Veracruz State

Shutterstock/29206135/Michael VesiaIt's the cultural mix that makes Veracruz state so interesting. For 300 years, its Gulf coast port was Spain's gateway to the riches of the New World and a crucible of international flavours. The arrival of black slaves profoundly influenced the region, most notably in its music, dance and fantastic culinary traditions. Today, the famous hospitality of the Veracruzanos, also known as
jarochos
, is widely enjoyed by all. Don't miss the extraordinarily festive, tropical-port atmosphere that crescendos each spring during the liveliest carnival in Mexico.

But culture doesn't stop here. West of the port, you'll find refreshing colonial cities nestled in brooding mountain scenery. Most notable is the urbane and intellectual state capital of Xalapa, home to a world-class anthropology museum. In northern Veracruz, the Huastec people are renowned for their traditional
huapango
music and falsetto singing. In the vanilla-growing Papantla region, the spectacular
voladores
ritual, an example of surviving Totonac traditions, is performed regularly in teeming town squares. Nearby, the ancient ruin of El Tajín is one of the most magnificent archaeological sites in all the Americas, whilst southern Veracruz is the former heartland of the Olmec, a civilization shrouded in shadowy jungles and mystery.

The beaches of Veracruz - grey, windswept and occasionally murky - are only so-so. But their almost total desertion off-season makes them a wonderfully isolated retreat. More enticing are the possibilities for outdoor activities. Inland, as the fertile coastal plains give way to mountains, are Mexico's highest peak, deepest caves and fastest rapids. To the south, beyond the plains of the vast Río Papaloapan, the lush Tuxtla mountains are a birdwatcher's paradise, replete with tranquil lagoons and chattering tropical forests. There's plenty to keep you occupied in Veracruz state, a destination so often neglected by the mainstream.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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