Veracruz is a state rich in history, culture, and natural wonders. Its lush jungles, mountains, and expansive gulf coast have been a sought-after setting for settlers since the dawn of pre-Hispanic civilization. The Olmecs, Mexico’s oldest recorded pre-Columbian civilization, resided in Veracruz along with the Totonacs, the Huastecos, and later, the Mayans. Many of in Veracruz retain their Totonac, Olmec, and Nahuatl names, including Xalapa, La Huasteca, and Xico. As for the last, Xico is short for Xicochimalco, which means “where there are beehives of yellow wax” in Nahuatl. I can only surmise bees were drawn to Xico for the same reason that people are - fertile forested mountains, waterfalls, and a crisp, fresh climate. Today, Xico is an enchanting pueblo magico that the tourism department has deemed the "jewel of Veracruz".
Xico is a small town nestled within the majestic foothills of the Eastern Sierra Madre range. Its cobblestoned streets lined with colorful buildings that surround a beautifully mosaiced cathedral in the plaza principal. Residents, known as Xiquenos, are incredibly friendly and spirited, hosting colorful summer and fall festivals and upholding age-old events like the running with the bulls in July.
If you are touring Veracruz, Xico is well worth a day trip or a weekend stay. Located a mere half-hour bus ride from the capitol city of Xalapa, Xico is very accessible and exceedingly charming. You can take a bus from Jalapa’s plaza principal for around 100 pesos, and they run every hour. The bus ride alone is worth the trip, as you wind your way through the lush coffee plantations that make up the majority of Mexico’s coffee export industry.
You can also stop along the way in the small pueblo magico of Coatepec and the famously historic 16th-century Hacienda Zimpizahua that has been preserved as a boutique hotel. Once you reach Xico, a stroll around the town is a delightful way to stumble upon the numerous artisan shops selling homemade mole, fruity and herbal liquors, and of course, the freshest coffee beans from the surrounding coffee fields. Additionally, you will find a slew of delicious Mom-and-Pop restaurants, all of which serve excellent Veracruz coffee and the most authentic regional dishes, like Chiles en Nogada. Many of the best restaurants are located within small family-owned inns.
Perhaps the biggest attraction of all in Xico is the enormous waterfall known as la Cascada de Texolo. If you have ever seen the 1984 film "Romancing the Stone", you might recognize from the iconic scene where Micheal Douglas and Kathleen Turner jump off it to escape their persecutors. The giant waterfall is every bit as impressive as it is in the movies, and there are plenty of paths through the forest leading up to it, including a swinging bridge above it that you use to cross from one side to the other.
There are plenty of campsites and old Haciendas nearby to spend the weekend traipsing around the falls and taking cool dips downriver. As with mountain towns like San Jose del Pacifico, Xico and its serenely green surroundings offer the ultimate natural respite from a fast-paced urban metropolis. If you need a break from a busy city itinerary of nonstop museums, restaurants, and crowded public transportation, Xico is a great place to relax and refuel.
Life slows down in Xico, the jewel of Veracruz, letting you take in the stunning mountainous surroundings, meander through colorful cobblestone streets, and prance like a forest fairy around the waterfalls.
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