Learn about Mexico’s pre-Columbian Totanac culture at two important Totanac sites — the archaeological ruins of El Tajín and the 13th-century city of Papantla. This full-day trip takes you three hours north of Veracruz, where you’ll see El Tajín’s World Heritage-listed ruins with a guide, learning about its pyramids and plazas. Then tour Papantla and learn about its cultural traditions, from flying pole dancers to vanilla, which the Totanacs grew in this region before the Spanish invasion.
After pickup at your Veracruz hotel by van, your day trip starts with the 150-mile (240-km) drive north to the ruins of El Tajín, just outside the city of Papantla. The drive — approximately three hours — follows the Gulf of Mexico coast, so enjoy the views or catch a few ZZZs before arriving at El Tajín, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Nicknamed the City of Thunder, the pre-Columbian archaeological site dates back to 600 AD and was one of the largest cities of the Mesoamerican classical era. With your guide, walk around the ruins, checking out the pyramids and plazas. Learn about the ancient game played on the ball courts by the Totanac people, and see the most important structures — the Pyramid of the Niches, the Plaza del Arroyo and the palaces of Tajín Chico. Walk around the ruins to check out the pyramids and plazas with your guide. During your visit, you'll learn about an ancient game that was played on the ball courts by the Totanac people, and see the most important structures: the Pyramid of the Niches, the Plaza del Arroyo and the palaces of Tajín Chico.Back in your van, make the 20-minute drive to the city of Papantla, where you’ll have a break to get lunch on your own (own expense). Then tour the city with your guide, learning about one of its claims to fame: the Danza de los Voladores, or Dance of the Flyers. After ascending a tall pole, the ‘flying men’ release into the air headfirst with ropes wound tightly around their ankles, twirling for onlookers. It's a spectacle that dates back to Mesoamerica.You’ll also hear a bit about another icon of Papantla, vanilla, which has been grown here since the time of the Totanacs. Along the way, see city sights including the Church of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción (Our Lady of the Assumption), built in the late 1500s.Your day trip ends back at your hotel after the 3-hour return drive.