Are you planning to go somewhere different on a long vacation? Then why not head to Port-Au-Prince, the capital city of Haiti. The city is the gateway to many heritage sites just waiting to be discovered in Haiti. A visit to at least two World Heritage Sites – Sans Souci Palace and Citadelle Laferrière – is important to make your trip to this beautiful place complete. Let us take a virtual tour of both these places and see what all they have to offer. Knowing about these famous iconic landmarks would help you prepare beforehand for your future visit to this amazing destination.
Sans Souci Palace
The Sans Souci Palace was home to King Henri Christophe I of Haiti. The king was in fact a former slave who fought alongside George Washington in the American Revolutionary War. Henri Christophe later on became a self-imposed monarch and a key leader in the Haitian Revolution in 1804. This was the period when the French colonial rulers were defeated and Haiti became an independent nation.
The Sans Souci Palace is situated in the town of Milot. Its construction started in 1810 and was completed after three years in 1813. Prior to the construction of Sans Souci Palace, the town of Milot was a French plantation under the charge of Henri Christophe during the Haitian Revolution. Henri was quite unpopular among the people because of the atrocities and cruelty committed by him. Many laborers, whose numbers remain unclear till date, perished during the construction of Sans Souci Palace. This palatial building was renowned for its grandeur with its excellent system of waterworks, artificial springs and grandiose gardens. It was renowned for merrymaking, feasting and dancing. Many overseas guests were entertained by Henri at the palace. Most of them viewed the Sans Souci Palace as one of the most magnificent edifices of the West Indies.
During its heydays, the Sans Souci Palace was acknowledged by many as being equivalent of the Versailles in France. It was for the first time in the history of mankind that a group of former slaves got together to build a palace for their own chosen ruler, Henri Christophe, and not for their masters. The Sans Souci Palace, which now lies in ruins, gained a place of prominence when it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1982 because of its poignant history and uniqueness. Today, the Sans Souci Palace remains the most frequented landmark in Haiti by a large number of tourists from different parts of the world. Your vacation in Haiti will remain incomplete unless you visit the famous Sans Souci Palace.
It is often said that War creates great art. And, this is perfectly true when you visit the iconic fortress Citadelle Laferrière. This majestic fort was once proclaimed to be the crown jewel of Haiti’s national defense. The design of Citadelle Laferrière, or popularly called ‘The Citadel’, is quite imposing and stunning. This large mountaintop fortress is situated approximately 17 miles south to the city of Cap Haitien in northern Haiti. It is presently the largest fortress in the Western Hemisphere. This eighth man-made wonder was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1982. It remains a top tourist attraction in Haiti today.
The construction of the Citadelle Laferrière was necessitated after the French recaptured the island. The fortress was to provide a retreat to the Haitian government and utilize it as a place to spy on any approaching invasion forces. The massive fortress took more than a decade to be constructed involving the services of more than 20,000 laborers. The fortress was equipped with 365 cannons. Each cannon symbolized the fighting for Haiti’s independence 365 days of the year. Each cannon has a unique and distinctive design. Huge pyramids were constructed around the fortress compound where large amounts of cannon balls were stacked.
The Citadelle Laferrière is huge with more than 130 feet high walls surrounding it. The enclosed area within the fortress covers an area of more than 108,000 sq ft. The foundation of the Citadelle Laferrière is formidable and quite strong. It is embedded directly into the stone of the mountain. The cisterns and storehouses are quite enormous as well. There massive capacity is enough to hold food and drinks for over 5,000 people for an entire year. The fortress also has special rooms for the king, bathing facilities and bakeries.
The Citadelle Laferrière was a marvelous engineering achievement during its time. However, the fortress was never used for the very purpose for which it was built. The French never returned to retake Haiti. The Citadelle Laferrière today remains a top attraction in Haiti. If you are visiting the majestic fortress on a clear day then you will be amazed to see the coasts of Cuba from the mountaintop.