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Orizaba Veracruz: One of Mexico’s Most Beautiful Cities

It’s incredibly easy to fall in love with Orizaba, Veracruz: charming riverside promenades and car-free streets intersect the colorful historic town; centuries-old Spanish convents display remarkable works of local artists; and lush gardens thrive beneath the towering mountains.

Everywhere you go in the city, there’s a sense of nostalgia. Victorian-style water fountains, mosaic-tiled domed roofs, and vintage bronze plaques all hint at its rich history. And then, there’s the untamed wilderness that envelops the city, offering a wide range of outdoor activities, from leisurely hilltop hikes to challenging climbs of Mexico’s highest peak, Pico de Orizaba, all just a stone’s throw away.

Orizaba is one of my favorite magic towns in Mexico, and it’s almost as stunning as other famous cities like San Miguel de Allende and Oaxaca — and yet most people haven’t heard of it. If you’re planning a trip to Veracruz, you have to make a side-trip to the most beautiful town in the state. In this guide, I’ve compiled everything you need to know to visit Orizaba, Veracruz.

orizaba veracruz travel guide

My Guide to Orizaba, Veracruz

History of Orizaba Veracruz

The city’s name, Orizaba, is derived from the Nahuatl word “Āhuilizāpan,” meaning “place of pleasing waters.” In the 16th century, Orizaba was officially founded by Spanish colonizers and rapidly developed into a vital colonial outpost due to its strategic location along trade routes.

During the colonial period, Orizaba flourished as a center for agriculture and trade, thanks to its fertile lands and proximity to the Gulf of Mexico. It was known for its textile industry, which continues to be an important part of the city’s identity. By the late 1800s, it became the wealthiest and most industrial city in Veracruz, thanks to the elites from Italy, France, Germany, and Sweden who settled here.

This European influence is still visible today, through well-preserved colonial architecture, churches, and convents, showcasing its enduring cultural heritage.

orizaba veracruz - fountain

How to Get to Orizaba Veracruz

By Plane

The closest airport to Orizaba Veracruz is the General Heriberto Jara International Airport (VER), which is 2 hours away. The second closest one is El Lancero Airport (JAL) in Xalapa, which is around a 3-hour drive away. It’s cheap to fly to both from other major cities in Mexico. You can easily catch an ADO bus from Veracruz City or Xalapa; buses leave regularly and are comfortable and reliable.

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By bus

Alternatively, you can take a bus from Mexico City as the companies ADO and Autobuses Unidos will take you there for approximately 1,160 MXN (US$55).

The city’s bus station is located on the main road, Hwy 150 (Av Oriente 6), only 350 meters southeast of the historic center. The majority of hotels are also found along this same road, making it convenient for visitors as they are within a short walking distance of most attractions.

By Car

You can also rent a car in Veracruz City and drive there. Driving in Veracruz is convenient and it’s relatively affordable; the average price ranges from 600-800 MXN (US$30-40) per day, including insurance and taxes. I always use for car rentals worldwide, as they’ve consistently given me the cheaper rates and best services. 

Search for car rentals here!

orizaba veracruz building

Best Time to Visit Orizaba Veracruz

The best time to visit Orizaba typically falls within the dry season, which extends from October to April. During these months, the weather is cooler and more comfortable for exploring the city, its natural surroundings, and even embarking on mountain adventures like climbing Pico de Orizaba. Clear skies are more common, offering excellent views of the surrounding landscapes.

Summer, on the other hand, which spans from May to September, brings increased rainfall and higher humidity levels. While the lush greenery of Orizaba Veracruz and its surroundings is at its peak during the rainy season, it can make outdoor activities less predictable. Keep in mind that the higher humidity levels can also make the weather feel hotter and less comfortable for extended outdoor exploration.

orizaba veracruz cathedral

How Many Days in Orizaba Veracruz?

Some people simply do a day trip to Orizaba from Veracruz City but they’re missing out! You need at least 3-4 days to explore the city’s historic sites at a leisurely pace, and perhaps venture on day trips to nearby attractions like Parque Nacional Cañon del Río Blanco.

See also  Pueblos Mágicos: 30 Magic Towns in Mexico Worth Visiting 2024

I also recommend combining a visit to Orizaba with nearby Veracruz City and university town of Xalapa to get to know the state. I’ve designed a special 10-day Veracruz road trip to combine all of them into one epic journey for those interested in exploring beyond the beaches.

orizaba veracruz

Is Orizaba Veracruz Safe to Visit?

