There is a place in the Caribbean where the tourists don’t go; a tropical, rugged place of waterfalls, secret caves, and mountains that scrape the sky. It’s a place of bold flavours, intoxicating music, mischievous gods, and colourful art; where the only thing stronger than the rum is the spirit of the people who live there. It’s a place where only true travellers go; a place for the brave and the curious. The name of that place? Haiti. Yes, Haiti. This ten-day encounter draws back the veil on this extraordinary, vibrant, and indomitable nation. Experience the energy of Port-au-Prince, the colourful art of Jacmel, the iconic (and UNESCO-protected) Citadelle Laferrière, nurture the arts with at-risk children, and learn the folklore behind Haitian Vodou. Haiti has a future.
Haiti is the western portion of the island of Hispaniola, next to the Dominican Republic. After decades of repressive rule by the Duvaliers and destruction by the 2010 earthquake, tourism is once again attractive. I decided to research Haiti and what it has to offer. Due to the news reports on Haiti, it seemed like a place I should be scared to travel to and stay away from. However, after researching, it looks very beautiful from the culture to the scenery.
Haiti’s unique culture and history are an interesting mix of French, African, Spanish and Taíno, reflected in the country’s art, architecture and music. See examples of this in the capital Port-au-Prince at the Musée du Panthéon National. This subterranean structure resembles the underground homes of the Taínos.
Haiti has numerous natural attractions. Join a tour to trek in the lush mountainous interior. In the south, hike to the waterfalls and blue pools of Bassin Bleu near Jacmel. Enjoy the nearby beaches of Ti Mouillage and Raymond les Bains or the cruise ship stop at Labadie and other beaches near Cap-Haitien in the north.
Reach Haiti by flying to Port-au-Prince or Cap-Haitien airport and renting a car for your travels around the country. Be aware that the U.S. State Department has provided several advisories for citizens traveling to Haiti related to crime, emergency medical treatment availability and civil unrest. Use appropriate caution while enjoying your travels.
CITADELLE – La Citadelle Henry is located close to Haiti’s 2nd largest town, Cap Haitien, in the north of Haiti. Located at 900 metres above sea level, this fortress is the largest in the Caribbean and is classed as a marker to the beginning of the free world. The UNESCO historical park site has the largest collection of artillery, cannons and cannon balls from the era anywhere in the world today. You can climb to the Citadelle la Ferriere to discover the building built by 20,000 Haitian slaves upon defeating Napoleon’s army and consequently establishing the first black republic. Despite being built in 1804, over 200 years ago, the Citadelle is still in excellent condition due to the fact that the conflict it was built for never happened, and its stature is still, to this day, impressive. The architecture reflects a European castle, rather than its military contemporaries, but it is not clear who the architects of this awe-inspiring construction were. Visitors can arrive by foot, taking an hour to walk up, or on horse-back, which takes 20 minutes. Sightseers can also climb the Citadelle’s walls, which give a terrific impression of the strategic positioning of the fortress – presenting views as far as Cap Haitien and its port.
SANS SOUCI- Sans Souci was affected by an earthquake in 1842, but it still remains a testament to its time. It was envisioned by Henri Christophe, the self-proclaimed king of Haiti, crowned in 1811, and construction started not long after his coronation. Like the Citadelle, it was built over Cap Haitien as it was a secure location, far from the risk of possible invasion from the French navy. The palace reflects classical European tradition, and now appears to be like a crumbled Versailles of the Caribbean. It gives an idea of the Haiti that ‘almost was’, before Christophe was rebelled against in the late 1820s. The earthquake exposed the palace to the sky, and although visitors can only really see remnants of the original stucco decoration on the interior, it does not cease to be an astounding creation. The outside complex is just as awesome, and gives a true feel to what the palace must have been like, when inhabited by king Christophe, his queen and the princess.
LA VISITE NATIONAL PARK- This area of Haiti is perfect for those who like to exercise as well as those who like to experience natural beauty first hand. You can take an exciting hike through La Visite National Park, and is especially refreshing for those who have spent a lot of time in the hustle and bustle of the main cities. It is common to start at Furcy and end at Seguin, where there is somewhere to stay. It takes a long half day, depending on your fitness levels, and is a route that transports you through the heart of the national park. Walkers will experience Haiti’s red, fertile soil under the boots, and will inevitably bump into others sharing their same experience, as well as local women carrying tremendous loads of produce to market. It is not an easy hike, but it is a blissfully rewarding one, with breath-taking views on a clear day.
BASSIN BLEU- Bassin Bleu is found outside Jacmel when approaching from Port-au-Prince. They are a series of three pools (Bassin Palmiste, Bassin Clair and Bassin Bleu) linked by waterfalls and are a stunning natural beauty, and a definite must-see. The on-foot journey to the pools is also one surrounded by sights of Haiti’s natural magnificence. Groups cross the river via some stepping stones, and start their walk down towards the pools. At one point, visitors must descend a series of steep ropes, with local guides always available to help, before arriving to Bassin Bleu and Bassin Clair. The pools are wide, deep and turquoise – truly a surreal sight, and you’ll fall in love with the local stories of mermaids supposedly living in these pools.
For great ideas on where to stay, read this article by clicking here!
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