Things to Do in Veracruz
During early morning hours the Malecon stretching between Veracruz and Boca del Rio fills with local runners jogging along the scenic path that wraps around the ocean’s edge. But by mid-afternoon, it’s travelers that flood the area known for its pre-colonial architecture and fine views of imposing naval ships. Stalls selling handmade crafts and traditional food line the area, and happy couples stroll the promenade eating ice cream cones on hot summer days while listening to musicians perform mariachi music in the streets. The Malecon’s relaxing daytime vibe comes alive at night, when cool breezes bring locals back outdoors to enjoy refreshing drinks at the crowded tables of nearby cafes as traditional folk dancers and live musicians stage acts in the open air.
Catemaco Lake is a natural wonderland for travelers who love the outdoors. Whether it’s joining one of the thousands of fishermen casting lines into the 22-meter-deep waters, or hiring a boat to explore the surrounding sites, Catemaco is a still undeveloped Mecca perfect for spending a sunny afternoon.
This rustic freshwater lake in south central Veracruz was formed by a natural lava flow from the nearby San Marin Tuxtla volcano. Its chilly waters and the fertile foothills that surround it offer plenty of options for outdoor exploring. Travelers can hire a local boat and paddle into the depths of Catemaco Lake before washing ashore Monkey Island, where playful primates swing freely between towering emerald green trees. Or they can head to nearby Nanciyaga Ecological Reserve for a refreshing swim in the peaceful lagoon, followed by relaxing mud massages and a dip in the hot springs.
Considered by many to be the first true Spanish town in all of Mexico, La Antigua is the home of Hernan Cortes, who led the expedition that ended the Aztec Empire. His house, which was built in 1523, draws travelers from across the globe who seek a window into Mexico’s incredible—and sometimes bloody—past. Today, Cortes’s home, built of coral and stone, is wrapped thick with vines and overgrown with tree roots.
In addition to Cortes’s family home, the oldest church in the Americas, as well as Edificio del Cabildo—which held the first city council—are both located in La Antigua. Travelers can walk through what remains of the Cavalry Lancers’ garrison, where ready troops were once stationed to defend the town, or explore the Spanish colonial architecture hidden in the landscape of this sleepy town.
Cempoala—a name that means “the place of twenty waters”—is a set of ancient ruins in the heart of Ursulo Galvan that was once inhabited by the Totonac, Zapotec and Chinantecas people. This historic district’s name came from the aqueducts and irrigation systems that once flowed to the nearby gardens and fertile farmland. Travelers can explore the numerous temples that comprise this archeological site, which include a few landmarks that are not to be missed.
Templo las Caritas, the temple of charity, is a two-story structure decorated by hundreds of stucco skulls that pays homage to the god of death. Ornate murals and detailed clay faces, as well as a hall of hieroglyphs, make it a unique place for travelers to touch the ancient past. Templo del Sol, also known as the great pyramid, is similar to the Sun Temple in Tenochtitlan. It’s built on the same ground as the Templo Mayor and affords beautiful views of Cempoala.
More Things to Do in Veracruz
Coatepec, also known as the serpent mountain, is one of the most sacred places in Aztec mythology. It’s believed that the iconic Mexican tribe came upon this mystical town on their way to Central Mexico, and made it their home for more than 30 years. The Aztecs built an impressive temple on a hilltop here to pay homage to the god Huitzilopochtli. The structure was so loved that when the tribe finally completed their journey to Tenochtitlan, they built a replica of the Coatepec temple at the new site. In addition to its prominent place is Aztec history, Coatepec has a major role in contemporary culture, too. The town is referred to by some as Mexico’s capital of coffee, because the nation’s most popular brews: Bola de Oro and Le Vereda, come from this municipality.