THE CHARMING CITY OF VALLADOLID, MEXICO
What is it about Valladolid (pronounced vai-a-doll-eed) that keeps us coming back? This sleepy town has a certain magnetism about it. The sun is always shining, illuminating the pastel buildings and bright churches, a reminder of its colonial history.
Against this backdrop, you’ll notice short Maya women wearing their huipil, traditional Yucatecan dresses made of white cotton and adorned with colorful embroidered floral patterns and lace. These have been worn by indigenous women in the region for centuries. Valladolid is where pre-Hispanic culture and colonial influence do the most beautiful dance.
Surrounded by cenotes and ruins, Valladolid is one of our favorite stops on any trip through the Yucatán. It’s relaxed here, no aggressive vendors shout at you, people just go about their business.
Most tourists only come through here on day trips or after stopping at Chichén Itzá, so it manages to retain more of its charm. Being so close to Chichén Itzá, if you stay in Valladolid overnight, you can get there early when it opens, beating the tourist hordes that come later in the day.
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HOW TO GET THERE
Renting a car is probably the best way to get to and around Valladolid. While Valladolid is easily walkable, having a car allows you the freedom and flexibility to easily visit all the sites outside the city.
Mexico’s ADO bus system is fantastic and super easy to use. The buses are clean, air-conditioned, and spacious. Check out the ADO website for exact timetables and costs.
Cancun: 150-200 pesos ($7-10), takes 2 hours and 15 minutes
Tulum: 146 pesos ($7), takes 1 hour and 35 minutes
Merida: 150-200 pesos ($7-10), takes 2 hours and 15 minutes
THINGS TO DO IN VALLADOLID
Francisco Canton Rosado Park + Iglesia de San Servacio
Like other colonial Mexican towns, the zócalo remains the social gathering point for the city. A fountain lies in the middle of the plaza, and a unique set of white conversational chairs dot the park, that are specific to Valladolid. Two seats face each other making it the ideal spot for a chat.
The church lights up in the evening as locals gather to walk and spend time with their families. Don’t miss trying a marquesita (crispy crepe-like dessert) or a churro to satiate your sweet tooth.
Stroll down Calzada de los Frailes
First off, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more charming street than Calzada de los Frailes. Potted plants line this sunny street of Colonial buildings painted in an array of muted pastel colors.
If you peer into the windows you’ll find cute boutique stores (mostly reserved for the wealthy, but still fun to look at), trendy cafes serving detox drinks, and tastefully designed restaurants cooking up the best in Yucatecan cuisine. Be sure to keep your eye out for the traditional white Maya-style home near the end of the street.
Convento de San Bernadino de Siena
Franciscan missionaries built the convent between 1552 and 1560, making it 500 years old. It’s located at the end of Calzada de los Frailes in the Sisal neighborhood. It’s nothing too impressive inside, but still worth a quick visit to grab a photo with the colorful Valladolid sign in front of it.
The highlight is the video mapping show that gives a brief history of the city. It occurs every Tuesday to Sunday at 9:00pm in Spanish and 9:30pm in English. The best part is it’s free!
One of the best things to do anywhere if you want to get a sense of the local culture is to visit the market, and Valladolid is no exception! Head to el mercado to take in the colors, sample some inexpensive local food, buy fresh fruit, handicrafts, or just to people watch. The indigenous people tending the booths are generally helpful and friendly. Not many tourists flock here.
Casa de los Venados
A private home featuring the largest collection of Mexican folk art. Seriously, there are over 3,000 pieces! Walk through the colorful renovated mansion (a piece of art in its own regard) and learn about the local legends and origins of several of the pieces. They give tours at 10am, 11:30am, and 1pm daily. Tours are offered in both Spanish and English for a donation of 100 pesos ($5).
Museo de Ropa Etnica de Mexico
This museum may be tiny, but it’s quite the treasure, especially if you have any interest in textiles. It displays a variety of ethnic Mexican clothing to help educate travelers and to preserve the rich and varied cultures of Mexico.
