Haiti’s Most Popular Cities
Haiti is a country with many hidden charms: beautiful beaches, waterfalls, impressive architecture, scrumptious food, magnificent villas that overlook breathtaking views and best of all the friendliest most accommodating people on earth. Cap Haitian and Jacmel are two of Haiti’s most regarded national treasures that are guaranteed not to disappoint
Although Haiti has always and still is a major attraction for people who live in the Caribbean and other nearby countries and for Haitians living abroad, Haiti is sadly not the tourist destination it used to be. During the 1950’s to the 1970’s Haiti was well regarded as an international tourist destination where the famous and rich came to lounge on the clean white sand beaches and swim in the clear warm waters. Tourism was a primary source of income for Haitians in those beautiful days. However, after the 1970’s violence, political upheaval, AIDS, and abject poverty led to a decline in tourism that Haiti has still not recovered from despite the relative stability they enjoy these days.
Cap Haitian, City of History
Cap Haitian or Le Cap is one of Haiti’s oldest cities founded in 1670 under the name, Cap-François, where it served as the French capital of the French colony of Saint-Dominguez. The city was so opulent and had so many wealthy residents that it was affectionately known as, “little Paris.” It was in this magnificent city King Henri Christophe, a descendant of Haitian slaves, built his famous and grand palace Sans Souci which means “without worries.” It was destroyed in 1842 by an earthquake, but the ruins are still an incredible destination.
The Citadel or the Citadelle Laferrière, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was also built by King Henri. After Haiti achieved their independence from France n 1804, King Henri worried about the French returning. In preparation for this, he had a massive fort build that was so large that it took from 1805 to 1820 to make. The Citadel is 10, 000 square meters with walls reaching up to 40 meters high. The fort included bakeries and storage houses to contain enough food and water for 5000 soldiers to hold out for a year in case they had to defend themselves against the French or anyone else. Cannons and thousands of cannon balls are still lying in wait for a war that never came. The fortress has been rebuilt over the years and is one of the most spectacular yet, unknown wonders of the world.
Jacmel, City of Culture
Jacmel or Jakmel is picturesque city located in the Southern part of Haiti that is safe, vibrant and attractive. It was originally founded in 1698 when it was home to prosperous coffee merchants who built beautiful mansions that inspired the French quarter of New Orleans today. Many of these mansions exist today in the form of artesian and craft shops. The Native Indian population initially called the city Yaquimel, and when the French arrived there, they renamed it Jacmel after the Indian word for riches.
Jacmel, with its distance from the major towns and close vicinity to beautiful white sand beaches, is the often the first destination for tourists who are in search of a relaxing time. Bassins Bleu one of Jacmel’s most beautiful natural attractions is a series of waterfalls located in the hills about 12 km west of Jacmel that you can dive into if you are brave enough or swim if you are so inclined. A four wheel drive is needed to manage the roads, or it can be accessed on foot or by horse.
Jacmel is also the host to one the best carnivals on the island, and in its many craft shops, one can buy paper mache masks made for Carnivale, carved wooden animals, and other handcrafted pieces. Music is one of Haiti’s most enjoyed actives, and in that spirit, they host a music festival, the Festival Mizik Jakmèl every year. Also, they host one the largest and most exciting Caribbean film festival, the Festival Film Jakmèl in the world.
Haiti, Hidden Treasure
When one thinks of Haiti, to the majority of the world one immediately think of the danger and instability that had characterized it for the last forty or so years. However, visitors will find that Haiti’s rich and heroic historical past, their wonderfully exotic and unique culture and their natural beauty is a wonderful surprise.
Blashfield Jean, “Haiti” New York, NY The Children’s’ Press, 2008
Goldstein Margaret “Haiti in Pictures” Minneapolis, MN: Lerner, c2006