Veracruz state used to be plagued by drug cartel activities, but it’s no longer under their control. Orizaba still experience some criminal activity, but it is generally considered safer than some of the bigger tourist destinations in Mexico.

The city has taken steps to improve safety, including increased police presence in tourist areas. Keep in mind that personal safety practices, such as staying in well-traveled areas, avoiding displaying valuable items, and being aware of your surroundings, are always recommended when visiting any destination.

orizaba veracruz view from cerro del borrego

Internet in Orizaba veracruz?

Most hotels in Orizaba offer WiFi, but don’t expect to find free WiFi on the streets or in the public spaces. I recommend getting a SIM card with internet data to make sure you stay connected while in Orizaba Veracruz. Either buy an eSIM on Airalo and save the trouble of changing your physical cards, or get a SIM card at the airport upon arrival.

Read my guide on how to get a SIM card in Mexico.

orizaba veracruz

Where to Stay in Orizaba Veracruz

Budget: Hotel Ha Orizaba

I stayed at Hotel Ha and can confirm it’s a great choice for budget travelers looking for a central location. Located just a few minutes’ walk from the bus station and center of town, Hotel Ha offers affordable accommodation with clean and comfortable rooms. Check rates here.

Mid-Range: Gamma Orizaba Grand de France

Gamma Orizaba is an excellent mid-range option that offers a combination of comfort and affordability. Located also on the main boulevard of Orizaba, the hotel features well-appointed rooms, a restaurant, and a rooftop swimming pool. Check rates here.

Luxury: Casona 142 Orizaba

For luxury travelers, Casona 142 is a stylish boutique hotel restored from a colonial building. This upscale hotel provides elegant and stylish accommodations, fine dining options, a spa, and personalized service. Check rates here.

orizaba veracruz hotel

Where to Eat in Orizaba Veracruz

Gran Café de Orizaba

Housed in the Palacio de Hierro, the Gran Café de Orizaba is an atmospheric coffeehouse that has retained its original interiors and still serve coffee roasted in a traditional way.

Marron Cocina Galeria

Part restaurant, part gallery, Marron Cocina has a great selection of grilled meat, pasta, and pizzas. It has a great ambiance, tastefully designed vintage decor. This was my favorite restaurant in Orizaba, I ate here at least three times!

Aborigen Cocina de Brasa

This is a popular restaurant in Orizaba Veracruz known for its grilled meat. It offers a wide variety of traditional dishes, including tacos, enchiladas, and mole. The atmosphere is cozy and welcoming, making it a great place to savor the flavors of Mexican cuisine. Read reviews.

Romantxu Cocina y Bar

If you’re a seafood lover, this restaurant located inside the Poliforum is a must-visit. This restaurant specializes in fresh seafood dishes, including ceviche, shrimp cocktails, and grilled fish. Book a table here.

orizaba veracruz - grand cafe de orizaba

Things to do in Orizaba Veracruz

For such a small town, Orizaba Veracruz sure packs a punch: the magic town is studded with historical landmarks, leafy gardens and squares. Nearby mountains beckon nature lovers and more adventurous souls.

Explore the Iron Palace

Orizaba’s main square, Parque Castillo, features the iconic Palacio de Hierro (Iron Palace) brought from Belgium. This impressive building has an art nouveau facade, intricate wrought iron details, beautiful water fountains, and well-maintained gardens, giving the historic area a distinct old French movie set vibe.

The palace was designed by Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, the same person behind the Eiffel Tower. In 1892, Orizaba’s mayor bought the building from Belgium and had it shipped to Orizaba, where it was assembled.

For almost a century, the Iron Palace served as the town hall until 1991 when the government moved to the Centro Educativo Obrero, now called the Palacio de Orizaba. It serves as a tourist office and houses several small museums. You can buy a ticket for 50 MXN (US$2.5) at the office, which grants you access to 14 museums in the city.

orizaba veracruz - palacio de hierro
orizaba veracruz - palacio de hierro

Visit the Museums of Orizaba

Of all the museums housed within Palacio de Hierro, the Museo de las Raíces de Orizaba (Museum of Orizaba’s Origins) is the most interesting. The history museum displays archaeological artifacts, including ancient masks and sculptures dug up from archaeological sites here in Orizaba Veracruz.

The Museo de Geográfico de Orizaba (Museum of Orizaba’s Geography) teaches about the area’s geography. Families can enjoy the Museo Interactivo (Interactive Museum) with a small planetarium and fun science experiments. You can also visit the Museo de la Cerveza (Beer Museum) to learn about Orizaba’s largest brewery and even taste some beer for free.

