Founded in 1544, Valladolid is an ancient Spanish colonial town located in the southeastern part of the Yucatán state of Mexico. It is situated midway between Cancun and Mérida and is about a 45-minute drive to the eastern entrance of Chichén Itzá. Valladolid is an optional base for visiting the ruins. In Valladolid, visitors will spend time in a quiet village, rich in Mayan ambiance, where it’s common to see locals wearing the traditional Mayan dress. To Valladolid’s credit, it is also less tourist-oriented.
Valladolid is the type of place where both locals and visitors gather in the zócalo, (central town plaza) to sit on benches, mingle, and enjoy their surroundings. In the zócalo shops and displayed on the fence surrounding the zocalo, visitors can purchase original Mexican artwork, fine jewelry, agave or flor de mayo fragrances, and exquisite ceramic Jainas and Mayan vessels, often sold by Mayan ladies dressed in their traditional hupil hand-embroidered dresses.
Valladolid is often a stepping-off point for other attractions, but it has several points of interest that someone visiting the area would not want to miss.
Cathedral de San Gervasio - Located off the zócalo, the cathedral is one of seven colonial churches scattered around town.
San Bernadino Convent - The most famous of Valladolid’s churches, the 16th century San Bernadino Convent was built over a cenote (Sis-ha), and pillaged by local Indians during the wars.
Cenote Zaci - A cenote is an ancient freshwater well, and the Cenote Zaci features an open-air restaurant with a beautiful view of the cenote. It’s a spectacular sinkhole located in a public park only a few hundred feet from the zócalo; a walking path over the cenote passes through an overhang area shrouded in stalactites.
Cenote Dzitnup - This cenote features a spectacular underground dome room with crystal clear water. A hole in the dome’s ceiling opens the way for rays of light to gleam and sparkle against the water.
The Mayan Ruins of Ek Balam - The little-known, but impressive Mayan ruin site is located on the road to Chichén Itzá. If you are making a Mayan ruin run, this is a convenient stop. The tallest ruin was partially restored, and visitors are allowed to climb it. Other highlights include a plaza with many stone buildings and one massive pyramid. Well worth seeing, and since it isn’t a well-known ruin site, visitors may have the place to themselves.
Accommodations and Dining
Valladolid has many lodging venues from which to choose – anything from four-star boutique hotels to hostels. Visitors will find a range of menus to satisfy their palate. Restaurants carrying contemporary Mayan cuisine seasoned with Mayan herbs and spices are nestled in amidst Italian restaurants serving pizza and pasta. For local tastes, a popular regional dish is the “Lomitos de Valladolid”, which consists of sausage and chicken in escabeche sauce. In the zócalo, vendors commonly sell “Cochinitas Pibil” - a special pulled pork from a pig that was roasted overnight in a buried pit. Delicious!
Getting to Valladolid
The closest airport to Valladolid is the Cancun International Airport in Cancun, Mexico. By car, Valladolid is about a 1.5 hour drive from Cancun. Valladolid is just off the toll highway (180D); the exit is about 3 miles north of the center of town. The old highway 180 runs east to west through the center of town, and highway 295 runs south towards Chetumal, and north to the toll highway and Ek Balam. Both highways run through the center of town on one-way streets, forming the four sides of the zócalo. Valladolid has a modernized bus station, which connects with surrounding towns and tourist destinations. Buses make frequent trips to all major destinations.