Southeast of Mexico City, on the Gulf Coast, you'll find the exuberant port city of Veracruz. Hernan Cortes, the Spanish conqueror, first landed here on Good Friday 1519 and, soon after, Veracruz became the first Spanish settlement and base from which the Spaniards explored and eventually conquered Mexico.

Veracruz is an easy-going, friendly and bustling port-city. Locals are known as jarochos, and they have a reputation for partying. Its leisure fame stems from Arican-and Caribbean-influenced music, lively dancing and an annual Carnaval that according to some, rivals Rio and New Orleans.

Three hundred years of Spanish colonial rule also ended in Veracruz, as the Spanish fled to the fort of San Juan de Ulua; once on an island offshore, it’s now connected by a road. The years that followed were not easy ones for Mexico and, again, Veracruz was a key center of historical events. The city’s title: “Four times heroic city of Veracruz” refers to the expelling of the Spanish and three other military triumphs: one against the French and two against the Americans.

The state of Veracruz derives its wealth primarly from the huge amounts of trade and cargo ships docking at the city’s extensive ports; it also has rich, arable lands where fine coffee and tobacco are grown. The country's oil stocks, drilled from wells beneath Mexico’s Gulf waters, is also managed from here. As a result of these lucrative industries, Veracruz has never strived to become a big tourist attraction; so it’s not as widely known by foreign tourists as other destinations in Mexico.

Veracruz is a coastal city which has a strong and distinctive colonial feel to it. Palm trees line the streets and the zocalo (main plaza) where, at night, Marimba (Afro-Caribbean) music fills the streets and people meet to talk, dine, dance and just watch the world go by.

This city is a hidden gem if you're looking for an experience which is distinct from the traditional 'tourist circuit' of colonial cities. Besides being a place of character, it's also colorful, lively and easy-going.

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