Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and not a place that pops to mind when you're thinking of a vacation. True, the country has lots of problems and there is barely any infrastructure to speak of let along a tourist infrastructure, but what it lacks in sights and nice hotels, it makes up for in hospitality and adventure.

Independent travel in Haiti is challenging, even for the most experienced adventurers among us. It is extremely poor, the situation is desperate for many of its 8 million citizens and day-to-day life for them seems to be a struggle. While times are tough for them though, the people I met there during my five months stay in the country were hopeful and full of life. Many of the young men are fluent in three languages (Creole, French and either Spanish or English) and they are dedicated both to their education and their churches. The sad thing is that, despite all of their education and aspirations, they really don't have a lot of places to go as there aren't many jobs around. Most were positive about the future though and it makes me hopeful as well for where Haiti might go in the future.

While Haiti isn't well-known for its tourist attractions, backpacking in Haiti does have a few amazing places and sights on offer. The most famous sight in the country is the Citadelle Laferrière which is a remarkable fortress located on a mountaintop about 30 kilometers south of Cap-Haitien in the north of the country. It was built between 1805 and 1820 by 20,000 workers in order to protect against attacks from the French. The nearby city of Cap-Haitien is also worth a look for its colourful buildings and beautiful Cathedral.

An hour west of Cap-Haitian after a bumpy one hour journey along a winding mountain road you will find a beautiful beach packed with tourists playing on inflatable toys, sipping cocktails and enjoying their holidays without having to worry too much about the poverty of Haiti. This is a stop on some Royal Caribbean cruises and they have made sure to keep the locals out by building a large security wall around the beach. They lease the beach from the government and ship people in three times a week. There is a village nearby though called Labadie and it is a small place with a lot of character, friendly locals, a small beach and it's surrounded by beautiful hills. Only cruise passengers are allowed into their private beach so anyone visiting Haiti will be stuck on the other side of the fence but, fear not, it's the place to be.

Haiti certainly isn't a prime tourist destination and a trip to the country will not be a relaxing one but for those adventurous people out there who are up for a challenge, it won't disappoint.