Valladolid – pronounced “bajadolite” – is the perfect starting point for exploring the heart of Yucatan. This colonial city retains its authentic charm with a charming central park and colorful streets. The area is bursting with beauty, including numerous Mayan temples and cenotes. In our opinion, a stop in Valladolid is highly recommended during your travel through Mexico.
How to get to Valladolid?
From Tulum to Valladolid
By bus: just under 2 hours travel time
From Isla Holbox to Valladolid
By bus: 15 minutes on the ferry and from Chiquila it is another 2.5 hours by bus
From Bacalar to Valladolid
By bus: 4.5 hours travel time
From Merida to Valladolid
By bus: 2.15 hours travel time
What to do in Valladolid?
Based on what you’d like to do in and around Valladolid, we suggest spending 2 to 3 full days there.
Tip: Should you not have a rental car, it may be helpful to rent a scooter as many of the sights are far apart. A reliable company to rent a scooter is Spanglish Valladolid.
Wander through the colonial center of Valladolid
Valladolid was founded in 1545 on the remains of the former Mayan city of Zaci-Val, Valladolid was once the third most significant city in Yucatan, with a population of around 15,000 in 1840. However, in the following years, the Caste War erupted, and the region saw many brutal battles between the Mexican army of Republic of Yucatan and Mayan forces. The Maya sought independence for themselves and the area surrounding Valladolid, resulting in the destruction of many of the city’s crucial structures. Despite this, the colonial heritage of Valladolid is still evident in the architectural style of the city center. Among the most picturesque and vibrant streets in Valladolid is Calzada de los Frailes.
Visit the most famous temple Chichén Itzá
Chichén Itzá, one of the seven wonders of the world. It is undoubtedly Mexico’s most renowned Mayan temple, drawing over 1.2 million visitors annually. To avoid the crowds and fully appreciate the well-restored structure, it’s recommended that you arrive as early as possible and be among the first to enter the UNESCO World Heritage Site. This way, you can have a more immersive and fulfilling experience without feeling like you’re in Disneyland due to the sheer number of visitors that visit this famous site.
Ek Balam: the less crowded alternative
Chichén Itzá is incredibly crowded.For those who prefer to avoid large crowds, the Mayan temple Ek Balam offers a wonderful alternative to the bustling Chichén Itzá. While smaller in size, this temple is nestled deep in the jungle and offers the opportunity to climb it (at least for now). Additionally, you’ll find the scenic X’Canche Cenote, which is currently not as crowded as many other cenotes in the area. This serene and beautiful spot is definitely worth a visit for those seeking a more peaceful and authentic Mayan experience.
Eating ice cream at the Parque Francisco Cantón
Valladolid’s most charming and inviting location is the central park, Parque Francisco Cantón. Across from the park stands the awe-inspiring Iglesia de San Servacio church. The park also features several stalls selling a variety of delicious treats. For those with a sweet tooth, Wabi Gelato, the best ice cream parlor in Valladolid, can be found just around the corner.
Swim in Mexico’s most beautiful cenotes
There are dozens of cenotes in and around Valladolid, making it the perfect destination to cool off from the heat. These natural wonders are so magnificent that it’s hard to believe they are not man-made. Some of them feature tree and plant roots that stretch down into the vibrant blue waters, while others have striking rays of light that filter through smaller holes above. With so many to choose from, it can be challenging to pick the best ones to visit. Therefore, we recommend visiting the following four cenotes as early as possible to enjoy them in peace. As the day goes on, they can become quite crowded. These cenotes are all worth a visit:
Cenote Ik Kil
Near Chitzen Itzá, just a few kilometers away, is Cenote Ik Kil. This is one of the most famous cenotes in all of Mexico. Almost all tours typically visit Chichen Itzá first before stopping at Ik Kil, mornings tend to be less crowded as visitors are still exploring the temple.
As you make your way down, you’ll be greeted by a 45-meter wall covered in various types of lush plants and vines hanging from everywhere, creating a truly enchanting atmosphere. The area surrounding Cenote Ik Kil is beautifully landscaped and teeming with amazing birdlife, making it the perfect spot for bird watching, so be sure to keep an eye out.
