TLACOTALPAN is a beautiful, languid town on the north bank of the broad Río Papaloapan. An important port and railhead in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, it now has just six hundred permanent inhabitants, but its elegant colonial architecture has led to its being declared a Unesco World Heritage Site. At the weekend it can be packed with locals, who come here to eat at the riverside restaurants, fish, swim or take boat rides on the river, browse the artesanía shops and hang out in the bars and cafés on the plaza. Come on a weekday afternoon and you’ll find the place all but deserted.

Among Mexicans, Tlacotalpan is known as the place where musician and composer Agustín Lara (1900–70), whose works have been interpreted by the likes of Pavarotti, Carreras and Domingo, spent his early childhood. Two museums and a cultural centre honour the man, but unless you’re a huge fan they’re not worth the admission – the true pleasure here is simply to wander the streets, admiring the architecture (many of the buildings are labelled with their history) and soaking up the steamy, tropical atmosphere. On the Plaza Zaragoza are two magnificent churches and a florid, wrought-iron bandstand; Enriquez and Miguel Chazaro, parallel streets heading west from here, are lined with magnificent colonnaded houses. A market occupies a wonderful nineteenth-century building on the waterfront, just east of the centre.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

Mexico features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

The colours of Mexico captured in 14 pictures

The colours of Mexico captured in 14 pictures

Travel photographer Tim Draper has shot images for more than 20 Rough Guides guidebooks, visiting far-flung corners around the world. Here he shares some of h…

21 Jun 2016 • Tim Draper insert_drive_file Article
Marvellous Mexico: 8 insider tips from our authors

Marvellous Mexico: 8 insider tips from our authors

Surviving 42ºC (107ºF) desert heat, tramping hurricane-battered Pacific beaches and scaling lofty volcanoes, our hard-travelling authors have visited every co…

06 Jun 2016 • Rough Guides Editors insert_drive_file Article
Cozumel: an insider's guide to Mexico's Caribbean jewel

Cozumel: an insider's guide to Mexico's Caribbean jewel

Most people visit Mexico's Isla Cozumel for one of two reasons: to scuba dive, or to kill time with food and drink before their cruise ship takes off again. Eve…

03 Jun 2016 • Mandy Gardner insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month