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Wall of the Rova Palace Antananarivo

Unveiling the Mystique of Madagascar: Exploring The Twelve Sacred Hills of Imerina

Andriamasinavalona to Ranavalona III designated twelve sacred hills in Madagascar, such as Analamanga and Ambohimanga, as important places for royal worship. Astrologers visit these sites, singles pray for love, and the unemployed or sick seek blessings. The Malagasy New Year involves distributing blessed earth from the royal tombs.

The Merina monarchy is believed to have started in the 15th century when Indonesian settlers displaced the Vazimbas in the Ampandrana valley. Despite initial unification attempts by Ralambo and Andriamasinavalona, it was not until Andrianampoinimerina’s reign that Merina unity was restored.

The hills housing Andrianampoinimerina’s twelve wives were also consecrated. Subsequently, other monarchs added more villages to this list of sacred places where fortified settlements with stone gates and princely tombs can still be seen.

These historical sites are preserved by local villagers who maintain them without state assistance while passing down their associated legends. Accessing these locations may require a 4×4 vehicle or one with high ground clearance due to challenging terrain but can also be done on motorbikes or mountain bikes.


The deep ditches often make a protective circle around the forts and villages on the hills. They date back to the 16th century.


The tamboho, made of red earth, can be found all over Imerina. They are used to mark the boundaries of villages, fields, and concessions. These structures date back to the time of monarchies when protecting the rice fields was crucial for survival.

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