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Haiti, once one of the most popular vacation destinations in the Caribbean, is now one of the least-visited destinations due to its political instability and a lack of tourism infrastructure. The U.S. State Department maintains travel warnings to keep visitors aware of the potential dangers and American travellers should contact the U.S. Embassy upon arrival. A car with a driver or escorted day tours is advisable. For intrepid travellers intrigued by the country’s cultural offerings and natural beauty, Haiti offers fascinating castles, history, architecture, art, music and spiritual traditions.
Haiti shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic. The capital, Port-au-Prince, is located in the central region on the Gulf of Gonâve. Points of interest here include the Musée de Pantheon, Place des Héros, and the Basilica of Notre Dame. Inside the Musée Nationale is a treasure-trove of historical relics such as the pistol used by King Henri Christophe in 1820, which he used to end his life rather than face a coup. Visitors can also see an anchor allegedly salvaged from Christopher Columbus’ famous Santa Maria.
The Museum of Haitian Art features the nation’s famed art naïf paintings. Fine art galleries are located in Pétionville in the hills above the city, where most visitors choose to stay. This upscale district is home to international embassies, trendy restaurants, boutiques and nightclubs. The Barbancourt Rum Distillery is another popular attraction, in operation since 1765 and based in a hillside castle.
The northern peninsula is filled with forts and ruins to explore. The formidable Citadelle crowns the 3,000 foot Pic la Ferriere and in the valley sits Sans Souci, an elegant but ruined palace built in 1810. The two structures are part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Five additional forts overlook Cap-Haïtien harbour and the coastline. The southern peninsula’s high mountains and thundering waterfalls attract nature lovers. Visit Bassin Bleu, a triple waterfall with deep pools, and Pic de Macaya, a 7,700 foot mountain populated by rare orchids and birds. Étang Saumâtre, a blue saltwater lake, delights with more than 100 species of waterfowl plus flamingos and American crocodile.