If you ever went to Haiti, The Citadel is something you had to see since it became an icon of Haiti and has been printed on stamps, currency and numerous souvenirs. The Citadel is very large fortress located at mountaintop in northern Haiti on top of Bonnet a L’Eveque mountain. The closest settlement is town Milot from where you can start your conquest of this amazing structure. UNESCO put it on its list in 1982 as a World Heritage Site since it is one of the biggest fortress in both South and North America.
It was built by Henri Chrisophe at the beginning of 19 century, and its purpose was to keep the French soldiers out. Henry was one of the key figures in Haitian slave rebellion, which brought independence to Haiti. He was sure that the French will try to take their freedom back again, so he organized 20 000 people to build this enormous structure. However the attack never happened and the fortress was never used for its original purpose. Even today, 200 years later, piles of cannon balls lay around in pyramidal stacks ready for firing.
The Citadel takes up around 20 acres of land at altitude of 900 meters. Some walls are up to 40 meters high with 365 cannons distributed along the walls.
The fortress was designed to be administrative capital and inside the walls a hospital, schools, a chapel, a printing shop, a distillery and garment factories were built.
It was built to hold up to 5000 people for entire year if French attacked.
From front the fortress looks like huge stone ship, taking different forms depending from where one looks at it. Some angles were made in a way so they reflect cannonballs during the attack. Since the time it was build, it was repaired couple of times but the original design never changed. When tourists come to Milot, they can hire self appointed guides. The trail is suitable only for experienced hikers but those who can’t climb on their own can rent a horse to take them up this steep seven mile paved stone trail.
A lot of people live along the path, using the popularity of fortress to sell souvenirs and refreshing drinks. First part of the trail can be crossed on 4WD vehicle but the last quarter must be completed on foot or on horse. Almost entire Citadel is accessible to tourist for exploration. From the rooftop view is breathtaking and on a clear day Atlantic Ocean can be seen along with city of Cap-Haitien.
Haiti as a state is not doing the best job of preserving this gem of their history, but many international organizations have stepped in to help. Due to unstable political situation, many tourists avoid Haiti. However, this region is peaceful so there is no real hazard if you decide to visit.