This land of vivid contrasts is at the heart of the Caribbean. Echoes of distant Africa act as a counterpoint to the familiar landmarks of Caribbean life. In fact, the description `Afro-Caribbean` could have been coined for Haiti.
It is the region’s third largest island state, and a gem that has yet to be discovered by mass tourism. Almost all of Haiti’s 7.5 million people are of African origin and it shows - in their art, their passion for music and their undaunted optimism.
Occupying the western part of the island of Hispaniola - which it shares with the Dominican Republic - Haiti can satisfy the needs of Caribbean beach-lovers and of visitors looking for adventure and history.
Improvements to Haiti`s existing amenities and new developments are planned for its coastal areas. Haiti has a range of accessible beaches - both the classic white sand and volcanic varieties - and many are served by hotels, cafés and water sports operators.
There are also many secluded, sandy coves that can only be reached by rowboat and are ideal for swimming and snorkeling. At Labadie on quiet Pointe Ste-Honoré, you’ll find more than 200 acres (800,000 sq m) of Caribbean perfection, with undulating hills, nature walks and flawless beaches for sun-bathing, swimming and snorkeling.
Inland, adventurous visitors encounter a country of fertile, forest-covered mountain chains, cactus plains and deserts, and banana and coffee plantations. You’ll see - and hear - parrots, parakeets and hummingbirds. At Saumatre Lake, in the east by the Dominican border, there are crocodiles, flamingoes and jacanas. In the Artibonite Valley you`ll see paddy fields, complete with water buffalo - a hint of southern Asia in the Caribbean.
There’s much rugged natural beauty, much of it in protected national parks, in Haiti, but perhaps the most awesome spectacle is man-made. The Citadelle LaFerriere, at the top of a 3,000ft (915m) mountain near the town of Milot, is the largest fortress in the Caribbean, if not the Western hemisphere.
Built on the orders of Haiti’s self-appointed king, Henri Christophe, its vital statistics are as daunting as its terrifying appearance - the walls are more than 100ft (30m) high and, in some places, 45ft thick. It took 200,000 people from 1804 to 1817 to build it, and the 10,000 soldiers the fortress housed were defended by 365 five-ton cannon. Visitors don’t have to make the journey up on foot - they can get to within half a mile in a car, or right to the top on a horse.
In the capital, Port-au-Prince, you’ll find history and culture on a more human scale. It’s a large, vibrant city of markets, squares, museums, art galleries, historic monuments, hotels and restaurants - but most of all a city of people happy to offer visitors a welcome as warm as their famous Barbancourt rum.