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Mexico is much more than pristine beaches, blue water, and parties. Well, you will find all of that on the Riviera Maya or on the Pacific coast. But there is much more to discover if you step out of the beaten path.
You will only need to drive just a couple of hours inland from the Riviera Maya to discover a whole different world, the real Mexico.
And Valladolid is, in fact, the getaway to the colonial world of Yucatan, being the first interesting city to visit, before you get to Izamal, another unmissable, spot or Merida, the spectacular white city.
Here in Valladolid, you will find an outburst of colors and flavors and the warm welcome of genuine down to earth people.
You can’t help but fall in love.
When I lived in Cancun, I have never taken the time to explore it properly as I was caught up with life routine.
So this time that I came back to my beloved Mexico as a tourist, I decided to spend an entire week in Valladolid, to explore every inch of this beautiful city and its surroundings, check out hotels, museums restaurants and whatever the city has to offer.
Since it was unbelievably hot, I decided to go out and explore in the mornings and evenings and stay in my air-conditioned studio during the day, to work on my gigs and blog.
It was the perfect plan and everything went perfectly.
What you will read below is the result of my exploration during this time. I hope it’s helpful to organize your own trip to Valladolid, Mexico.
You can either use the index or just scroll down and read through the entire post.
I will take you around with me with words and pictures.
If you like it, can I ask you a huge favor?
Can you PLEASE share it on your social channels? I will mean the world to me. And you might help somebody else that is in need of the same information.
So are you ready? Let’ s go!
“It sounds so far away and different. I like different places. I like any places that isn’t here.”
Edna Ferber, Gigolo
For more travel quotes you can check this post.
THINGS TO DO IN VALLADOLID
#1 WALK AROUND THE HISTORICAL CENTRE
The city is brimming with amazing elements of the colonial architecture, colorful buildings that have been nicely refurbished and turned into boutique hotels, private homes, shops or cute little cafes.
It’s just a pleasure to walk around the historical center and look up. If you are not fond of museums, you can just sit in a cafe’ or peep into a hotel and admire the beautiful architecture.
And the tiles, o my GOSH! Remember to look down and check out the tiled floors. The majority of them are original. I can’t get enough of them.
If you don’t have much time you can just walk from the main plaza, Parque Francisco Canton Rosado and walk the Calzada de los Frailes all the way to the Ex Convento.
That’s the most emblematic street and full of interesting shops.
If you have a little more time you can walk from the park towards the neighborhood of La Candelaria, where you will enjoy checking out the local shops and restaurants.
I would try to be in the main park by sunsets and walk up to the Casa de la Cultura, above the tourist center, to watch the sunset and see the Cathedral of San Gervasio naturally litten by the last beams of the sun.
You can also rent a bike if you are concerned about the heat. It can be quite daunting and the bike makes it easier. It costs about 100 MXN per day and you will find many rental places.
#2 VISIT THE EX CONVENT
The ex Franciscan Convent plays an important role in the history of Valladolid, and it’s now a sort of museum open to the public. Commissioned by the Franciscan order in 1552 and terminated in 1560 it has been taken over by the Spaniard during the Caste War in 1847 and used as a fortress and military base.
Inside the convent, you can admire pieces of art of that time and in the garden, you will find one of the biggest cenotes in Yucatan, but close to the public.
It’s a short visit but worth it. A jump in the past.
#3 HANG OUT ON THE MAIN SQUARE
You could just sit there in one of the popular white love chairs and watch the world go by. I promise you won’t get bored. Street vendors, tourists, locals taking a stroll in their colorful dresses, local dancers performing…
Try the delicious Marquesitas, or, for the weight watchers, an esquite.
Especially in the early night, it turns into a magical atmosphere.
#4 JOIN A FREE WALKING TOUR
Every day at 7 pm there is a free walking tour around town. A knowledgable local guide will take you through the history and the most interesting spots of the city.
#5 ENJOY THE SHOW OF LIGHT AND MUSIC
Every night except Monday you can appreciate a beautiful story projected on the walls of the ex-convent, about the history of Valladolid, with beautiful lights and music. It lasts only 30 minutes at 9.00 pm in Spanish and at 9.25 in English. It’s free. Don’t miss it.
#6 RENT A BIKE AND EXPLORE THE NEARBY CENOTES
One of the things I have enjoyed the most was getting out early morning, around 7.00 am and biking in and around Valladolid and get to the nearby cenotes when nobody had reached yet. It’s a beautiful short ride and a peaceful visit. I will talk about how to get to the cenote in another post, soon.
