For most tourists, a sunny holiday on the Mexican Yucatan Peninsula means flying into Cancun. When I think of Cancun, I think of spring break! Sure, there’s probably more to do, but we decided to skip it now. We took the ADO bus from Cancun airport to the city center and spent a night in a B&B near the ADO Cancun Terminal. This way, we could head directly to Valladolid by bus the next morning. We spent three days in Valladolid, and I only have positive memories. In this blog post, I’ll explain why visiting Valladolid is the perfect start for a trip through Yucatan, Mexico.

1. Everything is walkable

Valladolid feels like a large village or a small town. Everything is within walking distance. There’s no need for a taxi or local bus to get around the city. Plenty of sidewalks and crosswalks are available, and aside from a few busy main roads (Calle 40 or 42 – streets in Valladolid are numbered), the traffic is quite alright. In the evening it gets a bit more busy but nothing too crazy. I saw a hop-on-hop-off bus (Turibus) making rounds, but unless you have mobility issues, I would say skip it. Tip: join the Free Walking Tour, every day at 10 am, 5 pm, and 7 pm. The meeting point is Mestiza Fountain and the guides hold a red umbrella.

2. It’s colorful

Simply walking around has another advantage: seeing more of the colorful buildings. Our hotel was in the Candelaria neighborhood, which is nice to stroll through. Explore Calle 44, check out the terracotta pink Iglesia de la Candelaria, and grab a bite at the charming Burito Amor. Another colorful spot in Valladolid is La Calzada de Los Frailes. This street is closed to traffic at the end of the day, turning it into a pedestrian pathway towards the San Bernardino de Siena convent. Have a coffee at Alna y Lumo, dine at La Kaat, or enjoy a mezcalita (a strong alcoholic drink made from agave) at Mezcaleria Don Trejo.

3. There are tons of cenotes to cool off in

A word you’ll hear a lot in Yucatan is cenote. These are underwater caves with super clear water. Estimates on the number of cenotes vary, but let’s just say Yucatan has thousands. They roughly come in three forms: underground, semi-open, and open. Some cenotes are now Instagram-famous with resulting queues, while others are still relatively undiscovered. How did Yucatan get all these cenotes? Millions of years ago, a meteorite impact on the peninsula caused holes in the earth’s surface that gradually filled with water. Not only are they fun to swim in, but for the Maya, cenotes were also sacred places. They formed the connection between the earth and the underworld.

Some of the cenotes nearby Valladolid you can visit (prices 2024):
Zaci – located in the center of Valladolid, so you can walk there. Entrance is 50 MXN.
Suytun – mega photogenic, mega busy. Accessible by colectivo. Entrance is 200 MXN.
Ik Kil – ideal combination with Chichen Itza and accessible by colectivo. Entrance is 200 MXN.
X’Canche – good combination with Ek Balam and accessible by colectivo. Entrance is 170 MXN.
San Lorenzo Oxman – best reached by taxi. Entrance: 150 MXN, or 250 MXN with lunch in the restaurant.
Samula and Xkeken – two cenotes next to each other. Entrance: 125 MXN for both.

Whichever cenotes you choose, avoid weekends and plan your visit in the morning to somewhat dodge the crowds. Also, you’re not allowed to apply sunscreen or mosquito repellent, and wearing a life vest is obligatory at most cenotes.

5. Combine a city trip with a world wonder: Chichén Itzá

Valladolid is also a perfect base to see Mexico’s most famous attraction: Chichén Itzá. The ancient sacred Maya city where hundreds of buildings stood between 750 and 1200 AD. It flourished as a trading hub for the region. The Maya were far ahead of their time and knew a lot about astronomy, mathematics, and architecture. Today the city’s centerpiece is the Pyramid of Kukulcan, named after a god known in English as the Feathered Serpent. Climbing the pyramid has been prohibited for a long time, so the only ones you’ll see on the steps are iguanas. Look closely, as they blend in with the gray stones.

