Soaking up the mood isn't difficult in Veracruz City. When you take a late-afternoon stroll through the cobblestone streets near the zócalo or along the breezy waterfront walk of the Paseo del Malecón, you'll be joining locals doing just the same. Stopping for an ice-cream cone or a steaming cup of lechero (coffee with milk) is a must. If eating seafood is a passion, don't miss the open-air Mariscos Villa Rica Mocambo, arguably one of the best seafood restaurants in the country. The Acuario de Veracruz, one of the largest aquariums in Latin America, displays tiger sharks, manatees, and sea turtles, and even allows you a dip with the sharks in their immersion tank.

Elsewhere in the state, you won't want to miss exploring the ruins at Cempoala and El Tajín (get there in time to see the voladores who entertain the crowds at midday). There are plenty of colonial villages worth exploring, like La Antigua with its narrow rope bridge and Tlacotalpan with its rows of handcrafted rocking chairs. In Catemaco, a lovely lakefront town, you can ward off evil spirits with a visit to local witches and ward off wrinkles with a mineral mud mask.

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