Somewhat sandwiched between Veracruz and Campeche, the state of Tabasco in the hot and humid Gulf of Mexico might not look like a travelers destination. And admittedly, most people don’t stay much longer than the time it takes them to see the incredible stone Olmec sculpture in Villahermosa’s Parque-Museo La Venta. But they are failing to see what Tabasco really has on offer. Yes, despite the flooding, and despite the humid weather, this once anonymous tourist destination has come into the light.
One of Mexico’s smaller states, measuring just 330 by 195 kilometres, Tabasco has always been well known as a kind of soggy state. The weather, combined with the many rivers and wetland areas have resulted in some intense tropical jungle environments. All over Tabasco there are lagoons, marshes and estuaries, and during the rainy season nearly half the state has been known to slip under the water. But the consequences of this are for the benefit of everyone interested in the natural side of the state. Tabasco is home to over 2,200 different plant species, some incredible eco parks, and one of Mexico’s most impressive biosphere reserves.
What is interesting about Tabasco is that along the entire 190 kilometres of coastline, there isn’t any resort development to speak of. That doesn’t mean there’s nothing there, and the coast is in fact a lovely place to enjoy a more rural coastal experience. Along the shore are several beautiful seaside villages that encompass more rustic charm than most spots. They also offer a great base to check out some of the nearby salt marshes and lagoons. But make no mistake, this is not an all-inclusive destination, and is definitely more suited to the wild adventurer.
Although at first Tabasco’s extreme weather might seem like something of a challenge to settlement, it has actually made the area very rich. Such fertile ground means that argriculture is possible all year round, and there is an atmosphere of prosperity, especially around the capital Villahermosa.
Tabasco’s capital is the ideal spot to explore the ancient history of the state, in the form of archaelogical sites left behind by Mesoamerica’s earliest civilization: the Olmecs. These people were successful in settling the western border that Tabasco shares with Veracruz, and formed one of Mexico’s first non-nomadic cultures. The Maya later settled the highlands of next-door Chiapas, and both Aztec and Maya built incredible communities that are considered among the best of Mexico’s archaeological sites.
Thanks to this rich cultural history, Tabasco’s food is also unique in the area, and during your visit you’ll no doubt see some of the local eats such as Criollo (Creole) delicacy chirmol, made with the primitive gar fish. Other specialty includes drinking chocolate (which was invented in Tabasco) and now forms a major backbone of Mexico’s culinary culture. Certainly there’s no better way to try it than to visit the local cacao farms and try it straight from the source. Another famous local drink is Iliztle, liquor made from sugar can, grape and pear or peach. It is perfect to finish up a meal, and will no doubt have you coming back for more. Delicious!