It is a formidable funerary complex
of Totonaca origin, whose name of Náuatl origin is translated as
Place of Rains. It was built between the years 800 BC and 900 AD
on top of the Metales Hill, a geographical zone difficult to access.
One of the spaces with the most value is the so-called Central Cemetery, where 34 tombs with the shape of small temples can be appreciated. There are human remains and numerous offerings inside them, amongst them several fine quality ceramics. Another place of interest is the Eastern Cemetery where pyramids, pre-Hispanic plazas, besides 23 sepulchres, stand out.
Quiahuiztlán was not only a cemetery but also a City with 15000 inhabitants and a fortress built by the Totonaca people to protect themselves against the invaders coming from the north. In their defensive frenzy the Mesoamerican architects designed admirable terraces that served as embankments and defensive walls.
In spite of this, in the year 800 AD the Toltecas, who applied elaborated constructive techniques with stones finely carved when they ruled the zone, dominated the Totonacas. They also utilised stucco.
In the year 1200 AD the Mexicas would enter the zone violently. They would build the buildings and the cemeteries provided with mausoleums. In the early XVI century the Spaniards would enter the scene and managed to ally with 30 Totonaca towns that were tired of the abuses of the Aztec Empire.
In 1519 the inhabitants of Veracruz
to Quiahuiztlán but later they would move to La Antigua. It is located
74 kilometres away from Veracruz, following the Coastal Highway
for 80 kilometres bound to Nautla.
It was the first pre-Hispanic settlement
to support the Spanish invaders. The Totonaca king Chicomacatl,
called the Fat Chief, had no problems backing Hernán Cortés on his
struggle against the Aztecs, in protest for the high tributes that
his people had to pay to the Mexica lords.
In those times the Totonaca urban centre had an area of almost 8 square kilometres, being inhabited by roughly 30000 people. Its precincts were built with river stones and a mortar made of sand and shells from birds' eggs, which differentiated them from other Mesoamerican constructions.
This City may have surged in the year 1200 BC approximately, reaching its peak between the years 300 and 900 AD. Every 20 days there was an intense commercial activity in those years, which gave origin to the name Cempoala that derives from the word zempoalli, which translates into Place of Twenty.
The most outstanding precincts within this archaeological complex,
located 43 kilometres northwest of Veracruz
- Temple of the Little Faces: It was a mortuary precinct
in which the warriors were buried. It presents a series of niches
on which small faces or skulls have been carved.
- The Pepper: It is a precinct standing out for its
external decoration, profuse in the representation of skulls.
- Temple of the Cross: It presents showy murals yet
to be identified, besides a small altar on which animals were
- Wall System IV: it is conformed by a colossal wall
bordering an area of 75000 square metres. This space was the
rector and administrative centre of the old Cempoala, with important
precincts such as the Main Temple, the Group of Chimneys and
the Great Pyramid.
A great City erected on a zone of exuberant vegetation
that is considered the greatest expression of the Totonaca people
due to its colossal architecture, and one of the most relevant archaeological
compounds of pre-Columbian Mexico and of the Mesoamerican northwest.
But that is not all; in 1992 UNESCO declared it Cultural Patrimony
It is believed that Tajín was an important administrative, political and religious centre, notable for its influence in the pre-Hispanic world. Its development took place between the years 30 and 1100 AD, reaching their maximum splendour between the years 800 and 1150 AD.
Their main god was Quetzalcoátl, represented in a reiterative way on their architecture, paintings and sculptures; in those times the Totonacas believed that their divinity had reincarnated on their most notable governor: 13 Rabbits.
The Totonaca City impresses for the formidable architecture of its precincts, in which the skilful use of the niches, a concavity carved in the walls that repeats itself on different sectors of the vast archaeological compound, stands out. Its admirable bas-reliefs and murals must also be appreciated.
Its large dimensions overwhelm and amaze; only its administrative centre has a 144-hectare extension. On the other hand, about 180 constructions, amongst temples, palaces and courts for the ball game have been registered in here.
