If you are planning to visit Valladolid, as you should, this post on the most unique things to do in Valladolid will help you plan your itinerary to the gateway to the colonial Yucatan. Read more to find out why you must visit Valladolid and what you cannot miss.
Valladolid is the third-largest city in the Yucatan Peninsula and it’s s definitely one of the best spots to visit whether it is on a do-it-yourself-road trip or with an organized tour.
This beautiful colonial city has so much to offer in terms of activities, cuisine, culture, and history and I’ll be covering all of that in this post.
A lot of people, when they think of visiting Mexico, picture parties, serene beaches, and water that’s all shades of blue which is true in some way. Yet, Mexico is so much more than that.
And if you’re someone who wants to see and experience the authentic side of Mexico you will want to step out of the beaten path and follow my advice starting with these best things to do in Valladolid.
By all means, once you land in Cancun, make sure you spend a couple of days on the Cancun beaches, splurge in one of the spectacular Cancun hotels, and take a day trip to Isla Mujeres. Then you will be ready for an amazing itinerary in the Yucatan Peninsula which will start off with the charming colonial city of Valladolid.
So without further ado, here are some of the amazing things to do in Valladolid.
The best things to do in Valladolid Mexico
1) Walk around Valladolid historical center
Valladolid has a very rich history, and nowhere is this fact more evident than in the city’s historical center. You’ll find colorful colonial buildings that serve as hotels, cafés, shops, and even homes.
You don’t even need to visit someplace in particular in order to enjoy the beautiful colonial architecture of the city.
If you’re only visiting Valladolid for a day or two and don’t have much time, you can arrive at the Central Plaza. From there, you can walk towards Parque Francisco Canton Rosado; there are multiple vendors in this area selling delicious and very affordable food.
Afterward, you can walk the Calzada de los Frailes to the Ex Convento of San Bernardino da Siena in Parque Sisal.
You will find delicious cafes and restaurants along the way, together with trendy clothing and vintage stores as many companies based in Tulum brought their own ateliers here.
Keep in mind that it can get quite hot during the summer. So, if you’re not up for walking, you can rent a bike for MX$100/day. You’ll find many rental places spread throughout the city.
2) Visit the Iglesia de San Cervasio in Valladolid historical center
While walking around Valladolid historical center you should make a stop at the beautiful Iglesia de San Gervasio in the main square.
The original Church was founded by priest Francisco Hernandez around 1630, but it was demolished on 1705 and rebuilt in the following year.
“Today, the facade has two beautiful towers in front of three bodies, which have turrets and large bells, which when ringing are heard from the most remote places of the city, and finish at the top with two large crosses carved in stone.
Above its main door, you can also admire a coat of arms with fine reliefs, a Spanish royal coat of arms that corresponds to the first Bourbon king, Philip V, grandson of King Louis XIV, who exercised the monarchy from the end of the fifteenth century to the middle of the sixteenth”. (translated from Informefracto.com)
2) Visit the former Convent of San Bernardino de Siena
This ex-convent of San Bernardino da Siena has an important place in Valladolid’s history. It was commissioned by the Franciscan order in 1552, and the construction was completed in 1560.
During the Caste War of 1847, it was taken over by the Spaniards and repurposed as a military base.
Today, it serves as a museum where you can admire many pieces of art showcasing its rich history.
The entry cost is only MX$40, which is well worth it.
3) Hang out on the main square
The main square in Valladolid is full of life. You can just hang out here on the famous love seats and relax for a bit during your exploration.
The street food here is simply delicious and I recommend trying out the Marquesitas sort of hard crepes full of cheese and Nutella; unless you’re watching your weight, in which case I recommend an esquite which is boiled corn with lime and salt, and you can add mayonnaise and grated cheese.
At night, the atmosphere here turns simply magical. Make sure you walk around, especially if your hotel in Valladolid is close by. It’s quite safe to be around at night in the main streets.
4) Join a free walking tour
The tourist information center at the main square advertises a walking tour of the city. This tour is conducted at 7 PM every day and at 9 am, and you can join it for free. But check the time before to make sure the time hasn’t changed.
An expert local guide will take you through all the exciting spots of the city while also giving information about its history.
5) Enjoy the show of light and sounds
Throughout the week, except Monday, there’s a show of light and sounds at the Convent of San Bernardino de Siena. It lasts around 20-25 minutes and covers key aspects of Valladolid history.
The Spanish show starts at 9 PM, and the English version starts around 9:20-9:25 PM.
