– photo by Ryan Bowen
The imposing Citadelle Laferriere is a national symbol of Haiti and one of its most popular sites. With a gorgeous mountaintop setting, the fortress is very important to Haitians and they often consider it as the eighth wonder of the world. Together with Sans-Souci Palace in Milot (where the trail for the fortress begins), Citadelle Laferriere has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1982.
Citadelle Laferriere is located on a mountaintop at a height of about 900 meters and is 25 kilometers south of Haiti’s second-largest city Cap-Haïtien. You can reach the fortress either by hiking or on horseback from the town of Milot. The 11 kilometer trek is mostly uphill, so carry plenty of water.
The construction of Citadelle Laferriere was commissioned by Henri Christophe – a renowned leader of the Haitian slave rebellion. Therefore, the fortress is also known as Citadelle Henri Christophe. Construction started soon after Haiti’s independence in 1804 and took almost 15 years to complete.
The main purpose of Citadelle Laferriere was to prevent possible attacks from the French troops and being able to look around the nearby valleys including Cap-Haitien. It was built as a defensive structure and had the capacity to sustain the Royal family and an army of 5000 for an entire year. Fortunately, the French army never attacked Haiti after its independence and the structure is still standing strong.
Citadelle Laferriere is the largest fortress in the Western Hemisphere and most of the interior of the fortress is accessible to visitors. If you are willing to climb the numerous steps to the fort’s roof, you will be greeted with breathtaking views of Cap-Haitien and the Atlantic Ocean. If you explore the fortress, you will discover several hidden passages and halls, 365 cannons and a huge stockpile of cannon balls.
Citadelle Laferriere has an interesting shape and doesn’t feature the traditional box-shaped design. Instead, it has an angular design which gives it a different form when viewed from different angles.
Citadelle Laferriere is a great example of how the possibility of conflict can result in some great monuments.
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