Valladolid in the centre of the Mexican Yucatan peninsular is a charming provincial town combining both Mayan and Spanish colonial heritage. With its quiet cobbled streets and sun splashed colourful walls, it is well away from the mass tourism of the Yucatan coast so makes a perfect day out (or more) if you are in the region. Valladolid is one of those magical cities where there is plenty to see and do, but it still feels small, authentic and boasts lots of history. Try some of the delicious local cuisine and meet some of the friendly Vallisetanos for a visit you will never forget.
GUEST POST BY VANESSA HOFMANN
BLOG: Wanderlust Plus One
WHAT’S THE BEST TIME TO VISIT?
Whilst Valladolid is hot all year-round, it has two distinguishable seasons: one wet and one dry. The wet season usually starts in June and ends in October, making the dry season generally from November through May. The weather here in the dry season is much more desirable and pleasant for most tourists. The humidity in the summer months can make it unbearable, especially as it is inland, so it is probably best during the winter months as a destination for exploring.
WHAT’S GOOD TO KNOW ABOUT VALLADOLID?
The city has seen its fair share of turmoil and revolt in the past. When the Spanish invaded the Mayan ceremonial centre of Zaci in the 15th century, they faced heavy resistance from the local Mayans but eventually took the town. They then tore down everything and built a new thriving city following the classic colonial plan. Despite the colonialist successes, the tensions continued leading to it being the town to start the Caste Wars four centuries later when the Mayans revolted against their colonial overlords. Today once again it is a prosperous city.
ONE DAY IN VALLADOLID ITINERARY
Follow this guide and make the most of your trip even if you’re short on time. These are the top sights and things to do during your one day in Valladolid.
Breakfast at Yerbabuena Del Sisal
Start your day with a healthy breakfast of homemade Mexican food made with fresh organic ingredients at Yerbabuena Del Sisal. Listen to the sounds of exotic birds while seated in their lush green garden with a freshly squeezed juice or local smoothies. Try the local Chilaquiles Rojos to liven your taste buds for a day exploring.
Cool cloisters at Convento De Sisal and Templo De Sisal
Fueled for the day, walk across the Parque Sisal outside the restaurant and take in the architecture of the colonial Convento De Sisal. The convent was constructed in 1560 and served as a church and fortress. Enter the church to see the charming rose decorations and 16th century frescoes.
A visit to the neighbouring convent (MX$30 or US$2) is recommended to find out more about the history of Valladolid and the surrounding area, plus you get to see a glimpse of the largest cenote with its dome-vaulted building inside the walled grounds, and explore the vaulted cloister passages.
Colourful ethnic architecture on Calzada De Los Frailes
To the east of the convent, you find the Calzada de los Frailes, a traditional cobbled road leading into the town centre. Take a stroll along the street to admire the beautiful restored colonial houses. Their colorful facades with unique doors and windows make it the perfect photo opportunity. Do not miss the old Mayan style building on the left, sadly now no longer in use.
Taste the food of the Gods at Cacao Organic Collective
Located on 41 Calzada de los Frailes is a little shop, museum and café – Cacao Organic Collective. Learn all about the history of cacao, the Mayans believe that the gods discovered the fruit. You also get to indulge and try the different chocolate variations at the end of the little guided tour.
Take a rest at Parque Francisco Canton Rosado
Make your next stop at Parque Francisco Canton Rosado. Sit down on one of the benches with an ice cream while you watch the locals. Many of the women here still dress in the traditional Mayan dresses, embroidered with colorful flowers and lace, called huipiles. Some of them will probably try to sell you their handmade embroidery or hammocks.
Visit Cathedral San Gervaiso
Cross the road to Cathedral San Gervaiso. Catholic churches in the Yucatan peninsular are much less glitzy than their European counterparts, but still impressive.
Lunch at Bazar Minicipal
Feeling hungry? Bazar Municipal on the north east side of the square consists of a collection of market style eateries. Casiano on the left at the back provides you with comidas corridas, a set meal of courses. Sit down on one of the tables and mingle with the locals while enjoying a cheap but tasty Mexican lunch.
Shop with the locals at Mercado Municipal
A few blocks from the main square is the local market Mercado Municipal; come here to experience how locals shop for meat, fruit and vegetables besides some cheap clothing and home wares. You never know you might pick up something for yourself.
