Land of rubber and cocoa

Sparsely populated and wedged between the states of Veracruz and Campeche along the steamy Gulf of Mexico, the State of Tabasco is known for its wide rivers, deep lagoons and as a headquarters for Mexico’s oil industry. Tabasco attracts few foreign tourists, despite offering all the modern amenities you’d expect in its capital city of Villahermosa, and a fascinating array of cultural attractions and outdoor pursuits. It has enjoyed anonymity as a tourist destination, yet has set in place a number of programs and facilities to begin hosting visitors like never before.

Measuring a mere 330 by 195 kilometers, the state is known for its high levels of humidity and the wetlands and intense tropical greenery that result. Several large rivers (including the mighty Usumacinta and Grijalva) drain from nearby mountains and tropical jungle into the Gulf of Mexico. Flat coastal plains give way to undulating foothills that eventually rise to become the Sierra Madre de Chiapas mountain range. Lagoons, estuaries and marshes dominate the landscape. In fact, during the peak of the rainy season (September-October), nearly half the state is covered by water!  Not surprisingly, Tabasco is home to over 2,200 plant species, some fabulous eco parks, and one of Mexico’s most delightfully untamed biosphere reserves.

Today, the two largest indigenous groups are the Chontals (Mayans) and the Zoques. The Chontals have occupied this region for some 2,000 years and are heirs to the ancient Chontal Maya legacy. They preserve ancient traditions and lifestyles which can be witnessed in their communities even today. They reside in western and central Tabasco, living in small and self-sufficient fishing, cacao and ranching communities. The Zoques, the State’s second largest group, are direct descendants of the Olmecs. A few communities survive today, mostly in far western Tabasco, preserving many typically Olmec cultural traditions. Visitors can use Villahermosa as a convenient base for exploring the state. It’s home to a whole range of modern hotels, U.S.-style shopping malls, and a host of interesting museums and cultural centers (most with English signage, so you won’t have to stretch your Spanish skills too far). One of Mexico’s most fascinating zoological and archaeological parks, La Venta, is located here, along with glorious boat rides along the Grijalva River, and the unique Yumka safari park – a must do- if you’re traveling with kids.


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