Citadelle Laferrière

Top choice fortress in The Citadelle & Sans Souci

Haitians call the Citadelle the eighth wonder of the world and, having slogged to the 900m summit of Pic Laferrière (or ridden horseback for US$15), you'll likely agree. This battleship-like fortress gives commanding views in every direction. Completed in 1820, it employed 20,000 people and held supplies to sustain the royal family and a garrison of 5000 troops for a year. With 4m-thick walls up to 40m high, the fortress was impenetrable, although its cannons were never fired in combat.

Inside the ramparts the fort has a series of drawbridges and blind corners to fox attackers. These lead through a gallery containing the first of several cannon batteries. The Citadelle contains over 160 cannons, mostly captured in battle from the English, the Spanish and the French. Throughout the fort are huge piles of cannonballs – once 50,000 in total – though many have been stolen.

At the heart of the fort is the central courtyard, with its officers’ quarters. Christophe himself was buried here after his suicide – his grave is under a huge boulder that forms part of the mountain. On the level above is the whitewashed tomb of his son Prince Noel.

It’s possible to spend a couple of hours exploring the site, which constantly reveals hidden passages, halls and new views from its ramparts. Sheer drops protect the Citadelle from every angle except its rear, where you can look south to Site des Ramiers, a huddle of four small forts protecting its exposed flank.

In the main courtyard there’s a small shop that sells postcards and drinks, and the finest public bathroom in all the land was recently installed inside the fort. A new museum and gallery are also set to open in the fort's interior in 2017.


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