See also  25 Best Restaurants in San Cristobal de las Casas
orizaba veracruz

Visit the Catedral de San Miguel Arcángel  

Next to the Iron Palace stands the gorgeous yellow and ochre Catedral de Orizaba. The iconic landmark is known for its Baroque and Neoclassical architectural design and details as well as the chapels annexed to the building, constructed in the eighteenth century.

The Cathedral was established by the Franciscans at the end of the seventeenth century in 1692, which marks their arrival in the city. It is considered one of the most beautiful in Mexico.

orizaba veracruz

See the Teatro Ignacio de la Llave

Watching over the city’s main square, this 1875 theater is lauded as one of the best theaters in the state of Veracruz due to its great acoustic quality. After many years of disuse, it only reopened in 2014. Every Sunday you can attend free events suitable for all audiences.

orizaba veracruz - theater

Hop on the Tourist Train

Right by the Iron Palace, you’ll find the starting point of the Tren Chipi Chipi, a tourist train that takes visitors on an hour-long tour of the city’s historical sites for 60 MXN (US$3). For those with little ones in tow, this train is a hit with kids! It’s also pet-friendly and has wheelchair access.

orizaba veracruz - tourist train

Admire Art at the Museo de Arte del Estado 

Housed in a beautiful colonial-style ex-convent, the State Art Museum holds Mexico’s second-most-important permanent Diego Rivera collection, with 33 of his original works. Inaugurated on 27 November 1992, the museum displays more than 600 works created by artists from Veracruz between the 18th and first half of the 20th centuries.

There are seven permanent exhibitions in the museum, with the bulk of it made up of paintings from José Justo Montiel and Diego Rivera. A guided tour is included in the entry ticket.

orizaba veracruz - state art museum

Stroll along the Art Walk

Located at an elevation of 1200 meters, Orizaba sits where several rivers meet. One of these, the Rio Orizaba, flows through the western part of the historic center. There’s a nice walking path that wends along the river, sprinkled with colorful mural art. Here you can easily see how Orizaba got its name “the place with pleasing water”.

To start your walk, head to the cable car base station. If you walk downstream from there, you’ll find the Paseo del Arte (Art Walk), a 5km-long stone-paved pathway flanked by mural art and interesting sculptures created by local artists.

orizaba veracruz - art walk
orizaba mexico - art walk

Visit the Botanical Gardens

At the end of the art walk, you’ll reach the Biori Jardín Botánico, the biggest botanical garden in Veracruz. Here, you can see iconic plants from five different continents, including orchids from Oceania in special greenhouses, tulips around a Dutch windmill, and bamboo next to Asian temples. The garden also offers workshops and a yoga program on weekends.

orizaba mexico - biori botanical gardens

Walk along the Paseo del Río

If you go upstream along the river, you’ll get to Paseo del Río (River Walk), which also serves as the Reserva Animal Citlaltépetl. This area has cages spread out along the river, where monkeys, parrots, deer, hippos, and even a bear live. In total, the reserve is home to 46 species of animals, totaling 800, and they are all registered and protected by Mexico’s SEMARNAT, which is the secretary of natural environment and resources.

orizaba mexico - paseo del rio

Wander around the Poliforum

Just outside the city center stands the huge Poliforum Mier y Pesado building along the city’s main road (Hwy 150). This grand building, designed like a palace, was built in 1944. Interestingly, it used to be an asylum. In February 2014, the Mexican government recognized it as a “national artistic monument.”

Nowadays, this place is home to some really great museums. One of the best is the Museo de Traje, which focuses on traditional clothing from all over Mexico. There’s also the Museo de Ayer y Hoy, which has black-and-white images and exhibits about Orizaba’s history.

If you’re traveling Orizaba with kids, they’ll enjoy the Museo de Francisco Gabilondo Soler, which is filled with displays featuring cartoon characters. This museum pays tribute to the children’s song composer who was born in Orizaba, Veracruz. In addition to the museums, you’ll find several popular cafes and restaurants in the same building.

orizaba veracruz mexico - poliforum
orizaba veracruz mexico - traditional wear

Pay Homage to Cri-Cri

​Orizaba proudly celebrates its hometown hero, Francisco Gabilondo Soler, the famous creator of the beloved Cri-Cri singing cricket. In his honor, animated sculptures of his iconic cartoon characters can be found at Parque Cri-Cri. This park is where Soler used to live and where he came up with the idea for the singing cricket.

If you stroll a few blocks between Norte 10 and 12, you’ll come across a striking mural that covers an entire wall, featuring the face of Francisco Gabilondo Soler.

