As the third-largest city on the Yucatán Peninsula, it’s hard to miss Valladolid. Not only is it known for its proximity to Chichén Itzá, but it’s also surrounded by dozens of cenotes or sinkholes, primed for cooling off from the Mexican heat. It’s also home to the baroque Cathedral of San Gervasio. Here are the best ways to fill your days while discovering this colorful city in Mexico.
Just a 45-minute drive from downtown, Chichén Itzá is a more-than-doable day trip if you’re staying in Valladolid. It’s one of the most important and well-preserved Maya temples in the world. Spend hours wandering around the great pyramid, the massive pokolpok ball field and the sweeping stone temples. Up for a swim? You won’t be able to take a dip in Chichén Itzá’s Cenote Sagrado (Sacred Cenote), but there is the cenote Ik Kil on the way back.
Going for a walk down Calzada de los Frailes (Friars’ Road) will take you back to the days of the Franciscans who once wandered the streets. Here, you’ll find sombrero shops, cafes and fondas (small restaurants) among a rainbow of painted 16th-century homes, ending in the shady Parque Sisal. Take a moment to people-watch from one of the park benches, followed by a visit inside the arching, sand-colored Convento de San Bernardino de Siena next door.
You’ve likely seen Cenote Suytun before, whether on an Instagram advert or outdoor clothing catalog, but it isn’t any old sinkhole. It’s completely underground, so you’ll have to clamber into a cave and down some stairs to enter. Admire the ceiling hung with stalactites and an enormous opening, allowing light to illuminate the cave. The cenote itself isn’t that deep, however. If you’re looking to swim, we recommend Cenote Zaci in the city center and Cenote Xkeken, a short drive out of town.
Just off Valladolid’s town square, this mustard-yellow casona houses a massive exhibition of Mexican folk art. Catrinas, retablos and alebrijes (colorful sculptures) abound here, along with Otomí embroidery and other indigenous handicrafts. Casa de los Venados is a private museum, the result of the owners’ decades of collecting from local artisans. Check ahead for tour times – guides are friendly and knowledgeable, explaining the painstaking detail needed to produce each piece.
At the end of Calzada de los Frailes, this arching ex-convent dates back to the 16th century, when the Franciscans built it as one of the earliest attempts to convert the local Maya people. The chapel is filled with Renaissance-style frescoes, and the museum hall holds the secrets to the hidden Cenote Sis Ha lying in the gardens. If you visit Valladolid in May, you’ll be in town for the annual music and arts festival held on the church grounds.
While the Maya influence is still visible across the Yucatán, it’s most evident in the area’s gastronomy. Plenty of dishes continue to fly under the radar, but not at Ix Cat Ik. Here, Maya delicacies are on full display, made from fresh ingredients grown locally or in the restaurant’s garden. Let the staff show you around, then dig into dishes such as the sopa de lima (Yucatán-style lime soup), empanada de chaya (tree spinach) and the longaniza de Valladolid (smoked pork sausage).
An oasis in the main square, the restaurant patio at El Mesón del Marqués is perfect for relaxing. Order up a refreshing jicama margarita, complete with Tajín around the rim, or try out the sweet-and-spicy mango version. Then, visit the rooftop terrace for the best views of the city and the Iglesia de San Servacio a block away.
Stay in a beautiful hotel while visiting Valladolid, or head out to Playa del Carmen for a relaxing resort stay on the beach, all bookable through Culture Trip. Be sure to visit the most breathtaking destinations in the Yucatán Peninsula and sample some top-notch local dishes.
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