A tourist in Haiti

It’s really a shame that more people don’t visit Haiti as tourists, but I can’t say I blame them. If I’d never been here or didn’t know anyone who had, and only based my opinions on what I saw in the news, I probably wouldn’t come either.

When people come here though, they realize that it’s actually not a bad place. Port-au-Prince is dirty, hectic, and crowded, but so are most big cities in the world. And as far as danger goes, foreigners are usually only targets of crime if you make yourself one, which is how it is pretty much anywhere.

Aside from all of this, Haiti is just a beautiful country with plenty of things to do and see. My week as a tourist in Haiti began with a trip to La Visite National Park, south of Port-au-Prince. I’ve been to Furcy but never gone past it, and this time we drove to just past Furcy where we parked the car for two days, hopped onto our horses and took off down the road to Seguin. We each had a person guiding our horses for the entire four hour journey (not that we could’ve wandered off path with steep drop-offs on either side of the road), and with no shade at any point along the way, we were all happy to finally get to our destination. It was some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve seen, and riding a horse through it just made the experience better. I’m sure the horses would think differently.

When we arrived at the house we were staying at for the next two nights – a house well known in that area as Kay Winny, or Winny’s House – I was too pooped to do anything except eat the delicious food provided for us (meals are included in the room rates) and sleep. Accommodations were modest but comfortable, with kerosene lanterns providing light and fireplaces providing heat. I was surprised to be seeing my breath at night when hours earlier I was in 90 degree heat. The next day we hiked around for a few hours, staring at more beautiful scenery. At times it didn’t feel like we were still in Haiti because of how lush and green it was. After one more night at Winny’s it was time to get back on our horses and head back to Port-au-Prince. The views were even more spectacular on the way back, but I’ll admit I was pretty excited to get off my horse. Note for future horseback riding adventures – stirrups and a good saddle will make your butt much happier.

Our next trip out of Port-au-Prince was to Cap Haitien, way up on the north coast. It took us about 6 hours to drive there because after Gonaives the road is loaded with car-swallowing potholes. We spent the first night at a hotel in the city, which still has its old French colonial charm. The next morning we headed out to the Citadel, a massive fort (biggest in the Americas) built in the early 1800s at the very top of a mountain. It was built by Henri Christophe, a leader during Haiti’s slave rebellion, and around 20,000 Haitians. The road up the mountain to the Citadel is very steep and after a certain point is inaccessible to vehicles, so the thought of people hauling massive stones and cannons up it is really mind-boggling. Our guide took us around to every part of the fort except for the dungeons. We were even allowed to walk around on the roof (well over 100 feet from the ground, no guardrails).

At the foot of the same mountain is the Sans-Souci Palace, which is where Henri lived. Unlike the Citadel, the Palace is ruins now, but it’s still beautiful and impressive.

Our second night was spent at one of the north coast’s beautiful beaches. Unfortunately we didn’t have much time to enjoy the beach, but the change of scenery was nice and you can be sure I’ll be going back for the crystal clear water and snorkeling.

Even though my week as a tourist was exhausting (because let’s face it, just getting anywhere in Haiti is an ordeal), it really made me like this country more, and I’m excited to explore what else it has to offer. Not to mention that getting out of Port-au-Prince once in a while is necessary if you like your sanity.

3 Responses to “A tourist in Haiti”
  1. Thanks for sharing! I just got back from Haiti. Though I spent much of my time in and around Port-au-Prince, we stayed out in Gressier. Our last day, we spent in the foothills among the people and then watched the sunset from a hilltop. It was truly stunning!

    • Richard KW0U says:

      Nicely done. I was at the Citadelle in August and it is just as you described. Went down in the dungeon–really creepy and small, looks like it could use chains and a skeleton on the wall. But you didn’t miss much.

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