The Royal Hill of Ambohimanga
Royal Hill of Ambohimanga © Olivier Lejade
Located just 12 miles (20km) from Antananarivo, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Royal Hill of Ambohimanga features a ruined royal city, a burial site and a few other sacred places. A popular destination for local and international pilgrims, this spiritual attraction is considered one of the most sacred places in Madagascar and is widely lauded as the premier symbol of the cultural identity of the people of Madagascar. Set in lush green countryside overlooking a rice paddy, the rooms of the wooden buildings are furnished with goods which include gifts from Queen Victoria. The royal stronghold was nourished by a sacred spring which enabled the creation of an artificial lake in the 18th century. The hill was used by the royal family as their palace until 1890 when the British traded Madagascar for a free hand in Zanzibar and the French invaded the island, deposing the Queen and exiling her to Algeria. The royal family was never allowed to return to Madagascar. Apart from the interesting artefacts, burial grounds, historic village and palace complex, Ambohimanga hill is topped by a rainforest which is protected as it is considered sacred. The views from the hill are breath-taking.