Valladolid isn’t a place that rings a bell for most tourists looking to travel to Mexico, but it is actually one of the best places you can visit in the entire country. As one of Mexico’s Pueblos Magicos, Valladolid is stuffed with unique things to see and do that are exploding with cultural significance.
Its location in the heart of the Yucatan Peninsula makes it a great base to use while visiting some of Mexico’s most famous tourist attractions, like Chichen Itza, Las Coloradas, and Cenote Suytun.
This post will contain everything you need to know to plan a trip to this beautiful city, including the best things to do, how to get there, how to get around, and more.
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Best Things to Do in Valladolid
1. Check Out the Best Cenotes in Valladolid
Valladolid is mostly known for its proximity to some of Mexico’s best cenotes. While many of these cenotes are accessible from other places along the Riviera Maya like Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum, Valladolid is the most centrally located of all these places. There are endless options, but we think the best cenotes with beautiful blue water in Valladolid are Cenote Zaci, Cenote Ik Kil, Cenote Oxman, and Cenote Suytun.
If you visit Cenote Zaci, consider grabbing a bite to eat or a drink in their restaurant first, as this will waive the entry fee! For Cenote Suytun, we recommend checking Instagram before you visit to make sure that it isn’t flooded. When there are big storms, the water level in the cavern rises above the platform, making it impossible to take the coveted Cenote Suytun pictures.
A quick search of the recent Instagram posts should show you whether or not the platform is submerged.
2. Marvel at the Glories of Chichen Itza
As one of the seven wonders of the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Chichen Itza is absolutely worth the trip from wherever you are on the Gulf or Caribbean coast of Mexico. Chichen Itza isn’t just one pyramid as you might think. Rather, Chichen Itza is an entire ancient Mayan city with all kinds of different ruins.
Valladolid is the best base to use for visiting Chichen Itza because of its proximity. Some people rent scooters to get from Valladolid to Chichen Itza, and if you have prior experience with scooters this is an awesome option. If you don’t have experience riding mopeds, you can take the colectivo from town all the way to Chichen Itza. For details on that, look here.
In any case, we recommend getting to Chichen Itza in the early morning and paying for a guided tour once you get there. There is simply so much to learn, and opting not to hire a guide is truly robbing yourself of the best experience. The only reason to go any time other than early morning is to catch the light show in the evening. There is an amazing light show every weekday at 8pm (except for Mondays) that you don’t want to miss!
We recommend going in the early morning because the crowds start to pour in as soon as the buses from Cancun can arrive, which is a couple of hours further than Valladolid is. If you can visit before the droves of tourists arrive, you will have a much better experience.
3. Reflect in the Convent of San Bernardo
The Convent of San Bernardo was founded in the 1500s, and it is located just a 10-minute walk from the main plaza of Valladolid. This Franciscan monastery was both a religious mission and a strategic fortification. When you visit this ex-monastery you can walk through beautiful gardens, learn about centuries-old history, and reflect in a pretty chapel.
If you enjoy visiting churches while traveling, Valladolid has plenty more options for you. The Iglesia de San Servacio is located right by the zocalo, and it is possibly the most beautiful church in the entire city. Valladolid is known for its colorful streets and colonial architecture, and many of the most colonial buildings in the city are churches.
4. Try All of the Yucatecan Food
While Mexican food is one of the most popular cuisines in the world, many people don’t realize that Mexican food varies largely depending on the region it is from. Food from the state of Yucatan, where Valladolid is located, is widely considered to be some of the best food in Mexico along with Puebla. While you’re in Valladolid, you should check out popular Yucatecan staples like Lomitas de Valladolid and Cochinita Pibil.
One of the best restaurants in Valladolid is El Atrio del Mayab, and this is a great place to try the popular dishes I mentioned above. If you are looking for more of a snack than a meal, I recommend heading to the area by the convent in the evening. This area is usually filled with street vendors selling delicious Mexican street food!
5. Wander Around the Calzada de Los Frailes
If you’re looking for something to do, we recommend just wandering the streets. The streets of Valladolid are filled with unique boutique shops, boutique hotels, and restaurants. While Valladolid’s main square is a great place to wander around, the Calzada de Los Frailes is the real favorite among tourists!
Simply put, the Calzada de Los Frailes is the perfect place in the city center to wander around. This quaint street is filled with the aforementioned boutiques as well as some of the best restaurants and ice cream shops in Valladolid. On our first visit, we stayed in an Airbnb on this street, and it was amazing.
