Updated: December 2016
Our favourite city in the Yucatan, Valladolid is a treat to all your senses. From the moment we got off the bus and glanced upon the most beautiful sunset casting orange light down a perfect colonial street, Valladolid had our heart.
Whilst this has become increasingly popular with tourists to the region, it still retains a feel of the real Mexico, complete with beautiful crumbling and colourful buildings and old men playing chess in the park.
If your Mexican adventure will not go beyond the Yucatan Peninsula, a few days in Valladolid will expose you to the beauty, sights and sounds for which Mexico is famous. For those who see the world through a lens, this city will take your breath away.
Visit the Cenote at Hacienda San Lorenzo Oxman
The subterranean world of cenotes have amazed visitors to the Yucatan for years, and with good reason! These underwater pools are a perfect haven from the burning midday sun and are a must-do for anybody spending a couple of days in Valladolid.
Although the most popular cenote for tourists and locals alike is Zaci, located right in the centre of town (just four blocks from the main plaza) we'd recommend checking out one of the quieter spots outside of the city - like the cenote at Hacienda San Lorenzo Oxman.
When we went we were the only non-Mexicans there, and for the bulk of our visit were the only people in the cenote.
How to get there: You can either hire a taxi (costs around 70 pesos one way) or do like we did and hire a bicycle. These can be rented from a number of places in town, but we got ours from Hostel La Candelaria (approx 80 pesos per day or 15 pesos per hour). The cycle ride would be relatively easy (it's only 5 km), but as temperatures in Valladolid are a little on the hot side, you'll probably need to take your time. We'd recommend getting hold of a map from the hostel but the route is relatively straight forward - check out this post for more details.
Cost: Entry to the cenote and its adjoining hacienda is 30 pesos per person, and this provided you with all day access to the facilities.
Facilities: The hacienda has an amazing pool to laze by, a small snack bar and as much ice-cold beer as you require to cool down! There are also changing rooms on-site. They also have a chihuahua that wears a dress - would be a deal breaker for us!
Visit Chichen Itza
Unless you fancy a mammoth day trip from Cancun, Tulum or Playa del Carmen, Valladolid is the obvious base for visiting Chichen Itza. You'll be able to leave early enough with public transport that you can beat the tour buses and see this amazing Mayan ruin without hundreds of other people obscuring your view!
Check out this post for costs and further information.
Check out the locals bar where you eat for free!
There's a wonderful trend in parts of Spain whereby if you buy a drink, you get free tapas - little did we know that parts of Mexico you can also eat for free.
We would never have actually found this tiny bar had it not been for a couple of local students that we met keen to practise their English. Popular with Valladolid's university crowd, Oasis Familiar is definitely not on the traditional tourist route! Plates of traditional meat dishes, tortilla chips and dips and a couple of veggie plates - and all we had to do was order beer.
For more information on where to find Oasis Familiar, check out this post.
Explore the beautiful colonial streets
There are few places in Mexico that we loved more than Valladolid, and even now, after we've seen much of Latin America, this small town remains one of the most beautiful.
Pastel-coloured buildings from a colonial era gone by, vintage VW beetles in vibrant hues parked in front of equally vibrant walls, historic churches that even the least religiously inclined will want to enter and a strong Mayan culture that shows itself in the faces of people that pass you by.
If you're anything like us, you'll struggle to keep the camera from your eye and photograph everything from signs, to doorways and the man in the hairdressers chair!
Whilst we believe that the entire city is perfect, it's not difficult to understand why Calzada de los Frailes (the street which extends from the town centre down to the San Bernardino convent) is tipped to be the most beautiful, with well-kept colonial houses on both sides.
Spend some time at Mercado Municipal
Cheap and tasty taquerias, fresh fruit and vegetables, clothing and everything in between - this is where people from Valladolid come to do their shopping!
If you're new to Mexico or simply prefer to be around locals to tourists, a visit to Mercado Municipal is a must. It's also a fantastic place to come and get your cooking supplies if you plan on preparing some or all of your meals.
Address: Calle 32 s/n
Opening times: 6 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Where to stay
Whilst a number of hostels have opened up in the city over the years, where to stay is a no-brainer: Hostel La Candeleria.
Friendly staff (that will take their time and speak in slow, understandable Spanish if you're trying to learn), nice rooms, a great outdoor space with an even better kitchen - and an excellent breakfast.
Getting there and away
Multiple 1st and 2nd class buses arrive and depart from the centrally located bus station. 1st class travel will bring you there quicker, but for a few extra pesos.
2nd Class bus Tulum – Valladolid: $80 pesos per person, 2-3 hours.
2nd Class bus Valladolid – Merida: $102 pesos per person, 3-4 hours.
Budget-breaker or maker?
Maker. Our favourite hostel is also the cheapest and a day's activity of just wandering the streets with a camera will cost nothing. A few extra unscheduled days may be called for.