This article was originally published in Atmosphere, Air Transat’s inflight magazine. Check out the latest edition here!
Earlier this year, Michaëlle Jean, UNESCO’s Special Envoy for Haiti, exclaimed: “This country is too rich to be poor!” There is no need to take her word for it, though. You can see for yourself.
From 1970 to 1980, the “Pearl of the Antilles” was Quebec’s preferred South destination, but political turmoil and natural disasters, including the devastating earthquake of 2010, had adverse effects on tourism in Haiti. Today, however, Haiti is finally ready to resume its place in the sun, especially since tourism is an important economic lever for the country.
Television has shown you many of the difficulties that Haiti is experiencing, but this is not representative of the entire destination – far from it! Natural wonders, ancient remains, the warmth of the Haitian people, culture and gastronomy – the resources for which this “land of high mountains” was once renowned are still intact. From villages blessed with breathtaking views, to magnificent UNESCO World Heritage architecture, the western third of the island of Hispaniola has much to offer.
Furthermore, participating in this destination’s rebirth also contributes to its advancement. Transat Holidays’ package has been designed with this in mind. Experience the best Haiti has to offer while contributing to its development. What could be more rewarding?
Must-Sees When Travelling to Haiti
L’Observatoire, a restaurant-bar, offers a beautiful view of the capital from the sea to the mountains, and there is no better place in town to watch the sunset. The excellent Panthéon National Haïtien museum (MUPANAH) is also worth a visit: you’ll learn about the slavery era, the country’s epic independence and voodoo. In the evening, head to one of the many bars in the wealthy suburb of Pétion-Ville, where bands perform to the intense rhythms of kompa and mizik rasin.
The Village of Noailles
In this village near Port-au-Prince, metal sculpting skills have been handed down from father to son for more than three generations. Metal from old barrels is hand-cut with a chisel and hammer, which produce a concert of hammering sounds coming from roughly 70 village workshops! During a guided tour, meet several artisans and admire their work. You may even want to purchase a mask or other beautiful decorative objects as a souvenir.
Experience Haitian Traditional Food
Happy hour is time for rum punch and its variants, made with fresh fruit juices and three-star white or pale gold rum from the Barbancourt Distillery in Port-au-Prince, which is open to the public. These drinks are the perfect prelude to a Haitian feast!
Fish, seafood, smoked goat (cabri) and cashew chicken (poulet nwa kajou) will delight you. Also feast on griot and djon djon, two iconic Haitian Creole dishes. Griot is fried pork served with plantain patties, also fried, and pikliz, a vinegary salad made with cabbage, carrots, onion and peppers. Djon djon is a black mushroom used to flavour rice and chicken. According to the young and outgoing Minister of Tourism, Stephanie Balmir Villedrouin, “If you’ve tasted our two national dishes, then you can really say you’ve visited Haiti!”
If you have a sweet tooth, you’ll just love dous kokoye, candies made of coconut, brown sugar, vanilla and cinnamon. Potato bread, made with sweet potatoes and bananas, is yet another traditional delight.
Explore the Island’s Beauty with These Tourist Attractions
National History Park
Listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, this park, located in Milot in the Nord department, includes monuments unlike any other in the Caribbean: Sans Souci Palace and La Ferrière Citadel, both built in the early 19th century for King Henry Christophe. It is easy to imagine the silk draperies that once dressed the windows of the palace. Built on a mountaintop, the impressive citadel can be reached on foot, if you’re up for a challenging hike, or on horseback.
The Côte des Arcadins
This slice of paradise is just a 45-minute drive from Port-au-Prince. Lined with picturesque villages and beaches, it offers a calm, clear sea that is perfect for snorkelling and water sports. If you’d like to see some gorgeous scenery, make sure to take the excursion leading to the Piat Spring. You will travel along a schoolchildren’s path, through a banana plantation and up hilltops to a natural spring, close to where the villagers cultivate watercress. Ah, se la pou’w la (you have to be there), as they say in Creole!