If you’re looking to escape the tourist hubs of Cancun or Tulum to experience a slice of ‘real’ Mexico, Valladolid is might be the needle in the haystack you’ve been searching for. It’s the perfect place to base yourself for a few days, to explore the vibrant town, the ruins of Chichen Itza and the several beautiful cenotes nearby. This picturesque town is a photographer’s dream, from the colourful colonial architecture all the way to the humble street food. It’s almost as though time stopped still in Valladolid. Vendors in the main plaza still sell ice cream from old wooden carts and on Sunday afternoons locals come out to dance, dressed in their traditional Sunday best. Discover Valladolid with our ultimate travel guide and giving this town some time, it might just give you the ultimate Yucatan experience.
GETTING TO VALLADOLID MEXICO
Valladolid lies about 150km from Cancun, 100km from Tulum and 160km from Merida in the eastern part of Yucatan state. In general, it’s really easy to get to both by car or public transport.
Bus – many bus companies have connections to Valladolid and you can pretty much get there from anywhere in Yucatan or Quintana Roo. ADO, Mayab and Oriente all operate services there. You arrive at the Valladolid bus station which is nice and central, from there it’s walkable to most accommodation options.
Car– If you’re renting a car for your trip around the area, getting to Valladolid is very easy and takes between 1-3 hours depending on where you’re coming from.
WHERE TO STAY
I used Airbnb when staying in Valladolid as I felt it had the best options. If you’ve never tried Airbnb, I can’t recommend it enough. To get you on your way here’s $40 off your first booking.
Splurge: Hotel Zentik Project – For one of the most unique experiences in Valladolid head to Zentik. Located towards the outskirts of the town, the adults-only hotel has two swimming pools, one of which is saline and located in an underground cave, a spa, top-notch restaurant, a hammock area and private cabins located amongst lush jungle foliage. Need more convincing? Didn’t think so.
Mid-range: Casa Quetzal- If you’re looking for somewhere colonial but cosy at the same time, this might be the place you’re looking for. This spacious, quiet oasis boasts a pool, gorgeous colonial architecture, traditional Mexican touches in the decor and such a friendly service, you’ll never want to leave.
Budget: Hotel Fundadores – For a touch of colonial charm this hotel is worth way more than it’s price tag. The main building frames a patio with a gorgeous swimming pool, perfect for relaxing after a long day of exploring. Rooms are clean and spacious. Brilliant location in the city centre.
Planning on visiting Chichen Itza? Discover how to do it on a budget and without the crowds here.
WHERE TO EAT
Valladolid has many authentic eating establishments and street food but it somewhat lacks in the healthy and plant-based options. If you are seeking healthy, plant-based meals, I’d highly recommend booking at Airbnb with a kitchen so you can prepare your own meals at least some of the time.
Cafe Del Professor Pitagoras – The only fully vegetarian restaurant in town, I have to admit I came here a lot. This cute cafe specialises in a wide range of cafe-style dishes such as sandwiches, salads, pasta dishes, quiche, falafel and my favourite the Mexican bowl, which comes with tortillas so you can make your own tacos. It’s such a cosy place and the food was homely and delicious. They have loads of vegan desserts too, kombucha and many breakfast options too. It also has good Wifi and is work space friendly.
Wabi Gelato – A fantastic place for when that gelato or sweet craving strikes, these guys have many vegan flavours to choose from. The only problem you’ll have is trying to choose which one.
El Atrio del Mayab – A great quality, more upscale Mayan fusion restaurant with a couple of pages worth of veggie options, most of which can be made vegan. The tacos and tostadas are heavenly. A great option to finish off a perfect day in Valladolid.
THINGS TO DO IN VALLADOLID
Valladolid is definitely not about the quality or quantity of its tourist sights even though there are a few. This is a town to simply stroll around in, admire the gorgeous colonial architecture, people watch and sample some authentic Yucatan cuisine. Once that gets too sweaty, visit Cenote Zaci, a cool water sinkhole located right in the middle of town to cool off.
Visit the Cathedral and Main Square
The main square of Valladolid is charming. It’s a simple green space where food and handicraft vendors and locals gather in the evenings to socialise and eat ice cream. It’s framed on all four sides by large, colourful colonial buildings that reek history and elegance. Here you’ll also find the main cathedral of Valladolid which is the iconic structure of the town. Look closely at the ancient stonework that looks like it hasn’t changed at all in the last few hundred years.
Eat some Mexican food
If you’re after some authentic Mexican and moreover Yucatan food, Valladolid won’t disappoint. Grab a snack of corn on the cob with or without mayo in the central plaza, or sample the local tacos or tortas from one of the many street food stalls. If you aren’t vegetarian, Valladolid’s speciality is the local chorizo which can be bought at the local market or tried in any local restaurant. Food in Valladolid is authentic, vibrant, tasty but also heavy and not too healthy or plant-based friendly. For my personal favourites check the listings above.
Visit La Casona de Valladolid
La Casona is located in a beautiful colonial building and is worth a stop just to admire the architecture and vibrant paintwork. The house is actually a cultural centre and restaurant all in one, where you can sample some authentic Yucatan food in a spectacular daily buffet. The main attraction here is at the back of the centre – a 7-metre high altar decorated in thousands of colourful ceramics. Even if you aren’t religious, you have to admire the craftsmanship and artistry here- It’s a truly astounding work of art.
Talk a walk on Calle de Los Fraises
Calle de Los Fraises is without a doubt the prettiest street in Valladolid and this would be the ultimate Valladolid travel guide without its mention. Filled with hundreds-of-years old colourful, colonial houses, cobbled streets, and the prettiest street corners adorned by potted plants, you’ll find the colonial buildings have now been transformed into boutiques, trendy cafes, restaurants, and hotels. There’s not much to do here but stroll down the mostly pedestrian street, admire the architecture and history and savour that truly magical Mexican atmosphere. Stopping in to refuel at one of the cafes or restaurants would also be a good idea.
Visit the convent
At the end of Calle de Los Fraises, you’ll find the striking San Bernardino de Siena convent, another of Valladolid’s quaint landmarks. The convent and the church are both well looked after and full of history, culture and fine architecture. It’s worth the small fee to enter the oldest parts of the convent to learn more about the history of the area and the people who lived here. At 9 pm every night, don’t miss the light show that happens in the vast gardens in front of the structure. The history of Valladolid is projected onto the building in a variety of colourful images, videos and stories. Arrive at 9 pm for the Spanish version, followed by the English version at 9.20 pm.
For a cenote experience without having to leave the centre of Valladolid, head to Cenote Zaci. This huge, open cenote, filled with tourists and locals alike, is the perfect place to go for a cool, refreshing dip after a long day of exploring. It’s especially beautiful when they turn on the running water and a stream drops down into the water from the opening of the cave, like a waterfall. As this is a popular spot, the best time to visit is when it opens at 9 am or, just before it closes at 5 pm.
Planning a trip to Valladolid and have any questions about this travel guide? Leave your comments and questions below and I’ll get back to you.
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