Samula is a magnificent underground cenote that has a striking natural wonder: at the top of the cave, there is a hole that allows a beam of sunlight to shine through, creating a breathtaking and otherworldly ambiance. To fully appreciate this natural wonder, it’s best to visit on a sunny day. Additionally, the entrance ticket to Samula also includes access to Cenote X’kekén, which features an array of large and impressive stalactites, adding to the overall experience.
Less well known but certainly no less beautiful is Cenote Oxman. This cenote is somewhat similar to Cenote Ik Kil only that Cenote Oxman is a little smaller and you don’t have to share it with as many people. Through the hole at the top, many roots of trees have found their way into the water. Sling yourself into the water with the rope and enjoy all the beauty of Cenote Oxman. Please note to take only the exit where the sign says Cenote Oxman.
Cenote Suytun has gained immense popularity on social media, especially Instagram. With a picturesque plateau situated in the middle of the cenote, capturing beautiful photos is relatively easy. Moreover, if you time your visit just right, you can enjoy the incredible sight of a beam of light shining in. However, it’s essential to note that the cenote can get very crowded, and at times you may have to wait in line to take a picture on the platform. If you prefer to avoid the crowds, it’s best to visit Suytun right after opening time, but you may miss out on the beautiful beam of light.
Visit the church of Uayma
Uayma is a village located just a 20-minute drive from Valladolid, with a population of around 2,300 residents. It is home to Santo Domingo de Guzman, what many consider to be one of the most most beautiful churches in the entire region. Built by the Spaniards with the intention of spreading their faith and culture, the church is a remarkable structure made of stones from various temples in the region, including the famous Chichén Itzá temple complex. During the Caste War, between 1847 and 1901, the church was once again almost entirely destroyed by the Maya. Despite this, the church has since been beautifully restored and is well worth a visit, owing to its rich history and striking red color.
Update: Unfortunately, the facade of this church is currently completely under scaffolding which of course makes it a lot less impressive. If you visit the church and the construction is over, please let us know via Instagram and we will update this post. Thanks!
Best restaurants in Valladolid
Yerbabuena del Sisal: This is where you start the day right with a healthy breakfast. This is also the right place for a delicious lunch. They prepare the dishes with lots of vegetables and you’re cozy in a nice courtyard garden.
Burrito Amor: As the name suggests, this is where you eat the most delicious burritos. The guacamole and banana bread are also recommended.
Le Kaat: This is a vegetarian restaurant where you can have breakfast, lunch and dinner. They serve super tasty dishes and you get your dose of vitamin either way.
Tresvanbien: If you’re looking for something tasty for the road, this is the place to stop in for fresh empanadas.
Ixcatik: This is the place to be for a traditional experience. The prices in this restaurant are a little higher than other restaurants in Valladolid but then eating here is quite an experience. In fact, the dishes are prepared the traditional Mayan way and you even get a tour so you can see how it is prepared.
Wabi Gelato: We close with a tip for the best ice cream in Valladolid. Get those at Wabi Gelato, just around the corner from the central square.
Our favorite places to stay in Valladolid
In Valladolid you will find many fine hotels in old colonial buildings with cozy courtyards and roof terraces. It can get pretty hot in Valladolid at times, but fortunately most hotels have a small pool to cool off in during the hot afternoons.
If you are looking for a low-budget stay, Hostel Candelaria is the best option in Valladolid. For a super good price, you stay in a double room or in a dormitory and that includes a nice breakfast. There is a cozy garden and it is only 2 blocks from the central square. A nice mid-range hotel in Valladolid is Casa Bamboo. This hotel exudes a wonderful atmosphere. There is a small but nice pool and the rooms have good air conditioning and a nice bed. Want to treat yourself to one of the best hotels in Valladolid? Then you need to be at Le Muuch. At this hotel you will experience a serene tranquility despite being right in the center of Valladolid. Great attention has been paid to interior design, there is an indoor and outdoor pool and nice seating areas everywhere. Not to mention the breakfasts. In fact, they prepare the most delectable breakfasts here.