Introducing Northern Haiti
If you’re interested in how Haiti came to be as it is today, head for the north coast. It all happened here, from Columbus’ first landfall on Hispaniola to the key events of the Haitian slave revolution, and there are still many monuments left to mark out this path of history.
Everything starts at Cap-Haïtien, Haiti’s second city. Now a quiet sort of a place, it was once one of the richest colonial ports in the world. Its central square and wide gridded streets with high-shuttered doors and balconies make it the ideal base from where you can explore the region.
Cap-Haïtien is just an hour away from what has to be Haiti’s most stupendous tourist attraction. The magnificent Citadelle la Ferrière is the mother of all Caribbean forts – a true castle perched high on a mountain and the master of all it surveys. Built in the early years of independence, it’s a monument to the vision of a short-lived king, whose ruined palace of Sans Souci sits below, looking like something from a tropical Hollywood adventure movie. There are more forts further to the east, including Fort Liberté, part of France’s futile attempts to keep hold of its colony – independence was declared in Gonaïves, on the road back to Port-au-Prince. Haiti’s history reaches back even further to the west, where Île de la Tortue evokes memories of the golden age of piracy.
History is well and good, but the crashing Atlantic waves give the north some spectacular coastline and great beaches as well. Cormier Plage and Plage Labadie are a stone’s throw from Cap-Haïtien and are ideal places to unwind – even in the years of turmoil, Labadie was one place the cruise lines couldn’t bear to give up.