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World Heritage Site

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The Royal Hill of Ambohimanga is an archeological site that contains a ruined city, burial sites, and assorted sacred places.

It is a place of religious and historical significance in the culture of the Malagasy people, and has been so for the last 500 years.

Ambohimanga dates from the 15th or 16th century, and developed into the capital city in the 18th century.

Map of Ambohimanga


  • Cultural

Community Reviews

Thomas Buechler Switzerland - 05-May-13

a visit to the royal palace compound of Ambohimanga will give you a perfect introduction to the Malagasy history and its an easy half day excursion from the capital.The first impression are the huge fig trees at the ceremonial courtyard.this is still a sacred place for Malagasy people and

rituals take place on a daily basis.During the reign of the kings, mainly brown checkered Zebu cows were brought to the royal stables as offerings..nowadays its more on chicken, I was told. Once inside the royal compound, you will be shown the wooden house of the great king Andrianampoinimerina who.. reigned from 1787 to 1810.His majesty used to sleep much higher up than his 12 wifes who had to share one bed on those special days that they all came together to the royal palace from the neighbouring 12 hills. I was also told by the guide that High land people used to be much smaller at that time as there was more Asian than African influence.Therefore the 12 queens could share one single bed!Next to the kings house stands the summer house of the queens, Ranavalona I. reigned long 33 years and she was using this place as a retreat from Antananarivo where the capital has been moved to.With her was her French lover and architect Jean Laborde who was about the only foreign national admired by the queen, until 1847 when also Laborde was expelled because of his involvement in a plot to replace the queen with her son.Behind the burial place for the royals, you can find the small pool where the queen accompanied by 70 virgins used to take her bath.It was a great honour to come and work at the royal palace of Ambohimanga, even just as an ordinary slave.Not to miss the excellent view from behind the palace with Tana in the distance and the white mausoleum of the kings whichdoctor on an adjacent hill.

Solivagant UK - -

Ambohimanga by Solivagant

If you are in Madagascar your prime objective is probably to see Lemur and the other unique ecological aspects of the country. The culture is interesting too having developed from the first immigrants – coming, not from Africa, but some 1500 years ago from the area of present day Indonesia and Malaysia. Meeting the people and seeing their way of life and rituals/ritual objects is also a major plus point for the country.

Ambohimanga, the main “historic site”, is only 20 kms from the capital and should NOT be missed whilst you are there. By the time the British and French vied for control over Madagsacar in the 19th century Madagascar was ruled by a royal line of the Merina clan who came from the highland area around Antananarivo. Ambohimanga was their Palace and later, as Antananarivo became the capital, it in developed as the weekend retreat for the royal family.

The place has a peaceful atmosphere made more poignant by the history of what happened to the royal family who used it. In 1890 the British eventually gave way to the French in return for a free hand in Zanzibar and the French invaded Madagsacar in 1895 eventually deposing the Queen and exiling her to Algeria. The family was never allowed to return by the French.

The compound is beautifully set in green countryside looking over a rice paddy filled plain reaching back to Tana. The wooden buildings include a bedroom and meeting rooms plainly furnished with goods which include gifts from Queen Victoria. Outside there are pens for the royal Zebu. Pilgrims come to pray using the good offices of the spirits of the Queens.

All in all a magical place!

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Community Rating

Community Rating 3.00. Based on 3 votes.

Site Info

Full name: Royal Hill of Ambohimanga

Unesco ID: 950

Inscribed: 2001

Type: Cultural

Criteria: 3   4   6  

Link: By Name By ID

Site History

  • 2001 - Inscribed 


The site has 1 locations.

  • Ambohimanga


The site has 13 connections.


  • Dynastic Burial Places: Used to be the location for the Merina Dynastic Tombs (the mortal remains were transferred in 1897 by the French, but that didn't reduce the holiness of the site for the Malagasy people)
  • Baths: Two large basins have been carved from the stone foundation of the compound. One was a bath for Andrianampoinimerina, and the other was a swimming pool for Ranavalona I. Water was taken from the sacred lake of Amparihy at the north of the village and was replaced weekly." Wiki The holy lake of Amparihy is artificial, its use being confined to royalty and ritual, such as the annual royal bath, princely circumcision, and the receipt of royal entrails. The bath is particularly symbolic, for then the king takes upon himself all the sins of the kingdom and, in ritually cleansing himself, both purifies his subjects and enables nature to regenerate." Nom File


  • Forbidden City: Ambohimanga was henceforth considered one of the sacred royal hills of Imerina (the Merina kingdom) and was known as a "forbidden city" until 1897.

Human Activity

Individual People

  • Queens and Empresses: Queen Ranavalona II (1829 -83) "The Two Pavilions of Queen Ranavalona II The two ornate palace buildings constructed within the compound were built of rosewood in 1871. The first and larger of the two features a room for receiving visitors and a large salon on the ground floor, and the bedroom of Queen Ranavalona II on the second floor. " (Wiki)

Religion and Belief

  • Sacred Forests or Groves: "sacred woods consist of indigenous plants and, in a manner now absolutely rare on the Hautes Terres, represents in residual form the natural forest which once covered this and other hills"
  • Living indigenous religions: The Royal Hill of Ambohimanga is an exceptional example of a place where, over centuries, common human experience has been focused in memory, ritual and prayer (AB ev, Crit vi)
  • Holiest place: holiest place for the Malagasi people


  • Built in the 16th century: representative of the social and political structure of Malagasy society from at least the 16th century (AB ev)


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