This wonderfully evocative and under-visited ancient city was ‘rediscovered’ accidentally by an officious Spaniard looking for illegal tobacco plantations in 1785. Today, one of the best-preserved and important pre-Hispanic cities in Mesoamerica, El Tajín's pyramids and temples burst off a plain surrounded by low, verdant hills 7km west of Papantla. These extensive ruins are the most impressive reminder of Classic Veracruz civilization. Try to come as late in the day as possible in order to catch the reddening sky, bubbling clouds and reflective calm of the site shortly before closing.
Among El Tajín’s special features are rows of square niches on the sides of buildings, numerous ball courts, and sculptures depicting human sacrifice connected with the ball game. Archaeologist José García Payón believed that El Tajín’s niches and stone mosaics symbolized day and night, light and dark, and life and death in a universe composed of dualities.