available. If the same chef is still working there, then he will offer to guide you around the town when he goes off shift. He is quite good and doesn’t demand a fortune.

Fianarantsoa has plenty to offer its visitors. There is an Antaimoro paper factory not far from the Arinofy Hotel where you can watch a family go through each stage of paper making, from mushing up the sisal to adding the decorative flower petals and stems to the drying phase. Examples of the finished product are available for purchase and make great gifts or souvenirs. There is a larger and more famous Antaimoro paper factory in Ambalavao, but this one is nice and a bit more intimate.

A walk to the site of the old Rova, the highest point in town, is well worth the sweat.

Even though the Rova is gone (the French destroyed it in the 1940s), magnificent views over Fianarantsoa and the surrounding countryside await those who make it the whole way. A flat stone slab at the site was used by cruel kings and queens of the past to inflict severe bodily harm on their underlings in that they were made to lie on it while their heads were cut off.If there are any local children present then they will mime out the vicious act for you!!
To get to the old Rova site you need to find your way to the upper town and then follow Rue P. Ramasitera.

Fianarantsoa also hosts a wonderful market. Not quite as crowded as some of the markets in Tana but still full of bustle and it sells almost anything. You will find it towards the upper town, off Ave Fahaleovantena.

The Hotel Sofia, on the way into town from the north, is worth a look even if you are not staying there. It is a large complex with boutique (expensive) shops and interesting architecture.

Fianarantsoa is also the town from which most visitors embark on Madagascars most sensational rail journey. The train runs from Fianarantsoa to Manakara on the east coast, and stops at every point along the way. Winding its way through magnificent mountain scenery, it is a journey well worth taking. For more details about the rail journey please follow this link: Fianarantsoa-Manakara Rail Journey.

Ranomafana national park is easily accessible from Fianarantsoa and features mountain scenery, dense forest, hot springs and plenty of lemurs. For more information, follow the link.

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