5 Gorgeous Sites to See in Haiti
When I told family and friends I was going to Haiti, the response was universal: Why?
My answer was simple: “I’ve never been there.”
Haiti doesn’t tend to land on many people’s travel wish lists, but it’s a destination worth exploring. Here are five must-see sites if you go.
The Iron Market
Port-au-Prince, the capital, is still recovering from the 2010 earthquake, but one of the bright signs of recovery is the Iron Market. Like a vision from the Arabian Nights, the beautiful red Iron Market in Port-au-Prince is jam-packed with everything from handicrafts to pigeons. The building was prefabricated in France for the train station in Cairo. But the plan didn’t work and, as the story goes, while on a trip to France, Florvil Hyppolite, the president of Haiti from 1828 to 1896, had it shipped to Haiti to serve as a central market.
The Citadel is the most incredible fort I have ever seen, and I have been to a lot of forts. Truly, there is nothing like it. About 17 miles from Cap-Haitien and five miles up a twisty-turny road is the largest fortress in the Americas. The Citadel was intentionally built on a mountain to make it extremely defensible, and was to serve as a place of last resort should the country be attacked. Designated a World Heritage site, the fort also has the largest collection of cannons in the western hemisphere.
Sans Souci Palace
Sans Souci Palace was one of the most unexpected sights I saw in Haiti. Also a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Versailles-like palace was the royal residence of King Henry I. Yes, there was once a king of Haiti. Construction began in 1810 and it only took two years to build the massive complex, complete with gardens, fountains and pools. A major earthquake in 1842 destroyed part of the palace and it was never rebuilt.
Jacmel, known for its beaches, is the handicraft capital of Haiti—and you can buy directly from the artist. Most of the bright crafts are one-of-a-kind and made from recycled materials. One small shop, Charlotte, is bursting with bright faces painted on calabashes, many of which are framed with a straw hat. Other bursts of colour in Jacmel are the many glass murals that brighten the streets. The most colourful event is Jacmel’s family-friendly carnival.
The beautiful Arcadin Coast has been drawing beach lovers for decades. There are small boutique resorts like Wahoo Beach Bay, midsize ones like Kaliko Beach and the former Club Med is now Indigo Beach. They all offer a variety of fun-in-the-sun activities as well as cultural tours. I took a fascinating three-hour walking tour of a local village with a stop at the local market.