Nestled on the eastern side of the Yucatan Peninsula, Valladolid is a thriving city rich in history, culture, and natural beauty. It was initially founded near another Mexican city, Chouac-Ha, in the mid-1500s by Spanish Conquistador Francisco de Montejo.
However, the humid weather and a mosquito infestation forced Valladolid’s residents to relocate the entire village to the Mayan town of Zaci, where it stands today.
Today, Valladolid is mainly known for its colonial architecture, ancient Mayan ruins, and jaw-dropping landscapes. The cenote sinkholes in the area have unbelievably clear pools of turquoise waters, which are the perfect setting for a mid-afternoon swim.
However, Valladolid’s central location makes it one of our favorite spots for exploring Mexico. If you’re looking for a city filled with ancient traditions, centuries of history, and an endless supply of delectable eats, look no further than Valladolid!
How to Get to Valladolid, Mexico
If you’re flying into Valladolid, the closest international airport is in Cancun, which is roughly a two-hour drive away. With dozens of daily international flights, Cancun is the easiest and most efficient way to reach Valladolid. However, Valladolid is also a short drive from both Manuel Crescencio Rejón International Airport and Cozumel International Airport.
The easiest way from Cancun to Valladolid is to hire a private driver. You can check rates here now. This makes for a stress-free day and gets your vacation started right away.
If you’re coming from another part of the Yucatan, you can easily reach Valladolid by car or bus. The ADO bus terminal in Valladolid is located right near the city center’s main square, which is close to many hotels in the area.
Another option and our personal favorite is by renting a car. Before you think we are crazy, make sure to read our renting a car in Mexico guide. We have rented cars in Mexico 10+ times. For the best prices you’ll need to book in advance online, check Rentalcars.com for prices typically they are $1-10 a day. No that wasn’t a typo, they are that cheap but only by booking online in advance.
*When looking for the best price and biggest selection of hotels check prices on Booking.com, we’ve found they are the best option and have a great cancelation policy.*
Things to do in Valladolid, Mexico
There are plenty of fun and fascinating things to do in Valladolid. Home to centuries of Mayan history, outdoor sunken cenotes, and colorful architecture, Valladolid has something for every type of traveler. Here are just a few of our favorite things to do in Valladolid.
1. Stroll Around Town & Get lost exploring the colorful buildings
If you want to soak in the vibrant atmosphere of Valladolid, go for a wander around its charming city center. Start in Francisco Canton Rosado Park, the main square located in the center of Valladolid. Bursting with food vendors and market stalls at all hours of the day, you can catch a glimpse of daily life happening around you. If you’re looking for something a little more relaxing, you can lounge on one of the quiet park benches near the fountains and people-watch.
Dotted throughout the streets of Valladolid are rows of bright, colorful houses. These attached dwellings are painted a variety of vibrant colors – from cobalt blues and greens to deep reds and oranges. You can easily spend all afternoon admiring their unique architecture. Not to mention, they’re the perfect backdrop for your photos too!
2. Cenote Zaci
There are dozens of beautiful cenotes in Mexico, and Cenote Zaci is no exception. Whether you’re looking to escape the heat, or merely want to swim in the crystal clear waters, Cenote Zaci is an oasis right in the middle of the city.
That’s why it’s one of our favorite things to do in Valladolid. As you swim through the rocky cave, you’ll get to admire the jagged stalagmites and stalactites that hang above you.
- Address: Calle 37 x Calle 39, Centro, 97780 Valladolid
- Hours: Daily 9 am – 5 pm
3. Catedral de San Gervasio
Situated in the center of Valladolid, the towering Catedral de San Gervasio is rich in history. The design and architecture of the cathedral are stunning, especially since it was built with stones from a Mayan temple.
However, the cathedral is a breathtaking masterpiece built in the Spanish colonial style. The inside tour doesn’t take long, but it will leave you with a deeper understanding of Valladolid’s history.
- Address: Calle 41, Centro, Valladolid
4. Stroll along Calle/Calzada de los Frailes
Lined with colorful, colonial homes, the Calzada de los Frailes is an ideal street for a leisurely afternoon walk. You’ll find plenty of boutique shops, cafes, and restaurants here too. The road starts at Convent de San Bernardino de Siena and extends for a few blocks.
