Valladolid, Mexico: Best Things to Do
Make Valladolid, a city on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico your base, explore its colorful streets and discover the best things to see, and do not only in Valladolid but also in the near surroundings. Travel from the colonial city to Chichen Itza, Ek Balam, Merida, swim in cenotes or venture further to Laguna Las Coloradas.
Valladolid is one of those places where we could have spent much longer than originally planned four nights.
Not only the city is absolutely remarkable (there is a reason why it is UNESCO-listed), but there are also many things to do outside the city.
Valladolid is one of those destinations where locals live their lives not revolving only around tourism, and you can immediately feel it, especially when coming from top tourists beach towns such as Cancun or Tulum.
The atmosphere is laidback, it is not hard to find a cheap restaurant, and we can imagine ourselves falling into a pleasant routine consisting of visiting the local market every day during lunchtime, wandering the vibrant colorful streets in the afternoon and tasting different ice cream in a shop on the main square's corner.
We noticed that Valladolid was a favorite destination on every tour itinerary - the normally quiet historical center was every evening filled with tour buses, tourists quickly walked around the square, had dinner and left before the night fell.
As we can compare Valladolid with many other cities on the Yucatan Peninsula, we think it is quite a shame, because the city was one of the prettiest we've seen and it deserves more attention and a firm place in everyone's Mexico itinerary.
Because at the moment the majority of all visitors do not stay overnight in Valladolid, we still can say the place is off the main tourist trail which, at least for us, was yet another reason why we wanted to stay here.
According to our opinion, Valladolid is the classic bucket list destination.
It has a walkable historic center, and you can choose from many best things to do - cenotes, markets or Mayan ruins, that you won't have a moment to get bored.
What we like about cities such as Valladolid is that there are no specific things to do we should tick off from our list.
Yes, there is a picturesque and colorful street Calzada de Los Frailes (you better have your battery fully charged), San Bernandino Convent or unmissable Iglesia de San Servicio on Valladolid's main square, but in general, you can only take your camera in hand and wander aimlessly around.
When walking around we hope you will appreciate that the city is not flashy with plenty of luxury restaurants and coffee shops as other cities in this part of Mexico, at least it was what we enjoyed the most - overall we are not fans of places such as Playa del Carmen which we disliked a lot, so visiting Valladolid was a welcoming change.
Mercado Municipal is only a few blocks from the city center, and it is a place where you could find us often.
Unlike classic tourist markets, this one was often open only until 1 PM or 2 PM depending on demand, so it is better to come early. This market has several sections, so you can buy here fresh fruit or vegetable, but also meat in case you plan on cooking on own.
Opposite the market, we found our favorite family run eatery where a lady cooked food we liked almost the best in Mexico, ‘escabeche’.
It is not possible to travel around the Yucatan Peninsula and not hear about cenotes, famous underground holes filled with amazingly clear water where locals and foreigners alike love to swim, relax and generally cool off after all day at work or all day sightseeing.
Some of the natural pools are completely underground with no light, some are partially opened, but some of them are fully open, usually when the limestone ceiling broke through during centuries.
There are hundreds of cenotes close to Valladolid, some more popular than others, so it is only up to you if you prefer to follow the well-trodden tourist path or if you like to explore less famous, almost forgotten place offering more serene atmosphere.
The most popular cenote although not the prettiest one is cenote Zaci which is right in Valladolid, and you don't need to travel anywhere to enjoy a dip in a pool, you only need to walk a couple of blocks, approximately 10 minutes from the city center.
Admission to cenote Zaci cost Mx 30 you will get a wrist band, and it is possible to walk in and out all day.
Apart from this cenote we also visited Xkeken and Samula cenote, less than 30 minutes drive from Valladolid.
The official colectivo station is right next to ADO bus station (you need to take a colectivo with a sign Dzitnup behind the window), or you can wait on the corner of Calle 39 & 44.
We waited here, but before the car showed up we noticed a couple of travelers who seemed to go to the cenotes as well, so we joined them and took a taxi for Mx 35 per person per one way (colectivo costs the same), and did the same on the way back.
The entrance fee to both cenotes cost a total of Mx 125 it is a bit cheaper if you want to get into only one cenote.
If you want to take the most popular cenote photo of all times, you must visit cenote Suytun, but because we had seen our share of cenotes before, did not want to spend another Mx 100, and honestly, we don't care about Instagram much, we skipped this place.
If you want to swim in the biggest vaulted cenote on the Yucatan Peninsula, you can book this tour.
We are pretty sure that every traveler visiting Mexico has already heard about Chichen Itza, the world's wonder and the most famous Mayan ruin in the world.
Although we met a few travelers who decided not to visit Chichen Itza because of the steep entrance fee, we personally think it is one of those must-do attractions where you simply have to close eyes and open your wallet.
Chichen Itza is a site only an hour-long drive from Valladolid, and it was also the main reason why we decided to stay in this city because we wanted to get inside the archeological site earlier than other tourists.
