15 Best Things to Do in Veracruz, Mexico

Veracruz, Mexico
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Positioned in the Gulf of Mexico is the city of Veracruz, an artificial harbor 50 feet above sea level.

Considered the “most Spanish” among Mexican cities, Veracruz is rich in Aztec and Caribbean creole influences.

The chief seaport on the east coast of Mexico prides itself with beautiful beaches and commemorative festivities, but there’s a whole lot more to see for the average tourist.

Check out the 15 best things you can do while gracing the city of Veracruz, Mexico.

Relive Classic Mesoamerica in El Tajín

The pyramid of the Niches at El Tajín
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Your trip to Veracruz won’t be complete without visiting the ruins of El Tajín.

The ancient city was once rich in pyramids, temples, ball courts, and palaces that were attributed to a Mayan tribe.

This hidden gem is a place where history lovers can bask in the glory of what was once a capital for trade and natural resources during the early years of the Teotihuacan civilization.

Side view of the pyramid of niches at El Tajín
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Although most of the establishments have dilapidated, you can still see the remains of the Pyramid of the Niches that stands 20 meters tall.

Wandering around the ruins is enough to take you back when technology and electricity hadn’t been invented yet, but if you want a more detailed tour of the area, you can ask guides for more information about El Tajín.

Closer view of the pyramid of niches at El Tajín
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Catch the Danza de los Voladores of Papantla

Men on top of poles for the Dance of the Flyers ceremony
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The Danza de los Voladores or “Dance of the Flyers” is one of the many ceremonies that pay homage to Veracruz’s Aztec culture.

Seen in popular tourist spots across the country, the Dance of the Flyers is a Mesoamerican ritual that’s performed as a way to appease the gods and end a severe drought.

Like most cultural dances, you’ll hear simple instruments like flutes and drums playing in the background while hundreds of people parade the streets.

Men dangling from a pole for the Danza de los Voladores ceremony
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Sounds like an ordinary ritual?

Wait until you see five men on top of a 30-meter pole, with four of them dangling and circling the air for a total of 52 times.

Adorned in red and white costumes and decorated with striking accessories and rainbow-colored headresses, the four flyers represent the earth’s directions and elements while the fifth member, known as the caporal, plays the instruments.

You’ll most likely see men doing these stunts, but places like Cuetzalán, Puebla also have trained women voladores.

Papantla flyers dangling from a pole for Danza de los Voladores ceremony
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Take a Picture with the El Buzo in Paseo del Malecon

What’s a trip without a few pictures, right?

The El Buzo, or “The Diver,” is a bronze sculpture created by Humberto Peraza Avila.

Inaugurated in 2002, the sculpture pays homage to the Mexican and British deep-sea divers who played instrumental roles in constructing the artificial harbor of Veracruz.

Experience Extreme Sports Activities in Jalcomulco

People whitewater rafting at Jalcomulco
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Veracruz might be known for being a cultural tourist spot where you can take a step back and admire the wonders of infrastructures from early civilizations, but it’s also a great place for tourists to let their adrenaline junkie personas run wild.

The Aldea Eco Park is a great adventure space where you can participate in extreme sports activities like white-water rafting, trekking, ziplining, rappelling, and more.

Whitewater rafting at Jalcomulco
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But perhaps one of the best things you can do in the eco park is disconnect from your everyday city life and simply enjoy the sound of the calm waters, the fragrance of fresh plants, and feel the cool breeze that runs through the entire forest.

You can go there for a day tour if you’re not yet tired from doing all those things, but guests are welcome to stay for the night and spend more time admiring the serene environment and away from the busy streets of Mexico.

Scenic nature view over Jalcomulco
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Get a Glimpse of Orizaba from a Cable Car

Scenic view of Pico de Orizaba volcano
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Have you ever wondered what an entire city looks like from a bird’s eye view?

Inaugurated in 2013, Orizaba’s cable car service caters to a little over 150 passengers per hour.

