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Starting in the early 20th century, Tampico — a port city on the Gulf of Mexico in the state of Tamaulipas — became a booming oil city rich with European architecture and culture. Due to its curious French influences mixed with native roots, many people considered it the New Orleans of Mexico. While it’s certainly not the vacation destination it once was, it’s still worth a visit for curious travelers. Here are 12 reasons why you should visit Tampico, Mexico.
A Note on Safety
Before booking your trip to Tampico, ready to discover what the lush tropical city in eastern Mexico has to offer, it’s best to know that the region has experienced its fair share of violence over the past decade. Back in 2014, thousands of people fled into the streets wearing white, carrying white balloons, and waving white handkerchiefs — all as a desperate cry for help. In the years prior, Tampico had witnessed waves of senseless violence ranging from shoot-outs to gas explosions and arson.
What was previously considered a prime spring break destination has now had a dramatic face change. Many buildings are abandoned, and much of the tourist infrastructure has deteriorated. While Tampico used to be driven by a wealthy oil and gas industry, recently it’s most prominent business has been the trafficking of cocaine, marijuana, and methamphetamines to the United States and Mexico City.
Travel to Tampico is currently only advised if necessary, and should only take place for a short period in supported areas.
Stroll the Historic Center
While Tampico’s roots stretch back to pre-colonial eras, the architecture and the overall character of the city is quintessentially European. Influenced by the art movements of the late 19th and early 20th century, in many ways Tampico feels like the New Orleans of Mexico. You can spend the better part of an afternoon strolling through the important landmarks like the Cathedral of Tampico, the old post office, City Hall, and the Cultural Center. Be sure to try the street food too — tortas de la barda are sandwiches made with ham, cheese, beans; shrimp empanadas, or delicious tamales. The Best Mexican Food (Outside of Mexico) will give you some other delicious options that may be closer to home.
Plaza de la Libertad
Tampico’s Plaza de la Libertad is another extremely important focal point of the city and definitely worthy of a visit. Here, you’ll find large old historic buildings, vintage houses, and friendly Tampicans enjoying their free time. The centerpiece of the plaza is a large wrought iron gazebo under which the local orchestra performs every weekend.
Plaza de Armas
Just a few blocks north of Plaza de la Libertad is the Plaza de Armas, also known as the Plaza de la Constitucón. The center of the square boasts a huge pink kiosk that was built in 1945. Around the kiosk, homemade Mexican juices are sold — extremely refreshing when it’s hot outside.
See a Tampico Madero Game
For sports fans, there isn’t anything quite like a Mexican soccer match. Tampico Madero is the home team here, and attending a match is a great use of an afternoon if your schedule lines up with a home game. Don’t mind that Tampico Madero currently play in the Ascenso MX (the country’s second level of professional soccer), because the games are just as wild as the first division.
Huasteca Culture Museum
Located within the METRO — the Metropolitan Arts and Entertainment Venue — the Huasteca Culture Museum is the best place to visit for history buffs interested in the indigenous roots of Tampica. Here, you’ll find hundreds of artifacts over 500 years old including statues, clothing, pottery, and paintings. Also learn how the Huastecans extracted crude oil from the ground to use as a dye, which eventually led to Tampico’s reputation as an oil exporting hub during the 20th century.
Las Flores Pyramid
This archeological site stands as proof of the existence of the Huastecan indigenous tribe that inhabited the region from 600 to 1200 AD. The entire settlement consisted of over 40 structures but the Las Flores Pyramid was the centerpiece. It was built with a combination of soil, clay, pottery pieces, and seashells, all plastered together with lime and clay mortar.
Laguna del Carpintero
This lake, just 15 minutes from the city center, is Tampico’s most important spot for wildlife and biodiversity. Here, you’ll find all kinds of flora and fauna from crocodiles to migratory birds and woodpeckers, plus much more. A great option is to hop on a boat tour and explore the roughly 37-acre lake.
Miramar Beach is without a doubt the most popular tourist attraction in Tampico. On hot days, there’s nothing better than sprawling out on the golden sand and taking a dip in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. There’s over a half mile of unimpeded shoreline, and a paved jetty you can walk out on. The beach hasn’t seen too much development over the years, and many visitors say it retains the same quiet charm as it did over 40 years ago.
Speaking of diving into the water, water sports present one of the best adventure activities in the Tampico area. Some options include wakeboarding in the nearby rivers, lakes, and oceans, surfing, kayaking, canyoning, renting a jet ski, and even trying your hand at flyboarding. For the most part, Tampico is pretty relaxing, but there is a way to add some thrill to your vacation — how about with these Best Spots to Go Cliff Diving in Mexico?
Further outside of Tampico are a few great activities for exciting eco-tourism. Options include hiking in the nearby mountain range (Reserva de la Biosfera Sierra Gorda), horseback riding, exploring the intricate cave system, whitewater rafting or birding tours.
Stay in a Luxurious Resort
While not nearly as lavish as it once was, Tampico still considered to be a resort town by many Mexicans and has some pretty fancy spots to treat yourself while on vacation. Resorts like the Club Maeva have pools, tennis courts, and beaches available for all guests. Other top spots include the Fiesta Inn and the Hotel Posada de Tampico. Outside of Tampico, here are the best All-Inclusive Family Resorts in Mexico.
Experience the Nightlife
The nightlife in Tampico is vibrant no matter what your particular tastes are. Enjoy everything from cozy lounge bars to popping late-night discotecas. The music played is mostly tropical, happy, and with lots of African and Caribbean influences. Fiesta!