Known for being the poorest and one of the least traveled countries in the western world, Haiti is probably the most interesting place the Caribbean has to offer. Like most countries suffering from extreme poverty few people seem to know anything about this nation outside of its problems. Haiti was created by the French who brought hundreds of thousands of African slaves during the 18th century. Within a hundred years the slaves banded together and staged the first successful slave rebellion in the western hemisphere. Their independence from France in 1804 made Haiti the world’s first black republic. With slavery at its peak in the new world, the concept of a nation run by freed Africans was unprecedented. Their early days as a country weren’t necessarily bright ones, but by leading themselves Haitians were able to hold on to their culture and religion; most notably their hybrid Creole language and their practice of voodoo.
The capital of Haiti has suffered historically and again in more recent memories during natural disasters and coups. Lately Port Au Prince has been doing a good job of recovering, but the city is still far from being a reasonable tourist destination. The most interesting parts of the Port Au Prince are found in the city center. Here you’ll find monuments and statues dedicated to the slaves who successfully rebelled against the French. Their history museum even has an anchor from Christopher Columbus’s ship the Santa Maria that wrecked in 1492!
Cap Haitien is Haiti’s second largest city and a favorite among the locals. If you could only spend your time in one city in Haiti, then Cap Haitien should be it! The city is known for its beautiful landscape, historic attractions and some of the best beaches in the country. Right outside Cap Haitian is the beach Labadee, owned privately by a cruise line but open to all foreigners.
You would never guess that the largest fortress in the entire western hemisphere is located in Haiti! Only an hour east of Cap Haitian, the Citadelle is perhaps one of the most remarkable achievements in the Caribbean matched with an equally remarkable story. At the foothills of the Citadelle you’ll also find the remains of the Sans Souci Palace; where the Haitian King Henri Christophe once ruled.
One of Haiti’s liveliest cities, Jacmel is famous for its small town atmosphere but large carnival parties that take place in February. If you’re not in the right time of year for the carnival, the beaches are great year around and many come here from Port Au Prince as a weekend getaway. Haiti’s most famous waterfall, the Bassin Bleu is located outside Jacmel, where several waterfalls connect three large adjacent pools for some spectacular scenery.