A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Citadelle Laferriere is one of the most popular tourist locations in Haiti. The site is also known as the Citadelle or Citadelle Henry Christophe.
Location and How to Get to This Specific Site
The fortress can be found in the north of Haiti. From Cap-Haitien city, it is 27 km / 17 miles to its south. From Milot, it is five miles (8 km) away.
What to See There
In terms of sizes, the citadel’s dimensions are unmatched in the Western hemisphere. The whole complex spans an area over 10,000 m2 (108,000 square feet). From the mountaintop, the walls reach a height of 130 feet (40 m).
There are over 350 cannons in the fortress. The fortress was designed to hold water and food for up to 5,000 people for a year. There are also bakery ovens and quarters.
The Citadelle Laferriere was constructed by Henri Christophe, who helped lead the Haitian slave revolution against the French. Construction of the edifice took place between 1805 and 1820. It was intended to protect Haiti from any French attacks.
For defense purposes, it was built on a mountaintop 3,000 ft (910 m) high. From this vantage point, it was possible to spot any attacks. It also functioned as a lookout for any attacks in the valleys. From the fortress, Cuba’s eastern coast is visible.
To this day, the cannonballs that were installed at the complex can still be seen. The fortress was never subjected to a French attack. In the event of an attack, Christophe’s plan was to burn all the crops and hole up in the fortress with his army.
A small entrance fee may be asked by the guide. Most of these guides are in Milot. The cost will vary, but it is usually just a very small amount. Since the journey is uphill, renting a horse is recommended.
If you are an experienced hiker, the Milot trail can be traversed on foot. They should carry lots of water. One of the popular activities is climbing the staircases and going up the roof.
The site has been renovated several times, but most of the area is open to tourists. Part of the funding has been courtesy of UNESCO.
Given its size, it is not surprising that the Citadelle Laferriere has become a symbol of Haiti itself. Built for defensive purposes, it has become an icon of the country’s fight for freedom.