Veracruz Port, Mexico
Attractions in Veracruz Port, Mexico: What to do and where to go
Mother Nature and history have been lavish with Veracruz. The streets of the first European founded city on the American continent are filled with admirable witnesses of the past: the surrounding rainforest, the intense wildlife and under the surface of the sea, one of the most amazing coral reef systems in the Gulf of Mexico.
The city features many interesting museums, a modern aquarium, an amazing zoo and ecological park. It's also well-worth it if you have some time to stop in and visit the neighboring archaeological sites and towns. Those looking for sun and beach will not be disappointed for the closest beach is only minutes away in Boca del Rio, a suburb which has added to this port city's modernization and offers first class tourist facilities.
Whether you decide to spend a day in the city or in its surroundings, there will always be activities or opportunities to relax, without lifting a finger.
Cathedral of Veracruz
The Our Lady of Assumption Cathedral is located in downtown, next to the Main Square and City Hall. It was built on the same place where an early XVII century chapel was constructed between 1807 and 1809. A great number of improvements followed, such as the construction of the chorus and the vault area. The original floor's blueprint design included five naves, the one in the middle being the highest of the altars. In 1963 it became regarded as the Cathedral of the new diocese in Veracruz.
Its name comes from the Nahuatl language and means "Twenty Waters" because it is surrounded by the many rivers of the region. It is one of the most important archeological sites in the state and consists of various buildings that still radiate an imposing beauty today. This complex is surrounded by green pastures and coconut palms that give the place a feeling of mystery, evoking times when it functioned as a second capital for the Totonaca Empire, before it was dominated by the Aztecs. It is located 43 kms from the port of Veracruz.
The City Museum is housed in a late 19th century neoclassical building. It was built to function as a hospice but could not open until after the English and the French interventions, which they used as an infirmary. The hospice was housed in this location for 100 years until it was moved to its new facilities. It was inaugurated as a museum on 450th anniversary of the founding of the city. It contains historic, artistic and cultural related collections.
El Baluarte de Santiango
El Baluarte de Santiago is a colonial military construction, built between the early18th and late19th centuries, to help prevent pirate attacks on the Port of Veracruz. Originally the project consisted solely of a large wall surrounding the city. Nowadays, there is also a small museum featuring exhibitions about the city's different historic periods.
Isla de Sacrificios
La Isla de Sacrificios (The Island of Sacrifices) was inhabited since pre-Hispanic times by the Totonaca and Olmec cultures. In 1518, the Spaniard Juan Grijalva explored the Gulf of Mexico and discovered a small island and named it the "Island of the Sacrifices" because of the corpses they found with clear signs of having being sacrificed in worship to their gods.
With the conquerors, the area lost the indigenous inhabitants that were left. In time, the place only kept a few watchtowers and huts, which later became hideouts for pirates. The island remained in Spanish possession until the year 1825 and nowadays, there are tour guides that offer rides by boat around the Island, telling you the many stories that surround it. Over twenty years ago, official decree was instated pronouncing that disembarking on the Island is not allowed.
Jalcomulco and Actopan
These two "municipios" (counties) feature spectacular rapids and dense rainforests where rafting, canopy (or zip line), rappel, hiking and gotcha can be practiced. They also offer state-of-the-art ecological tourist facilities, that is both comfortable and attractive, that will bring you up close and personal with nature at its best. Both places are great for a fun day trip or an exciting weekend. From the Port of Veracruz, Jalcomulco is one hour northeast and Actopan is one hour to the north.
This was the second settlement of the Villa Rica de la Veracruz and it is located 25 kms from the port. The house of Hernan Cortez is one of the most important sites, which is surrounded by huge trees and roots that give a mystical touch to the place. The building still preserves parts of the original building's structure, the room of Cortez, the well and the central patio. La Antigua is a small town that also houses the first catholic chapel ever built in the Americas.
M. A. de Quevedo Zoo and Botanical Park
It contains a great variety of animal and plant life from the area and from abroad, like African lions which are very popular with guests. On the premises, there is also a standard Olympic-sized pool, a lake with canoes and lush green areas. During your visit, you can try a ride on an authentic 19th-century train brought in from the Mexican mining highlands. This is a unique opportunity to spend quality time with the family, surrounded by nature.
