Land of the Olmecs & Totonacs
Tour to Northern Veracruz, Mexico
There is so much to see and do in Veracruz, but we want you to be able to relax and enjoy your stay too. This trip is designed to be both wonderfully relaxing and totally engaging. Veracruz state is on the eastern coast of Mexico along the Gulf of Mexico. Climate is tropical and generally very hot and humid. It is considered best to avoid the summer rainy season. Starting with your arrival in Veracruz city, you will be escorted to your hotel in downtown Veracruz. Overlooking the zocalo, it is in the ideal location to eat, people watch, dance and mix and mingle with the locals… and, yes, it is perfectly safe. You’ll have a tour of the city and its infamous San Juan de Ulua fort before we head north.
You’ll visit the first Spanish municipality built by Hernan Cortez in the early 1500’s. You’ll explore the ruins of Cempoala, once a Totonac city and the ancient cemetery of Qiuahuiztlan. We’ll stop at the village of Villa Rica, then move along to spend part of a day volunteering for the Tecolutla Turtle Preservation Project.
We’ll also be seeing a vanilla plantation and learn of the time consuming process involved in preparing real vanilla extract from the plant to the store.
Perhaps the highlight of the trip will be our stop at El Tajin and its Pyramid of the Niches. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, El Tajin covers an immense area estimated at around 2600 acres with the work of excavating and restoration ongoing. It is one of Mesoamerica’s most significant archaeological sites.
The journey continues on to the state’s capital city of Xalapa where we visit Hacienda El Lencero, pay a visit to a local animal shelter, stop at a park located at the top of an extinct volcano and view the Olmec heads at the Anthropology Museum and see the Botanical Gardens
We will take a tour of Coatepec and see a museum with over 5000 varieties of orchids. At Xico, we will learn about coffee growing and see the Texolo Waterfall before returning to the city of Veracruz.
El Tajin Trip Detailed Itinerary
14 Days / 13 Nights
– Includes arrival day and departure days –
Day 1: Arrive at the Veracruz International Airport
Enjoy a private pickup at the Veracruz Airport and transfer to the Gran Hotel Diligencias in the city center Zocalo of Veracruz city perfectly located for easy in enjoying the perks of the city in safety. Cafes and shops are right out the door of your hotel. You can eat your dinner and watch residents and visitors gather for evening music and dancing on the Zocalo.
Day 2: Veracruz City Tour / San Juan de Ulúa
After breakfast at one of the historical restaurants in the center of the city of Veracruz, you’ll be taken on a walking tour of the important sites found in the downtown area and visit the harbor port with its large Spanish fortress and prison called San Juan de Ulúa.
Lunch in the city
Evening free to explore the city
Overnight again at the the Gran Hotel Diligencias
Day 3: La Antigua / Cempoala & Quiahuiztlan Ruins / Villa Rica / Tecolutla
Breakfast and check out of hotel
Visit the small town of La Antigua, the site of the first Spanish Municipality in the New World build by Hernán Cortéz. Explore the Cempoala Archaeological Ruins – once a Totonacan city of 30,000 inhabitants. See the Qiuahuiztlan Archaeological Ruins – an ancient cemetery on a high bluff overlooking the ocean. Visit the seaside village of Villa Rica is where Cortez first landed with his men; near to Quiahuiztlan.
Lunch at a typical restaurant
Travel to the seaside town of Tecolutla where you will stay at Hotel Bucana or similar based on availability.
Day 4: Turtles / Free Time
Today is mostly a free day for enjoying the beach. After breakfast you will meet and volunteer to help at the Tecolutla Turtle Preservation Project.
Lunch at a typical restaurant.
Rest of the day and evening free to relax, enjoy the beach, and do more exploring.
Dinner is on your own.
Optional Activity (additional charge): Boat ride to view wildlife in the nearby estuaries.
Overnight again at Hotel Bucana or similar.
Day 5: Vanilla Company / Free Time at Seaside Town
After breakfast you will take a tour of Gaya Vai Mex, a major vanilla producing company in the area. The Company’s guide will take you on a tour of the fields and processing plant. A video will also be shown and there will be time to purchase items (vanilla extract, etc) in their store.
Travel back to Tecolutla.
Lunch at a typical restaurant.
Free afternoon & evening to wander the town and beach. Dinner on your own and overnight at Hotel Bucana or similar.
Day 6: El Tajín Archaeological Zone / Papantla Voladores (Fliers) / Town of Papantla
Breakfast and Check out of hotel.
Travel about an hour to the El Tajín Archaeological Zone where you will be given a tour of the archaeological site and will have the opportunity to watch the ceremony of the Papantla Voladores.
Lunch at a typical restaurant in Papantla then travel about an hour back to the Costa Esmeralda coastal area where you will overnight at the Taboga Eco Boutique Hotel or similar.
