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If travelling out of Tana by road you'll likely pass through Antsirabe, it's third largest city and—arguably—its prettiest in terms of constructions thanks to the building and preservations of its Gare d'Antsirabe, Hotel des Thermes, and Antsirabe Cathedral with large jacaranda trees billowing above the main street.
Due to the primary highway of Madagascar ( the [RN7]) running right through Antsirabe, as well as being the favoured turn off to Morondava at the [RN34] junction, the city is often used as a resting point rather than a central base that's returned to or remained in. It's perfectly well suited to staying the night but it also deserves a longer stay for those who want to do nothing but enjoy good food in a good location and ignore anything resembling a schedule for a while.
Antsirabe has a few points of interest that can be visited in a single wander around the city, as well as some interesting areas beyond its outskirts, such as Lake Tritriva.
Right in the centre of Antsirabe is its Marian cathedral, Notre Dame de la Salette. In a country with few religious buildings this decorative, Antsirabe is rightly proud of it.
Like Tana, Antsirabe has an impressive central station built in 1923 and, like Tana, you've no hope of boarding any of its trains in the near future as its pretty much freight only for now. It's a treat for the eyes if such things are appealing to you and worth wandering down to see.
The town may have defiantly grown into a different shape later but notice that the station was built at the head of Avenue de la Gare. This dual-lane avenue began at the station and ended at the thermal baths, suggesting optimism for a town-centre built around attracting visitors to a destination city.
I can't comment on the hotel as a place to stay but it's certainly an interesting place to wander around if going for a stroll through the city. For those who hope a hotel with a history has a facade to match, you will be in luck and there's a large back garden with pool that resembles a country club. While it hasn't kept the aesthetics quite the same as its of its 1922 beginnings it was partially restored in 2012 and was an enjoyable spot to explore for the curious. The thermals in the title refer to the neighbouring public facilities built on the hot spring thermals of Antsirabe. Open to all but not quite aimed at the tourist market, so enjoy a warm bath or naturally heated pool but don't expect Budapest.
Antsirabe loves pousse-pousse (a Malagasy equivalent of a rickshaw) and you'll find no shortage enquiring as to whether you'd rather they facilitate your journey instead of walking. While a little overly-eager in some places (particularly near hotel entrances) I found that an explanation that I was enjoying the walk was understood and I was never pressed any further. For a mutually agreed price and duration, a pousse-pousse driver may be willing to take you on a short tour of the city. Stress that you're not interested in buying anything or going to markets as a driver may, understandably, want to help a friend out who's selling something somewhere.
Gare d'Antsirabe, the grand central train station has intact lines running all the way to Tana but this is just to taunt you as there is no scheduled passenger train service between the two. It's a shame Madarail has not been able to provide a passenger service in recent times while the lines are still there.
Otherwise, getting to or leaving Antsirabe is no trouble as much of Madagascar's traffic passes through here going to Tana and it offers easy access along the [RN7] as far as Tulear on the south-west coast.
Basic, larger central hotel on the main street
Avenue Jean Ralaimongo, Antsirabe
+261 20 444 8556 none[MGA45000 - 72000]
Facing out onto Avenue Jean Ralaimongo, you're in walking distance of nearly everything Antsirabe offers. Hasina has gone for a basic, international aesthetic which loses it some charm but everything functioned fine. Some rooms come with a narrow balcony out onto the main street. Nice for the curious but not somewhere to hang out on.
There's a cafe next to the hotel that's well stocked for breakfast but a little sterile for atmosphere. The hotel could be more memorable but it's fair for the lower price charged and perfectly adequate for a stopover.