BEST THINGS TO DO IN VALLADOLID
Valladolid is a vibrant city in the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico. It’s an old colonial-style city that offers plenty of things to see and do. Explore Mayan ruins, relax at a cenote, learn about the region’s history and culture, or just wander around this charming city – whatever you choose to do, there are more than enough activities to keep you busy for 2 or 3 days! Here’s my comprehensive guide to the best things to do in and around Valladolid.
ADMIRE THE CENTRO HISTORICO OF VALLADOLID
The Cathedral of San Servacio and the Parque Principal Francisco Cantón Rosad are two of the best things to see in Valladolid, The Cathedral of San Servacio is a stunning 16th-century building located in the heart of the town. The interior is impressive with its beautiful stained-glass windows and intricate carvings, making it a true masterpiece of colonial architecture. The Parque Principal Francisco Cantón Rosad is a lovely park in front of the cathedral, surrounded by lush vegetation, beautiful fountains, and cute benches. Perfect to relax, enjoy some people-watching and soak in the local culture and atmosphere. All around the park, admire the beautiful arcade walkway and the colorful colonial-era mansions. Apparently, there is a traditional Jarana dance show every evening around 5.30 pm, but sadly we missed it.
Just by the side of the park, you will find Mercado Central, a colorful food court. The market boasts dozens of vendors selling local dishes, fresh fruit juices, etc. There are plenty of seating areas available, so it is a great place to grab a quick lunch in a very local atmosphere. (Open from 7 am to 11 pm)
A few streets further, you can also find the Mercado Municipal, a traditional market selling food, spices, meat, etc. (Open from 5 am to 4 pm).
LOOKING FOR A HAMMOCK?
One of the most popular souvenirs to bring back from Mexico is a traditional hammock. If you want something handmade, personalized, and truly local, check out Hamacasita Hammocks, a very cute store with great designs and prices.
TAKE A WALK ON CALZADA DE LOS FRAILES
All of the streets in the center of Valladolid are colorful and charming, but there is something special about Calzada de los Frailes. This mostly pedestrian street is lined with colorful and picturesque houses and storefronts dating back centuries. The street is filled with dozens of small shops selling handmade goods, antiques, traditional hats as well as cool bars and restaurants. I recommend stopping by Coqui Coqui Perfumeria, a luxury fragrance shop (part of the Coqui Coqui hotels, a group of top luxury one-suite residences), and Frailes Atelier for beautiful antiques.
Calle de los Frailes is the perfect destination for anyone looking to immerse themselves in the rich history and beauty of Valladolid. Whether you are looking to shop, dine, or simply take a stroll and admire the beautiful architecture, visiting Calzada de los Frailes is one of the best things to do in Valladolid.
VISIT THE CONVENT OF SAN BERNARDINO DE SIENA
Calle de los Frailes ends in Sisal, another neighborhood of Valladolid. There you can admire the imposing Convent of San Bernardino.
Founded in the 16th century with funds from wealthy benefactors from Spain, Convento de San Bernardo de Siena stands as one of the oldest monasteries in Mexico and one of the most important historical sites in the city. The convent hosts a museum showcasing its history and significance to the local community. You can also take a tour of the garden. Unfortunately, the church itself was closed when we visited.
DISCOVER CHICHEN ITZA & CENOTE IK KIL
Now that we covered the best things to do in Valladolid, let’s talk about some amazing day trips you can do from there. Of course, one place that you cannot miss is Chichen Itza! Part of the 7 New Wonders of the World and Unesco World Heritage site, Chichen Itza is the most iconic Mayan site in Mexico.
This archaeological site is home to El Castillo, the famous (and impressive) pyramid temple which was used for religious ceremonies and astronomical purposes. Other structures on the site include temples, ball courts, and marketplaces. You can also visit nearby Cenote Sagrado (Sacred Cenote), but it is not possible to swim.
Because of its notoriety and convenient location (1h drive from Valladolild, 2h drive from Tulum), Chichen Itza sees a LOT of tourists, many of them coming in big tour buses.
To make the most of your visit:
- Arrive early. The site opens at 8 am and there are hundreds of visitors at the gate even before the opening.
- Take a guided tour. We didn’t and I feel like we missed learning more about the city, the cultures, traditions etc. There are plenty of guides at the entrance of the site, and you can cut the queue with them too.
- Take your time. The site is pretty huge, so you can easily spend 2 hours exploring the different areas, from the main pyramid all the way to the sacred cenote. Wear comfortable shoes!