Chichen Itza is so popular that even holidaymakers staying in resorts in Playa del Carmen, Cancun or Tulum decide to sacrifice one day from their all-inclusive treatment and they set off exploring this unique site.
Even though we cannot say that Chichen Itza was our favorite Mayan ruin we've visited in Mexico (but we've seen far too many), it is definitely a place you can't miss.
The site is quite big, and it took us approximately three hours to walk around the whole place.
When traveling from Valladolid, the cheapest way how to get to Chichen Itza is by public transport. For more information, check out our in-depth post on Chichen Itza.
Our Tip: You can decide to stay in Valladolid only overnight, explore the city and carry on in your journey to Cancun or Playa del Carmen.
In this case, you can take a guided tour including transport, from those resort towns.
The area around Chichen Itza is rich on outstanding Mayan ruins, and one of the equally beautiful, equally steeply-priced but less crowded is Ek Balam.
Do not expect to have the place for yourself - it happened to us only in Edzna Ruins - as Ek Balam ruins are notoriously known, but still, there are considerably fewer people than in Chichen Itza.
Many travelers say Ek Balam is similarly beautiful or even more beautiful than Chichen Itza, and we think it better should be for Mx 413.
Regular colectivos leave the small terminal in Valladolid for Ek Balam every day you can also take a tour, but organized tours usually travel to Ek Balam from resort towns.
Our Tip: At the moment it is not possible to rent a car in Valladolid, so in case you want to spend a couple of day in this colonial city and do one-day trips on own, rent a car for example in Merida, Cancun, Tulum or Playa del Carmen.
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ONE DAY TRIP TO MERIDA
If you do not plan on venturing further and explore other places on the Yucatan Peninsula except for beach towns on the Carribean Coast, you can take advantage that less than two hours by bus from Valladolid is another pastel-colored city, famous among expats, Merida.
The architecture in Merida is quite similar to Valladolid, but you can see here that Merida is the capital of Yucatan because buildings and streets are wider and show the grandeur of the place.
You can easily spend in Merida half day with a camera in your hand as the colonial buildings are insanely photogenic, later visit a museum and eat in one of the city's best restaurants.
LAGUNA LAS COLORADAS
We must mention here one more one-day trip doable from Valladolid, a trip to Laguna Las Coloradas alias Pink Lake where you can spot plenty of flamingos, although we know that the majority of people prefer to visit it on a tour from Cancun as it is more comfortable.
If you do not have own car, to get to the lake you need to take a morning bus from Valladolid to Tizimin and here switch to another bus going to Rio Lagartos, from where the lake is nearby.
HOW LONG TO STAY IN VALLADOLID
Valladolid and its surroundings offer so many things to see and do, that you can easily spend here three or four days and you will still have the must-have activities on your list.
Make Valladolid your base for exploring this part of Yucatan Peninsula as it is a pleasant and postcard-like city with amazingly colorful colonial streets, where you will have chance to enjoy tranquil and relaxing afternoons after one-day trips outside the city.
WHERE TO STAY IN VALLADOLID
Although many travelers visit Valladolid only as a part of a tour on the way from Chichen Itza, we believe it is worth to stay in the city to enjoy the beautiful colonial streets after the tour groups leave.
There are quite a lot of accommodation options you can check three best picks for every budget here.
Budget | Hostal Guacamayas - A small hostel with a cool place to hang out, well-equipped kitchen, close to the city center, and no bunk beds, that all for a cheap rate!
Mid-range | Casa Valladolid Boutique Hotel - Great value for money. The centrally-located hotel offers spacious rooms, garden, small pool, and tasty breakfast.
Luxury | Hotel Zentik Project & Saline Cave - Beautifully appointed rooms and peaceful atmosphere are the main reasons why to stay here. Guests can enjoy two pools in the property, and one of them is inside the cave with hot and salty water.
Alternatively, search for your accommodation via Hostelworld.
WHAT TO PACK FOR VISITING VALLADOLID
Yucatan Peninsula has two seasons. It is hot and humid between November and May, while temperatures are still high between May and October, but it also rains more. There are many things you can do when in Valladolid. You can go swimming in cenotes, visit ruins or leisurely stroll around the city.
Here are five essentials you should have in your backpack when visiting this colorful city.
Sunscreen | Do not forget a quality sunscreen. We used 50+ SPF all the time in Mexico, and it worked well.
Rain Poncho | We always have a light and foldable rain ponchos in backpack just in case an unexpected rain comes.
Water Bottle | You can drink straight from the tap and not buy any plastic bottles anymore as this water bottle purifies water immediately and kills bacteries.
HOW TO GET TO VALLADOLID
Valladolid has a strategical position between Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum, and Merida, so when traveling by bus, it is very likely you will spend some time in the city even though you do not have intentions to get off here.
When you need to get to Valladolid, buy a ticket in any ADO bus terminal as both first and second class buses travel to the city frequently.
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