Madagascar is a large island in the Indian Ocean, and has a tropical climate, rainy along the east coast, arid in the south-west and temperate in the mountains. In inland areas, mountain ranges mitigate the climate, while the rains vary depending on slope exposure. Being in the Southern Hemisphere, the country has reversed seasons compared with Europe or North America.
The whole country has a rainy season from November to March, though it produces little effects in the southwest, which therefore is arid, and in most of the country there is a dry season from April to October (or from May to September in the north), except on the east coast, where it rains all year round. As is typical of the Tropics, the rains usually occur in the form of thunderstorms, especially in the afternoon, so there's no shortage of sunshine even in the wettest months, at least in the morning hours.
In the cool period, from mid-May to September, but sometimes also in October, cool air masses can come from the south-west, bringing a bit of cool weather at night, especially in the center-south, and of cold in the inland areas.
The country is very interesting, not only for the beauty of the landscapes, but also for its flora and fauna, because it has a great biodiversity and several native species, having been separated from the African continent millions of years ago.

The far north

The far north
In the far north, in the northern tip of Madagascar, it is hot all year round, while the rains are quite contained, so that they hover around 1,000/1,200 millimetres (40/47 inches) per year.


In Antsiranana (or Diego Suarez), it is hot all year round, even if temperatures drop slightly from June to September. Here are the average temperatures.
Average temperatures - Antsiranana
Min (°C)232323232220201920212223
Max (°C)303031313029292930303231
Min (°F)737373737268686668707273
Max (°F)868688888684848486869088

In Antsiranana, 1,200 mm (47 in) of rain fall per year, and rainfall is abundant only from December to March. Here is the average rainfall.
Average precipitation - Antsiranana
Prec. (mm)34030518050152020201015551701195

In Antsiranana, the sun regularly shines in the long dry season, while in the summer rainy season the sunshine hours decrease a little.
Sunshine - Antsiranana
Sun (hours)66799999101097

The sea temperature in Antsiranana remains high enough for swimming even in winter, since it drops to 25 °C (77 °F) from July to September.
Sea temperature - Antsiranana
Sea (°C)292929292826252525262728
Sea (°F)848484848279777777798182

North-west coast

The north-west
Also on the north-west coast too, the temperatures are high all year round, but being directly exposed to the northwest monsoon, the rains are more abundant, so much so that in some areas they exceed 2,000 mm (80 in).


In Nosy-Be, an island located a short distance from the coast of Ambanja, the decrease in temperatures from May to August is limited. Here are the average temperatures.
Average temperatures - Nosy Be
Nosy BeJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°C)232323222019181819202223
Max (°C)313131313129292931323231
Min (°F)737373726866646466687273
Max (°F)888888888884848488909088

The period from November to March not only is rainy, but also is hot and muggy. We are in the austral summer, and in this season the country is divided into two: in the north, the north-west monsoon prevails, bringing heavy rains along the north-west coast, where rainfall goes from 400 to 500 mm (16 to 20 in) per month in January and February. Here is the average rainfall of Nosy-Be.
Average precipitation - Nosy Be
Nosy BeJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Prec. (mm)4654252851406050354040951903602185

In Nosy Be the sun shines very often in the dry period, from May to October. On average there are almost 3,000 hours of sunshine a year.
Sunshine - Nosy Be
Nosy BeJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Sun (hours)667898999987

In this part of the coast, the sea temperature is high throughout the year, as we can see in the following table.
Sea temperature - Nosy Be
Nosy BeJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Sea (°C)292929292827262626262828
Sea (°F)848484848281797979798282


Going further south on the north-western coast, the climate remains similar, even though the rainfall becomes less abundant: the summer season remains very rainy, but becomes a little shorter, moreover, for a long period from May to October it almost never rains. Here is the average rainfall at Mahajanga.
Average precipitation - Mahajanga
Prec. (mm)40038519570101232101202801477

In Mahajanga it's hot all year round, but temperatures drop a little from June to September, especially at night. Here are the average temperatures.
Average temperatures - Mahajanga
Min (°C)242424232119181820222424
Max (°C)313132323231313132323231
Min (°F)757575737066646468727575
Max (°F)888890909088888890909088

In Mahajanga, the sky is normally clear in the long dry season, while in the rainy season the sunshine hours decrease a little. The sunshine hours become 3,200 per year.
Sunshine - Mahajanga
Sun (hours)77891099101010107

The sea temperature in Mahajanga remains high enough for swimming throughout the year, as we can see in the following table.
Sea temperature - Mahajanga
Sea (°C)292930302927262626272829
Sea (°F)848486868481797979818284

West Coast

West coast
On the west coast the temperatures in the austral winter decrease, becoming cool during the night. Furthermore, the west coast is less rainy than the north-west coast, so that rainfall hovers between 700 and 1,000 mm (27 and 40 in) per year, compared with the 1,500/2,000 mm (60/80 in) of the northwest coast.


