Veracruz is a coastal state in Central Mexico. It has a developing tourism sector, with many ruins, colonial historical sites, natural features ranging from a towering Pico Orizaba — the highest point in Mexico — to low-lying lagoons and bio-reserves, and fairly decent beaches.
Veracruz has traditionally been less of a tourist destination than Pacific parts of Mexico due to its hot, humid weather. Yet the area incorporates a range of climates, from the damp jungle areas in the northwest to the cooler, mountainous heights of Xalapa. The northernmost region of Veracruz is referred to as La Hausteca Veracruzana, which means it was part of the territory historically occupied by the Huastec indigenous people, who were Mayan people who migrated north around 1200 BC. Today, Veracruz is one of only two states where Huastec people still live (the other is San Luis Potosi).
- 1 Xalapa (or Jalapa) — state capital and a beautiful college town with its colonial architecture
- 2 Catemaco — famous as the witchcraft center of Mexico
- 3 Coatepec — known for its coffee production and orchids
- 4 Coatzalcocos — industrial port city that serves as transportation hub in southern Veracruz, Campeche, and southern Mexico
- 5 Córdoba — where the Mexican Independence Treaty with Spain was signed
- 6 Orizaba — a quiet town, crossed by many rivers, with many parks and beautiful churches
- 7 Papantla — this city near El Tajin ruins is known for its downtown square and its cathedral, where voladores (flyers) perform
- 8 Poza Rica — close to the Costa Esmeralda, the northern beaches of Veracruz, and El Tajin
- 9 Tlacotalpan — a 17th-century colonial settlement inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List
- 10 Tecolutla — a beach town set in wetlands with estuaries, canals and mangroves
- 11 Tuxpan — laid-back beach town that played an important role in the Cuban revolution
- 12 Veracruz — a rowdy city in the south famous for its nightlife, with a strong Cuban influence
- 13 Xico — a charming small town with waterfalls and a smell of coffee in the air
- 14 Zempoala — a small town that was the Totonoc capital city when Hernan Cortes became its first European visitor
- 1 El Tajín — this UNESCO World Heritage Site includes the ruins of one of the largest and most important cities of the Classic era of Mesoamerica
- 2 Pico de Orizaba National Park —— a large national park surrounding Mexico's highest mountain
- 3 Cofre de Perote National Park — a national park surrounding Mexico's 8th highest mountain
- 4 Reef System of Veracruz National Park — (Parque Nacional Sistema Arrecifal Veracruzano) is an area of 23 coral reefs just offshore from the port city of Veracruz. The reef system is home for 84 different coral species, 339 mollusks, 47 sponges, and 140 crustaceans. It is a Ramsar wetland and is devevloping a reputation as a diving destination.
- Cañon del Rio Blanco National Park (Parque Nacional Cañon del Rio Blanco, White River Canyon National Park), near Orizaba, deep river gorge, views of Pico de Orizaba. Park highlights include a 20-meter-high waterfall called Elephant Falls (Cascada de Elefante) and the 500 steps (500 escalones), a trail leading to 3 scenic overlooks. There are also two zip line routes here.
- The Emerald Coast (la Costa Esmeralda) — a long stretch of coast north of the city of Veracruz (puerto) that is well known for its fine beaches and beach camping. Offers something of a Baja experience on the Gulf coast of the country.
Although the hot, humid summer weather can be unpleasant for many visitors, it creates a very lush, green landscape that can be beautiful along the southern half of the state.
Veracruz is where the Kingdom of Spain established its first town (called Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz) in what is now Mexico. The state is also where Hernán Cortés began his conquest of the Aztecs and where other forces have likewise made inroads to the center of the country, a fact reflected in how the city of Veracruz is designated the "Heroic City" for resisting Spanish, French, and American intrusions. Pre-Colombian civilizations included Huastecs to the north, the Totonacs to the north and center, and the Olmecs to the south, the latter of which are remembered by the notable stone heads they left behind. These groups were separate from the Aztecs, and, in the case of the Totonacs, even allied with the Spanish to seek revenge against their Aztec enemies and oppressors.
Since then, Veracruz has emerged to become an economic center for agriculture and fossil fuel extractions thanks to reserves found offshore.
Spanish, Nahuatl, and some English in tourist areas.
The largest airport is Veracruz International Airport (Heriberto Jara Corona) (VER IATA) with international service to Houston and Dallas and domestic service to Mexico City, Monterrey, Guadalajara and various regional destinations.
Two smaller regional airports serve domestic flights only:
- Minatitlan/Coatzacoalcos (MTT IATA) — Aeromexico flies one daily flight to Mexico City, serves southern Veracruz
- Poza Rica/El Tajin (PAZ IATA) — private planes may use this airport, no commercial flights
Buses can be used to reach almost any destination in Veracruz. Most buses are operated by ADO or Estrella Blanca.
From Mexico City, use the TAPO bus station for buses to Veracruz.
From Mexico City (TAPO) to Veracruz is 5 hours, M$500 to M$1000 (depends on class and schedule), on ADO or AU.
From Mexico City (TAPO) to Xalapa is 5 hours, M$520 (Jan 2023) on ADO or AU.
From Tuxtla Gutierrez to Coatzacoalcos (southern Veracruz) is 4 hours, M$500 (Jan 2023) on ADO.
Blablacar can be used in this region at prices close to those of the bus.