Take the Cable Car

Right in the city center of Orizaba, you can catch the cable car, Teleférico de Orizaba, up to Cerro del Borrego (read my next point). Operating since 2014, the modern cable car takes you from the riverside, all the way across the current Palacio de Orizaba, up to the top of Cerro del Borrego.

See also  20 Things to Do in Valladolid, Mexico (And Around!) 

The ride is about five minutes long, covers almost 1 km, and goes up about 320 meters in height. If you’re scared of heights, it might be best not to look down! There’s no need to book your tickets in advance (70 MXN or US$3.50).

orizaba veracruz mexico - cable car

Explore Cerro del Borrego

While the journey itself is quite an adventure, it gets even better when you reach the top. There’s a short trail that goes around Cerro del Borrego Eco-Park. Along the way, you’ll find different viewpoints, a zipline that costs 100 MXN (US$5) per ride, the remains of an old fort, and a small military museum.

The fort was where a battle took place in 1862 between the Mexican and French armies. The French surprised the Mexican troops at dawn and won, taking over Borrego hill. Sometimes they do reenactments of the battle, so you can check with the tourist office for when those happen.

If you keep going on the trail, you’ll come to a lookout tower you can climb for really clear views of the mountains. When the clouds move, you’ll even get to see the snow-covered Pico de Orizaba, which is a breathtaking sight.

orizaba veracruz mexico - cerro del borrego
visiting orizaba veracruz - cerro del borrego

Day Trips from Orizaba

Go Hiking in Cañon Blanco

Just 5 kilometers to the east of the city center lies the Parque Nacional Cañon del Río Blanco. The best way to get there is climb up 500 escalones, a series of 500 steps that lead up to the top of the gorge.

Inside this national park, there are three big bodies of water where lots of migratory birds come to hang out. They are the Tuxpango dam, Laguna Los Sifones, and Laguna Puerto del Aire wetlands. You can spot many types of birds here, like the blue-winged teal, brown heron, and red-eyed ibis.

To return, you can either retrace your steps to the 500 stairs or ask the vendors at the small food stand to call a taxi for you. A taxi ride back to Orizaba from the lake costs around 100 MXN or US$5.

orizaba veracruz day trip

Climb Pico de Orizaba

Pico de Orizaba is the tallest mountain in Mexico, towering at a breathtaking 5636 meters (17,601 feet) and often covered in clouds. From its summit, you can see other prominent mountains like Popocatépetl, Iztaccíhuatl, and La Malinche to the west, as well as the Gulf of Mexico to the east.

It’s important to understand that Orizaba is not the starting point for the trek to the Pico de Orizaba. They are actually hours away. Reaching the summit of Pico de Orizaba is a serious and challenging endeavor that’s best suited for experienced mountain climbers who are well-prepared for extreme cold and the risk of altitude sickness. The final section of the ascent involves navigating ice fields, which can be particularly tough.

It’s crucial to acclimatize over several days before attempting the climb. Common starting points for the expedition include the historic town of Coscomatepec (elevation 1535 meters), located 37 kilometers north of Orizaba, and the small town of Tlachichuca in Puebla. Rushing up the mountain is not advisable, as altitude sickness can be life-threatening at these high elevations.

pico de orizaba veracruz

Mexico Travel Guide

⏰ Set your timezone to Eastern Standard Time (GMT-5).

💰 Withdraw Mexican Peso at the ATM (Current exchange rate US$1=20 MXN). Cash is king in Mexico. US dollars are accepted in most places, but you’ll be overpaying.

🎫  Most travelers do NOT need a Mexico visa. Check here if you need a visa.

🏥 Insure your trip with Safety Wing, a global travel insurance company.

📱 Get a Mexico eSIM on Airalo to get cheap internet data. Read my guide to getting a Mexico SIM card.

🔌 Bring Type A (two-prong) and Type B (three-prong) electric sockets — the same as the United States. Get this universal travel adaptor if you don’t use those plugs.

Is it Worth Visiting Orizaba Veracruz?

During my trip through the state of Veracruz, Orizaba stood out for its European flair, rich history and natural setting. It’s definitely one of my favorite magic towns in Mexico.

I hope this power-packed Orizaba travel guide has helped you plan out your trip to this gorgeous Veracruz city. Let me know if you have any questions in the comment section below.

For those who are planning to travel more of Mexico, check out other articles I’ve written on Mexico:

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links i.e. if you book a stay through one of my links, I get a small commission at NO EXTRA COST to you. Thank you for your support!

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