During the evenings, the street closes to traffic. Locals and tourists spill out onto the street and enjoy a lovely outdoor drink or meal at one of the restaurants on Calzada de los Frailes.
5. Convent de San Bernardino de Siena
Located in the busy Sisal neighborhood, the Convent de San Bernardino de Siena is the second-largest Franciscan monastery in the Yucatan Peninsula. Built in 1560, Convent de San Bernardino de Siena is a landmark left over from the Spanish conquest.
Inside, you’ll find a beautifully carved altar and remnants of ancient art. If you come during the evening, you’ll be treated to an educational light show in Spanish and English.
- Address: Calle 50 210B, Sisal, Valladolid
- Hours: Daily 8 am – 7 pm
6. Visit Las Coloradas (Pink Lake)
There aren’t many places in the world where you can see a lake of bright pink water! The lake gets its color from the plankton and microorganisms that live in the water. They feed on the natural pink sea salt that is left behind once the water evaporates from the sun.
At the Las Coloradas, you’ll be able to spend a few hours at the pink lakes. Although you can no longer swim in them, it’s still a stunning sight to behold – and makes for some enviable photos!
Related Article: Bacalar – Mexico’s Hottest New Destination
7. Chichen Itza
Chichen Itza is one of the most important things to do in Valladolid. This archeological attraction was once the site of a pre-Columbian city more than 1,500 years ago. As one of the largest Mayan cities, the ruins are filled with ancient temples, pillars, and other architectural wonders.
The highlight of Chichen Itza is El Castillo is the giant 100-foot stone pyramid. During your visit, you can also see several ball courts – including the Great Ball Court – and sacred cenotes and temples. With plenty of sights to see in Chichen Itza, you should plan to spend a full day exploring.
- Hours: Open daily 8 am – 5 pm
8. Coba Ruins
This ancient Mayan city is another rare glimpse into the history of the Yucatan Peninsula. Built between 50 BC and 100 AD, Coba contains the excavated remains of Sacbeob – or raised pathways – throughout the area. These pathways once connected different sites and homes to the center of the city.
Besides the Sacbeob, you can also visit the ruins of temples, like the Nohoch Mul Pyramid. This 137-foot tall structure has dramatic views of Macanxoc Lagoon and Coba Lagoon from the top. Although it’s a steep climb, it’s worth a visit to the top for the sweeping views alone!
As you venture through the ruins, don’t miss the colorful hieroglyphics inscribed on the sides of the monuments. They provide a fascinating look into what daily life was like during the ancient Mayan times.
- Address: Carretera Federal Tulum 307, 77793 Cobá
- Hours: Open Daily 8 am – 5 pm
Related Article: Where to stay in Tulum
9. Cenote Suytun
Considered one of the most beautiful locations in Mexico, Cenote Suytun is worth a visit during your trip to Valladolid. Pools of shallow, emerald waters are located deep inside a giant, rocky cave. The crack in the top of the cenote creates a picture-perfect spotlight that shines directly into the pool.
However, the most stunning feature of Cenote Suytun is the stone pier that jets into the middle. If you get the chance, you can walk into the middle of the pier and admire the beauty of the looming cave around you.
Best of all, Cenote Suytun is located just a short drive away from the city center of Valladolid. It’s the perfect day trip away from the bustle of the city!
- Address: Carretera Ticuch Km 8 s/n, 97780 Valladolid
- Hours: Open Daily 8 am – 7 pm
10. Day trip to Merida
If you have a few extra days in the Yucatan Peninsula, we recommend taking a day trip to the capital city of Merida. Mixing both Mayan and colonial traditions, Merida is brimming with ancient architecture, culture, and history. As it’s only two hours away from Valladolid, it’s the ideal break to see something new and exciting in Mexico.
During the day, you can walk around and admire the beautiful buildings or visit one of the historical museums. And during the evening, you can dine on traditional Mexican dishes in the city center. One day is barely enough time to experience everything Merida has to offer – you’ll find plenty of activities to keep you entertained!
