5 Places to Visit in Haiti
Today marks the seventh anniversary of the devastating earthquake that struck the Caribbean nation of Haiti back in 2010. Since the first anniversary I have always written a remembrance post for the victims-both those who perished and those who survive (click here, here, here, here, and here to access them). Although I had hoped to post an interview with a non-profit organization whose sole purpose is helping Haitian children, they unfortunately never responded to my query (not even to say no, which stunk). So instead I decided to highlight five places in Haiti I would like to visit if I ever had the chance.
Cap-Haïtien (northern Haiti)
Haiti’s second largest city, Cap-Haïtien, is also considered one of its prettiest thanks to its location along a bay and its abundance of French colonial architecture (remember, Haiti was a colony of France’s centuries ago). Some say the Cap-Haïtien of today is what New Orleans would have looked like in the past. It’s in close proximity to a number of fantastic beaches as well as the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Sans Souci Palace and the (both were built by King Henri Christophe, a former slave who was a major player in the Haitian Revolution, when Haiti secured independence from France). The latter offers amazing views of the surrounding area.
Jacmel (southern Haiti)
A place to get away from it all is how Jacmel is often described. It can be reached by one of the best maintained highways in Haiti and some say it’s one of the most picturesque drives in the country to admire the landscape. I can’t help but feel it sounds exactly like the Road to Hana in Maui. Jacmel is said to have the best Carnaval celebrations in all of Haiti so if that’s your thing, come here in late January or early February depending on when Ash Wednesday occurs . I’m more intrigued by the idea of potential handicrafts to buy.
Rhum Barbancourt Distillery (outside of Port-au-Prince)
Although I’ve toured more bourbon and beer production sites than rum, rum is still a favorite drink of mine so I think it would be incredibly cool to visit the Rhum Barbancourt Distillery, one of Haiti’s oldest companies and the producer of one of its most famous exports. Many people even regard Barbancourt rum as one of the best in the world. Barbancourt is available at a new rum bar here in Pittsburgh (Pirata) so hopefully I could try it out locally first. Although it suffered terrible losses in the earthquake (some workers died, countless others lost their homes), the distillery was back up and running by May of 2010.
Hotel Oloffson (Port-au-Prince)
Located in the central part of the capital of Port-au-Prince, the Hotel Oloffson is one of Haiti’s most historic properties and certainly its oldest hotel. Originally built in the late 19th century as a private residence, it became a hotel in the 1930s and has been one ever since. It was featured most prominently in a Graham Greene novel, The Comedians, as it was the inspiration for the fictional Hotel Trianon. Greene himself was a frequent guest here in the 1950s. Just as with the famous colonial era hotels in Southeast Asia (the Raffles anyone?), I would very much like to stay here, naturally while sipping some delicious cocktail made with Rhum Barbancourt, of course. Miraculously, the hotel suffered minimal damage during the earthquake.
Île à Vache (southern Haiti)
There are so many tropical locales in the Indian Ocean that I would love to visit and then I see photos of a place like Île à Vache and I think why would I travel so long and far when there’s something incredible only a short flight away, even if its name does mean cow island? It’s considered to be a satellite island and is located 6.5 miles off the coast of the country’s southwest peninsula. Abaka Bay was ranked the 57th most beautiful beach in the world by CNN and I believe it. From what I’ve read, it sounds like mass development may be coming to this unspoiled tropical paradise so it’s one of those where you’d better go sooner rather than later to experience the same landscape that has greeted people for centuries. And did I mention it has more than one pirate tie?
Tourist dollars are always a great boost to any economy, but for a country like Haiti, they are beyond life-saving. Haiti is undoubtedly not the easiest country to visit but it probably is one of the most culturally enriching ones.
At 4:53 PM, remember all those who died and all those still facing the difficult road of survival.
Collage photo credits: