08 Jul Xico, Veracruz: Foggy Mountains and Robust Coffee
A short distance from Xalapa, Veracruz, Xico is one of the delightful Pueblos Magicos (magical villages is the literal translation, but this UNESCO designation refers to its enchanting beauty and longstanding cultural traditions, making it picturesque and interesting to visit.) We were drawn to Xico for our love (let’s be honest, near obsession) with coffee. Veracruz is internationally famous for the quality of its coffee and we needed to sample the good stuff. Apart from that, Xico is a small mountain town surrounded by waterfalls and chilly forests, which we always love.
A colonial town, Xico flies colorful cut-out flags strung from tiled rooftops, across cobblestone streets. Donkeys carry the day’s milk to sell and women pound out tortillas by hand, the scent of cooking corn traveling down the streets. The smell of wood-fired egg bread also wafts through the cool mountain air, giving a sense of warmth and comfort.
On Hidalgo street, family owned shops sell locally made fruit liqueur from passion fruit and “green berries”. And Doña Dora Luz Pozos and Tía Berta offer local mole, a traditional dish made with slight variations in Oaxaca, Puebla, Tlaxcala and Veracruz. Mole, often used as a celebratory dish because it may contain as many as 19 ingredients and requires all day to prepare, is notably sweeter in Xico. Nearby, trout abound, another mainstay of the community.
Embraced by the surrounding foggy mountains, abundant water in the form of streams and waterfalls, and pine forests, Xico is shrouded in natural beauty. We drove up to Old Xico, on winding mountain roads, dotted with the occasional house and flock of grazing sheep, crossing bridges, stopping to admire the view all along the way. La Monja and Texolo are their two most famous waterfalls, the latter having a drop of 78 meters. Pextlán Bridge is another famous spot, crossing a canyon dug out through centuries of flowing water. The dense fog we encountered made it challenging to find our way, but we relished in the experience.
Tucked away on the slopes of the Cofre de Perote, Xico was founded by the Totonacs on the banks of the Huhueyapan River, near the current village. Later, the pre-Hispanic city was dominated by the Mexicas. Later still, Cortez the Killer was said to have traveled through these lands from the beaches of Veracruz to mighty Tenochtitlan.
In the town square, we find the Santa María Magdalena church. Built in the 16th Century, the beautiful building full of both neoclassical and baroque details beckons to pilgrims all over Mexico. It is said to grant miracles. Arches and gardens invite visitors to sit and unwind there, perhaps after their long journey. One quirky fact is that “Patio de las Palomas” is a dress museum, exhibiting over 700 dresses offered as gifts to the patron saint of the town.
Llanito Chapel, is also said to inspire miracles. Plaza de los Portales, a 17th Century site, holds inscriptions in its historic walls. Beside it, an Art Deco style gazebo and restaurants invite visitors to stay a bit and experience the storied past of Xico. Nearby, the Plazoleta Tío Piolín contains an ancient stone once used in ritual sacrifices, hearkening back to the traditions of the pre-Hispanic founders.
Naturally, in Xico, coffee is king. They are known for it worldwide. At one coffee plantation, Abamoxol, they cultivate, dry and roast a coffee bean called “cherry” which is unique to the area. You can visit between November and March to try a cup for yourself. Xico is also known for its artesanal objects made from corn leaves (totomoxtle), as well as wooden masks, and, of course, fruit liqeuer. The Totomoxtle museum and the Casa Museo Hoja de Maíz show off the corn cob artistry.
We loved the chilly weather and relaxed energy of the village, the delicious food and delectable coffee, and the verdant nature that Veracruz continues to inspire us with. The incredibly rich and varied state of Mexico has been full of surprises for us! Want to read more? Take a look at our blog on Los Tuxtlas, Playa Chachalacas, and Tlacotalpan for more on what we loved about Veracruz.