The archaeological compound of El Tajín, a Totonaca word meaning Thunder, is located 240 kilometres away from Veracruz.
Besides the pre-Hispanic precincts, the field museum should be visited and, if you arrive in the zone on a weekend, do not fail to see the dance of the flyers of Papantla, a dance of pre-Hispanic roots.
Amongst the most important buildings we have:
- Pyramid of the Niches: It displays 7 stories provided
with 365 niches (representing the days of the year), covered
with stucco and painted in bright colours. The design includes
a series of slopes and cornices and it is believed to have been
finished in the VIII century AD.
- Ball Game of the South: Located between the buildings
5 and 6 of El Tajín, it is the most important course of the
15 existing in the City. It has stands and tribunes (the rest
has slopes only) and a series of panels with singular bas-reliefs
related to the profound religious meaning of the ball game.
- El Tajín Chico: It was the sector inhabited by the
ruling class and the Totonaca elite, and it is separated from
the rest of the City by a showy barrier. Its buildings are usually
of two stories and with well-ventilated ambiences to mitigate
the heat, while the walls are covered with stucco and decorated,
only some of them, with mythological figures painted in lively
colours. One of its most representative constructions is the
Building of the Columns, called like this due to the 6 pillars
carrying its second floor. This is a precinct in which the heroic
deeds of 13 Rabbits, its most famous ruler, are depicted.
It is a Town of pre-Hispanic origins, founded by the
Tuzapán people in the XI century BC. It is renowned for being the
major producer of vanilla in the country and birthplace of the famous
and amazing dance of the flyers of Papantla, one of the most representative
traditional aspects in Mexico.
The dance has profound Mesoamerican roots and is related to the cult of the sun. During this performance five dancers climb a 32-metre high tower, and once they reach the top four of them (representing the four cardinal points) tie a rope to their ankles and jump to the void to perform a series of spins and pirouettes, while the fifth one plays a flute and a drum.
This dance is currently performed every weekend at the archaeological compound of El Tajín, as well as during the Corpus Christi celebrations.
Papantla, New Moon in English, is located 5 kilometres away from El Tajín.
-Xalapa or Jalapa:
It is the capital of the State
and an important university city. It
is characterised by its industrial development and its emerging
modernity, urban features that coexist with places loaded with history,
such as the Metropolitan Cathedral of gothic style, the Hacienda
House of El Lencero nowadays turned into a museum packed with objects
of the colonial period, and the notable Museum of Anthropology of
Xalapa with archaeological treasures of the Olmeca, Totonaca and
But the exclusive attractions are the imposing mountains guarding the City: the Orizaba Peak (5700 metres of altitude), the highest summit in Mexico, called Citlatépetl (Mountain of the Star) by the Aztecs; and the Chest of Perote (4282 metres of altitude), baptised as Nauhcampatépetl (Square Mountain) by the indigenous people.
It is at 135 kilometres from Veracruz
A City of colonial features in the Valley
of the Orizaba Peak, in the central zone of the State of Veracruz
Its main attractions are its precious buildings with architectonic
signs of colonial and neoclassical styles, with the Municipal Palace,
an admirable expression of Art Nouveau with prefabricated iron walls,
specially brought from Belgium to be assembled on these lands, clearly
Inside the municipal building, a showy mural of 1926 made by the
most famous Mexican painter, José Clemente Orozco, can be appreciated.
It is 140 kilometres away from Veracruz
It is known as the "City of the 30 Gentlemen"
because it was founded by an equal number of housemasters in 1618.
Of Hispanic roots, it is currently the main industrial centre for
coffee in the country thanks to the productivity of its fertile
soils surrounded by erected mountains.
