The lengthy Mexican state of Veracruz, which stretches down the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, is home to many beautiful beaches and the country's highest point, the extinct volcano Pico de Orizaba. Hernán Cortés established the present port city of Veracruz in 1519 when the Spanish embarked on their conquest of the Aztec Empire. The city's annual Carnival celebration has become internationally renowned in recent years.