Southern Veracruz has passenger train service on the Tren Interoceánico from Coatzacoalcos to the Pacific coast city of Salina Cruz in the state of Oaxaca. The line known as Linea FA between Coatzacoalcos and Palenque offers onward connections throughout the Yucatan Peninsula on the Tren Maya, which opened in 2024.
By bus, motorcycle, bike, horseback, or on foot.
Tourism is mostly centered on the port city of Veracruz but there are other destinations. Many of the state major historical and cultural monuments are in the port of Veracruz. They include the Aquarium, the Museum of the city (Museo de la Ciudad), the Agustín Lara Museum, the Santiago Fortress (Baluarte de Santiago) the "Las Atarazanas" Museum and the San Juan de Ulúa Fort.
To the north of the port city is the Sierra or Totonacalpan area of the state, home to the Totonac people. This is home to the important pre-Hispanic city of El Tajín and the present-day city of Papantla. The modern city is best known as the home of the Totonac version of the “danza de voladores”; there, the dancers spin from 80-ft-high (24.4 m) poles. The area is also the native habitat of the vanilla bean.
To the south of the port is on the coast, is Catemaco. This is in a tropical area. The area's two main features are Lake Catemaco, which is located in the crater of an extinct volcano and Isla Tanaxpillo just off the coast. This island is also called the island of the monkeys or baboons due to a group of feral monkeys that escaped and found refuge here.
Inland is the coffee-growing region in and around the cities of Coatepec and Xalapa. Orizaba is best known for the volcano nearby but also has a large waterfall called El Elefante and a Cañon (Canyon) de Río Blanco.
The state has many remains of pre-Hispanic Olmec, Totonac, and Huastec cities. El Tajín, a ruined city that reached its apex between the 9th and 13th centuries AD, was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1992.
El Zapotal is an archeological site which was discovered in 1971 in a region known at Mixtequlla (between the Blanco and Papaloapan Rivers). This site is noted for its clay figurines with smiling faces, part of an extremely large offering in honor of the god of death Mictlantecuhtli.
Cempoala is a site on the coast between the modern settlements of La Antigua and Ciudad Cardel. In the center of the site, there is a large plaza surrounded by temples and the palace of the Totonac chief. The site also has a small museum.
Quiahuiztlán is on the coast on a small mountain named Bernal. It is cut into the mountain as a series of terraces.
The Castillo de Teayo (Teayo Castle) is really a pyramid, whose original name was Zapotitlán. It is on the border between Huasctec and Totonac lands.
The Tres Zapotes site is located the community of the same name. Covering 1.5 hectares, the main building has a square base, which is surrounded by gardens and trees. The most important find from his is Stele “C” which is on display at the Museo Nacional de Antropología in Mexico City.
El Pital is a site in the municipality of Martínez de la Torre. It consists of a mound with a pyramid base and stairs on the east side.The site's culture is considered to be a link between the coastal and highland cultures of the region.
Los Idolos is a site in Misantla, and was an important ceremonial site for the Totonacapan region. It consists of four rectangular patios linked by platforms and flat-topped mounds. Many of the structures are decorated with smooth river stone, thought to have come from the Misantla River.
The Centro Ceremonial Cuajiloteon the Bobos River consists of a large plaza 400 meters long lined with structures. In the center of the plaza there are three shrines, one of which contains phallic figures.
The whitewater rafting around Xalapa is some of the best in North America.
The state purs on festivals. The most important of these is Carnival in the city of Veracruz. This city's version of the event begins with the “burning of bad humor”, which is represented in effigy. A number of kings and queens are "crowned", including categories for children, but the most important is the Rey Feo (Ugly King) and the Reina del Carnaval (Queen of the Carnival). The latter is accompanies by cadets from the Naval Academy during the parade. This celebration is repeated all along the Veracruz coastline with other significant festivities taking place in Alvarado, Coatzacoalcos, San Rafael and Villa José Cardel. Minatitlán's celebration draws people from the nearby states of Oaxaca and Tabasco. Day of the Dead is celebrated in almost all of Mexico from 31 Oct to 2 November but there are local twists in the state. In some places, it is commemorated during the months of August and September. In Papantla, boards or tables are placed on rooftops, which have been adorned with flowers, plant matter and more. In Tantoyuca, it is commemorated with costumes and music, similar to Carnival.
The Christian celebration of Candlemas is fused with traditions associated with Chalchiuhtlicua, the goddess of water, rivers, lakes and ocean. She was replaced by the Virgin of Candlemas, the protector of fishermen, making this celebration particularly important on the coast, especially in Tlacotalpan, where it is celebrated with much pomp. In Jáltipan de Morelos, ethnic Nahuas and Popolucas dress in elaborate costumes and arrange their hair in intricate styles. In Santa María Magdalena, on 22 July, bulls are set free to roam the streets. Corn harvest festivals are prominent in the Huasteca region in municipalities such as Chontla, Chicontepec, and Ixhuatlán de Madero. These generally include native dances and foods based on corn.
Veracruz city is famous throughout Mexico for its seafood feasts. The Cuban and African influence is stronger here than on the Pacific coast and the plates bear some resemblance to Cuban dishes. Though not cheap, the seafood restaurants will likely be a highlight to any trip to Veracruz.
The most famous specialty of the region, huachinango a la veracruzana, is red snapper in a spicy tomato sauce, with olive oil, garlic, and capers.
Veracruz is a traditional coffee growing state. Boutique roasters and coffee shops can be found in several towns.
Good fresh fruit drinks are widely available.
The City of Veracruz has a bit of violent crime, elsewhere its mostly just petty theft.