Veracruz – immediately you think of the colourful carnival which is considered the largest and most exuberant in all of Mexico. However, Veracruz is enjoyable year round and offers quaint colonial cities, lush jungle for outdoor adventures and a beautiful coastline.
The city’s past is shaped by its leading role as a connection between Mexico and Europe. The port played an important role even at the time of the Spanish conquest. Pirates, traders and invaders came and went from this city. Today a large part of the exports to Europe and America are shipped from here.
The focal point of the city is the Zócalo, the main square where the Cathedral and the Palacio Municipal are located. There is also an interesting art center with changing exhibitions. The habour and the lively promenade are close to downtown and from where you can watch the hustle and bustle of the city with views of the ocean. Tours by boat are also offered. The San Juan de Ulúa Fort is now connected to the mainland by a dam, the remains of which can be visited today. Veracruz also has an interesting aquarium teeming with turtles, fresh and saltwater fish, river otters and reptiles. There is even a shark tank where visitors can be lowered into a cabin while feeding. There is also a beautiful museum on the history of the city and a Museum dedicated to Mexico’s shipping industry and Navy. The beaches near the center are usually not very clean, so it is preferable to look for a suitable place to swim further south such as the Mocambo and Boca del Río beaches. There are some islands off the coast that are great for diving; there are reefs and shipwrecks and some have been designated as an underwater nature park.
If you are interested in the colonial history of Mexico, the small fishing village of La Antigua, a few kilometers north of Veracruz is the perfect place. Here is where Cortés had his ships destroyed in order to prevent a return to Spain as well as his former home, the Casa de Corté. A few kilometers north of Veracruz is Zempola, the ruins of the former Totonak capital, which was discovered in 1892.
The El Tajn archaeological site is located in the northwest of the state a few kilometers from Papantla and is the most unusual and important of the Gulf Coast. The city was probably founded by the Totonaks in the 1st century BC and is named after the “god of lightning” (El Tajin). Particularly noteworthy is the Piramide De los Nichos which has 364 niches and once had beautiful stucco decorations and were colourfully painted.
Veracruz is also a paradise for water sports enthusiasts. Tourists come to Veracruz not only because of the beaches, but also because of the raging rivers in tropical surroundings that are perfect for white water rafting. The best time to travel is from August to November when the rivers are at their highest. One of the most popular rafting destinations is the Rio Pescados. The river runs past Jalcomulco and is about 40 kilometers southeast of Xalapa, the capital of Veracruz. The Rio Actopan and Rio Filobobos rivers are also close to the capital, Xalapa.