Most tourists only use Valladolid as a convenient jumping point for excursions to the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza and Ek Balam. That is a mistake: Valladolid is a pleasant colonial town in its own right, with some good food and great cenotes nearby.
If you want to avoid the tourist crowds of Cancun and Playa de Carmen and get a more Mexican experience, this is an excellent choice. It is located in the heart of the Yucatan province.
Sweet Valladolid. It doesn’t have the seaside location or city walls of Campeche, but otherwise the colonial centre is everything you might hope for. A great zocalo (central square), some neat churches, great food. Apart from the Mayan ruins nearby, there are several cenotes inside and outside of town worth visiting.
Food and drinks
Valladolid will be good to you. It caters for all kinds of budgets, and there is plenty to indulge in. Obviously, around the Parque Principal are several good eateries (Hosteria del Marques, Las Campanas). There is even a covered market with street food at cut-rate prices in the northeastern corner.
But surprisingly enough the best culinary street is the Calle de los Frailes. It starts with Paparazzi, a pizzeria and Italian restaurant which belonged to the best I experienced during the entire journey. Along the way are some galleries, the best coffeeshop in town and a luxury hotel. At the end of the street is the magnificent Convento de San Bernardino. There are several options in this corner of town as well, Los Frappes for more basic Mexican fare (enchiladas etc) in copious amounts, or Yerbal Buena for vegan stuff.
Last but not least: on Netflix was an episode about a woman in an indigenous village in the Yucatan region who prepared Cochinita Pibil, which is slowly roasted pork in a pit covered by soil. Look around in Valladolid and you can find the same dish at some restaurants.
Activities / things to do
- Mayan ruins:
- Chichen Itza: there are direct buses going to Chichen Itza from the bus terminal, it is a 45-60 minute drive to the most famous Mexican tourist site
- Ek Balam: these ruins are a bit more off-the-beaten track and much quieter than the big brother. Take a collectivo (shared minivan) from the corner of Calle 44 and Calle 35. Alternatively, rent a scooter at Scooter Valladolid, fifty metres east of the central square on Calle 41. That also opens up the possibility to visit some remote cenotes. Also see this explanation how to get to Ek Balam
- Tulum: you can travel onwards to stay a couple of nights in Tulum itself as well, with its dreamy beaches. But be aware it is a very touristy place, crowded with (wanna-be) hipsters. You can also take a daytrip with ADO buses, leaving you just enough time to visit the old seaside ruins and have a quick look at the beaches before taking the last bus back
- cenotes: there are hundreds of these remarkable swimming holes, typical for this area of Mexico. You can basically swim underground whilst the daylight peeps through holes in the rocks. There is one inside Valladolid (Cenote Zaci). There are several around Ek Balam (ask the scooter rental for directions). And then there is Hacienda San Lorenzo de Oxman, a one hour walk or a short cab ride outside of the village. You pay 150 pesos entrance, or 250 pesos which includes 200 for eating and drinking. This is a fantastic cenote, and has an adjacent normal swimming pool as well
- Casa de los Venados (official site): close to the central square, this is a remarkable location. An American couple fell in love with this place and renovated this old mansion, and expanded it with some modern living quarters and a swimming pool for themselves. The entire complex is full of hundreds, if not more, items of quirky Mexican folk art. There are daily guided tours, check their website for details
Getting to Valladolid and getting around
- it has a convenient bus terminal in the center. Almost all long-distance buses (from/to Campeche, Merida, Tulum and Cancun) stop here, ADO is the biggest company
- within town everything is within walking distance. Valladolid doesn’t count much more than a couple of thousand souls
- Weather: it’s Yucatan. And it’s inland, so no sea breeze. This place can therefore get uncomfortably hot during the day, and it is still humid
- Safety: as safe as it gets. Valladolid is relaxed and small