Templo de las Chimeneas, a pyramid at the archaeology site of Cempoala.

© MattGush/Getty Images/iStockphoto


Top choice in Veracruz

The remains of a major Totonac settlement of around 30,000 people date back to around AD 1200 and sit on the outskirts of modern-day Zempoala, reachable by frequent buses from Cardel (M$20). The temples and buildings at this quiet, grassy site have undergone extensive renovation works, and most are studded with smooth, rounded riverbed stones, though many were originally plastered and painted. Cempoala once had defensive walls, underground water and drainage pipes, and human sacrifices were held in its temples.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Veracruz attractions

1. La Ermita del Rosario

9.94 MILES

This compact whitewashed building is believed to be the oldest church in Mexico. Parts of it date back to 1525, but the church was expanded to its present…

2. Casa de Cortés

10.18 MILES

All that's keeping up much of the ruined walls of this 16th-century stone building is a lattice of tree roots. Cortés is said to have stayed here and for…

3. Ceiba Tree

10.18 MILES

Marvel at the giant twisted roots and branches of this ancient ceiba tree, to which Cortés allegedly moored his ships.

4. Quiahuiztlán

15.39 MILES

Perched like a mini–Machu Picchu on a plateau beneath a horn-shaped mountain, Quiahuiztlán is a pre-Hispanic Totonac town and necropolis. Enjoying a…

5. San Juan de Ulúa

24.15 MILES

The city's colonial fortress is almost hidden amid the container ships and cranes across the harbor. The central part of the fortress was a prison, and a…

6. Zócalo

24.24 MILES

Any exploration of Veracruz has to begin with its zócalo (also called the Plaza de Armas and Plaza Lerdo), the city’s unofficial outdoor ‘stage’ where…

7. Palacio Municipal

24.26 MILES

This handsome 17th-century building, occupied by local government offices, faces onto the zócalo.