The site also has other ruins, but starting with the pyramid overshadowed them for me. A few things to note: the entrance fee for Chichén Itzá is now quite steep (614 MXN, 2024) and there are many souvenir stalls along the paths, some of which sell quite loud items (like the annoying jaguar whistle).

How to get to Chichén Itzá?

The quickest and cheapest option is taking a colectivo from Valladolid. Search Google Maps for the station: Transporte Colectivo (Chichen Itza y Piste). The idea of a colectivo is that all seats need to be sold before it departs. For the ticket, you have two options: 80 MXN round trip to Chichén Itzá or 80 MXN + 20 MXN to Chichén Itzá and Cenote Ik-Kil. Ideally, you want to be in a colectivo as early as possible (between 7:00 and 8:00 AM) so you can be at Chichén Itzá before 9:00 AM.

From Valladolid, you can also visit another Maya temple, Ek Balam. Take a colectivo on Calle 37, travel time is 40 minutes, and the price is 70 MXN.

5. Valladolid has street food

When the hot sun sets, Valladolid comes to life. The workday is over, and the temperature becomes more bearable. The evening is also the time when the street food carts open up. In Valladolid, it’s all about pork, corn, or sweets. Look out for the following names:
Cochinita pibil – very popular. This is marinated pork on a small wrap (tortilla) or bun (torta). The stand El Tigrillo is a favorite among locals, often with a line in the evening.
Elote or esquites – corn on a stick or in a cup with mayonnaise, cheese, and chili powder. A unique combination!
Marquesita – a dessert in the form of a rolled crepe pancake filled with, for example, chocolate and cheese (very popular) or other options.

6. There is evening entertainment

With a marquesita in hand, you can also check out some entertainment. In Parque Principal Francisco Canton Rosado, there is traditional dancing every afternoon at 5:30 PM. This is the Jarana dance, with dancers dressed in white. The women wear white dresses with flowers, and the men wear shirts and hats. The performance is free, but tips are appreciated. Later in the evening, the light shows begin. At 9:00 PM (Spanish) or 9:30 PM (English), there is a light show on the walls of the San Bernardino de Siena Monastery. There is also a light show on the walls of the San Servacio Church, but the times are somewhat unclear. Some say it’s at 8:00 PM, others say 10:30 PM.

7. Gateway to more Pueblos Magicos

Valladolid is located in a region of charming villages called Pueblos Magicos. Izamal is one of them, the yellow city of Yucatan. Walk through the San Antonio de Padua convent, buy ice cream at Helados y Paletas Gaby, and then stroll through the streets of the sunny-colored center. Various stories surround the yellow color. Most say it was a refurbishment of the city in honor of Pope John Paul II’s visit in 1993. Buses (Oriente or Centro) to Izamal depart from Terminal del Centro, at the intersection of Calle 37 and Calle 44. Izamal is also an easy day trip from Mérida, by colectivo.

Another great day trip is Uayma. Technically not a Pueblo Magico, but no less interesting. The village is small and revolves around one church: the Santo Domingo de Guzman Church and Convent. A stunning building with white and blue patterns. From Valladolid, you can take a colectivo to Uayma. Search on Google Maps: Colectivo a Uayma. There are no signs or schedules at the taxi station itself, but you will probably see people waiting. The colectivo to Uayma is a car with space for 4 passengers. It departs once all seats are filled.

Where to eat in Valladolid?

Burito Amor is recommended for breakfast or lunch. The staff is super friendly and happy to give tips about the city. Nena Nena is also great. The food is good, and you get a game to pass the time at the table. Luna Pach is very welcoming and charming, run by lovely ladies. Pak’al is another great place with a garden in the back. The dishes are picturesque, but I only had eyes for the lizard chilling on the garden walls. CONATO is also great, especially because of the artistic interior.

Where to stay in Valladolid?

We stayed at Casa Bamboo. Large room, a pool, around the corner from Burito Amor, and a 5-minute walk from the ADO bus station. Click here to view other hotels in Valladolid.

All prices mentioned in the blog post are from 2024 and are subject to change. This blog post contains affiliate links. If you book something through these links, I earn a small commission without you paying extra for it. You can read more about it in my disclaimer.


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