Haiti is a country guaranteed to shock and awe. Tragedy-scarred but tenacious, this small Caribbean nation has great beauty and great need. Boasting verdant mountains, white sandy beaches and plenty of African spontaneity, Haiti might be financially poor, but it is rich in natural beauty, culturally affluent.
Sharing the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic, Haiti has all the hallmarks of a classic Caribbean destination. And so it was, in the 1960s and 70s, when the wealthy flocked here to relax in the tropical climate, tread upon powdery beaches and explore vertiginous mountain ranges.
However, decades of political instability and a series of natural disasters devastated Haiti’s tourist industry, and saw the country go from the travel sections of newspapers straight to the front pages.
But, slowly, holidaymakers are returning. Led by the luxury end of the market, new hotels are opening all the time in Port au Prince, which is a sign of how the tide is finally turning. As well as new hotels, numerous tourism development projects are also underway.
Haiti’s unique selling proposition as a Caribbean destination is its history and culture. It has a vibrant arts scene, irresistible fusion cuisine and many talented musicians, who pack out bars and clubs with their unique brand of African, European and Caribbean beats.
However, travelling around Haiti is not always easy. The country’s infrastructure has not recovered from decades of instability and the devastating earthquake of 2010.
Political uncertainty endures, too; the United Nations’ Stabilization Force for Haiti – known by its French acronym MINUSTAH – is still here ten years after it was sent in to restore political order.
In the short term, then, the best option for those travelling to Haiti is to use the services of a known tour operator. This might not feel particularly adventurous, but it will take the hassle out of visiting a nation that is still finding its feet after years in the wilderness.