Really in the middle of nowhere? Yeah, well kind of. This Haitian city of 50,000 inhabitants is located in the centre of the country, at the end of the tarmac part of the National route #3 (financed by the European Union by the way) to be precise. By car you need 2 to 3 hours to get there from Port-au-Prince, depending on traffic.
It was a weekend in September when we visited Hinche for the first time. We liked it so much that we came back for a second weekend. People just seemed calmer and friendlier in Hinche (and especially in the countryside) and the landscape is breathtaking and easy to hike on as the city and its surroundings are situated on a plateau. So you can walk around without too much of sweating. Nevertheless, in order to discover the outdoors of Hinche and even a hotel which is close by, you need a good off-roader.
Sights to discover
One of Hinche's most popular landmarks is its Catholic cathedral, la Cathédrale Immaculée Conception, which was opened in December 1997. It is one of the most towering buildings in the city, shining in its white armor and reflecting with its architecture style a mixture of tradition and modernity. To get a closer look (also inside), you can check out this photo gallery.
It is not a sight but we saw the destroyed gas station which burnt totally down in mid March of this year. This had actually been the first time we heard about Hinche when we learnt about this tragic accident. Here is a video showing the flames of the station:
As you can see, there is not that much to see in Hinche as it is a rather small city but its surroundings have a lot to offer. One of the most famous sights of the region is the Bassin Zim, a 20-meter high waterfall that is only 8 kilometers away from the city. Unfortunately, the official road to get there is a dirt road mostly only accessible with an appropriate car. We actually tried to go there twice via two different roads.
The first time, we took the official (blue) path and parked our car close to some local houses about one kilometer away. We walked the rest of the dirt road and were followed by some locals who wanted to be our guide. Having arrived at the gate of the sight, an old man wanted 5$ from us (although we are residents of Haiti and should only pay (50 HTG=1$)) without giving out any tickets or whatsoever. After some discussions, we abandoned and walked back frustratedly to our car.
The second time, we went with our friends and their off-roader and tried a different trail (the orange-black one on the map). We parked our car close to a house and walked the last couple of kilometers. At the end of our hike, we had a spectacular view of the Bassin Zim and had a picknick close to the river in the valley.
Another fantastic sight to see close to Hinche is the waterfall called Cascade Saltader. This is even better as you can go for a swim and don't have to fight off any locals claiming an entrance fee. It's just so more authentic and private - so have your bathing suit and towel backed when you're heading there!
For this excursion, you also need an off-road vehicle to get there as the street to Lahaye is a pretty bumpy dirt road. The people of this small village were so nice to have the car parked on their church's ground and off we went for a small hike.
First of all, you have to walk through a small river and pass some local houses, cows, corn fields and creeks to finally arrive at the beautiful, refreshing waterfall. Yes, you get your feet wet and muddy but hey, it's worth it :-).
To get a good and beautiful "overview" of the plateau surrounding Hinche, we recommend you to stop at Bellevue. This is a hill close to the "main road 306" (a dirt road again!) and not too far from Pandiassou which gives you a fabulous 360° view over the area.
Where to Stay?
Well, it's easy and not easy to find a good hotel in Hinche as there is only one in the city center called "Hotel Maguana". It's not really listed anywhere on one of the known booking sitest such as booking.com or trip advisor. You really have to dig a bit to find this hotel. Considering that they are listed nowhere and you have to show up and negotiate your room rates, does not make it very attractive. However, it is the only one in Hinche and it even has a pool which is not a standard in Haitian hotels although it can get pretty hot.
The rooms are not the cleanest ones as the furniture and decoration do not seem to be the latest but some rooms have AC (the most expensive ones, of course). No Wifi but breakfast was included. The service is very slow (Haitian style) and as there was no bar or restaurant on the premises, some local women prepared the meal outside. The cheapest single room officially starts (for white expats) at 80$ and the most "luxurious" (with an old fridge and AC) at 110$. We negotiated and got 30§ off.
Another hotel located a couple kilometers in the west of Hinche is the Hotel L'Ermitage de Pandiassou. To get there you have to take a dirt road and better have an off-roader. This is the only hotel you can find easily on the internet. This hotel used to be new and clean, was even rewarded as engaging project of the region, but that has been a couple of years ago. Now, it is empty and not prepared for spontaneous visitors. Our dinner was not good at all (a stale sandwich and cold spaghetti costing about 10$ each). The breakfast was limited (one piece of melon for everyone and not more) and the room prices pretty high (between 96$ for a single room and up to 150$ for a double room). They are about to build a pool (with some construction errers) and the hotel has wifi. All in all a pretty pricey hotel for their standards, service and rooms (which were clean and had AC).
Where to eat?
This again is easy as there is not so much of a choice in Hinche. The staff at the Maguana Hotel recommended to us the Eben Ezer restaurant which seemed to be the only decent place to eat. And they were right: Typical Haitian cuisine, not a lot of dishes to choose from, BUT the service (at lunch times) was quick and the meals cheap and delicious. Thumbs up for Mr Dieuconne (this was the actual name of the manager!) and his team!
As you can see, Hinche is worth a visit or two and if you are into some not so difficult, safe hikes while meeting friendly and simple locals (in between a refreshing dip into a cascade) - this is the place to go!
Have you ever been to Hinche? If so, any other good tips for our next visit?
Hinche is in the middle of Haiti and fortunately has not been touched by Hurricane Matthew. However, the southwestern part of Haiti is still struggling with Cholera cases, food and drinking water shortage. I have already shared this moving article with heart-wrenching photos depicting the desperate situation (by the Washington Post). Please have a look at it and feel free to donate to our friends' mission delivering food, water and other goods to the Haitian places of crisis by plane or to Sow a Seed, a "non-profit, volunteer-based organization that works with struggling orphanages in the Caribbean region, assisting them with food, shelter, education and healthcare" .
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