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Papantla a Magic Town in Mexico

By Melissa Reyes |

Travel to Papantla, a Magic Town in Mexico, and see the Papantla flying men, visit El Tajin and try bocoles.

Throughout Mexico, there are wonderful places whose history and tradition make them unique. We are talking about the Magic Towns in Mexico, some of which we have presented you before such as Real del Monte, Tlalpujahua or Bacalar. This time, we want to take you to Veracruz and show you the wonderful Magic Town of Papantla.

Papantla, a Magic Town in Mexico

Papantla is a beautiful city north of the state of Veracruz. It has earned the title of Pueblo Magico of Mexico (Magical Town of Mexico), thanks to its vast cultural, natural and architectural wealth. Its name derives from the Totonaca words Papan, which means “songbirds”, and Tlan, “place where they abound”. Together, they mean “place of songbirds”.

When walking the streets of the Pueblo Magico of Papantla you will find a complex labyrinth of houses, murals and buildings. Let us guide you through these places.

How to Get to Papantla?

From Mexico City, take Highway 130 to Pachuca and then take the road to Tulancingo-Pirámides. Follow the signs to Tuxpan-Poza Rica and, once there, take road 180 to Papantla.

It takes about 3.5 hours to get to the Pueblo Magico of Papantla.

What to Do in the Pueblo Magico of Papantla?

Visit the most important church in Papantla: the Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción. It’s named after the Totonaca town, which was baptized upon the arrival of the Spanish conquerors. The temple was built in the early eighteenth century by the Franciscan order.

Next to the church you will find the spectacular mural called Homenaje a la Cultura Totonaca (Homage to the Totonaca Culture) by Teodoro Cano. Every night it’s illuminated to highlight the most important historical scenes.

Next, discover the Vanilla Monument, which reminds us that the Pueblo Magico of Papantla is one of the main producers and exporters of vanilla in Mexico. Take this exquisite ingredient as a souvenir and use it in baked goods and smoothies.

The Papantla Flyers Dance

In DINKtravelers, your world travel guide, we know that one of the most representative tourist attractions of this Magic Town in Mexico is the dance of the Papantla Flying Men or Bird Men. This ceremony is one of the most important traditions of the Totonaca people preserved to this day. It is celebrated to invoke fertility and recall the cycle of life and death. The dance is performed by five dancers who climb to the top of a large seventeenth-meter mast with a square wooden structure at the top. The four angles of said structure represent the seasons and the cardinal points.

The dancers climb up the mast as it turns on its axis, and then they jump down held only by a rope. Meanwhile, one of the men dances at the top of the mast while playing a drum that symbolizes the voice of God and a flute that represents the song of the birds. This ceremony was made in honor of the Sun God to nourish the Earth with its light and help people with their crops.

The dance of the Papantla Flyers is known worldwide as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. After seeing the ceremony, visit the Monument to the Volador. It commemorates the artistic and ceremonial tradition of this town in Veracruz.

From Papantla to El Tajín 

Near the Pueblo Magico of Papantla you can visit the Totonaca architectural site El Tajín. In pre-Hispanic times it was one of the most important cities of Veracruz and the capital of the Totonaca culture. Its most outstanding monument is the Pyramid of the Niches, decorated with about 365 of these. In your tour, visit the ceremonial Ball Games and the Acropolis. Enjoy visiting this architectural ensemble declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

El Tajin is located only 9 km away from Papantla. You’ll get there in just half an hour by car, taking the road 16 de Septiembre.

What to Eat in Papantla?

Enjoy the Mexican food and try these suggestions. Remember that most typical dishes in Papantla come from the Totonaca gastronomic tradition.

  • Tamales de Xala: corn dough filled with meat, sesame sauce, ancho and serrano chili, coriander and beans. It’s steamed and served in corn leaves.
  • Quelites con frijoles en chilposo : the word quelite comes from the Náhuatl quilitl and it means edible herbs. This dish is prepared with herbs, beans and chilposo. Chilposo is a soup made with beef broth, tomato sauce and vegetables including zucchini and green beans.
  • Enchiladas zampadas: tortillas bathed in spicy sauce.
  • Bocoles: corn dough mixed with lard, cooked on a hot pan known as comal. It is filled with mashed black beans, fresh cheese, pork crackling and other ingredients.

Tamales de Xala
Tamales de Xala
Quelites con frijoles en chilposo
Quelites con frijoles en chilposo
Enchiladas zampadas
Enchiladas zampadas

The Best Souvenirs From this Magical Town of Veracruz

In Papantla you will discover an endless number of bazaars and traditional markets. There, you can purchase edible souvenirs such as vanilla. You’ll notice its quality because it has such an intense and deep aroma that you can almost  taste it just by smelling it.

If you want to find top quality handmade pieces of clothing, we recommend you visit Mercado Hidalgo (Hidalgo Market). It’s one of the most important artwork markets in the area. There, you’ll find beautiful textile work. You’ll love the huipiles and decorative canvasses. Also, look for ceramic work and basketry.

Remember that Papantla is located in the state of Veracruz, one of the main coffee producers in Mexico. Therefore, you can find coffee from Coatepec, the land of coffee.

The next time you plan a holiay trip, choose to visit the Pueblo Magico of Papantla. You will not regret visiting this town in Veracruz, as there is a lot to see and do. Pack your bags and don’t forget to share your adventure to this Magic Town in Mexico with us.