Haiti has been rocked by disastrous earthquakes (the most recent in 2010) and beset by political turmoil in the last century, not to mention overshadowed by the nearby likes of Dominican Republic and Jamaica, meaning this half of Hispaniola Island remains largely undeveloped and untrodden.
However, those who do opt to head to this off-the-beaten-track section of the Greater Antilles are in for a real treat.
Soaring fortresses where slaves once stood strong against the colonial forces of Europe still crown the inland mountains; swathes of sugarcane and greenery sweep through the central Plaine de l’Artibonite, while the rugged peaks of the Chaine de la Selle loom nearly 3,000 meters above the Caribbean Sea.
And then – of course – there are the beaches.
These come fringed with coconut gardens and hammock-strung backpacker guesthouses at Jacamel, shimmering and shining and trodden by countless cruisers at Cap-Haitien, and shrouded by great peaks around pretty Chouchou Bay.
Yep, get here before everyone realises that Haiti’s back on the map folks! To get you started here’s our pick of the best things to do:
1. Scale the La Citadelle la Ferriere
Clinging like a great stone limpet to the ridges of Bonnet a L’Eveque mountain a short drive south out of Cap-Haitien, this colossal fortress (one of the largest in the entire Americas in fact) rarely fails to draw a gasp.
It was raised by the Haitian slave rebels in the early years of the 19th century, intended as a visible bulwark against French invasion in the wake of the country’s newfound independence.
Once upon a time the great crenulations and keeps were dotted with nearly 400 cannons, while today the castle is tagged as UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It can be reached on an arduous mountain trail that goes for seven miles into the hills from the town of Milot.