Tucked away in the tropical gulf state of Tamaulipas is an old port city that once thrived off of local oil reserves and natural riches. Over the years – starting in the early 20th century – the small town of Tampico, Mexico would see the introduction of stunning European architecture and French influence – transforming this once quiet coastal town into what many referred to as the “New Orleans” of Mexico. While mostly popular among locals, this remote Mexican destination is worth a visit for the well-rounded traveler who looks to be fully immersed in local culture.
So, what are some things to do in Tampico, you wonder? Well, to start, mouth-watering seafood, beautiful beaches, and a close proximity to eco-friendly excursions are only a few of the factors that draw in visitors from around the globe. For instance, Tampico’s Miramar Beach is without a doubt the most popular tourist attraction in the area. Enjoy a sunny day sprawled out on the golden sand after taking a dip in the warm gulf waters. With over half a mile (0.8 kilometers) of unimpeded shoreline, this remarkable beach is said to be home to the same quiet charm that it impressed the first tourists with over 50 years ago.
While you are sure to enjoy the amazing nature activities that this tropical city has to offer, don’t forget to dedicate a day (or two) exploring the city itself. Although it has roots stretching back to pre-colonial eras, the architecture and the overall character of the city is quintessentially European, in great part due to the influence of art movements during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Spend your day strolling through the city’s historic landmarks such as the Catedral de Tampico (Cathedral of Tampico), City Hall, Plaza de la Libertad, and the famous Huasteca Culture Museum. Located within the Metropolitan Arts and Entertainment Venue (METRO), this site is by far the top spot for history buffs interested in the indigenous roots of the region. Observe hundreds of artifacts that date back over 500 years old, including statues, clothing, pottery, and art. In addition, visitors will have the opportunity to learn how the Huastecans extracted crude oil from the ground to use as a dye – eventually leading to Tampico’s reputation as an oil exporting hub during the 20th century.
While museums are great opportunities to learn about local history, culture, and customs, there is little that can top an actual visit to the sites that these ancient civilizations once populated. Luckily for visitors, Tampico is located just hours from some of the best ruins in Mexico – making your trip to this hidden gem even more worthwhile. For that reason alone, a trip to the nearby Tamtoc ruins is an absolute must when visiting the city of Tampico.
Considered the capital of the prehispanic Huasteca region and the most important in the region’s archaeological history, the ancient city of Tamtoc gives visitors an indication of how this mystica civilization once lived. Spread out over nearly 432 acres (175 hectares), there are numerous structures to explore, many of which once served as religious altars, with the city’s peak falling between 200 and 1300 A.D.
Situated on a flat plain alongside a large bend in the Tampaón River, and embedded between two natural hills (often mistaken for pyramids), the ancient city of Tamtoc site is truly breathtaking. On our Tamtoc Archeological Site Tour you will have the opportunity to explore the history of this ancient Mesoamerican fertility cult – which was largely based on agriculture and dominated by women.
In addition to this unique archeological site, further outside of Tampico towards the region known as La Huasteca Potosina, guests can enjoy dozens of exciting eco-tourism activities.
Witness incredible underground caves and some of the most amazing waterfalls in Mexico on our Huastec Caves and Waterfalls Adventure, or explore the hidden mountain village of Xilitla and the Surrealist architecture of Sir Edward James Park on our Huasteca Region Encounter excursion. Whether you look for thrilling nature activities or to experience ancient and present-day Mexican culture and customs at their finest, a trip to Tampico and its brilliant natural surrounds is the place to be.
Oh yes, we mustn’t forget to mention the local cuisine. Afterall, you are sure to work up quite the appetite after a day of exploring. When in Tampico, be sure to try the local taste both in restaurants and on the street food. I know, street food can be questionable. However, if you know where to go, you can enjoy some of the best tortas de la barda (sandwiches made with ham, cheese, and beans), shrimp empanadas, and delicious tamales. These are experiences you won’t want to miss.
Simply put, if you’re a fan of delicious cuisine, a fusion of old and new cultures and customs, and outdoor activities, Tampico just might be the place you are looking for. Take a leap of faith and experience something fresh and something new. Afterall, many of Mexico’s biggest treasures are those still unknown to commercial tourism – you’ll want to experience all this place has to offer before it’s too late.