Haiti: An introduction for first time visitors

Haiti is a wild, fascinating and beautiful country. With the Caribbean Sea lapping up onto white sand beaches, waterfalls tumbling into crystal blue pools, and cool mountains running down its spine, Haiti rivals the natural beauty found anywhere in the Caribbean. When you add its rich cultural scene of amazing art, mesmerizing music, insightful literature, fascinating festivals and its unique version of Vodou, Haiti is much more interesting and rewarding than your typical Caribbean destination.

Exploring Haiti is to explore the soul, to reach deep into yourself as you connect with local people, hear their stories, their frustrations, and their pride. Haiti has a resolve and an unconquerable spirit that belies the impressions we often read in the media. Once a hotspot of Caribbean tourism, Haiti is making its way back onto travelers’ radars. Come discover the the most fascinating destination in the Caribbean before everyone else does.

5 Amazing Places to Visit in Haiti

Citadelle La Ferriere and Sans Souci Palace

Haitians think it should be the 8th Wonder of the World and it’s easy to see why. The Citadelle La Ferriere is a jaw dropping, logic defying fortress built high in the hills behind Cap Haitian. Built by revolutionary leader Henry Christophe when Haiti freed itself from slavery and French rule to become the world’s first independent black republic, its mountain top position commands views across the jungle and farmland below.

 

In the foothills below are the ruins of the Sans Souci Palace. Also built by Henry Christophe, the Sans Souci Palace evokes the image of a tropical Versailles crumbling in the hot Haitian sun. Together the Citadelle and the Palace comprise Haiti’s sole UNESCO World Heritage Site and is arguable one of Haiti’s most iconic, unmissable destinations.

Jacmel and Carnival

The town of Jacmel is the arts and crafts center of Haiti. Fascinating murals adorn the buildings and walls while art galleries line the streets offering papiermâché masks and paintings of Haitian life. Just outside of town are the beautiful beaches and Bassin Blue, a waterfall in the hills with great crystal clear pools in which you can swim.

An old coffee town on the south coast, Jacmel is also home to the country’s hottest Carnival celebrations; half the country seems to descend on Jacmel for a weekend of partying in February. Partiers parade with giant colorful papiermâché sculptures and community groups reenact traditional (and archaic) street theatre, all to the constant beat of Haitian rara music.

Port-au-Prince and Fet Gede

Port-au-Prince is Haiti’s capital, an intense, sweaty city clogged with street vendors, old cars and noise. Still recovering from the 2010 earthquake, it still shows some scars but shows its unshakable spirit in its art, music and elaborately coloured tap-taps (local buses). Learn about Haiti’s history at the Musée du Panthéon National Haïtien, or shop for everything from coffee to Vodou paraphernalia in the Marché de Fer (Iron Market), or discover the punk like street art of the Atiz Resistans. Relive Graham Greene’s novel The Comedians on the verandah of the Hotel Oloffson or sway to the resident band RAM on Thursday nights.

Every November 1st and 2nd is Fet Gede, the fascinating Vodou festival of the dead. Here you have a chance to be a part of the celebrations and witness a Vodou ceremony, gaining a deeper insight into this often misunderstood religion and experiencing Halloween, Haitian style.

La Visite National Park

Just south of Port-au-Prince is La Visite National Park. Cooler than below in Port-au-Prince, serene and breathtakingly gorgeous views right across the Massif de la Selle, it is the literal embodiment of of the Haitian proverb, “Deye mon gen mon.” (Beyond the mountains there are more mountains.)

Starting from the trailhead near the town of Furcy you can hike deep into the park, staying overnight in the rustic guesthouse in Seguin and continuing onto Jacmel the next day. This is a wonderful hike to explore the often unseen parts of Haiti.

Ile-a-Vache and Port Salut

Haiti is a unique Caribbean destination and is blessed with fantastic beaches. Unlike elsewhere in the Caribbean they are not overrun by big hotel resorts and you get miles of golden sand with barely a soul on them. In Port Salut there are just a few guesthouses and bars on the beach serving rum and fish. Just north there are the Marie Jeanne Caves to explore for a fun day trip.

A short ferry ride from the city of Les Cayes is the small fishing island of Ile-a-Vache. Often touted as the next big destination in Haiti, it sill retains a low key atmosphere with a handful of small resorts offering the chance to get away from everything. There is also the opportunity to be part of a community project that helps local people develop skills in the tourism industry.

Travel to Haiti with Diesel Adventures

With Diesel Adventures offering three different trips to Haiti now is the time to visit this amazing unique destination.

Visit Haiti during the Fet Gede, the most important date in the Haitian Vodou calendar. Celebrated around Halloween over All Saints’ and All Souls’ Day this is the annual Vodou festival of the dead and the biggest holiday of the year. This small group tour is 13 days, from October 31st – November 12th in 2017 and 2018. Learn more »

Carnival in Haiti is an amazing experience with the parade in Jacmel the most spectacular of all. Discover carnival art and party into the evenings with music and dancing. Spaces are still available for this festival tour on January 30th – February 11th, 2018. Learn more »

Can’t make the festivals? Join our regular 12 day Best of Haiti tour, explore Port au Prince, meet street artists, get active with an overnight hike high in the mountains, and then relax on some of the Caribbean’s best undiscovered beaches. This tour is available on various dates through 2017 and 2018. Learn more »