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Taking up much of Mexico's Gulf coastline, the long and diverse state of Veracruz is where the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs began. It was also the cradle of the aptly named Veracruz Mesoamerican culture at El Tajín and is home to Mexico's highest peak – soaring, snowcapped Orizaba.

As a destination, it's routinely overlooked by travelers, and while it's true that the beaches are better in the Yucatán and the colonial towns can be more impressive in Mexico's central and western highlands, Veracruz has both, without the hassle. It also lays claim to the World Heritage site of colonial Tlacotalpan, the inspiring Biosphere Reserve of Los Tuxtlas and some gorgeous pueblos mágicos (magical villages), including hilly Papantla, coffee-growing Coscomatepec and smaller, equally appealing Xico.

Its biggest attraction, however, is its quietness. Wherever you go here, you'll find yourself well off the beaten path, with discoveries just waiting to be made.

Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Veracruz.