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.
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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, and 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.
HOW TO GET TO VALLADOLID
Renting a car is probably the best way to get to Valladolid. While Valladolid is easily walkable, having a car allows you the freedom and flexibility to easily visit all the sites outside the city.
Check Rental Car Rates in Cancun – Book a Car for Your Trip
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. If you take the bus to get there a great way to get around after you arrive is to rent a vintage scooter!
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.
More Yucatan? 10 Things to Do in Bacalar + How to Visit Responsibly
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 a 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 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.
BEST CENOTES IN 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, being 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), there are 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 wild 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.
Exploring the Yucatan? Check Out: Best Cenotes Near Cancun, Ruta de los Cenotes
WHERE TO RELAX
Coqui Coqui La Perfumeria Valladolid
Coqui Coqui might just be the most enchanting place I’ve ever been to. It may call itself a perfumery, 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.
Whether you’re lucky enough to stay in the only one suite, or you’re just stopping by to get a spa treatment and try on their exquisite perfume, 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 and known for its medicinal properties.
The combination of aquamarine water, white walls, and natural light creates a calming effect that will make you want to stay forever. Hotel Zentik also offers accommodation, and if it’s anything like their spa, it’s probably a dream.
WHERE TO STAY IN VALLADOLID
Budget: Hostel Candelaria
Hostel 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 Quetzal Hotel
Casa Quetzal 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.
Book Casa Quetzal Hotel 8.8/10
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.
Book Hotel Posada San Juan 9.5/10
The Only One Suite: Coqui Coqui La Perfumeria Valladolid
There’s only one gorgeous suite at this special unique spot so you better book it if you want it!
WHERE TO EAT & DRINK IN VALLADOLID
Yerbabuena Del Sisal
Borderline expensive for Mexico this healthy restaurant offers up a load of vegan and vegetarian options. Yerbabuena is 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. Ix Cat Ik is a beautifully decorated treasure, the entire staff is of Maya origin, and they grow their own herbs and vegetables. Sure, it’s geared toward tourists, but 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 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!
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. Yes, 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.
El Atrio del Mayab
You can find this unassuming charmer next door to the San Servicio church. The backyard at El Atrio del Mayab 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
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!
FUN DAY TRIPS FROM VALLADOLID
Ready to visit Valladolid? If you’re still debating whether you should go, 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 missing out!
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