“Blessed are the curious for they shall have adventures”Lovelle Drachman
Valladolid is a quaint colonial town in the Yucatán state of México that needed a second visit.
The city was founded in 1543 by Francisco de Montejo, and is full of colonial architecture and charm. On our first visit to México in early 2018, we had taken an all day tour out of Mérida, which included a visit to Chichén Itzá, Izamal, Cenote Ik’Kil and a few other places.
The last stop of the day was Valladolid.
Unfortunately, we only had a short amount of time at the end of a very, very long day at this Pueblo Magico town. It was just enough time to stretch our legs, do a walk around the zocalo, buy a touristy trinket.
But even in this short amount of time, the town made a big impression on us. It was very charming!
So, when we finished up a house and pet sit in Playa del Carmen recently and we were only a few hours’ drive away from Valladolid, we couldn’t resist the urge to revisit.
And we were not disappointed! Valladolid was as cute and charming as we remembered it, and this time, we got to explore it on our terms and at our own pace.
We booked our hotel right in town, walking distance to the zocalo, Catedral San de Gervadio (Instagram opportunity) and San Bernardino Cathedral.
A zocalo, in a Mexican town is essentially the heart of the city. And there always seems to be some activity happening there. It’s a great spot to get a feel for the town, grab an ice cream or sit on a park bench to people watch.
Valladolid’s zocalo is one of the prettiest we have been to in México!
We also enjoyed walking the blocks around the zocalo; the buildings are a kaleidoscope of colours, music and food. You can quickly lose a few hours just wondering around here.
No visit to the Yucatan and Quintana Roo states of México is complete without a swim in a cenote or two. Cenotes are an underground river system formed from limestone, and come in all shapes and sizes. They may be open sinkholes, or full or partially opened caves; they all have crystal clear, super cold water and are so beautiful to swim in.
We took full advantage of being in these two states and swam as often as we could. In the Valladolid area there is no shortage of choices; here is a few for you to choose from:
Cenote Zaci, just a short stroll from the hotel right in town. This cenote is an open-air sinkhole. Here you can have swim around in the cenote as you watch the sun rays hit the brillant, blue water. The water is so clear that you can view the array of the fish that live there swimming beneath you as you do.
Zaci Cenote is on Calle 36, between Calle 37 & 39. It also has a restaurant on the grounds for a snack or lunch. We enjoyed an ice-cold Cerveza after our swim.
Just 30 pesos entrance fee, this is considerably lower than a lot of cenote entry fees. And it’s a great way to spend an afternoon.
Cenote Suytun is rumoured to be the most Instagrammed cenote in México.
Suytun, is a cave cenote, with large stramalitite formations. A platform has been constructed inside the cenote and at certain times of the day, you can see a beam of sunlight shining down on to the platform through a small hole in the roof of the cave. As the sun hits the platform, you could easily mistake it for a a spotlight on a stage.
Now that is ‘Insta’ worthy!
Knowing this was a popular cenote, we arrived early to avoid the crowds. And we were pleasantly surprised that it worked! There was less than ten of us in the cenote the morning we visited.
I think the other visitors were also there to avoid the hustle and bustle. Everyone in the cave kept their voices low and enjoyed the tranquility and unique experience of the cenote.
Suytun cenote is about 10 – 15 minute drive east of Valladolid on Highway 180. If you don’t have you own transport, I suggest you organise a taxi to drop you off. There were taxis in the car park to take you back into Valladolid or otherwise ask the staff if they could call you a taxi. (Puedes llamar un taxi, por favor?)
This was great tip from the homeowners at our Playa del Carmen house and pet sit, thanks Cindy and Rusty. We would never have known about this little gem if it wasn’t for the tip.
Whilst it is a boutique hotel, you can also visit the restaurant or arrange a day pass to use the facilities and spa services. We started our visit with a complimentary coffee laced with tequila (surprisingly good at 10am) 😁
The day before, we arranged a couples massages on arrival, one hour of bliss, which was followed by a lay around the pool. We were also able to order snacks and drinks by the poolside.
We wandered the grounds to look at the sculptures and artwork scattered throughout the gardens. The aesthetics of the place is extraordinary, you can’t help but unwind.
Then we ventured onto the main attraction, the cave cenote located under the restaurant. With a hot water fountain, mood lighting and waiter service right there in the cave, we happily enjoyed a few beers.
The day pass was 450 pesos per person.
The food and drinks prices were reasonable, considering the tranquil location.
We absolutely loved this day and would recommend a visit to the Zentik Project if you are in the area.
Cenote X’kekén and Samula,
In the Valladolid area, you are spoilt for choice when it comes to cenotes. Our final one for this post is Cenote X’Keken and Samula or commonly known as Cenote Dzitnup, due to the village close by. The cenotes are well known enclosed cenotes, close together on the western side of Valladolid, just 5 kms out on Highway 180.
A popular way to get there is to hire a pushbike, riding beside the highway on a bike path.
Samula is stunning, a feature of this cenote is the beam of light that comes into the cenote for a couple of hours during the day. When this happens, it lights up the clear blue waters as well as the tree roots dangling down to get to the water.
This can all be enjoyed with the complimentary sounds of swallows singing in the roof of the cave.
X’Keken, is fully enclosed with no sunlight, not quiet as spectacular of Samula. Here you will find a massive of stalactite formation, and darker blue waters to enjoy.
Be aware, this site is geared up for tourists. So, if you are considering a visit, try to arrive before 10am.
Entrance fee to each cenote is 80 pesos per adult. However, you can purchase a pass for both at 120 pesos.
Open Monday to Sunday 8am to 7pm.
Life jackets are available for hire.
Other than swimming in cenotes, Valladolid has a lot to offer in and around the town.
There is a pleasant walk from the zocalo to Parque Sisal area; this is where San Bernardino Convent is located. We took Calz. de Los Frailes, a lovely quiet but sophisticated street loaded with Colonial architecture, it was a real pleasure to wander down. Get your camera ready, there is a lot to be captured here.
The convent sits conveniently behind the Valladolid sign, or should I say the Valladolid sign has the convent as a perfect backdrop?!?!
Either way, grab your picture at the sign, then head-on into the convent. You can walk around the convent yourself or pay for a guided tour. The guided tour is only in Spanish, so we didn’t partake, our Spanish isn’t up to that level of understanding.
There is also a museum inside the convent, which explains the discovery of cenotes and some of the items left behind. Cenotes were used by the Mayan’s for human, animals and artifacts sacrifices.
We enjoyed walking the grounds and stopping to rest under the large cool trees.
If you don’t visit on a tour bus, then the iconic Chichén Itzá is close by from Valladolid to visit. Chichén Itzá is a Mayan Pyramid featured on a lot of tourist advertising for Mexico.
A lesser-known Mayan site close to Valladolid is of Ek Balam. The jungle still covers much of Ek Balam’s 45 structures. Ek Balam means, “the black jaguar”, the site is impressive and you are still able to climb the structures.
Whatever you decide to do in Valladolid, I am sure you will love this unique little town just like we did.
Thanks goes out to our Editor, Jess Downes.
Leave us a comment to let us know what you enjoyed about Valladolid.