Best of all, it’s completely free to attend, so don’t miss it!
6) Take a dip in the cenote Zaci
With more than 300 natural sinkholes around it, Valladolid is quite famous for the cenote experience it offers, but Cenote Zaci is the one that is actually within the city. In fact, it’s located in the center of Valladolid.
The entrance fee for Cenote Zaci is around 30 MXN ($1.5 USD) and it’s open from 9 in the morning to 5 in the evening.
The cenote is one of the cheapest, but it offers a delightful experience.
It’s an open cenote with lots of greenery around it, and a swim in it is definitely a revitalizing break from the hot sun.
7) Rent a bike and explore the nearby cenotes
As I mentioned above besides cenote Zaci, which is right in town, Valladolid is surrounded by many other amazing cenotes most of them fascinating cave cenotes, and at an easy distance from the city center.
Therefore even if you don’t have a car you can still rent a bike and get to them.
The best time to visit the cenotes near Valladolid is very early during the day when almost nobody is there. I used to just rent a bike and go out early in the morning, around 7 am or so, to go exploring Valladolid.
If you need suggestions on the best Valladolid cenotes, I’ve got you covered as well. Some of the cenotes I mention in my post are at a larger distance and require a car but keep in mind that there is no car rental in Valladolid.
So if you really want to rent a car in Mexico you will need to do it either from Merida, Cancun, Playa del Carmen, or Tulum.
8) Visit some of the Valladolid Museum
Valladolid is considered the gateway to Colonial Yucatan, so it’s no surprise that the town has some very amazing museums worth visiting despite its small size. If you’re interested, here are a few suggestions.
Museo de Roque
A museum dedicated to archeology, with lots of curious artifacts dating back to the Maya and Colonial eras.
A whole museum dedicated to chocolate! You can choose from a good selection of locally made chocolates here.
Museo de Ropa Étnica de México is a museum in Valladolid that focuses on the heritage of the region. It contains a lovely collection of ethnic dresses that you can check out, and the overall experience is really nice.
Casa de los Venados
This one is a small and private home with lots of traditional Mexican art and offers private tours of the place.
9) Join a bike tour
Bike tours in Valladolid are quite fun. I regret not having gone on one when my friend suggested it with a tour company now that I have seen where they take you. Mostly, they include cenotes around Valladolid and the scenic routes leading there.
You can also go on a night tour and explore the churches.
It’s a local company that does that and I really love to support local people who want to share their passion for their land. You can find them on Facebook.
10) Go visit Chichen Itza, one of the world’s seven wonders
Chichen Itza is one of the most famous places in Mexico. Sadly, that’s one of the reasons it has become an excessively bustling place where an overwhelming number of tourists and vendors dim down the historical charm of the surroundings.
Despite how crowded it gets, I still believe you should visit Chichen Itza Mayan ruins at least once in your lifetime if you’re going to Mexico—after all, it’s one of the seven wonders of the world!
I checked it out recently, but I was there very early in the morning so the crowds weren’t so bad and I got to walk around thinking about life back in the day and saying a prayer to the Gods of old.
If you are staying in Valladolid you should take advantage of the short distance to Chichen Itza Mayan ruins and get there at 8 am when it opens so that you can avoid the crowd.
Believe me, you don’t want to be there with other 5000 people in the sun. It’s overwhelming.
How to get to Chichen Itza from Valladolid
Chichen Itza is relatively less crowded early in the morning, so try to get there by the opening time (8 AM). The site is about an hour from Valladolid.
You can cover the distance in a colectivo that leaves at 7 in the morning from outside the Bus station. The departure timing may vary so arrive a bit earlier and confirm.
You can also check out my post on how to get to Chichen Itza from Cancun.
What to bring to Chichen Itza
As I said, there are a lot of vendors at Chichen Itza, so you can buy plenty of things there, including food and drinks but keep in mind that they cost 3 times more inside the site. So it’s never a bad idea to bring some handy items of your own for the trip. Here are a few suggestions.
- Sunscreen (better if eco-friendly).
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The best day trips from Valladolid
The below destinations that I am going to share are at about 1-hour distance from Valladolid Yucatan and they all make nice day trips from Valladolid. This is why I suggest you should stay in Valladolid and make it your base while visiting the Yucatan peninsula and its beautiful natural gems.
11) Take a day trip to Merida
Yucatan’s capital, Merida is an elegant (and very hot) city where you will experience the colonial feel of the historical heritage and a modern lifestyle.
