If you take the direct route from Mexico City to Veracruz – the excellent Hwy-150 – you’ll bypass every major town en route; if you’re driving yourself, note that the tolls along this stretch of road are extremely high (over M$450). For those pressed for time, the fast highway is a blessing – Veracruz and the coast are very much the outstanding attractions – but the cities in the mountains merit a stop if you have the time. Regardless of how fast you go or what form of transport you take, the journey over the Sierra Madre Oriental is one of the most beautiful in Mexico: as Ixtaccíhuatl gradually disappears behind you, the snow on the Pico de Orizaba comes into view, and the plains of corn and maguey in the west are supplanted on the eastern slopes by woods of pine and cypress, and by green fields dotted with contented cows out to pasture.
It’s worth noting, however, that this is the rainiest area of the country, and while the damp brings bounties in terms of great coffee and a luxuriance of flowers, downpours can become a problem. Particularly irritating – especially in October and November – is what the locals call chipichipi, a persistent fine drizzle caused by warm airstreams from the Gulf hitting cooler air as they reach the eastern face of the sierra. Drivers should also watch out for the fog that frequently cloaks the higher sections of this road.Read More
Midway between Puebla and Veracruz, ORIZABA is an industrial city and a major brewing centre: the giant Cervecería Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma produces some of the best beer in the republic, including globally famous brands Sol and Dos Equis – ask at the tourist office for details of tours. Despite the industry, the historic centre remains compact and attractive; because the old city was built up against a hill, development has spread in one direction only, so the centro histórico is right on the edge of town, with more modern development sprawling to the east and south. The Parque Castillo, with the imposing Catedral de San Miguel at Colón and Madero, marks the centre of the old town. There’s not a great deal to see, but Orizaba makes an enjoyable short break or overnight stop.
CÓRDOBA is a busy modern city at the centre of the area’s coffee trade, built around an attractive colonial centre. Founded in 1618 by thirty Spanish families – and so also known as the “City of the Thirty Knights” – its main claim to fame is that in 1821 the last Spanish viceroy, Juan O’Donoju, signed the Treaty of Córdoba with General Iturbide here, formally giving Mexico independence.
Plaza 21 de Mayo
There’s not a great deal specifically to seek out in Córdoba, where the animated zócalo, surrounded by arcaded portales, is the main focus. The signing of the Treaty of Córdoba took place in the Palacio de los Condes de Zevallos, now known as the Portal de Zevallos, on the Plaza 21 de Mayo; these days it’s given over to handicraft shops and cafés, where you can sit and sample Córdoban coffee or julep, a rum and mint cocktail. The twin-towered Catedral de la Inmaculada Concepción, facing the Palacio Municipal across the plaza, is one of the most richly adorned religious buildings in the state – started in 1621, it contains a revered image of the Virgin Mary to the right of the altar.
Museo de la Ciudad
The exhibits in the Museo de la Ciudad (labelled in Spanish only) encompass some thirty centuries of local history, from Olmec and Totonac ceramics and sculpture, through Independence, to mementos of the Mexico ‘68 Olympics. They occupy a beautiful colonial building with gorgeous mountain views from its upper storey.