Sheltered by a beautiful 3km-wide bay, the old coffee port of Jacmel is one of the most friendly and tranquil towns in Haiti. Little more than a couple of hours drive south from Port-au-Prince, it’s a popular weekend destination for city dwellers, and hosts one of the country’s best Carnivals every Lent. But at any time of year, Jacmel is a great place for recharging the batteries.
Part of Jacmel’s charm is down to its old town center, full of mansions and merchants’ warehouses with a late-Victorian grace poking out from behind the wrought-iron balconies and peeling façades.
If some of the buildings need a lick of paint, Jacmel’s artists could hardly be described as slouches. The town is the undisputed handicrafts capital of Haiti, with dozens of workshops producing hand-painted souvenirs, from wall decorations to the elaborate papier-mâché masks produced for the Carnival festivities. It’s the birthplace of two hugely influential creative forces, both of whom have created inspiring works depicting the town, the artist Préfète Duffaut, who contributed to the amazing murals of Sainte Trinité Episcopalian Cathedral in Port-au-Prince, and the novelist and poet René Dépestre.