Background In flowering plants it has been shown that de novo genome assemblies of different species and genera show a significant drop in the proportion of alignable sequence. Within a plant species, however, it is assumed that different haplotypes of the same chromosome align well. In this paper we have compared three de novo assemblies of potato chromosome 5 and report on the sequence variation and the proportion of sequence that can be aligned. Results For the diploid potato clone RH89-039-16 (RH) we produced two linkage phase controlled and haplotype-specific assemblies of chromosome 5 based on BAC-by-BAC sequencing, which were aligned to each other and compared to the 52 Mb chromosome 5 reference sequence of the doubled monoploid clone DM 1–3 516 R44 (DM). We identified 17.0 Mb of non-redundant sequence scaffolds derived from euchromatic regions of RH and 38.4 Mb from the pericentromeric heterochromatin. For 32.7 Mb of the RH sequences the correct position and order on chromosome 5 was determined, using genetic markers, fluorescence in situ hybridisation and alignment to the DM reference genome. This ordered fraction of the RH sequences is situated in the euchromatic arms and in the heterochromatin borders. In the euchromatic regions, the sequence collinearity between the three chromosomal homologs is good, but interruption of collinearity occurs at nine gene clusters. Towards and into the heterochromatin borders, absence of collinearity due to structural variation was more extensive and was caused by hemizygous and poorly aligning regions of up to 450 kb in length. In the most central heterochromatin, a total of 22.7 Mb sequence from both RH haplotypes remained unordered. These RH sequences have very few syntenic regions and represent a non-alignable region between the RH and DM heterochromatin haplotypes of chromosome 5. Conclusions Our results show that among homologous potato chromosomes large regions are present with dramatic loss of sequence collinearity. This stresses the need for more de novo reference assemblies in order to capture genome diversity in this crop. The discovery of three highly diverged pericentric heterochromatin haplotypes within one species is a novelty in plant genome analysis. The possible origin and cytogenetic implication of this heterochromatin haplotype diversity are discussed.