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  1. Explore Mexico
August 30, 2013updated Jul 17, 2014

Veracruz: A Mesoamerica Mecca

By Chris Boyle

El Tajin Pyramid Blue TempleIn addition to the recently discovered 2,000 year old ruins in the town of Jatilplan, the state of Veracruz is home to more than ten archaeological sites representing many pre-Hispanic cultures including the Olmeca, Totonaca and Huasteca. Veracruz’s most visited archaeological sites are currently Cempeola, Tres Zapotes, Castillo de Teayo and El Tajin.


Located 27 miles southeast of Xalapa, Cempoala was the capital city of the Totonacs with a maximum population of 25,000 inhabitants circa 900-1521 AD. While it covers a total area of 1, 292,000 sq.ft, Cempoala’s architecture is characterized by the use of river stones and perishable items like mud.

The site’s most impressive ruins are the Sun, Quetzalcoatl and Chimney Temple with the latter featuring a series of semicircular pillars.

Tres Zapotes

While its main features are the Tres Zapotes and Stelae C. monuments, Tres Zapotes offers more than 150 structures and 30 stone sculptures. Surrounded by the Sierra Tuxtlas and Papaloapan River, this archaeological site’s museum holds the Tres Zapotes colossal stone head and the Stelae counting system, employed by the Olmeca people circa 400 BC.

Castillo de Teayo

Castillo de Teayo’s cultural plurality is evident in its archaeological pieces. Built by the Huasteca and Mexicas people, Castillo de Teayo Pyramid features three levels, a central stairway and a one room temple in the structure’s upper level. The site’s Museum showcases archaeological pieces dating back to 900-1521 AD.

El Tajin

A UNESCO World Heritage site, El Tajin is a Pre-Columbian settlement occupied from 800-1200 AD and expands over a 1 mile radius. The former settlement is divided into three areas, each built around plazas featuring 168 buildings and structures as well as monuments, temples, palaces, altars, pyramids and ancient ball game fields from the Totonaca culture.

Veracruz itself is undoubtedly one of the most unique states in Mexico. In addition to its breathtaking landscapes, the state is home to a variety of cities and structures built by the Olmeca, Totonaca and Huasteca cultures. These sites offer a closer look into the beliefs, architecture and way of life that existed in this captivating region thousands of years ago.

For more information on Veracruz, visit:

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