Valladolid is a small historical city in Yucatan and it doesn’t get as much attention as many other popular destinations on the peninsula. Probably because Valladolid is not close to the coast like Cancun, Tulum and Playa del Carmen.
While some tourists visit Valladolid on a day trip from Cancun to Chichen Itza, we decided to stay for a few nights to experience what Valladolid has to offer and also explore some of the main attractions in Yucatan.
Valladolid is located between two cities: Cancun and Merida, and it’s two hours away from either of them. Valladolid is a charming town and it is hard to miss how colourful the buildings here are.
Valladolid is one of the best places in Mexico to experience authentic Mayan culture and try local cuisine. In this post, I share all you need to know before visiting Valladolid and the best things to do and see there.
You can also read: Best Things to Do in Cancun
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Best time to Visit Valladolid
As with the rest of the Yucatan peninsula, Valladolid has tropical weather all year round, which means that you can visit this city any time of the year. But, if you want nice weather, you should visit Valladolid between November and April to avoid the hot and wet season.
How to Get to Valladolid
The only way to get to Valladolid is by road, you can take a local bus called ADO from Cancun or any other major city in Yucatan to Valladolid. ADO is one of the largest bus companies in Mexico.
You can also rent a car and drive to Valladolid. This is what we did. There are several rental companies to choose from, you can compare the prices on rentalcars.com and read the reviews there.
Keep in mind that driving in Mexico comes with its own risks. We were robbed by the Mexican police on our way from Bacalar to Valladolid. I shared that story in a separate post that you can read later.
Best Places to Stay in Valladolid
Le Muuch Hotel Boutique is a beautiful 4-star boutique hotel in Valladolid, offering an outdoor swimming pool, free private parking and a garden. This gorgeous hotel features spacious rooms and hammocks for guests to relax.
Casa Tia Micha is a colonial-style building, located in the heart of the city, just a short walk from the San Gervasio church. This 3-star hotel has a small outdoor swimming pool.
Hotel Posada San Juan is another gorgeous hotel with an outdoor swimming pool, located in Valladolid's town centre. The rooms have wooden furniture and feature ceiling fans, a safety deposit box, and a hammock.
Best Things to Do in Valladolid
1. Stroll around the city
The city is known for its colonial architecture, with many beautiful buildings dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries. Valladolid has a rich history and it used to be a centre of Mayan Culture.
So, strolling around the city or taking a walking tour is a must-do in Valladolid. The main square, called the Parque Francisco Canton, is a popular gathering place, surrounded by beautiful colonial buildings. This is a great place for people-watching.
The most impressive building here is the Cathedral of San Servacio, which is considered one of the most important religious monuments of the Yucatan Peninsula.
2. Visit Sao Roque Museum
One of the fun and free things to do in Valladolid is to visit the Sao Roque Museum. It is not a big museum and you can visit the whole museum in less than an hour. There are some murals displaying Mayan history and a collection of shaman altars.
The museum is inside a historical building, within walking distance from the main square. It is open to the public almost every day from 9 am to 9 pm.
3. Go to Cenote Zaci
Did you know that you can visit a cenote in Valladolid? Cenote Zaci is the only cenote in Yucatan that is located inside the city centre.
Cenote Zaci is surrounded by lush vegetation and has a small cave that opens up to the sky. The cave can be accessed by swimming through a small tunnel that leads to the cave. During our visit, the cenote was closed for renovation, but usually, this cenote is a great spot for swimming, snorkelling and relaxing.
There is a restaurant right next to the cenote, which is also a great place to dine and enjoy the natural beauty of the cenote.
In case you are wondering, cenotes are natural sinkholes that were created by the collapse of underground limestone caves. The cenotes were considered sacred by the ancient Maya and were used for ceremonial and religious purposes. Nowadays, they are popular tourist spots for swimming and diving.
4. Take a Day Trip to Cenotes
Apart from cenote Zaci, there are so many amazing and unique cenotes around Valladolid. This means that Valladolid is a great base for visiting them. You can easily take day trips to explore the cenotes in the surrounding area.
There are several tour operators in Valladolid that offer guided trips to cenotes. These tours usually include transportation to and from the cenotes, as well as snorkelling gear and a guide to show you around. However, the most convenient way is to rent a car and drive.
