Occupying the western half of the old island of Hispaniola, the Republic of Haiti was once called the ‘Pearl of the Antilles’. Traditionally home to the Taino people, its long and complex history is steeped in blood and tragedy, from the arrival of Columbus in 1492 to the devastating earthquake that levelled much of the country’s capital in January 2010.
The country is however one of the most fascinating in the western hemisphere. When it gained independence in 1804 it became the first independent country in Latin America. It is also the only country in the world to have been founded as the direct result of a slave revolt. The third largest in the Caribbean (behind Cuba and the Dominican Republic), away from its major cities Haiti is blessed with some truly stunning landscapes, from lush mountain peaks to beautiful Caribbean beaches.
Culturally its rich mix of French, African and Spanish influences have produced a staggering diversity of customs and mores, from the African rhythms of its music, to voodoo ceremonies and colonial architecture. The country is also famed for its distinctive art styles, in particular its paintings and sculptures, whilst its cuisine combines the flavours of the Antilles with a enticing fusion of French sophistication and African aesthetics.
Try to see at least one wooden “Gingerbread House” in Port au Prince. Some are quite neglected and may not be around for much longer.