Scenic landscape view near the Pico de Orizaba volcano
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You’ll arrive at the top of Cerro del Borrego, a cloud forest and nature reserve, and from there, you’ll have a panoramic view of the entire city with the Pico de Orizaba in the background, which is known as the highest mountain in Mexico.

Also known as the Citlaltepetl, Pico de Orizaba is an inactive stratovolcano and the highest volcanic summit in North America.

The trip usually lasts about five minutes, but it’s definitely more than enough to view the entire city from one of the best seats in the house.

Snow covering the top of Pico de Orizaba volcano
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Witness the Carnaval de Veracruz

Nine days before Ash Wednesday, the Jarochos, or the people of Veracruz, celebrate their own version of the Mardi Gras.

The festivities of El Carnaval de Veracruz are kicked off by the Quema del mal Humor or the “Burning of the Bad Humor” on the first day.

As you walk around the harbor, you’ll see a parade of colors gracing the streets accompanied with endless dancing and music.

Suspended over the crowds is a puppet made of paper mache that’s set on fire as a cue for the people to set their worries aside and enjoy the next few days of the carnival.

If you’re planning on visiting Veracruz during its wildest pre-Lenten celebration of the year, then you’d better prepare yourself for nine days of endless partying with Jarochos to commemorate joy, passion, and Veracruz’s rich culture.

Relax by the Sleepy Lakeside of Catemaco

Night lights near the Catemaco lake
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If you’re looking to take a breather from the bustling streets of Veracruz, Lago de Catemaco is a great place to relax and unwind.

Situated at the center of the Sierra de los Tuxtlas, Lago de Catemaco is surrounded by a jungle populated by various endemic species.

Colorful name sign of Catemaco
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You’ll also get lost in the scenic landscape surrounded by clear waterfalls and exotic plants. Hike for a few more miles, and you might even see a couple of white gorillas lounging around.

You can cool off by swimming in the freshwater lake, or if you’re looking for something a bit more fun, you can hop on a boat going to Monkey Island, where you can see non-native Macaque monkeys.

Scenic view of the Catemaco Lake
Comisión Mexicana de Filmaciones from México D. F., México, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Ride a Tranvía around the Veracruz Harbor

Ever wondered how the people of Veracruz used to get from one place to another before cars and motorcycles plagued the streets?

Instead of racking your brain for ideas, why not ride a tranvía instead?

The tranvía is an early mode of transportation in Veracruz that still exists up to this day.

You can ride the old streetcar system around the harbor while learning about the town’s rich history and appreciating Veracruz’s local life.

You’ll be able to spot multiple tranvías around town that leave every few minutes, so you don’t have to worry about missing your ride.

Dive into the Marine Life at Acuario de Veracruz

People admiring the Acuario de Veracruz
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Home to approximately 250 species and 3,500 animals, Acuario de Veracruz stands as one of the harbor’s main tourist attractions and is considered the biggest aquarium in Mexico and Latin America.

Spanning more than 7,500 square meters, the aquarium serves as an educational entertainment facility for families, featuring ten exhibits and several galleries and kiosks that display Veracruz’s diverse marine life.

You’ll definitely feel the underwater vibes as if you’re a scuba diver exploring the depths of the vast ocean with enormous tanks surrounding the area.

Gigantic tank of Acuario de Veracruz full of fish
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But watching the harbor’s aquatic family members swim around in tanks isn’t the only thing you can do, though.

If you’re up for it, you can also swim with the dolphins, walk with penguins, and experience an up-close encounter with sharks.

If you have kids who want to experience these activities, make sure they’re accompanied by one of the aquarium’s guides.

Fish swimming inside the Acuario de Veracruz's giant tank
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There’s nothing more relaxing than hopping on a boat and letting yourself drown in the sound of calm waters.

Indulging in the low-energy and tropical environment of the Mandinga Lagoon is a great way to chill out after a hot, busy day in the city.

Mandinga is a fishermen’s village known for having a wide selection of seafood-inspired dishes where local fishermen teach various fishing techniques as part of the tour.