Day 7: Hacienda El Lencero / Capital City of Xalapa
Breakfast and check out of hotel. We will travel toward the capital city of Xalapa and stop along the way to visit Hacienda El Lencero where General Santa Anna (Remember the Alamo) once lived.
Check in at the Villa Las Margaritas (Caxa) in Xalapa. Lunch at a typical restaurant in Xalapa.
Free time to relax or explore the city.
Dinner and overnight at the Villa Las Margaritas (Caxa) in Xalapa.
Day 8 City Tour of Xalapa
Breakfast and time to sleep in before a city tour of Xalapa including a visit to the Pinocateca Diego Rivera Museum (art gallery).
Lunch at a typical restaurant.
Dinner and overnight again at the Villa Las Margaritas Caxa location.
Day 9 Cueva de la Orquidia / Macuiltepetl Park
You will take a guided hike into a small cave found in the city proper and hear the history of how it was used by the indigenous people.
You will visit Macuiltepetl Park, this 100 acre wooded park is the cap of an extinct volcano which has been transformed into a beautiful recreational area with hiking, wildlife, small nature museum, and an observation tower to take in the view of the entire city.
Dinner on your own and overnight at the Villa Las Margaritas Caxa.
Day 10 Anthropology Museum / Xalapa Botanical Gardens
Breakfast and check out of hotel.
Guided tour of Xalapa’s Anthropology Museum with the large Olmec heads on display.
Guided tour by one of the botanists at the Xalapa Botanical Gardens.
Travel to the town of Coatepec and check in at the Hotel Meson del Alferez in Coatepec.
Dinner and overnight at the Hotel Meson del Alferez, conveniently located near Zocalo for exploring the city.
Day 11 Orchid Museum / Tour of Coatepec / Free Afternoon
Breakfast and morning free to explore Coatepec (a recognized Mexican Pueblo Magico / Mexican Magic Town).
Optional Activity (additional charge): Whitewater River Rafting & Zipline Ride.
Lunch on your own.
Afternoon: Private tour of the Museo Jardin de Orquideas (Orchid Garden Museum) with over 5000 different orchids.
Dinner on your own.
Overnight at the Hotel Meson del Alferez.
Day 12 Coffee Plantation Tour / Explore the town of Xico
After breakfast at the Hacienda Zimpizauhua (a restored coffee hacienda) and a short guided tour of the hacienda grounds, you will travel to Finca de Don Sivano to view the coffee fields and learn the processes of making coffee.
Special lunch at Finca de Don Silvano prepared by a professional chef.
Explore the pre-Hispanic town of Xico & see Texolo Waterfall (used in the movie, Romancing the Stone).
Dinner on your own and overnight at the Hotel Meson del Alferez.
Day 13 Return to the city of Veracruz / Farewell Dinner
Breakfast and check out of Hotel Meson del Alferez.
Optional Activity (additional charge): ATV Beach & Sand Dunes Ride (2 hrs).
Travel back to the city of Veracruz and visit the Veracruz Sea Aquarium.
Check in at the Gran Hotel Diligencia.
Farewell Dinner on board a retired Mexican Naval Ship.
Day 14 Travel Day Home
Breakfast (depending on how early your flight is)
Transfer to the Veracruz International Airport.
- Private pickup and dropoff at the Veracruz International Airport;
- Personal bilingual tour guide will be with you during your entire trip;
- All ground transportation;
- All entrance fee and activities as listed in your itinerary;
- 13 nights of hotel accommodations;
- 13 breakfasts, 11 lunches, 6 dinners;
- Purified drinking water on board the vehicle each day;
All appropriate gratuities to include:
- Tour guide
- Van driver
- El Lencero guide
- Papantla Voladores
- Gaya Vai Mex tour guide
- Xalapa Botanical Gardens guide
- Small donation to Tecolutla Turtle Project
- Small donation to Amigos de Animales
- Small donation to the private Orchid Garden Museum
- Any additional helpful people
- Meals not listed in itinerary
- Alcoholic drinks
- Additional optional activities & excursions noted in the itinerary
- Travel medical insurance
- Trip interruption insurance
Itinerary is customizable. Substitutions may be made due to availability. Trip fees are quoted as requested. Non-refundable deposit per person is required at time of booking.
The beauty of visiting this region is that it is removed from the congested tourist resort areas and staged activities for the tourist. This makes for a more authentic experience. The disadvantages of visits to this region also lie in what makes it great. We choose what we believe are the best hotels that the area has to offer. They are often small with limited amenities and may be time worn. While a bilingual guide will be on hand throughout the trip, most inhabitants are not English speakers and hotel staff and shop clerks probably will not speak English. Small shops may not accept credit cards, so plan accordingly.
While this tour is designed to take a gentle pace with lots of time for rest and relaxation, participants do need to be able to stand and walk over rough paths and terrain to get the most out of the trip. It is not suitable for those with severely restricted mobility issues.