Amongst its urban attractions, the Municipal Palace with its Toscana-Florentine
façade stands out, along with the Parish of the Immaculate Conception
with its beautiful main altar and splendid paintings and sculptures,
and the Portal of Cevallos, which continues to summon the locals
every evening with its colonial airs, guests who come to chat and
taste a delicious cup of smoky black coffee. The Treaty of Córdova,
a document by which the colonial authorities accepted Mexico's independence,
was signed in 1829 in this City located at almost 120 kilometres
It is a pleasant City nearby the
Papaloapan River, whose origins go back to the pre-Columbian era,
when the Totonacas inhabited the zone in the first place, and then
the Olmecas, both people tributaries of the powerful Mexicas. The
Spanish presence began in 1518.
Its name of Náhuatl origin is translated as "In the Middle of the Earth", in a clear reference to its geographical location because the feeders of the Papaloapan River divide the City.
In ancient times Tlacotalpan was an important inner port, decaying by the early XX century with the construction of the Isthmus' railroad. Today the City captivates travellers with its colourful and elegant houses, with portals of Moor style, architectonic jewels that sustained its denomination as Cultural Patrimony of Humanity granted by UNESCO in 1988.
Located almost 85 kilometres south of Veracruz
the City is much visited during the Feast of the Candelaria (in
February), a celebration that projects in time the traditions of
the people of Tlacotalpan.
It is an extremely welcoming
City with houses painted in white and provided with portals and
roof tiles, that are a delight for the eyes of the travellers arriving
in the south of Veracruz, a zone pierced between the tropical mountains
of the Sierra of the Tuxtlas, which were populated by the Olmecas
more than 3000 years ago.
The men of this civilisation, the first one surging in Mexico, created huge stone heads 3 metres high and weighing almost 50 tons. Some of them are now resting at the Main Plaza in the City.
In order to known a bit more about the Olmecas, we recommend you to visit the Tuxtleco Museum, where you will watch valuable archaeological objects found mainly in the zone of the Three Zapotes.
Santiago Tuxtla is situated at almost 260 kilometres from Xalapa.
-San Andrés Tuxtla:
- Three Zapotes: Two monumental stone heads were found
in this Olmeca City, with the "Head of Hueyapan", also known
as "The Stone of the Black", standing out. Supernatural powers
are attributed to this stone head. There are also five monoliths
and numerous sculptures. In total 49 objects were rescued from
oblivion, most of which are in exhibition at an interesting
field museum. According to investigations realised in the zone,
this pre-Hispanic settlement began to be populated in the XI
century BC, becoming a main Olmeca centre between the centuries
V BC and IV AD. It is located almost 24 kilometres away from
It is a City characteristic for its large
production of cigars. It is located 14 kilometres away from Santiago
Tuxtla, and it is a distance worth cutting not only with the purpose
of trying a cigar, but specially to visit the Cascade of Eyipantla
(at 12 kilometres from the urban centre) or the Encantada Lagoon
(at 3 kilometres from the municipality), called like this (Enchanted)
because its level rises mysteriously during the dry season and lowers
during the rainy season.
This Town, surrounded by the tropical
forest landscapes of the Sierra of the Tuxtlas, is the land of renowned
shamans and healers who foresee the future and heal illnesses with
their knowledge of natural medicine.
Besides the beverages of the healers, travellers need to surrender to the temptation of its exotic gastronomy, based on species coming from the Catemaco Lagoon (the main attraction in the area), such as the topotes (a type of fish), the tegogolos (river snails) and the eels. If these dishes do not call your attention, feel encouraged to try the traditional chango (smoked pork), which is prepared with different aromatic herbs.
This "Place of Burnt Houses" (translation from its Náhuatl name)
is located almost 170 kilometres south of Veracruz
- Catemaco Lagoon: It is the third largest Lagoon
in Mexico with a width of 8 kilometres and a length of 11 kilometres.
There are 12 small isles on its surface, among them the Isle
of the Monkeys, called so for housing a colony of macaques and
spider monkeys coming from Thailand, who have learnt how to
swim and fish; and the Isle of the Herons, which hosts the different
bird species who inhabit or arrive in the Lagoon, turning it
into a paradise for ornithologists, who rejoice with the 550
endemic and migratory bird species in Catemaco. It is located
at roughly 166 kilometres from Veracruz.