When the French colonizers settled in the Hispaniola Island, they called Haiti “La Perle des Antilles.” Once you spend enough time in the country, you will find that there is a good reason for calling it as such. For anyone who visits Haiti for the first time, they will be shocked by their first impressions while driving from the airport to the hotel: the narrow and overcrowded streets, the piles of garbage laying at every other corner, the “Blokis” (Haitian creole for "traffic jam") every 500 meters and the countless motorcycles just trying to move forward by invading the other side of the road. I will not lie to you, travelling in Haiti is not an easy task. But when you finally arrive to its wild and pristine white sand beaches or witness the beautiful scenery from up the mountains, you definitely feel rewarded for your effort.
For those who like the mountains and hiking, you have some great trails close to Port au Prince or in the South and Grand’Anse departments towards the southwest of the country. The trail from Furcy to Marigot passing by Seguin was one of the most beautiful hikes I had experienced. This path takes you though different valleys and villages where you get to witness how farmers work their land and how nature changes at each climate zone. Since the trail is around 30 km long, you normally stay overnight at a farmers house within La Visite National Park, where you get to enjoy delicious meals made with fresh picked vegetables from the farmer’s garden. I was also lucky to have some perfectly grilled lamb that was chosen for the occasion and fresh juices from local fruits like mango or passion fruit.
Finally, for those interested in cultural sites and discovering local traditions and/or handicrafts, there are also some great places to visit. Citadelle is the biggest fortress constructed in the Americas and is located 30 minutes away from Cap-Haitien (second largest city in Haiti). It was built to protect the island against foreign invaders that fortunately never came. Located at the top of the mountain Bonnet a l’Eveque you get to admire the beautiful valleys and coastline that surround the fortress.
For handicrafts, close to Port-au-Princes there is a town called Croix des Bouquets where you can find most iron handcraft workshops. Some of these shops have been in place for generations and most of the time you get to meet some really talented artists that bring to life different pieces inspired from local traditions and Voodoo.
One important takeaway from my experience here for anyone who wants to visit Haiti is that you should always rely on friends that know the country and/or local travel agencies to advise you. As I mentioned before, travelling in Haiti can be complicated due to a lack of public or even private transportation from one city to another and the existence of some areas that can be challenging to get through. So always be careful and use your good sense to avoid any dangerous situations.
Describing every amazing place I have visited in Haiti will not fit into this blog post, but I hope that this will at least awaken your curiosity and that you will feel compelled to dig a little more into discovering “Haiti Cherie” (how locals refer to Haiti).