Veracruz is a travelers’ paradise with as much history and culture as nightlife and music. Three days in this port city is just enough time to explore the ancient ruins, learn about the traditions of the Totonac tribe and experience the energy of Veracruz’s kinetic town center.
Day 1: Explore the History
Well-preserved archeological sites are the perfect place to start exploring in a Mexican state that’s known for its ancient ruins. Head to Quiahuiztlan, where Totonac people once lived amid the lower volcanic slopes near the Gulf of Mexico. Crumbling ball courts, wide-open plazas and old religious temples dot the hillside, and visitors can climb a steep mountain pass to the top of this peak for impressive views of an earlier version of Mexican life.
After wandering the ruins, head back to Veracruz City and explore San Juan de Ulua Fortress, where the prison cells of former political activists and shadowy dungeons overlook the once-busy port of Veracruz. San Juan de Ulua was constructed in 1956 and its dark history includes captured naval fleets, African slave trade and international treasure.
Day 2: Get into the Culture
Start the day in Papantla, deep in the heart of the Totonacapan region. Papantla is known for its impressive views of the majestic Sierra Papanteca range, sweet indigenous vanilla, and the El Tajin ruins, but it’s also home to some of the state’s most famous public artwork. Wind through Spanish-style streets searching for the eleven murals painted by Mexican masters like Teodoro Cano Garcia, a student of Diego Rivera, then visit the grounds of the state’s most exclusive college—Universidad Pedagogica Veracruzana. Challenging classes and world-class educators draw students from across the country to its halls. After exploring the university grounds, head to the unique Museo de las Mascaras, which contains more than 300 handmade masks from around the country.
Day 3: Experience the Nightlife
Veracruz is full of life, color and excitement. But locals know the real party doesn’t kick off ‘til the sun goes down. Hop a morning bus to Xalapa and spend the day’s early hours caffeinating at one of the popular local cafes, then thumb through racks at the nearby well-stocked bookstores and relax with a good read and an increadible view in Parque Ecologico Macuiltepetl. Afterwards, stroll the halls of Museo de Antropologia, which houses the second-largest archeological collection in Mexico. Then head back to Veracruz’s zocalo—a bustling town square where locals and travelers gather for strong drinks, conversation, lively music and traditional dance. Also known as the Plaza de Armas, zocalo is the heartbeat of the city and the perfect place for travelers to drink and dance the night away. Arrive for happy hour deals at some of the sidewalk cafes, but stay for the drinking, dancing and conversations that last well into the night.