You’re in store for a picturesque sight of mangroves and small islands as you tour the lagoon, as well as the sound of blue and white herons and other migrating birds singing their tunes.

You can take a day tour of the entire lagoon, but if you’re planning on spending the night or a few more days, you can set up camp or book a nearby hotel.

Check Out the Templo del Sol in Cempoala

Daytime view of Templo del Sol
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Veracruz is home to some of the richest archaeological sites around the globe.

At Cempoala, you’ll get a good look at Templo del Sol, also referred to as “The Great Pyramid”

History lovers can marvel at the Mesoamerican architecture that built the temple, as well as the remnants of squares, temples, and fortresses of Cempoala.

Closer view of Templo del Sol
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Wander Aimlessly at Boca del Rio

Aerial view of the Boca del Rio beach
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At Boca del Rio, you’ll most likely get a good grasp of how the people of Veracruz live their everyday lives.

Situated by the ocean’s edge, Boca del Rio is famous for its scenic route and relaxing vibe.

Skyscrapers of Boca del Rio
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By nighttime, you’ll make the most out of your time immersing in Veracruz’s festive streets, getting lost in the rhythm of mariachi bands and other live music acts.

Boca del Rio is also a great place to try out local food and shop for handmade crafts as you take in the harbor’s culture.

Rocks on side of the walkway at Boca del Rio
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Indulge in the Famous Bola de Oro in Coatepec

Good news, coffee aficionados一Veracruz has a coffee capital!

Nestled in the town of Coatepec are dozens of coffee plantations and farms that have been producing one of Mexico’s greatest brews for the longest time一the Bola de Oro.

Take a walk around town long enough, and you might get lost in the aroma of roasted coffee, ranging anywhere between light and fruity to nutty and sweet.

And if that’s not enough, Coatepec also has a coffee museum where you can tour the town’s plantations and learn about the coffee-making process.

The hour-long tour also lets you taste fresh brews and bring home local beans.

Explore the Veracruz Naval Historical Museum

Model of Fort San Carlos de Perote inside the Veracruz Naval Historical Museum
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Behind the pristine gates of the Veracruz Naval Academy are hundreds of years’ worth of artifacts salvaged from various infrastructures.

The Mexican naval museum lets you go back in time with exhibits on American ships, battleship flags, the Chapultepec Frigate, and remnants of the old Veracruz walls displayed in the courtyard.

Model of a sailing ship inside the Veracruz Naval Historical Museum
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Venustiano Carranza’s belongings are also preserved in the museum as a tribute to the first president of the New Mexican Republic and his efforts during the civil war.

The establishment houses 18 rooms for various historical features一from geographical discoveries, and mapping rooms to exhibits about the conquest of Mexico and early expeditions.

Swing by the Navy Aeronautic wing, and you’ll see the actual size of the Buque Escuela Cuauhtemoc, a vessel of the Mexican Navy designed by Juan Jose Alonso Verastegui.

Side view of a ship model inside the Veracruz Naval Historical Museum
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Immerse in Veracruz’s Urban Lifestyle in Xalapa

A street at Xalapa
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Xalapa’s youthful and laid back vibe is the harbor’s take on a modern-day business district.

You’ll meet a handful of the city’s cultural elite and university students riding on scooters and cars as they make their way through the bustling streets.

Aerial view of the busy streets of Xalapa
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Xalapa is also home to Museo de Antropologia, the second-largest archaeological collection in the country.

With artifacts dating back to as early as the pre-classic period, the museum is definitely a must-see for history lovers.

At sundown, you’ll be enchanted by the city’s electric nightlife, with trendy bars and nightclubs scattered across the area.

A large artifact at Museo de Antropologia
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Final Thoughts

Veracruz is arguably one of the most culturally-rich cities you can visit.

With diverse influences on architecture, practices, and traditions, Veracruz is definitely one of the best places you can go to if you’re looking to have fun and relax at the same time.  

Make sure to write the city down as one of your must-see places while you can!

Don’t miss out on the adventure and book your trip to Veracruz, Mexico, today!