Valladolid is located in the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico. The state is synonymous with Mayan ruins, cenotes and beaches. Many who travel to the Yucatán overlook Valladolid, opting to visit only Cancun and Chichen Itza. I am here to let you know that you’re doing yourself a disservice if this quaint city isn’t placed on your Mexico travel list.
There were many things I enjoyed about this city. Notably, it’s size; it is a small city with around 50,000 inhabitants. It was home to a gorgeous cenote right in the centre of the town, plus many cenotes within close driving proximity. It was incredibly walkable (and bike-able). I also happened to be visiting at a very special time, during Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) and witnessed hundreds of locals dressed up to celebrate the holiday.
What to do:
1. Wander the cobble-stone streets
My favourite thing to do in any city, big or small, is wander around and soak in the architecture, ambience and aroma. Valladolid is filled with pastel-coloured, Spanish-colonial buildings. It is a treat to walk up and down the streets, perusing the boutique shops that host locally made, unique gifts and goods.
The gorgeous street I walked through was Calz. De Los Frailes.
2. Explore Cenote Zaci
Cenote Zaci was once a massive cave, that has now partially collapsed. Multiple stalactites hanging from the roof of the cenote, and the open sky side is covered in beautiful greenery. Once in the cenote, swim to the centre, so you are halfway between the roof and the open sky, lean back and allow the serenity to wash over you.
You can easily walk to Cenote Zaci; a 7-minute walk from the main square. The water here is murky, so it is not the best cenote to snorkel in.
The entrance fee to Cenote Zaci is 30 pesos ($2 AUD) and is considerably lower than other cenote fees.
3. Sit by the Fountain
The main square in Valladolid hosts a quaint park and fountain, surrounded by a church and many restaurants. There are nice seats located around the park, allowing you to people watch, eat an ice-cream and enjoy the afternoon sun.
4.Visit The Convent Of San Bernardo
Located just outside the main square of Valladolid lies The Convent of San Bernardo. I opted not to visit due to time restraints, but you can visit for around 40 pesos. There is a small museum inside which explains the discovery of cenotes and the items left behind in them.
5. Rent a bike and explore
Bike riding is an excellent way to discover a city; especially in Valladolid as the roads are very flat, so you can leisurely bike around. Biking through the city at sunset was a highlight of my time here.
6. Visit The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Holy Assumption
The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Holy Assumption is a beautiful church in the centre of the town, located by the Fountain.
7. Eat at a local Mexican restaurant
Valladolid boasts some delicious, traditional Yucatán restaurants. I always think it’s a fun idea to ask the waiter what traditional food they recommend, and being open to trying their suggestion. (I am a vegetarian, so I didn’t eat any of the traditional meat dishes whilst in Mexico).
8. Day trip to Cenote Oxman
Cenote Oxman is a 15-minute drive from Valladolid. It is visited by tourists for its natural beauty and crystal clear water, but what makes Oxman especially special is that it is located within a traditional hacienda. The cenote is a collapsed limestone cave with sunlight rays peeking from the holes above the cave ceiling. There are also roots from the ancient trees that crawl through the walls of the cave.
To get to the cenote, you make your way through a cave entrance. There is a winding staircase that will provide a safe way to get down to the water. You can choose to jump in off a swinging rope or walk down the stairs into the cenote. I tried both, much preferring the latter experience. There is a swimming pool outside of the cenote, with a restaurant and bar, providing another spot to relax in.
At the time of writing, the cost of admission to Cenote Oxman is 80 pesos for the simple entry. However, if you are planning to buy drinks or eat at the restaurant, go for either the 100 pesos option that gives you a 50 pesos credit for the restaurant or the 150 pesos option that gives you a 150 pesos credit. When I visited, the cenote was open from 10am to 5pm.
Where to stay:
There are a handful of boutique hotels around the city. I stayed at Casa Quetzal Boutique Hotel. The hotel was in a great location, a 7-minute walk from the main square. The interior of the hotel was decorated in local designs making it a very authentic Mexican experience and included a delicious breakfast.
How to get here:
I flew to Cancun from Mexico City, rented a car from the airport and drove 2-hours to Valladolid. Another option is to fly to Mérida and drive the 2-hours.
If you feel safe travelling by bus, there are routes you can take from airports and other cities.
How to get around:
We opted to travel by car (rented from Cancun Airport), as we were going to a few different spots on the Yucatán Peninsula and this was the easiest and safest way for us to travel.
There are buses and tours that you can join to take you from place to place around the Yucatán.