#7 VISIT THE MUSEUMS
Valladolid despite being a relatively small town and a young tourist destination it offers a few interesting museum worth paying a visit:
Museo San Roque – for archeology lovers
Choco Story – Chocolate museum and shop
MUREM – Mexico ethnic clothing museum
CASA DE LOS VENADOS – A private home and national cultural museum with an amazing collection of Mexican folk art.
#8 TAKE A DIP IN THE CENOTE ZACI
Located right in the heart of the city, the cenote Zaci is a refreshing oasis where locals and tourists alike find relieve from the summer heat when it gets unbearable. The entrance fee is only 30 pesos, and it’s open from 9 to 5. It’s an open cenote and easy to access. The location in the heart of the city makes it an easy and quick visit in between your scheduled tours or after a day spent walking around in the heat.
#9 TAKE A BIKE TOUR
I was suggested to join one of the biking tours of this company but I didn’t, just because I don’t like to be tight to a schedule and also because they were going to a cenote that I have already visited. So I decided to skip it this time, but I have regretted it. The itinerary looks interesting and they will take you to cenotes that you would need a car to reach otherwise. They have also a night tour to the churches if you are interested.
#10 Go visit one of the 7th wonders of the world Chichen-itzà
I saw this spectacular site 15 years ago for the first time and I decided I didn’t want to go back because I didn’t want to see the money machine it has become.
However, since I was in Valladolid and, on Sunday, Mexican residents have a free entry I decided I should give it a chance.
I realized how right I was.
The place is full of vendors everywhere, besides the unbelievable number of tourists that come in flocks with no control whatsoever.
I am sorry to say that but it really takes away all the magic that the archeological site normally have.
I always love to spend a few hours walking around and imagine what life was like in those times, say a little prayer to the Mayan Gods and give thanks.
This time what I could only think of was how to respond to all those vendors trying to sell you something.
At every single corner.
One thing I was happy about was that I got there very early so that the crowd was moderate and I could walk and find some moments on my own.
At 10. 30 am I was already starting to feel overwhelmed by the people flocking in and I just rushed out.
Having said that, you should really visit Chichen Itza at least one in your lifetime.
How to get to Chichen -itza
You can find colectivos at 7 am just outside the Bus Terminal. Make sure you get a little earlier so you won’t miss it.
If you want to experience Chichen you need to get there when they open, by 8 am and beat the crowd.
It’s about 1 hour to go.
Enter is 480 MXN about 25 USD
You can hire a guide for 1000 MXN about 55 USD.
What to bring to Chichen Itza
- Mosquito repellent
- Dress light
- Gym shoes
WHERE TO STAY IN VALLADOLID
During my week in Valladolid, I took the time to visit a few hotels.
In some of them, the receptionists would warmly welcome me and show me around, others were less keen to let somebody in that was not a guest, which I took as a positive sign.
They care about the privacy of their guests.
Here below I am offering my choice of suggested hotels, but please consider that the hotel options in Valladolid don’t end here. There are so many properties for any kind of budget and style.
You can browse them all following this link.
Middle-range priced hotels
I fell in love with this hotel at first sight. The rooms are simple but very nicely decorated with the finest Mexican art and colorful details.
The internal patio is also really cute, with a small pool and lots of plants and trees.
The rates are very reasonable considering the quality of the place.
I believe that’s the best deal in town, among the hotels I have seen.
It’s also conveniently located at only two blocks from the main square.
Oh! and the guests have full access to a fully equipped kitchen to prepare their own meals if they wish.
LA MESON DEL MARQUES
This hotel is quite an icon in Valladolid.
It’s right in the plaza with the room facing an internal patio with a pool.
I have stayed there a couple of years ago and the rooms are decent and clean, although not particularly glamorous.
Still a great option if you want to stay right in the heart of the city.
Their restaurant is also quite popular in a nice courtyard, offering Mexican cuisine.
HOTEL ZENTIK PROJECT
This is another favorite of mine, but it’s located at about 1 mile from the center, which in this heat can become quite a long way.
The hotel is one of a kind though and definitely worth the distance. It’s like an oasis of peace and art. Every room is decorated with unique pieces of graffiti art form different artists, local and foreigners.
They have a natural cave that they have filled with mineral hot water for healing treatments, besides a pool, a spa and colorful art all over the places.
They have a restaurant that is open for the guests and to the public as well.
Definitely, a beautiful place to stay.
Luxury hotels in Valladolid
A very tiny and elegant property, and super private, since they made up excuses not to show me a room.
From what I am seeing though, the accommodation follows the same elegant style of the reception, while conserving the traditional colorful tiles and other decorative objects of the colonial times.
