The population of Madagascar is around 28.92 million people (2021).


Malagasy and French are the official languages of Madagascar. English is not widely spoken, so having a translator app on your phone may be useful.


The vast majority (85%) of the Malagasy  are Christian. 3% are Muslim, 4.5% adhere to traditional beliefs and 6.9% have no religious affiliation.

National Holiday

Madagascar’s National Day is June 26th, which is a public holiday to celebrate the country’s independence from France in 1960.

Holiday Calendar

1st January: New Year's Day  

29th March: Martyrs Day

18th April: Easter Monday 

1st May: Labour Day  

3rd May: Eid ul-Fitr

26th May: Ascension Day  

6th June: Whit Monday

26th June: Independence Day

10th July: Eid Al Adha  

15th August: Assumption Day

1st November: All Saints’ Day  

25th December: Christmas Day 


Madagascar was first discovered  about 2,000 years ago and its settlers were either Indonesians or people of mixed Indonesian/African descent. Arab traders arrived on the scene around 800-900 A.D., when merchants began trading along the northern coast. In the 1500s, Madagascar entered its Feudal Era, with battles between various immigrant groups who were each trying to stake their claim on this verdant island. The Portuguese, French, Dutch and English all attempted to establish trade settlements in Madagascar, but failed due to the ferocity of the local Malagasy warriors. Sakalavas ruled in the West during the 1700s and their rivals, the Merina, took over the rest of the island in 1810. It was the Merina who, with established connections to English missionaries, spread Christianity across the country. In 1896, France finally got their way, and established rule over Madagascar after an invasion in 1883, making the island a French colony. After two major uprisings in 1918 and 1947, the Malagasy population finally gained their independence again in 1960.


Madagascar is a semi-presidential representative democratic republic, meaning the President of Madagascar is head of state and the Prime Minister of Madagascar is the head of government. Executive power is held by the government.


Handshakes are the most common form of greeting for both men and women and you’d better get used to having little personal space, as the Malagasy people love touching arms, shoulders and elbows in conversations. Although touching is common, eye contact is less so. As a mark of respect, eye contact is limited between most people.


Rice is a staple for most Malagasy people, and it often overshadows the tiny amount of sauce, vegetables and meat that they pair it with. As an island, Madagascar also excels at fresh seafood, boasting delicious lobster, all kinds of fish and beautiful shellfish which dominate menus across the island’s coastlines. If fish isn’t your thing, a fail-safe option is zebu (beef) steak which is usually served with a mouth-wateringly tasty green peppercorn sauce. There isn’t a huge amount of spice in Malagasy dishes, but if you fancy a kick, have a taste of a chilli relish called sakay which is readily available. But beware, it can be eye-wateringly spicy.


We would strongly advise against drinking tap water in Madagascar and sticking only to bottled water. A popular local soft drink is ranonapango (burned rice water), and the more grown-up travellers may wish to follow it with a shot of litchel (an aperitif made from lychees) if feeling brave.

Contact one of our Madagascar specialists