The clothing is curated stylishly and the guides show a true passion and knowledge for their work. Stop by for a short visit and walk away with a deeper understanding of the beautiful cultures of Mexico.
CENOTES OF VALLADOLID
Cenote Zaci is a stunner and, unbelievably, located right in the city. It’s in a huge cave that’s partially open and partially covered. It feels like a true oasis, as large green plants take over one side of the valley, vines drape from the opening of the cave, and stalactites hang from the ceiling.
There is a walkway that goes around the entire cenote. You can enter either by taking the stone steps into the pool, be careful sometimes they are slippery from moss, or by jumping from the 8m (26 ft) platform! The bathrooms also act as changing rooms (for 5 pesos), life jackets for rent, and an on-site restaurant overlooking the natural jade pool.
Entrance: 30 pesos ($1.50)
Hours: 8am – 5:30pm
Hacienda San Lorenzo Oxman
You can find this cenote just outside of town, down a dirt road behind a red and white trimmed hacienda built in 1746. Unfortunately, there is a lot of garbage next to the road so it’s not the most scenic trip out there.
This is a deep open cenote with a rope swing that’s lots of fun to swing on! We love this place and feel like it’s one of our favorite cenotes in the area! Arrive early and you’ll have it mostly to yourself.
Entrance: They have a three-tier pricing structure to choose from. Just to visit the cenote costs 70 pesos ($2.50). 100 pesos ($5) includes access to the cenote and their swimming pool (with 50 pesos being credited to use at their restaurant). The last option also offers the cenote and pool and costs 150 pesos ($7.50) but you’ll get all of that back to use towards the restaurant.
Hours: 10am – 5pm
Perhaps the most famous cenote on Instagram, you’ve surely seen this one before. We only recommend this one if you want a shot for ‘the gram’, otherwise, it’s probably not worth visiting.
Sure it’s beautiful, but most of your time will be spent waiting in line to take pictures. It’s crazy to see how Instagram changes places. It’s not a good place to swim either as you’ll just make everyone angry. Who wants a random swimming tourist in their Instagram shot?
Entrance: 120 pesos ($6)
Hours: 9am – 5pm
We didn’t get the chance to visit this one but hope to on our next trip. People rave about their experiences here, so we thought we’d mention it. For a completely different cenote experience with detailed explanations of local legends, history, and culture consider visiting Zazil Tunich.
Located about 30 minutes out of Valladolid this family-owned lugar magico offers guided educational tours that discuss the Maya belief system and offer insightful information on the Yucatán region.
Entrance: This place offers a lot of prices and options including tours, dinners inside the cenote, etc. They also require reservations! Therefore the best thing to do is to visit their website.
Hours: Tours run daily at 3pm, 6pm, 8pm.
Coqui Coqui Perfumeria Spa Hotel
Coqui Coqui might just be the most enchanting place I’ve ever been to. It may call itself a perfumeria, but it’s so much more. To begin, it sits in a 16th-century building on Calzada de los Frailes. The decorative tiles, black trim, and high ceilings are enough to draw you in, not to mention the soothing aroma permeating the air. The backyard feels more like a secret garden, complete with a crystal clear cenote fed pool and every shade of tropical green you could imagine.
The region has a long history in perfume making, as described from their website: “During the colonization of the New World, the Franciscan friars were commissioned by the queen of Spain to collect flowers, woods and exotic herbs with the help of the Mayans. The repertoire varied little by little, and eventually, they created a botanical catalog with the most unique Yucatan-born formulas for cologne, emulsions, and scents, which were used to perfume the entire Spanish Empire for almost 300 years.”
Whether you’re getting a spa treatment, trying on some exquisite perfume, or just in the mood to be transported, this sanctuary should absolutely be on your itinerary.
Relax your muscles and let your stress melt away with this truly unique spa experience. A stone staircase leads to a heated underground saltwater pool located in a natural cave! Not only that, but the walls are lined with ‘chucum’ resin, a tree originating in the Yucatan known for its medicinal properties.
