Admire the architecture
With their elaborate latticework, vibrant Voodoo patterns and decorative wooden shutters, Haiti’s characterful gingerbread houses are a faded reminder of more prosperous times. But they might also be a taste of the future – city planners are considering building more after seeing how resilient they were in the 2010 earthquake. A Haitian take on 19th century French holiday homes, visitors can find these magnificent properties scattered around Port au Prince.
Discover the many charms of Jacmel
With its faded colonial charm and excellent local handicrafts, the town of Jacmel is worthy of exploration. The residents’ irrepressible creativity has found new expression along the Boulevard du Bord de Mer: the oceanfront has been festooned with colourful murals and mosaics executed by local artists. It’s perfectly possible to do a day tour out of Port au Prince, seeing Jacmel’s sights and leaving after lunch.
Escape the mainland
Secluded and staggeringly beautiful, the satellite island of Ile-a-Vache offers exquisite, crowd-free beaches and upmarket resorts for those who really want to escape. Transfers are available from the seaport of Les Cayes on mainland Haiti.
Explore Citadelle Laferriére
This UNESCO-listed fortress is the largest in the Americas and it’s hard not to be awed by the grandiose structure, which sits atop a mountain so steep they call it the Bonnet l’Eveque (or bishop’s hat). Below the citadel are the ruins of King Henri’s palace, San Souci, designed as a Versailles of the Caribbean.
Have a night out in Pétionville
The hillside suburb of Pétionville in Port au Prince is chock full of bars, restaurants and galleries. This is the beating heart of the local nightlife, though visitors should be wary of street crime as well as open manhole covers.
Hike in National Parks
The national parks of La Visite and Parc Macaya offer bountiful hiking opportunities. It’s difficult, but not impossible if you have a good guide, all the gear and five days to spare, to get to the top of Pic Macaya, Haiti’s second highest mountain. Parc Macaya also has other, more do-able trails.
Hit the beach
Bathers are spoiled for choice in Haiti, which is surrounded by stunning beaches. However, for something truly special, visit the small coastal town of Port Salut, which has seemingly endless stretches of pure white sand and barely a soul in sight.
Imbibe Haitian art
Art is deeply engrained in Haitian culture, reflecting the country’s African roots and European influences. Tragically, the art world suffered devastating losses in the 2010 earthquake, which destroyed galleries and museums across the country – some works will never been seen again. However, the brilliant Museum of Haitian Art has a fine collection of paintings and crafts, showcasing the talents of local artists.
Take in epic vistas
For spectacular views over Port au Prince, the gorgeous Gulf of Gonave and its white sandy beaches, head for the lofty suburb of Boutillier, high in the mountains. If you fancy hanging around, head to the restaurant at the top, which offers hearty fare and a feast for your eyes.
Unwind in Cap Haïtien
On Christmas Eve 1492, Christopher Columbus ran aground on the north coast of Hispaniola near the present-day city of Cap Haïtien. There are worse places to be marooned. Nestling at the foot of lush green mountains and surrounded by several fine beaches, Cap Haïtien has a more laidback air than the capital and features many fine, colonial-style buildings. A short drive away is the charming village of Milot.
Visit the Iron Market in Port au Prince
Built in France, the canopy of the Iron Market was made for a train station in Cairo. However, when that fell through it was redirected to Haiti in 1891 where it stood until the 2010 earthquake. After an ambitious restoration project the market reopened in 2013 and is home to some 900 hawkers who ply their trade in anything from fruit to souvenirs.