11. Visit Izamal – The Yellow City
Home to dozens of brightly painted buildings and homes, Izamal is another excellent destination for a day trip outside of Valladolid. Appropriately nicknamed “The Yellow City,” Izamal was originally known as one of the most important Mayan civilizations. It was founded between 750-200 BC, and even survived the rule of the Spanish conquest.
Now, the city is known for its vibrant yellow buildings and traditional Mexican culture. It’s even home to a mezcal distillery, where you can sample and purchase some of this fine Mexican alcohol.
Best Restaurants in Valladolid, Mexico
From traditional Mayan dishes to mouth-watering Mexican snacks, there is no shortage of delicious restaurants in Valladolid. Although you can’t go wrong with a local restaurant in Valladolid, we have a few favorite places we recommend you try during your visit.
Hosteria del Marques
For the most mouth-watering Mexican dishes, head to Hosteria del Marques, located in the middle of the city. Every time we visit Valladolid this is where we eat lunch! Don’t miss the tableside guacamole! Although you can’t go wrong with your order, we recommend the guacamole. Ripe avocados are brought directly to your table and mixed with fresh herbs and seasoning to produce the best guacamole you’ll have during your trip.
- Address: Calle 39 203 X40 Y 42, Centro, 97780 Valladolid
- Hours: Daily 7:15 am – 10:30 pm
El Manati Bacalar
The lush, outdoor setting of El Manati Bacalar is the ideal location for breakfast or lunch during your stay in the Yucatan. Located on Calle 22, El Manati Bacalar boasts a wide range of Mexican and international dishes. Not only is the menu extensive, but the ingredients are fresh and locally sourced.
If you come for breakfast, you must order the pancakes. We also recommend washing them down with El Manati Bacalar’s famous coffee. The lunch menu also includes a variety of fresh sandwiches, burgers, and salads. Just don’t forget to leave room for dessert!
El Sazon De Valladolid
For an affordable yet filling meal, head to El Sazon De Valladolid on Colonia Bacalar. Not far from the center of the city, this no-frills establishment serves some of the tastiest Mexican dishes in Valladolid. Start with the traditional Zupa de lima, then move on to the chicken fajitas, papadzules, or enchiladas suizas.
The meat is freshly grilled, and the guacamole is made to order. Best of all, you don’t have to break the bank in order to enjoy a world-class meal in Valladolid.
- Address: Valladolid – Cancun 233, Bacalar, 97780 Valladolid
- Hours: Daily 10 am – 8 pm
IX CAT IK Mayan Cuisine
If you’re interested in traditional Mayan cuisine, then IX CAT IK Mayan Cuisine is guaranteed to please your taste buds. With classic dishes like pork pipil, Xibalba shrimp, and banana-leaf fish, you’ll have the opportunity to taste cuisine from the surrounding region.
The fresh tortillas are made in plain sight, and the welcome drink and dips are an added bonus. However, we love that they also brew their own artisanal beer. The service is just as fantastic as the food, which adds to the warm and cozy atmosphere.
At IX CAT IK Mayan Cuisine, you can expect a unique dining experience that you won’t be able to find anywhere else on the planet.
- Address: Calle 39 158, Militar, 97782 Valladolid, Yuc., Mexico
- Hours: Daily 12 pm – 10 pm
Tucked away from the masses of crowds and tourists, Valladolid is a beautiful city that should be added to your Mexico itinerary. Between the charming city center and the diverse landscapes, you’ll see why Valladolid is a favorite destination for many visitors and travelers.
No matter what you’re interested in seeing, there are plenty of activities and attractions to keep you entertained during your visit. History buffs will love exploring the ancient ruins of pre-Columbian Mayan culture, which is prominent throughout the Yucatan Peninsula. And culture lovers will enjoy being immersed in traditional life, whether it’s shopping at a local market or dining on delicious cuisine.
For adventure enthusiasts, Valladolid is teeming with outdoor activities. Not to mention the annual temperature hovers around 85°, which makes Valladolid the ideal place to soak up the sun.
If you’re looking to experience an authentic side of Mexico, look no further than Valladolid. We know that once you visit once, you’ll be eager to return for years to come!
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