On the famous Paseo de Montejo, you can admire the exquisite luxurious mansions most of which have been restored and turned into museums and luxury hotels.
High-end shops and restaurants, together with ancient churches will make your time in Merida more than worth it.
You can either join a tour with a local guide or get on an ADO bus on your own.
Obviously, there are so many things to do in Merida that maybe one day doesn’t seem enough. So if you have the time you can plan a couple of days and enjoy your stay in some of the exquisite boutique hotels in Merida.
12) Visit Ek Balam archeological site
If Chichen Itza seems a little too crowded for you, you can check out the archeological site of Ek Balam. From Valladolid, it’s only 40 minutes drive and yes, in this case, you should have a car.
You should know that after a visit to the interesting site of Ek Balam you can rent a bike and get to another cenote close by where you can cool off after a tiring day around the site in the heat.
13) Admire the pink lake of Las Coloradas
The pink lakes of Las Coloradas have become famous all around the world thanks to the spectacular picture shared on Instagram.
And let me tell you, on a sunny day they are really that pink, but you should know that it’s not just a pink lake.
These small pink lakes are actually part of a salt mine and that’s where the water is filtered to become salt.
Before it was very easy and cheap to visit but since it become such a popular attraction it became a little more expensive and with a variety of packages available to get in.
Las Coloradas is located at about 2 hours drive from Valladolid and although you may find ADO busses to get there I would suggest you go by car.
It’s easier and more practical. And you can visit the pink lake after a boat tour in Rio Lagartos. (see below)
14) Take a boat tour in Rio Lagartos
If you are a nature lover you will fall in love with Rio Lagartos, a small town on the Yucatan Peninsula coast and the departing point of the boat tours to a protected natural area, home to the graceful pink flamingos and many other bird species. In my dedicated post, I will tell you all about it.
Combine Rio Lagartos with Las Coloradas and Ek Balam and you will have a great full-day trip from Valladolid.
15) Check out Izamal the yellow city
Izamal is one of the most picturesque cities of the Yucatan peninsula, located between Merida and Valladolid, one hour drive from each.
It has become very popular for its yellow building in its historical center that revolves around the San Antonio Convent, built on an ancient archaeological Mayan ruins site.
The town is quite small but it has quite an interesting variety of attractions, including old haciendas, Mayan Ruins, and delicious restaurants offering traditional Yucatecan cuisine.
If you want to learn more you can read my guide to Izamal, the Yucatan yellow town.
From Valladolid, there are frequent busses to Izamal from the ADO bus station in the city center.
Finding your way to the colorful city of Valladolid isn’t very complicated. You can either drive to it on your own or just hop onto a bus if you don’t feel like driving.
How to get to Valladolid Mexico by car
Valladolid is connected to Cancun, Tulum, and Playa del Carmen through direct routes, so you can make your way here from either of the three destinations.
If you arrive in Cancun, you can choose either the highway(Cuota) or the statal road (Libre) to get to Valladolid.
The statal road has lots of towns and other charms on the way, so if you’re not in a hurry, I recommend taking it and exploring authentic Mexico. You can also stop by and take a dip in some of the cenotes that come on the way!
Please keep in mind that if you take the highway which is a toll road, they will only accept MXN pesos in cash!
How to get to Valladolid Mexico by bus
Just like the driving options, you can take a bus from either Cancun, Tulum, or Playa del Carmen that will take you to Valladolid. From the ADO terminal, you can get on a bus going to Merida and get off in Valladolid.
Also, if you don’t feel like going to Chichen Itza on your own, you can join an organized tour from Cancun or Riviera Maya and visit the site along with a few other attractions.
Tip: Whether you go alone or on a tour, make sure to dress lightly and bring a pair of gym shoes.
Best restaurants in Valladolid
I wrote a full list of the best restaurants and cafes in Valladolid. But I thought I should share my favorite ones in this post as well.
Pitagora Cafe del Profesor – a nice cozy place with a homey feel and a beautiful garden where you can appreciate light dishes and dessert and great coffee
Yerba Buena – delicious vegan and vegetarian restaurants in Valladolid right by the popular parque Sisal
Elela Vegan and Organic food – a cute little cafe in Parque Sisal with a variety of delicious vegan dishes, juices, and desserts. Go hungry because there is so much you will want to try.
Paparazzi – in the Calzada de los Frailes, it’s an Italian-Mexican restaurant in a beautiful colonial mansion, elegant but laid back. Make sure you make a reservation during the weekend.
Valladolid is very safe to visit. In fact, the whole state of Yucatan is considered one of the safest in Mexico.
