The state of Veracruz stretches 640km down the Gulf coast. The narrow, fertile coastline rises into the forested sub-tropical slopes and high peaks of the eastern Sierra Madre mountains, punctuated by numerous rivers and waterfalls. The city of Veracruz, founded in 1519, is Mexico’s largest and oldest port and has retained a laid-back tropical colonial charm in the old centre.
Nearby you will find La Antigua, one of the first Spanish settlements in Mexico, and the ruins of Cempoala, one of the most important pre-Hispanic Totonac settlements. Inland, the state capital Xalapa, a university town with narrow, winding streets and alleys is a hidden colonial gem with a superb anthropology museum, while to the north is El Tajin, an important pre-Colombian site with unique architecture and the fascinating ‘Pyramid of the Niches’.
Meanwhile, deep in the Huasteca area of the Sierra Madre, in the state of San Luis Potosi, nestles the little town of Xilitla. Surrounded by verdant scenery, waterfalls and caves, it features abundant birdlife, as well as Las Pozas (the pools), a surrealistic sculpture garden built by the eccentric British artist Edward James.