Museo Faro Venustiano Carranza
This building was officially opened to the public by former Mexican President, General Porfirio Diaz in the year 1910 to commemorate the first Centennial of Mexican Independence. By the year 1915, Venustiano Carranza set up the three branches of government in this building, which was originally known as El Faro (The Lighthouse), and is currently named after the former president. Several very important political actions were taken during the time of his government, the most critical of which were carried out in El Faro and at San Juan de Ulua. These decisions included the planning and development of the Mexican Constitution of 1917, the very same Constitution that governs the Mexican Republic to this day.
Nowadays, the building is used as offices for the Mexican Army, where Venustiano Carranza's personal effects, furniture, photographs and documents describing the life of the military and Veracruz are displayed. The Museum is located right in front of the boardwalk of Veracruz, facing the Castillo of San Juan de Ulua.
Naval History Museum
It is located in the building that housed the Navy School for 55 years. Along its 11 halls, it shows the evolution of navigation, both world and local. The history goes from the invention of the paddle to the participation of the Mexican Navy in World War II. Its collections include Paleolithic maritime vestiges, weapons and naval equipment, models to scale, documents and photographs.
The development of this building began in 1950 and opened its doors to the public in 1952. This building with a rectangular prism shape was originally built where the Bank of Mexico in Veracruz would have been. At the time, it represented the strength and interests of the Government and the Republic and their wishes to project to the world a modern, investment-safe and economically stable image of the country. Presently, the ground floor of the building has scaled-down versions of maritime ports, a gallery of historical photos, artifacts used in the protection of the coast among other things. Admission to the exhibition is free and it is open all year round.
San Juan de Ulua
The story behind the name of San Juan de Ulua dates back to June 1518, when the ships, commanded by Captain Juan de Grijalva, arrived from Spain on the same day as the feast day of Saint John the Baptist. After dropping anchor and stepping off the ship, native people were found repeating the word "culua, culua" over and over. The newcomers, however, mistakenly understood the word "ulua" and used the word to name the area. This place was also used as a shelter for all the ships landing in Veracruz. For these many reasons, San Juan de Ulua is considered one of the most renowned forts in the history of the Americas.
The building was constructed with the idea of storing different objects and articles to be later transported to Spain. Years afterwards, it was also used as barracks for the troops and as a jail for the prisoners held during the viceroyalty, the Independence of Mexico and the Revolution. It was also famous because people such as Chucho el Roto and former Mexican president Benito Juarez were held and tortured.
The eighth most visited aquarium in the world opened its doors in 1992 to quickly become an emblem of modernity in the Port of Veracruz. It is also the largest oceanic fish tank in Latin America and contains one of the most complete collections of aquatic organisms, from fresh water to salt water animals from different ecosystems. The aquarium's task is not only recreational but also contributes widely to research and preservation worldwide. A must see!
In 1866, during Colonial times, the Carnival of Veracruz had originally started out as a religious festivity. In 1925, however, the aim of the Carnival was transformed and geared towards charitable causes and now it has become known as a big and colorful party full of music, good vibes and tons of fun.
The Carnival starts with the famous "Quema del Mal Humor" (Bad Temper Burning) and the coronation of the Carnival's Queen, the King of Happiness and the Child King and Child Queen. Groups of friends, families, tourists and "Jarochos" (the name for people from the Port of Veracruz) get together to participate and enjoy the 6 traditional parades that go by the wharf in groups called "Comparsas" (a crowd dancing with joy), "Batucadas" (people that play samba with percussion instruments), floats and bandwagons. The Port of Veracruz turns into a city full of cultural, artistic, sports activities and the visits of the "Corte Real" (the royal court of the elected King and Queen). The excitement and party days end with the "Burial of Juan Carnaval", a dramatic parody in which is the closing ceremony of Carnaval.
The Wax Museum of Veracruz features 10 halls and more than 90 figures of renowned celebrities such as sportsmen, artists, political and historic celebrities such as Pope John Paul II. As an additional attraction, there is a fun labyrinth of mirrors. It's located on Manuel Avila Camacho Boulevard, in Plaza Acuario.
Zocalo and Historic Center
Most constructions built during the colonial period are found in the Historic Center, which consist of the Cathedral, City Hall, the main post office and the Zocalo (the Main Square, formerly know as "Plaza de Armas") are the stand-out attractions. It was there where the armed troops took cover and where the Constitution of Cadiz was proclaimed in 1812. Nowadays, visitors will be able to admire the beautiful park with gardens and a central fountain displayed in the area, where cultural and artistic events take place during the day and "danzon" (a traditional dance that is a mix of counter-rhythmic European dance and Caribbean influences) is danced at night.
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