9 New Things I Learned About Veracruz, Mexico

downtown Veracruz by the ZocaloVeracruz. I traveled to the city with the name once before for a weekend when I called Mexico City home, but I knew little about the state along the gulf coast until this past week. And after returning from yet another amazing destination I just wanted to post nine things I learned about Veracruz.

1) The Christian Cross Arrived here. Veracruz, the city, was named after the Christian Cross and was the first new city created on the American Continent (not the Caribbean) in the early 1500s when Cortez landed close to its present day location.

2) A great cup of coffee. Near the main Zocalo you can sit outside at a 204 year old institution called Gran Café de La Parroquia and order a café lechero. The special pour of the hot milk makes for a delightful cup of coffee and conversation.

a cafe lechero at Gran Café de La Parroquia

3) Veracruz seemed to be the land of three. I heard from tour guides Veracruz is the 3rd most populated state in Mexico with 8mm; the 3rd most important port (Veracruz the city); the 3rd biggest coffee producer in Mexico and also home to three popular Hollywood films – Romancing the Stone, Medicine Man, and Apocalypto.

4) Highest Peak in Mexico. The state of Veracruz holds the highest peak in all of Mexico. Pico de Orizaba reaches 18,700 feet and always has snow. Although you can’t ski, the glacier is perfect for ice climbing adventures.

5) White Water Rafting adventures await in Jalcomulco. The town of Jalcomulco is known as the “cathedral of white water rafting” in Mexico. And from my experience it is a great time. The river named “La Antigua” was filed with fun class 3, and 3+ rapids.

white water rafting on the la antigua river in jalcomuco, veracruz

photo: source Kelly McLaughlin of CancunCanuck

6) Bio-Diversity is everywhere. The state is home to many bio-diverse eco-systems including the northern most “tall jungle.” It is a rain forest similar to places deep inside the amazon basin containing 35 meter trees and also has access to many medicines.

olmec giant head in nanciyaga, veracruz

this replica weighs 1 ton, the originals are 5 tons

7) Home of the Ancient Olmec Culture. The ancient Olmec civilization has it roots inside the state of Veracruz. It’s influence can be traced through many of the civilizations all across Mesoamerica. And I heard (from a tour guide) seventeen of the giant Olmec heads were discovered in Veracruz.

8 ) Millions of Bird migrations. With the Sierras on one side and the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico on the others, the state is home to massive migrations of rapture birds. The birds don’t fly over the mountains or the sea, so as many as 6 million birds of prey make their way through Veracruz annually heading between North and South America. Best time is in September to November.

9) Shawmans and Witches. On the island of Nanciyaga and the town of Catemaco, travelers and locals can turn to local practices for healing the mind, body, and soul. It can prove more than interesting.

a ceremonial song of witches on Nanciyaga

Did I learn more? Yes, much more. And I’ll share more in the coming weeks about my adventures in this unique part of Mexico. Stay tuned and … Stay adventurous, Craig

Also, a special thanks to Mexico Tourism Board for inviting me to partake in the Veracruz FAM and ATMEX. Additionally, the photo from the white water rafting was provided by Kelley McLaughlin on Cancun Canuk.

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