Veracruz is not one of Mexico’s most popular tourist destinations, but those who spend some time in the state will find natural beauty and history at every turn. Scale a volcano, visit ancient pyramids and wander the streets of a historic port town. Experience a warm welcome in Veracruz’s towns and cities, which are not overwhelmed by tourism.
Often said to be one of the friendliest cities in Mexico, busy Veracruz is a tropical port town brimming with history. This is Mexico’s first port, the place where Herman Cortez and the Spanish Conquistadors first landed in 1519 and the oldest post-Columbian city in North America. Palm trees line the streets and main plaza, which comes alive at night with music, dancing and street entertainers. Stroll along the boardwalk and visit the aquarium, one of the largest in Latin America.
Explore the surrounding countryside, a region rich in agriculture, with coffee, vanilla and tropical flowers growing in abundance, and rural towns and villages offering a glimpse of old Mexico. El Tajin, for example, is the site of a mysterious ruined city complete with ancient pyramids. It’s located 4 hours north of Veracruz city.
Another impressive sight is the peak of Citlaltépetl, also called the Pico de Orizaba. This dormant volcano is Mexico’s highest, towering some 18,400 feet (5,600 meters) above sea level. Marvel at its snowcapped peak from the nearby town of Orizaba and attempt the tough but popular climb on one of many organized trips to the summit.
Adventure seekers can also go whitewater rafting, kayaking, canyoning and hiking among the Sierra Madre Oriental mountains. Explore the lush cloud forests, which are filled with rare birds and plants.
When it’s time to hit the beach, head for one of Veracruz’s quieter stretches of sand. Find tranquility at one of the beaches along the Costa Esmeralda, a 31-mile (50-kilometer) strip to the north of Veracruz port, where the water is warm and crowds are few.
To reach the state of Veracruz, fly into the airport in Veracruz city or ride a bus from other Mexican cities. For the freedom to explore the region at will, consider renting a car.