Some cenotes are great for swimming while some are more popular for photography.
Cenote Ik Kil is just 25 miles away from Valladolid and it is one of the most beautiful cenotes in Yucatan. It is a great place for swimming and cliff jumping. This cenote is a popular tourist spot and can get crowded. It is good to go there early in the morning before all tours arrive.
Cenote Oxam and Cenote Saamal are the closest cenotes to Valladolid and both are only a short drive away. They are also a great place for swimming.
Cenote Suytun is probably the most Instagrammable cenote in Mexico and it is located only a 12-minute drive away from Valladolid. Many tourists visit this cenote only to take photos, but you can actually swim there. It is one of the most shallow cenotes in Yucatan.
5. Visit Chichen Itza
As we all know, Chichen Itza is one of the “New 7 Wonders of the World” and it is one of the best places to visit in Yucatan. Chichen Itza was a major cultural, political and economic hub in ancient times and it's considered one of the most important Mayan cities. It is located 28 miles (45 km) from Valladolid.
You can take a local bus from Valladolid, take a guided tour or simply drive. Chichen Itza is probably the most visited Mayan Ruins in Yucatan, so it can be packed. It is best to arrive before opening hours to avoid crowds. Chichen Itza is only a 5-minute drive from Ik Kil cenote, so you can visit both attractions in one trip.
6. Go to the Coba Ruins
If you want to visit a less crowded archaeological site, you should visit the Coba Ruins. It is located halfway between Valladolid and Tulum, only an hour’s drive away.
Coba was one of the largest and most important Mayan cities. The main attraction at Coba is the Nohoch Mul pyramid, which is the tallest pyramid on the Yucatan Peninsula and one of the tallest Mayan pyramids in the world.
Visitors can climb the pyramid if they're willing to do the steep climb, but be aware that the stairs are narrow and it can be slippery.
Coba is an ideal spot for those who want to explore and appreciate the ancient ruins in a more peaceful setting.
7. Day Trip to Rio Lagartos and Las Coloradas
Yucatan is famous for its white sandy beaches, Mayan Ruins and beautiful cenotes, but this peninsula has more to offer. To see a different side of Yucatan you can take a day trip from Valladolid to Las Coloradas and Rio Lagartos.
Las Coloradas is known for its unique natural pink lakes that are owned by the salt factory nearby. The vibrant pink colour of the lakes is due to red-coloured algae, plankton, and brine shrimps that thrive in salty environments. You are not allowed to swim in the lakes, but most tourists come here to take photos and see the lakes.
20 minutes drive from Las Coloradas, you will find Rio Lagartos, a protected area and it is one of the best places in Yucatan for wildlife watching. Here you can take a boat tour on the river where you can see crocodiles live, pink flamingos, pelicans, and many other birds.
Visiting Rio Lagartos was one of the highlights of our trip to Valladolid.
8. Visit Ek Balam
Ek Balam, another ancient Mayan city in the Yucatan Peninsula, is only a 30-minute drive from Valladolid. You can take a day trip to Ek Balam, or take a tour from Valladolid and visit Rio Lagartos and Ek Balam on the same trip.
The name Ek Balam means "black jaguar" in the Mayan language. The city was founded around 100 BC and was at its height between 600 and 900 AD. Ek Balam was a major centre of trade and politics and was also known for its impressive architecture and art.
One of the most important structures of Ek Balam is the Acropolis, a large ceremonial complex that served as the centre of the city's religious and political life. The Acropolis is home to the tomb of the city's ruler, Ukit Kan Lek Tok', and is also adorned with intricate carvings and sculptures. Another notable feature of Ek Balam is the large ball court, where the Mayans played the traditional Mesoamerican ball game.
Ek Balam was rediscovered in the late 19th century and has since been the subject of extensive archaeological research. Today, the site is open to visitors, and it is considered one of the best hidden gems in Yucatan. It's possible to climb to the highest point of the ruins, where you'll be able to see the entire peninsula from high above the treetops. On a clear day, you might be able to spot Coba and Chichen Itza ruins.
Overall, Valladolid in Mexico is known for its rich culture, history, and natural beauty, making it an exciting destination to visit. The city also offers a unique opportunity to experience and learn more about the Mayan culture, with a strong presence of local communities that still keep and preserve their heritage.