- Do not try to get onto the monuments!
Chichen Itza opens at 8 am and the last entry is at 4 pm. The entrance fee is 571 MXN (30 USD for adults) and 85 MXN (4.5 USD) for children from 3 to 12 years old.
Once you are done visiting Chichen Itza, head over to Cenote Ik Kil. This is the most developed cenote we have seen during our road trip in the Yucatan, with a welcome center, massive changing rooms, lockers etc. Logically, being so close to Chichen Itza, it is also one of the busiest cenotes. But to be honest it is really gorgeous so it is still worth a visit. The pool itself is around 60m wide and sits at an impressive 26m below the ceiling of the cave, which opens to the sky. Hundreds of lianas fall from the top of the cave and lush vegetation covers the walls giving some very Indiana Jones vibes! There is a carved stairway leading down to the pool.
Cenote Ik Kil is open from 8 am to 5 pm. The entrance fee is 80 MXN (4 USD) excluding the locker and life jacket.
EXPLORE EK BALAM AND CENOTE XCAN CHE
Ek Balam is an ancient Mayan city, home to well-preserved ruins scattered in a dense jungle.
Unlike Chichen Itza, it is allowed to climb the different buildings on site, including the towering Acropolis, which offers stunning views of the surrounding jungle and serves as a testament to the impressive architectural achievements of the Mayan civilization. Some of the buildings have intricate carvings depicting deities from Mayan mythology. Off the radar of most tourists, Ek Balam is pretty quiet and definitely worth a visit
Close by, you will find the cenote Xcanche, my favorite of all the cenotes we visited while in the Yucatan. This cenote is very large, with multiple jumping platforms, a zip line (not in function when we visited), and some rope swings. The best part is that you don’t have to wear a life jacket and it is not busy at all, so you can really have a great time there.
Cenote Xcanche opens at 8 am and the last entry is at 3.30 pm. The entrance fee is 150 MXN (9 USD)
VISIT IZAMAL, THE PHOTOGENIC YELLOW TOWN
A 1h45 min drive from Valladolid, Izamal is one of the most beautiful places to visit in the Yucatan. Once upon a time, it was a remarquable Mayan city and probably one of the largest cities in the north of Yucatan. In the 16th century, Spanish colonials destroyed a good part of it and built a new town instead and in the late 1900’s, in celebration of Pope John Paul II’ visit, the whole town was painted yellow. The town became so pretty that it was named a Pueblo Magico (a Magic Town) by the Mexican government in 2002.
While in Izamal, visit the convent of San Antonio, wander the pretty streets, and visit the Kinich Kakmó Mayan site. You can climb up the pyramid, the highest in the Yucatan, for a beautiful view of the city and the surrounding jungle.
IF YOU HAVE MORE TIME IN VALLADOLID
- Visit Cenote Zaci. You might be surprised to discover there is a cenote right in the center of Valladolid. It was closed when we visited, but it could be a good option for a refreshing swim after exploring Valladolid.
- Uxmal is a beautiful Mayan site, just as impressive as Chichen Itza but without the crowd. It is a 3h drive from Valladolid.
- The fishing village of Río Lagartos and Las Coloradas, a nature reserve with mangroves and stunning pink lakes with flamingos. Around 2h drive north of Valladolid.
- The Mayan ruins of Coba are only located 1h drive from Valladolid and a must-see while in the Yucatan.
- Visit Cenote Suytun, the most intagrammable one, Don’t expect to swim, just go for the picture!
- Swim in Cenote Xkeken & Samula. These two cenotes (natural underground caves) located just outside of Valladolid look incredible and are perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and cliff jumping.
IF YOU CAN ONLY DO A DAY TRIP TO VALLADOLID
On the contrary, if you don’t have much time, why not book a day tour. Here are a few options:
- From Tulum: Chichen Itza, Cenote, and Valladolid Tour: A full-day tour, starting from any hotel in Tulum. It will take you to Chichen Itza, then Valladolid where you will grab lunch, and get some time to discover the town. You will finish the day in a local cenote. Maximum 10 pax/group.
- From Mérida: Chichén Itzá, Izamal, Valladolid, & Cenote Trip: Full-day tour focusing on culture, history, and cuisine. The tour starts in Merida and immediately heads off to Chichen Itza. You will then attend a cooking demonstration, focusing on traditional Mayan cuisine, and enjoy a buffet lunch. The next stop is in Valladolid where you get some time to wander around the beautiful towns, before heading off to the beautiful yellow town of Izamal. In between Valladolid and Izamal you will also stop at a cenote for a refreshing swim.
