If you’re looking to explore beyond the high-rise resorts and glittering nightlife of Cancun, then a day trip to Valladolid is a must. This Spanish colonial town is located in the Mexican state of Yucatan, about 100 miles west of Cancun. It offers interesting historic sites, swimming holes to cool you off and traditional Mexican food not to be missed.
The Cathedral of San Gervasio overlooks Valladolid's town square — Photo courtesy of Celso Flores
In August of 2012, Valladolid was named one of Mexico’s Pueblos Magicos ("Magic Towns"). The Mexican Secretary of Tourism created the Pueblos Magicos program in order to highlight and promote the country’s diverse culture and history. Despite the glamour, this is not a “tourist” town, but an authentic taste of the real Mexico.
In 1545, Spanish conquistadors built Valladolid (named after the capital of Spain) by dismantling a Mayan town’s buildings and reusing the stones. This small, charming and traditional city is a wonderful place to experience the rich history and culture of the Yucatan Peninsula. It is an easy and safe two-hour drive or comfortable bus ride from Cancun.
The main square of Valladolid is one of the main centers of daily life and is surrounded by the town hall, shops, restaurants and the beautiful Cathedral of San Gervasio. This is a lovely place to rest under a tree on a park bench and watch the locals - many of which are of Mayan descent - go about their daily tasks. Right down the street, visit the imposing (ex) Convent of San Bernardino, one of the oldest colonial structures in the state of Yucatan.
A visit to the Convent of San Bernardino is a must during your Valladolid visit — Photo courtesy of ex_magician
Valladolid is very close to Mayan archaeological sites Chichen Itza and Ek Balam, so if you’re looking to explore the ruins before the tour buses arrive from Cancun, it’s the perfect place to stay. El Meson del Marques, which has been open since 1967, is one of Valladolid’s most appealing hotels, with its colonial-style archways, courtyards and balconies. Plus Meson del Marques is located right on the main square and features a swimming pool and a restaurant that serves traditional Yucatecan cuisine.
El Meson del Marques has been in business for over 25 years — Photo courtesy of El Meson del Marques
In fact, Valladolid is home to many restaurants that serve Yucatecan specialties like smoked sausage (longaniza) and a pork dish made with Seville orange and Cochinita Pibil shredded pork that's been cooked in axiote sauce. Restaurant Conato 1910 stands out due to its funky Mexican décor, budget prices and delicious food. Squimz, located right by the bus station, is economical and serves up local organic coffee, fresh food and colonial charm.
When visiting the Yucatan Peninsula, a swim in a cenote (a freshwater limestone sinkhole) is a must, especially on a scorching hot day. Valladolid is home to a few cenotes that are only 5-10 minutes away from the town center; X’kekén (aka Dznitup) and Samula - two closed cenotes - and Zaci, an open cenote.
Though Valladolid is a thriving, modern city, visiting feels like stepping back into a simpler time when things moved at a slower pace.
There's nothing like a dip in a cool cenote on a hot day — Photo courtesy of Alaskan Dude