An exquisite property indeed.
It’s also located at 2 blocks from the center.
Colonte Hotel Origen
I saw it while biking passed it and I was impressed by the chic-rustic style of the entrance. So I peeped in and decided to go back the following day for breakfast.
I was happy to find a vegan option and I enjoyed my delicious meal in the peaceful garden, by a pool, surrounded by lots of plants.
After breakfast, I managed to see one room and it did impress me.
It was one of the rooms located downstairs which are bigger and with a very private outdoor patio that gives access to the shower and bathroom.
The room is minimally decorated and very elegant.
Not sure whether it is worth the high price but certainly a good option to consider.
Located in an old colonial house that was originally a tile fabric, right in the trendy Calzada de Los Frailes, this beautiful boutique hotel will make you feel like you have jumped in the past right in the colonial era. Everything about this hotel is a piece of history combined with the finest art and amenities for the comfort of the guests. The well-maintained garden and the vintage style pool are also part of the charm.
A lovely coffee shop within the premises offers vegan and vegetarian snacks and breakfast.
WHERE TO EAT IN VALLADOLID
Valladolid is also not short of restaurants either. There are so many choices for you to try the local food. The Yucatecan cuisine is one of the most popular and if you are omnivore you will not be disappointed.
The only thing is that it’s quite heavy on your stomach, so be careful with that, especially in this heat.
For us vegan minority, we might struggle but there are a couple of places that will make you happy.
Yerbabuena del Sisal
It’s located right in front of the ex-convent of San Bernardino and it’s an amazing space full of good vibes and great service. The food is delicious and it makes everybody happy, from vegan to meat eater. The veggie burger is delicious. And so is their special Yerbabuena water.
Pitagora – cafe’ del Profesor
A lovely space in and outside, with delicious freshly made desserts and cakes. The coffee’ is superb. They have a very sweet and friendly kitten which was adding value to the place.
This beautiful house is more popular for its history and the abundance in decorations than the food, and it is indeed a very peculiar place. They have a vegetarian menu as well, which quite impressed me. However, I found my veggie burrito a little too heavy, although tasty. I am sure you can ask for the vegan version. I didn’t do it because I didn’t realize it was coming with cheese inside. All good though.
La Ville Bistro
A beautiful ambiance very French in the decorations and the food, which is a sort of fusion between Yucatecan flavors and French dishes. I enjoyed it and could find a couple of vegan options too. Just remember to ask to take out the cheese and cream and you are just fine. Service is great too.
Unfortunately, I remembered about this place the night before I was leaving Valladolid. Too bad because the place was very well recommended and the pizza looked so inviting. Well, a good excuse to go back to Valladolid, right? If you go please let me know how did you like it. Needless to say, it’s a completely Italian restaurant.
El Jardin de los Frailes
I went there on another trip to Valladolid a few years ago when I was traveling with my parents. I remember I was not hungry and I was super hot so I only had an ice-cream which was delicious. My dad tried the ceviche and he loved it. The place is really pleasant in a beautiful garden in the Calzada de los Frailes. Super recommended.
I didn’t make it there but it was recommended by my landlord, from the house I rented during my stay. He mentioned it was a very special restaurant for authentic Yucatecan cuisine. So It’s probably worth a try.
Cozy space with a lush garden in the backyard with wooden tables and chairs. It’s perfect for a healthy juice, delicious Argentinian empanadas or freshly baked pastry. Super recommended. Vegetarian options but not vegan 🙁
Extra tip: Al along the Calzada de los Frailes there are many small coffee shops and restaurants that are worth checking. (see green dots on the map below)
Because I had a small kitchen I loved to cook my own meals most of the time.
This is the reason why I didn’t try many restaurants. Especially being vegan I find much easier to eat healthy dishes if I cook myself.
Besides, I was so lucky because my apartment was just two blocks from the Municipal Market, where I could find all fresh local veggies. A real luxury.
Around the plaza, just one block away you can also find small stalls on the side of the road selling some veggies as well. A big supermarket is located close to the ADO terminal (see map)
HOW TO GET TO VALLADOLID
Valladolid is super easy to reach.
There are direct roads either from Cancun, Playa del Carmen or Tulum. From Cancun you can choose between the highway (Cuota in Spanish) or the statal road (LIBRE). I would rather choose libre if you have time of course because you would pass by small towns where you will start to see the real Mexico, not to mention all the many beautiful cenotes you will bump into. It will make it worth the time.
Either from Tulum, Playa del Carmen or Cancun you will find a direct connection to Valladolid. It’s normally the bus to Merida. Buses ADO or Oriente will take you there.