The city being in the heart of the state is a gateway to the Yucatan, and the people here are extremely hospitable and friendly as well so you don’t need to worry about anything.
Though, I should mention here that common sense is never unnecessary, so use it here as you would anywhere else. You can read more in my detailed article on safety in Mexico.
Definitely. When you finally step out of the resort cities to explore the authentic side of Mexico, Valladolid is your first stop for it.
The Colonial era itself wasn’t very charming because of all the oppression people of this region faced, but the culture, architecture, and art that have survived from it are truly worth admiring because they remind you of the native people’s hardships and keep the beauty of their culture and traditions alive.
Cancun is not far from Valladolid. The drive from one city to another is usually around 2 hours if you have a car rental, and an ADO takes around 3 hours to get you here.
In case you do have a car rental, I suggest you take the statal road instead of the highway if you have time.
It’s a bit slower, but you get to see local towns and enjoy amazing views before arriving in Valladolid!
What is Valladolid Mexico known for?
Valladolid is known for being the first colonial city that you will encounter coming out of the Mexican Caribbean Zone and the first city in Yucatan.
It’s famous for its historical feel and the traditional Yucatan cuisine, the craftsmanship, and the Zaci cenote located right in the city historical center and open to the public.
Can you drink water in Valladolid Mexico?
No, never. Make sure you never drink water in Mexico.
The main reasons why you should not drink water lies mainly in the heavy metals that it contains that can be dangerous for your kidneys in the long run, but also because generally speaking the pipes where the water runs are most likely old and rusty.
That’s why you don’t want to drink the water that comes from there.
Valladolid Mexico weather
Valladolid weather is similar to the Riviera Maya and Cancun, so when it comes to travel planning you can plan accordingly – check out my post on the best time to travel to Tulum for reference.
However, keep in mind that because you are not on the beach you won’t benefit from the cool breeze and therefore in the summer it’s hot as hell, just like in Merida. Starting from March you can reach 40°C (104°F) which feels like 122°C, just to give you an idea.
So make sure you stay hydrated and wear a hat and sun bock especially when you go visit the Mayan ruins where there is no sunshade around.
Sometimes we get lucky and feel the north winds (which locals call “Norte”) and it gets chili (24°C/75.2°F) and we can breathe again.
How long should I stay in Valladolid Mexico?
You could really stay in Valladolid for a week and still need more time to explore everything.
It is really up to you. Keep in mind that to visit Valladolid historical center one day is enough, then you can consider a couple of extra days to visit the surroundings, a couple of cenotes, and Chichen-Itza.
Valladolid can be a great base to stay a few nights and then check out the spectacular cenotes and archeological sites in the surroundings.
Here below I am sharing a few hotels in Valladolid if you decide to follow my advice.
✅ Hotel Sisal – Great mid-range option near Parque Sisal – Check rates & availability on Booking.com
✅ Refugio 41 – Great laid back luxury option in the historical center – Check rates & availability on Booking.com
✅ Verde Morada – Luxury option on the trendy Calzada de los Frailes – Check rates & availability on Booking.com
Do I need travel insurance?
Yes, you do, is the short answer. I always sign up for travel insurance when I travel because you just never know what can happen.
Even if you are careful, and you carry all the positive vibes in the world, things can still happen.
Private healthcare is expensive in Mexico and the public one, oh well, I wouldn’t want to go to a public hospital.
But travel insurance also covers flight or luggage loss and other travel-related mishappenings.
What to pack for Valladolid
Always go with the comfortable stuff but make sure it’s light. So here is my packing list essential:
- light linen dress
- hiking shoes
- hiking pants
- a few tank tops
- eco-friendly sunscreen (I use Raw Elements and love it)
- mosquito repellent
- swimsuits – I love Cupshe – they have great quality swimsuits that suites all sizes and shapes
- flip flops
- GoPro 10
- a good camera – I have a Canon Mark III 5D and before I had Canon 6D both are amazing!
- smartphone with a good camera
- smartphone waterproof case
The best things to do in Valladolid: final thoughts
That being said, this post on the things to do in Valladolid comes to an end. Hopefully, you know a bit about this vibrant Colonial city and have it on your itinerary of places to explore in the Yucatan Peninsula. I always recommend renting a car once you arrive in Mexico and enjoy the Yucatan peninsula freely at your own pace, and of course, using my guide as a reference! you know I will take you on incredible adventures on and off the beaten path!
Whatever you decide to do and wherever you go, be careful and have fun!