- From Cancun/Playa del Carmen: Chichen Itza, Cenote, Ek’Balam Tour: If you are more interested in Mayan culture and archeological sites, this tour is made for you. Departing from Cancun or Playa del Carmen, the tour begins in Chichen Itza, then Ek Balam, and finally stops by the Cenote Saamal. Only a lunchbox is included though.
WHERE TO STAY IN VALLADOLID?
While there are many options for beautiful boutique hotels in Merida, I found it much more challenging in Valladolid.
Since we didn’t fall in love with any of the places, we decided to save some money and stayed 2 nights in Hotel Waye. Very well located, close to the city center and to Calle de los Frailes, this hotel/hostel is comfortable, with new bathrooms, good internet and a backyard with hammocks to chill. They also have a small pool. Overall, it is good value for money.
A couple of other (more upscale) options we had considered:
Probably the best boutique option in town. The rooms are nicely decorated and they have a cute rooftop filled with flowers and some hammocks to relax.
Beautiful hacienda with traditional bright yellow walls and decor and a relaxing swimming pool. Located 10 min drive outside of town
WHERE TO EAT IN VALLADOLID?
While in Valladolid we tried a few places. Overall we were not flabbergasted by the Yucatan food options but the below 4 places are very decent and the atmosphere is nice.
- Yerbabuena del sisal, a cute colorful cafe with outdoor seating. The menu has a lot of vegan/vegetarian options, fresh juices, salads, sandwiches, etc. I recommend the veggie burger. Located in front of the San Bernardino convent.
- Mezcaleria Don Trejo. More of a bar than a restaurant, come here in the evening to grab some tacos and listen to the live bands. Avoid the white wine which was truly awful (the waiter himself had warned me, but I insisted !!)
- Restaurante El Atrio del Mayab. Located on the main square, this restaurant is great for dinner. The interior is quite charmless, so try to grab a table in their courtyard. Both the food and wine were very decent.
- Laville Bistro. In a French-inspired setting, we grabbed a massive breakfast here. The coffee and bagels were good.
Check this article for an extensive list of restaurants to try in Valladolid.
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT VALLADOLID?
The best time to visit Valladolid (and the Yucatan in general) is during the dry season, which runs from November to April. During this time, you can expect warm and sunny weather with low humidity and minimal rainfall. The temperatures during this time of year are usually in the mid-20s to low 30s Celsius, making it ideal for exploring Valladolid and all the best things to do in the region.
The rainy season runs from May to October, with the heaviest rainfall typically occurring in September and October. While the region can still be visited during this time heavy rains would make some of the visits much less enjoyable.
Overall, the best time to visit Valladolid depends on your personal preferences and travel plans. If you prefer to avoid the crowds and high season prices, you may consider visiting during the shoulder season months of May or October when the weather is still pleasant, and the sites are less crowded.
HOW TO GET TO VALLADOLID?
Valladolid is easy to reach from a variety of cities along the Riviera Maya as well as from the rest of the Yucatan. Here are some of the most common ways to get to Valladolid from Cancun, Tulum, or Merida.
- By car: If you have a car or plan to rent one, the easiest way to get to Valladolid is to drive there. It takes around 2 hours to drive from Cancun, 1.5 hours from Tulum, and 1 hour from Merida. The roads are generally in good condition, so it is really easy to reach Valladolid that way.
- By bus: Several bus companies offer service to Valladolid from Cancun, Tulum, and Merida. ADO is one of the most popular bus companies and offers regular service between these cities and Valladolid. The travel time ranges from 1.5 to 3 hours, depending on the starting location, and the cost varies depending on the bus class and route.
- With organized group tours: As mentioned above, there are many options for day tours coming from Cancun, Tulum, Playa Del Carmen, etc. It typically takes a full day and includes a few major spots like Valladolid, Chichen Itza, and some cenotes. You can find more options here.
The best option always depends on your own travel plans and preferences. Driving is the most convenient in my opinion, but taking a bus can be more affordable, and group tours will allow you to see a lot within one single day!
Here you go! I hope you found this post about the best things to do in Valladolid useful and inspiring!
Planning to visit the Yucatan soon? From our 2-week road trip itinerary to our favorite hotel in Bacalar and Merida, and the best things to do in Bacalar, you will find more posts about Mexico here. Happy planning!