Top 8 Attractions & Things You Can Do In Salma Hayek’s Veracruz, Mexico- Gulf of Mexico

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Port of Veracruz, Mexico

Located along the shores of Gulf of Mexico by the Atlantic Ocean, Port of Veracruz is the country’s main seaport in the east coast. It is also an important fishing port and offers sport fishing and other water sports. Known as the “door of Mexico to the world” because in a period of 250 years, this was the only port where goods from and to Europe were allowed to get in and out of the country.

The location of Port of Veracruz is strategic for trade between Mexico and the world. It is a pioneer in cargo movement along with agricultural bulk products.

Brief Background on Veracruz:

Named by Spanish explorer Hernan Cortez who landed at the shores of Chalcaihuecan on a Good Friday of October 22, 1519 and which is still referred to up to this day – Vera Cruz or True Cruz (of Jesus Christ). They found the place to be inhabited by Totonac Indians who had established an administrative center at an area called Cempoala. Cortez immediately appointed town councilmen and so Veracruz became the 1st municipality in the Spanish colony of New Spain (Mexico).

Slaves were brought to Veracruz to work on plantations and the area became both Mexico‘s main port of entry and home to the largest slave population in the country. Gaspar Yanga, a slave, led a revolt and formed a settlement which was granted by Spanish authorities as long as he stopped raiding their communities. In the Mexican revolution, Veracruz served as the battleground and upon the war’s end in 1920, it began its growth into a vibrant place as it is today.

Map showing the location of Veracruz, Mexico.

Have you been to a new place and you just felt so amazed by it? That’s what happened to me when we docked at the Port of Veracruz, Mexico aboard the bulk carrier IVS Kingbird in May 2016. Not many people know how incredible this place is and I can’t help but share its selling point to the world. It may not be as big as Mexico City but you know it has its uncanny ability to entice people to explore it and take a break. If you’re planning to visit this country someday and would like to include Veracruz in your must-see list, keep on reading for I have listed top 8 attractions and things you can do in this region of Mexico.

Explore San Juan de Ulua Castle

Adjacent to the Port of Veracruz stands an imposing castle on a small island with the same name (San Juan de Ulua), explore San Juan de Ulua Fort, a top attraction and a thing you can do in this city. Built in the mid-16th century to protect ships from bad weather and pirate attack, throughout the years this fort has witnessed many historic episodes in Veracruz as it has been used as a military barracks to a prison for Mexican activists then to a Presidential home. It was turned into a museum in 1989 and attractions include a hidden chapel, an exhibition room of the castle’s treasures and a dungeon that used to shelter a legendary bandit.

Discover the Ruins of El Tajin

Pyramid of Niches, at the Ruins of El Tajin.

One of the most puzzling archeological ruins to discover which is a top attraction and a thing you can do is the UNESCO-listed El Tajin. Characterized by relief sculptures, dance courts and other unique features, the zenith of this spacious complex include the 6-storey Pyramid of Niches (pictured above) and the Southern Ball Court. The Ruins of El Tajin (meaning thunder in Toltec) are best examples of pre-Hispanic town that thrived between the fall of Teotihuacan and the rise of the Aztec empire (in Mexico) and said ancient structures are believed to have been used as ceremonial sites in 600-1200 A.D.

Watch “Danza de los Voladores” perform in Papantla.

Near El Tajin Ruins is another “pueblo magico” (magical town) with a rich local culture and famous as well for its production of vanilla. A top attraction and a thing you can do is to watch the Totonac natives perform an actual “danza de los voladores” at Papantla. Recognized as Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO, this is an aerial dance known as the “flight of the dead” which is actually a prayer to the sun to bless their land with rains that will help in the production of their vanilla plants.

Feel the sea breeze along Paseo el Malecon.

Another top attraction and a thing you can do is a stroll along Paseo el Malecon, the boardwalk around Veracruz harbor. A great place for taking in the sights and watch the locals come and go, see an impromptu “son jarocho la bamba” performance, haggle for handmade crafts, try a scoop of the unique “guero guera” ice cream or just enjoy the salty breeze of the Gulf of Mexico.

Son jarocho performers

Sample an “arroz a la tumbada” and other Veracruz specialties.

Huachinango a la veracruzana

Did you know that Veracruz food is one of the most unique of Mexico‘s diverse cuisines? Spicy seafood is the distinguishing trademark of this region’s culinary tradition. A top attraction and a thing you can do is to sample an “arroz a la tumbada” which is a rice recipe baked with spicy seafood or you may try “huachinango a la veracruzana”, a red snapper cooked in spicy tomato sauce. Indeed, Veracruz cooking has a good spot in Mexican gastronomy.

Check out Veracruz’s night life at Plaza de los Armas

When nighttime comes, you have a lot of options to enjoy in Veracruz especially at Plaza de los Armas (or Zocolo). You may watch a lively salsa performance which is a top attraction and a thing you can do along this area or shop at night markets nearby Mercado Hidalgo. When the “marimba” bands strike up at the middle of Zocolo (or Plaza de los Armas), the city of Veracruz comes alive.

Visit Templo de las Caritas (Temple of Charity) in Cempoala

Cempoala, “the place of twenty waters” is also a set of ruins that was once inhabited by Totonac people in Mexico which you can visit as well, a top attraction and a thing you can do here in Veracruz. The area’s name has been derived from the ancient aqueducts and irrigation systems that used to flow to the fields in the region. Explore the different temples that make up the Zona Archeologica de Cempoala especially Templo de las Caritas, a 2-storey structure decorated with stucco skulls.

Learn Veracruz’s history at Museo de la Ciudad de Veracruz

A top attraction and a thing you can do is to visit the city museum of Veracruz. It showcases artifacts from colonial times down to the present especially treasures from Totonac Indian civilization that shaped the culture of the city.

Veracruz is packed with hidden wonders, waiting for you to discover. Coatzacoalcos, the area where Salma Hayek grew up before she found fame in Hollywood is also worth a visit for its museum of Olmec Indian archeology. And don’t forget, the world belongs to the daring voyager so go, let yourself be overwhelmed by its charm. Agustin Lara, a famous Mexican composer once said “Veracruz is one of the most beautiful ports of Mexico” and it truly is.

Reference: Wikipedia