Immediately north of Veracruz lie the oldest Spanish settlements in Mexico, and the sites of the indigenous towns which became Cortes’ first allies. A short stretch of toll highway takes you as far as Cardel, a busy little town and handy place to change buses or visit the bank, at the junction of the coastal highway and the road up to Xalapa. La Antigua lies 2km off this road. Beyond Cardel there’s very little to stop for in the long coastal stretch (about 4hr on the bus) to Papantla. At Nautla, 153km from Veracruz, you pass the largest town en route to Papantla, surrounded by coconut groves, at the heart of the so-called “Costa Esmeralda”. There are hotels, some of them pretty fancy, trailer parks and campsites all the way up here, but most are just metres from the highway, which runs close to the shore. The grey sand is frequently desolate and windswept, and it’s not really a place you’d want to stay.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

Mexico features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

26 awe-inspiring architectural wonders

26 awe-inspiring architectural wonders

From ancient temples to hyper-modern skyscrapers, these are just a few of the world's most incredible architectural wonders. Whether you're looking to wander l…

01 Feb 2017 • Rough Guides Editors camera_alt Gallery
12 cool places to visit in Mexico

12 cool places to visit in Mexico

Times remain tough for Mexico, but the truth is that there’s never been a better period to visit Latin America’s most diverse nation – most of the country…

16 Jan 2017 • Stephen Keeling insert_drive_file Article
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
View more featureschevron_right