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Madagascar's magic rests within its exotic and pristine landscapes where, unlike its capital Antananarivo, it is uncrowded, peaceful and packed full of wonders.

Geographic isolation by hundreds of miles of seas has enabled evolution to produce otherworldly wildlife, volcanos, spectacular golden sand beaches, dense forests, stunning waterfalls and fascinating culture. It is regarded as the world's number one conservation priority with 90 per cent of its wildlife and fauna existing nowhere else on earth. Forests contain twisted, spiny 'octopus' trees, bottle-shaped baobabs, and over 60 varieties of a carnivorous plant, the world's biggest and smallest chameleons, over 70 varieties of lemur, and the last stomping ground of the elephant bird, the largest bird that ever lived.

Madagascar's fascinating culture, influenced by colonizers and trade merchants from Polynesia, Arabia, Africa and Europe, is steeped in taboo and magic. Its coastlines are littered with shipwrecks and were, notoriously, refuges for pirates in the 16th and 17th centuries. Malagasy people, who are known for being unfailingly polite and friendly, enjoy very hot, spicy cuisine and often serve dishes with hot peppers, rice and a dressing of sauces, meat, and vegetables.

The island has a typically tropical, warm, damp climate. The best moth to go is May. There are two seasons: a hot rainy season from November to April and a cooler dry season from May to October. South-Eastern trade winds predominate, and the island occasionally experiences cyclones.

Click here for our suggestions on events and places to go at various times of year