In Morondava, the average temperature goes from 27.5 °C (81 °F) in the period from December to February, to 21.5/22 °C (71/72 °F) in the period from June to August. Here are the average temperatures.
Average temperatures - Morondava
Min (°C)232323201714141518202223
Max (°C)323232323029292930313232
Min (°F)737373686357575964687273
Max (°F)909090908684848486889090

In Morondava, precipitation amounts to 765 mm (30 in) per year; the rains are abundant for a short period, from December to February, while there is a very long dry season, from April to November, where it almost never rains. Here is the average rainfall.
Average precipitation - Morondava
Prec. (mm)24020090151122241220165764

The sun in Morondava shines very often, and shines for many hours even in the rainy season; in a year there are as many as 3,500 hours of sunshine.
Sunshine - Morondava
Sun (hours)99910101010101010109

The sea temperature in Morondava remains high enough for swimming even in winter, since it drops to 25 °C (77 °F) from July to September.
Sea temperature - Morondava
Sea (°C)292930292726252525262729
Sea (°F)848486848179777777798184

Near Morondava we find the famous Avenue of the Baobabs.

Avenue of the Baobabs

Arid south-west

The south-west
On the south-western coast, the rain diminish further, so that it drops below 500 mm (20 in) per year. In fact, in the austral summer in the south of the country the south-east trade winds still blow, bringing rains along the eastern side, but much less intense in the south-west.
In winter, on the other hand, the temperatures drop quite sharply, especially at night, when it's cool, also because from June to September, and sometimes even in May and October, this area is directly exposed to the cool air masses that may come from South Africa.


In Toliara (formerly Tulear), just north of the Tropic of Cancer, only 420 mm (16.5 in) of rain per year fall, with a maximum of around 90 mm (3.5 in) per month from December to February. Here is the average precipitation.
Average precipitation - Toliara
Prec. (mm)959035201515668122095420

In the southwest, which in summer is the hottest area of the country, the temperature can reach 40 °C (104 °F) from December to March. Here are the average temperatures in Toliara.
Average temperatures - Toliara
Min (°C)232322201715141516192022
Max (°C)323232312927272829293031
Min (°F)737372686359575961666872
Max (°F)909090888481818284848688

In Toliara, the sun shines regularly throughout the year, so the amount of sunshine remains very good even in summer; there are up to 3,600 hours of sunshine a year.
Sunshine - Toliara
Sun (hours)10101010109101010101110

The temperature of the sea in the southern part of the coast touches 23 °C (73 °F) in August, so all in all it remains warm enough for swimming even in the winter season.
Sea temperature - Toliara
Sea (°C)282928272624242324252627
Sea (°F)828482817975757375777981

East Coast

East coast
During winter, the south-east trade winds prevail, and they are cool and dry everywhere except along the east coast, where they release the moisture that they have previously picked up over the ocean. For this reason, on the east coast and on the first slopes near the coast, it rains throughout the year, and a tropical forest flourishes.


In Toamasina (formerly Tamatave), 3,350 millimetres (132 inches) of rain per year fall. In March, the rainiest month, rainfall exceeds 400 mm (16 in). The only months when the rains become not too heavy goes from September to November, and this is true in general for the entire east coast.
Here is the average precipitation of Toamasina.
Average precipitation - Toamasina
Prec. (mm)4103804803252302602902201201351703553370

And here are the average temperatures of Toamasina. You can notice the cooling during the austral winter: in July and August, the daily average is 21 °C (70 °F).
Average temperatures - Toamasina
Min (°C)232322212018171717192022
Max (°C)303030292726252526272829
Min (°F)737372706864636363666872
Max (°F)868686848179777779818284

On the east coast the sun does not shine very often, since the rains are frequent all year round, however the sunniest period is that of winter, from May to August, when the trade winds directly hit the coast, while the relatively sunniest months are October and November.
Sunshine - Toamasina
Sun (hours)776765567887

The temperature of the sea on the east coast is high enough for swimming all year round, although it decreases a bit from July to October, as we can see in the following table.
Sea temperature - Toamasina
Sea (°C)282828282726252424252627
Sea (°F)828282828179777575777981

To the north of Toamasina we find an island, Sainte-Marie, otherwise called Nosy Boraha, which being in this very rainy area is covered by forests. Between July and September, the humpback whales that come from the Antarctic seas and congregate in the channel between the island of Sainte-Marie and the coast of Madagascar for breeding, are often observed in a rainy context. Near Île Sainte-Marie is a smaller island, Île aux Nattes (or Nosy Nato).

Humpback whales near Ile Sainte-Marie

Continuing along the east coast to the south of Toamasina, precipitation decreases gradually, even though the trend is similar, with rains distributed throughout the year, and a relative minimum in September and October. So the rains amount to 2,500 mm (98 in) at Mahanoro, and 2,100 mm (83 in) at Manakara.


