Citadelle Laferrière

Top choice in Haiti

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 cannon 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 cannon, 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 brother-in-law, 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. It's possible to walk out to the Ramiers sites, which are crumbling and in the slow process of being overtaken by the humid forest, but you'll need to be comfortable scrambling.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Haiti attractions

1. Sans Souci

2.66 MILES

Built as a rival to Versailles in France, Henry Christophe’s palace of Sans Souci has lain abandoned since it was ruined in the 1842 earthquake. The years…

2. Marché de Fer

13.01 MILES

The city's iron market sprawls over four city blocks and offers everything from vegetables and clothing to toiletries.

4. Place d'Armes

13.25 MILES

Cap's pretty main square, bordered on the southern side by the Notre-Dame cathedral on Rue 18, has a dark past. François Mackandal, leader of a pre…

5. Île-à-Rat

15.89 MILES

Your basic paradise, this tiny island offers white sand, a lush core of trees, and turquoise water where snorkelers encounter centuries-old cannon and…