First visited by Columbus in the 15th century, Haiti shares the small island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic and is the Caribbean’s most mountainous country with sweep down to the coastal plain. These are covered with in pine and virgin cloud forests that are the home to numerous species of animals, birds, butterflies, ferns and rare orchids…...more
The energy and exuberance of the Haitian people, resulting from a unique blend of French and African influences is no better shown through their love of music and dancing which is regularly celebrated during festivals – especially Mardi Gras – and at voodoo ceremonies. Saturday nights will often also see spontaneous displays of the national dance – the Meringue – with its infectious rhythm cutting through the tropical night air.
The capital, Port au Prince, is huddled round a horseshoe bay and enjoys a stunning setting with lofty mountains overshadowing the city. The central park, the Champs de Mars is a magnet for locals and visitors alike and is overlooked by the white domed presidential palace.
The Sainte Trinte Espiscol Cathedral houses an awesome collection of biblical murals, not to be missed. As in Cuba, across the Windward Passage, many buildings in the capital exude an air of genteel decay in particular in the leafy suburbs of Petionville where many houses are elaborately decorated with turrets and ornate balconies whist the streets are lined by intimate cafes, galleries and elegant boutiques.
Away from the capital
Outside Port au Prince, there are numerous scenic gems to be discovered:
- Jacmel, one of the prettiest towns on the island, with meandering streets leading down to the sea and grand mansions reminiscent to New Orleans.
- Kenscoff, a resort in the hills where the rich and privileged used to retreat from intense heat.
- Cap Haitien, on the north coast with its Spanish –style architecture and further inland the ruins of imposing plantation houses.
- La Citadelle, a formidable fortress and UNESCO World Heritage site and former royal palace of Sans Souci which look down onto Cap Haitien.
The natural beauty of the island is evident in its coastline and the national parks. The Cote des Arcadins, north of Port au Prince, stretch for miles and the exquisite reefs surrounding the offshore cays offer excellent diving opportunities with those closer to the capital offering the added attraction of shipwrecks to be discovered.
The remote southwest peninsula is one of the most beautiful parts of the island, home to the Macaya National Park and Haiti’s last virgin cloud forest. The lush terrain shrouds fierce rivers and roaring waterfalls, and tree covered mountains crowd down to the coastline, protecting palm-fringe beaches and isolated villages.
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