The combination of aquamarine water, white walls, and natural light create a calming effect that will make you want to stay forever. Zentik also offers accommodation, and if it’s anything like their spa, it’s probably a dream.
DAY TRIP IDEAS FROM VALLADOLID
- Visit one of the seven wonders of the world at Chichen Itza
- Explore the ancient ruins of Ek Balam
- Stroll through the yellow city of Izamal
- Search for flamingos in Rio Lagartos
WHERE TO STAY
Budget: Hostal Candelaria
Hostal Candelaria offers both dorm beds, as well as private rooms. The vegetation gives it a beautiful, relaxing ambiance and is a great place to meet people. The staff is super helpful and their breakfast is delicious.
Mid-range: Casa Valladolid Boutique Hotel
Casa Valladolid Boutique Hotel has a great aesthetic with its minimalist design, turquoise pool, and surrounding greenery. It’s located just 3 blocks from the main plaza and is even closer to another quaint courtyard with cute cafes.
Luxury: Hotel Posada San Juan
Hotel Posada San Juan offers a tranquil, cozy oasis after a day of exploration. The hotel occupies a 19th-century building and is tastefully decorated in true Mexican style, with wooden furniture, colorful textiles, and beautiful floor tile. There are several common spaces for lounging, including a garden and pool. Enjoy breakfast on your terrace and an evening drink from the bar.
WHERE TO EAT & DRINK
Borderline expensive for Mexico this healthy restaurant offers up a load of vegan and vegetarian options. Located directly across from the Convent of San Bernardino of Siena. Keep in mind that there is no air conditioning here, so it can be toasty if you’re eating lunch in the summer. But it’s still worth the sweat!
Ix Cat Ik
This restaurant is doing its best to keep the traditions of Maya culture and heritage alive. Inside this beautifully decorated treasure, the entire staff is of Maya origin and they grow their herbs and vegetables. Sure it’s geared toward tourists, but somehow it still maintains its authenticity.
There’s a warm and friendly man named Jose there that will give you a small informational tour through their garden. The food is memorable and the staff is always attentive and personable, do yourself a favor and just go there! We’re still dreaming about their handmade tortillas and amazing Maya chocolate.
Taqueria El Gallo
This hole in the wall local taqueria is an excellent place to sample cochinita pibil a traditional slow-roasted pork dish marinated in citrus and chili paste from the Yucatán Peninsula. You can get it three ways as either tacos, tortas, or polcanes (resembling a thick corn pocket). Try a few of them, we had two tacos and two polcanes. Nice for a quick cheap snack on the go!
El Atrio del Mayab
You can find this unassuming charmer next door to the San Servicio church. The backyard is relaxing and cozy and the decorative lights make it especially romantic at night. Grab a bite to eat under the stars, and try their selection of one of a kind margaritas. Finish your meal off with their decadent chocolate mousse!
La Casona de Valladolid
Set inside a gorgeous hacienda-like location with a big shaded courtyard, this is the place to come for lunch if you’re wanting to try a wide variety of Yucatecan dishes all in one place. Sure it’s a tourist restaurant, you might share the space with some groups coming back from Chichén Itzá, but they run a buffet every day for 230 pesos ($11.50). Just be sure to arrive well before 5pm when the buffet closes.
Cafeina & Mezcaleria Don Trejo
This bar and grill is the place to come if you’re craving something other than Mexican food. On one side they serve up tasty hamburgers and pizza on wooden cutting boards. We highly recommend the spinach dip and the brie and chipotle chicken pizza. On the other side is a bar, that has a dance floor where they play salsa music on the weekends!
Ready to visit Valladolid? If you’re still debating whether you should go to Valladolid, we’ll end this by saying that it’s one of our favorite places to experience authentic Maya and Mexican culture. In 2019 we spent six months traveling Mexico and I went to Valladolid three separate times. If you don’t stop by this colorful town on your visit to the Yucatán, you’re surely missing out!
Have you ever visited a pueblo mágico in Mexico?