Haiti’s “8th Wonder of the World”: La Citadelle la Ferriere by Milot and above Sans Souci Palace. Both were overseen by Haiti’s former leader and liberator Henri Christophe; the Citadelle was built to repel the French (it never seen battle, however), and Sans Souci was built as Henri Christophe’s rival to the Palace of Versailles. Both are UNESCO World Heritage sites and have been relatively untouched by tourism. Lonely Planet makes a lot of inaccuracies in describing how to get there. We set things straight on the ground.
We woke up early at 7am to grab breakfast at Croissant d’Or, Cap-Haitien’s best bakery (that much Lonely Planet gets right!). There we loaded up on some carbs before heading down to catch a taptap to Milot. Lonely Planet says there’s a bridge going east across the river by Street #2, but it’s MUCH more south than that. We got a little confused because of this, but after asking around we were led to the bridge.
Remember in the last post when I said that the more north you go, the less chaotic it gets? So it’s pretty much total chaos once you hit the southern bridge of Cap-Haitien.
Once crossing the bridge, we came upon a gas station by the bridge’s entrance on the eastern side, where all the taptaps were waiting. Just like how I was able to find the taptaps to Dhaka in Bangladesh, your voice is essentially an information desk: Just yell “Milot” loudly and they’ll whisk you away to the right taptap. The fare is 25 HTG (Haitian gourds) per person.
Because we arrived on Haiti’s Independence Day weekend and around New Year’s it could be that traffic is generally much lighter this time of year, but the ride from Cap-Haitien to Milot is not an hour as Lonely Planet says it is; the ride was actually half an hour for us. The taptap ride terminates in Milot, from where you walk about 10min more on the main road towards the ticket office located in front of Sans Souci Palace.
Lonely Planet says the entrance fee is $25 USD per person to see both the Palace and the Citadelle. It’s actually $5 USD. You pay more to get a horse and a guide, which we turned down.
After getting your tickets, you enter the ruins of Sans Souci Palace. It’s pretty cool, especially when it’s placed against a backdrop of Haiti’s jungle-like atmosphere.
As you go around to the back of the palace, you’ll be on a path up to the first entrance to the Citadelle La Ferriere.
You’ll notice it easily as there will be tons of horses and their wranglers waiting to accost you incessantly about how you’re “not going to make it” on foot. They’re talking about a 7.5km walk up to the Citadelle’s actual entrance on top of the mountain, and the path is very very steep. Although it’s well-paved, it’s not an easy climb for those who are physically unfit.
We decided to trust our thighs and legs: no horses. It took us about 2 hours to reach the top. Along the way you’ll notice that families and entire communities live and die on the sides of the path you’re hiking up. Some of them encourage you to pay the extra money to hire a horse, some ask for a dollar, some try to sell you beads or bottles of water, but most will generally watch you curiously as you go.
After about 90min of hiking you’ll hit a parking lot where you can rest your legs a little bit. Those of you who hired a motor vehicle or a 4WD jeep to get up the hill will park here. Then it’s another 30min steep climb up to the top before you finally hit the Citadelle.
And from there, you are rewarded with the best views in Haiti. In other words, you literally are at the top of La Hispaniola island:
We spent about an hour and a half there before we headed back down, but you easily can lounge around here for a couple of hours taking it all in…after a grueling climb you just did, who wouldn’t?
The descent back down was pretty uneventful, but spend the rest of your time exploring Sans Souci if you haven’t already.
Then it’s back through Milot on a taptap to Cap-Haitien. Just retrace your steps of what you did this morning, and you’ll be back home in time for dinner.
- At time of posting in Milot, it was 71.6 °F -
Humidity: 88% | Wind Speed: 8km/hr | Cloud Cover: clear