In the southernmost part of the east coast, in Tôlanaro (or Fort Dauphin), rainfall drops to 1,700 mm (67 in) per year; in no month it reaches 200 mm (8 in), and it goes down to 75/100 mm (3/4 in) per month from August to October. Here is the average rainfall.
Average precipitation - Tolanaro
Prec. (mm)160155180175145125150105751001501651680

Average temperatures do not vary by much compared to those of Toamasina, however, the June-August period can be a bit cool for a beach holiday. Here are the average temperatures.
Average temperatures - Tolanaro
Min (°C)232322211816161717192022
Max (°C)303029282624242426272829
Min (°F)737372706461616363666872
Max (°F)868684827975757579818284

Since the rains are less frequent in winter, in Tolanaro the amount of sunshine does not decrease much, so there are 7/8 hours of sunshine a day even in the period June-September.
Sunshine - Tolanaro
Sun (hours)887777788888

The sea temperature remains warm enough for swimming even in winter, although it decreases to 23/24 °C (73/75 °F) from June to October.
Sea temperature - Tolanaro
Sea (°C)272727262524232323242426
Sea (°F)818181797775737373757579

Inland areas

Inland areas
As mentioned, in the interior of the country the climate is tempered by altitude, at least at intermediate elevations, while above 2,000 metres (6,500 feet) during winter the temperature can drop below freezing (0 °C or 32 °F), especially in the south. In the dry season, on the plateau sometimes a wind that is able to raise the dust from the parched ground can blow. On the other hand, in the rainy season the rains can make it difficult to get around on unpaved roads.
In the interior there are also mountains. The highest mountain is Maromokotro, 2,876 meters (9,436 feet), located in the north of the island, in the Tsaratanana Massif. In the south, south of Fianarantsoa, in the Andringitra National Park, 2,500 meters (8,200 feet) are reached.


The capital Antananarivo (formerly Tananarive) is located at 1,300 metres (4,300 feet) above sea level, and has a pleasant climate, in fact the average goes from 21 °C (70 °F) in the summer months, to 15 °C (59 °F) in July and August. Winter is therefore pretty cool. Here the best months are April, September and October.
Average temperatures - Antananarivo
Min (°C)171716151311101011131516
Max (°C)282625252321202123252626
Min (°F)636361595552505052555961
Max (°F)827977777370687073777979

Throughout the year, in Antananarivo 1,400 mm (55 in) of rain fall, most of which occur from November to March. Here is the average precipitation.
Average precipitation - Antananarivo
Prec. (mm)27025518550207101510651703051365

In Antananarivo the amount of sunshine is moderate, however it reaches its maximum from September to November.
Sunshine - Antananarivo
Sun (hours)766777788886

Further south, in Fianarantsoa, at 1,200 meters (3,900 feet), the climate is similar to that of Antananarivo.

Tropical cyclones

In the warm season, Madagascar may be affected by tropical cyclones, which can form in the South-West Indian Ocean from November to mid-May, although they are more likely from late December to mid-April.
A very intense cyclone to hit Madagascar was Gafilo in March 2004, another was Giovanna in February 2012. More recently there was Enawo in March 2017.

When to go

The best time to visit the entire Madagascar, to make excursions and to visit the various flora and fauna attractions, corresponds to the months of September and October: in this way you can avoid the heat, but also the rains and the possible cyclones of the austral summer, but also the night cold, which at high altitudes is more intense in winter, from June to August. However, the period from June to August can also be good, although it's very rainy on the east coast, and as we said it can be cold in mountain areas.
For a beach holiday, the west coast is preferable to the east coast, being sunnier and less rainy. Anyway, on the west coast you can go from mid-May to October, in the east coast in September and October. As regards the west coast, you can distinguish between the northern part, the one facing north-west, which is warm throughout the year (see Mahajanga, Nosy-Be, Antsiranana), and the central-southern part, which in winter can sometimes be reached by cool air masses from the south and can experience cold nights (see Toliara): therefore, in the latter it's preferable to go in September and October, but if you intend to go in July or August, to avoid surprises you can choose the northernmost area. In Nosy-Be you can go from mid-May to October, although in October a little atmospheric instability begins to occur, with the first afternoon thunderstorms.
Wanting to go in the summer, for example at Christmas, it being understood that the weather is hot and there is the risk of cyclones, you can choose the least rainy area, therefore the south-west (see Toliara); in the southern part of the east coast (see Fort Dauphin), generally all in all it does not rain very much, even though it depends on the years.

What to pack

In winter (June to August): on the south-central and eastern coast, spring/autumn clothes, light for the day, sweater and light jacket for the evening; on the east coast, add a raincoat or umbrella. On the north coast (Mahajanga, Nosy Be), light clothing, a sweatshirt for the evening, a scarf for the breeze. In Antananarivo and the plateau, spring/autumn clothes, jacket, sweater and hat for the evening, scarf for the wind.
For the reef, equipment for snorkeling, water shoes or rubber soled shoes.

In summer (December to February): throughout the coasts and inland areas at low altitude, light clothing made of natural fibres, sun hat, a light sweatshirt for the evening, light raincoat or umbrella. In Antananarivo and the plateau, light clothes for the day, sweatshirt and light jacket for the evening, raincoat or umbrella.

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