Cenote Zaci – Swim in another World
Now it is time to cool off in the cool water of Cenote Zaci. Cenotes are natural limestone sinkholes filled with fresh water; the Mayans considered them sacred gateways to the underworld and used them for drinking water or sacrifices to their gods. Today, they make for a refreshing, fun filled swimming hole. In Cenote Zaci you can swim with small catfish while admiring the cave with stalactites and long roots hanging from its ceiling, all for MXN30 (or US$2).
Craft shopping on Calle 39
After a cool swim wander back along Calle 39 and discover crafts stalls and interesting local shops.
Dinner at Taberna De Los Frailes
Let’s end the day in one of the best restaurants in town. You should share several dishes at Taberna de Los Frailes and do not miss their delicious ceviche. Why not treat yourself to a cocktail while you relax in their beautiful garden after a long day exploring.
If you feel like it, step outside at 9 pm to the Convento de Sisal to enjoy the magnificent sound and light show projected onto the front of the building that will allow you to relive the fantastic history and experience of Valladollid.
WHERE TO STAY IN VALLADOLID?
Hotel Zentik Project & Saline Cave
Calle 30 #192C entre la calle 27 y 29 Colonia: Fernando Novelo., 97780 Valladolid
Zentik Project is a great place to stay for a few nights in town. Laze by the pool, swim in the hot water underground cave and enjoy the art by local artists dotted throughout this peaceful hotel.
DAY TRIPS FROM VALLADOLID
Should you decide to stay more than one day in Valladolid, you will gain the opportunity to go on a day trip and visit the area outside the town. It is full of fascinating cenotes (pitholes) and ancient Mayan sites, so you will definitely see and learn something new.
As mentioned, there are many Cenotes around Valladolid, but X’keken and Samula are something special. They form a unique geological whole, but you can visit them separately or both. Tickets are very cheap (just a few US dollars), plus the location is very close to the city and can be reached on bikes. Oh, and do take a swim while in there. The water is great!
Prepare to be amazed. Chichen Itza is a location sacred to the Mayans and holds some truly incredible remains of this glorious civilization. See how these people lived, learn about the games they played and marvel at the incredible El Castillo – declared one of new seven wonders of the world. And if it gets too hot, you can always cool yourself in the nearby cenote.
Not only is Rio Lagartos a beautiful little town with exceptional beaches, but it is also home to literally hundreds of species of birds, most notably flamingos. Yes, here you can take a swim and observe these magnificent creatures, so sacrificing about two hours for this trip from Valladolid certainly seems worth it. Great food and everything else you need for a nice day trip is also there.
The Yellow City
Originally built by the Mayans to serve as a religious center, Izamal was later take over by the Spaniards who built a massive monastery there. It still stands in the centre of theis magical town, with its characteristic yellow walls being visible from afar. A perfect place for a getaway and some great pictures.
The city of Merida is the capital of Yucatan, so it’s certainly an interesting proposition for a day trip. With almost one million people, it is a mix of a modern metropolis and features from its older periods. Beautiful colonial buildings give the city its unique charm. What is particularly interesting here, though, are the people – the have retained a lot of the Mayan culture in the way they dress, speak and eat.
EXTRA TIPS FOR VISITING VALLADOLID
– To get there: Valladolid is located half way between Cancun and Merida.
Both are a two hours’ bus ride or drive away.
By car it is slightly faster via the Cota expressway.
– You can pay with US dollars in most restaurants, shops and even street vendors will happily take them off you. The local currency is MXN Mexican Pesos and I would advise to have some in your wallets, just in case. Check the rate before you travel.
– The tipping in Mexico is similar to the US, 10-15% is normal, 20% for exceptional service is expected.
– Spanish is the main language spoken. Most restaurants offer English menus and people in general are very helpful to cope with any language barriers that you might encounter.
– Valladolid is a safe town and even woman solo travelers do not need to worry about their safety any more than in European or American city. Pickpocketing is a minor risk here but you should always watch your pockets and bags anyway.
– Walking is the best way to get around Valladolid; it is a small town that can easily be covered by foot. Bicycles are another great option to explore the town. You can rent them from Rudy Tours 852-2026 or Hostel La Candeleria. Alternatively, taxis are reasonably cheap way to get around.
– Stay on for a few nights at Hotel Project Zentik, there is so much to explore in the area. Head north for the Mayan ruins of Ek Balam and climb the pyramid, be amazed by the pink lagoons of Los Coloradas and take a boat ride to see the flamingos and other wild life in Rio Lagartos.
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