6. Check Out Some of the Nearby Mayan Ruins
While Chichén Itzá is by far the most iconic archaeological site in the region, there are so many more to see in Valladolid Mexico’s surrounding area. From Ek Balam to Uxmal, to the yellow city of Izamal, there are some truly spectacular pyramids and other archaeological wonders to explore just a short drive from this small colonial city.
The Yucatan Peninsula was once a bustling hub of Mayan communities, and their fingerprints on the region exist to this day. We highly recommend hiring an experienced guide to show you around one of the ruins sites, as the levels of knowledge and understanding that went into building these structures so many centuries ago are baffling. The experience of visiting with a guide is well worth the price.
7. Take a Day Trip to Las Coloradas
Las Coloradas is an iconic beach and lake area that is filled with bright pink water. This Instagram-famous site is located in the small fishing village of Rio Lagartos, which is about 80 miles north of Valladolid via the toll road. This short distance as well as the striking beauty of the pink lakes make Las Coloradas a great day trip from Valladolid, and you can absolutely get there and back on the same day.
If you are worried about configuring transportation and don’t want to drive a rental car, a great way to visit is via an organized tour from Valladolid’s city centre. While it is a bit of a long trip regardless of how you get there, the good news is that the entrance fee to the site is minimal, and it is supposed to include the services of a tour guide.
8. Visit the Casa de Los Venados
The Casa de Los Venados is a private home that has been turned into a small museum right by Valladolid’s central plaza. This museum is one of the top things to do in Valladolid because of its expansive knowledge of local art and folklore. As it is located right by the zocalo and within walking distance of just about everything in the city, the Casa de Los Venados is incredibly convenient to visit and should not be missed!
How to Get to Valladolid
Getting to Valladolid is pretty easy, depending on where you’re coming from. Valladolid isn’t located near any airports, so if you’re arriving from abroad, you’ll need to fly into either Cancun or Merida. From there we advise that you take an ADO bus to Valladolid.
ADO buses are extremely trustworthy, and honestly are nicer than any buses we’ve ever taken in the U.S. There really is no better way to get there. The bus station is located downtown, and all of the main attractions are very walkable from there.
If you’re coming from somewhere else close by in Mexico, you can also consider taking a Blablacar to get to Valladolid.
How to Get Around Valladolid
BY FOOT | TAXI
Valladolid is a pretty small town. As a result, you can walk to just about everything. However, regardless of how small the town is, there are places nearby that are unreachable by foot.
For example, to get from the center of town to Cenote Suytun or Cenote Oxman, you’ll need to take a taxi. The best way to do this is to walk as close to the edge of town as possible and find the cheapest-looking taxi possible. The locals told us that they use the blue and white taxis, and we had no problems with them.
The taxi drivers on the outskirts of the city are often willing to drive you to any destination for much less than the taxi drivers in the center of town. As a couple, we paid about 100 pesos or 5 dollars to get from the center of Valladolid to Cenote Suytun, and we caught the same taxi driver to get back to the town after we finished.
Other than taxis, colectivos, and ADO buses linking to other cities, there is virtually no public transport available in Valladolid.
The Best Time to Visit Valladolid
Valladolid is located on the Yucatan Peninsula, which is one of the hottest, most humid parts of Mexico. The weather is very warm all year, which is part of what makes Valladolid a great place to visit in the winter. The weather in Valladolid during the winter is very comfortable, and you can visit Valladolid in December or January without much need for a sweatshirt, if any.
While winter is definitely the best time to visit Valladolid, the city is beautiful all year round. The weather in the summer is extremely hot and humid, but there is nothing better than a dip in a cool cenote or swimming pool on a hot day in Valladolid!
Is Valladolid Worth Visiting?
The Yucatan Peninsula is loaded with incredible places to visit, and it is hard to rank one over another. Merida is a stunning city, Tulum has become iconic, and Cancun is known all around the world for its glamorous resorts. With all of these other great options nearby, is Valladolid worth visiting?
Personally, I think it is a no-brainer. While those other cities are all great destinations in their own way, none of them is anything like Valladolid. Valladolid is incredibly charming, sits at the foot of Chichen Itza, is literally surrounded by incredible Mayan ruins and cenotes, and is drastically less overrun by tourists. While you can go on a road trip to visit all of these amazing things from Cancun, Tulum, or Merida, spending some time based in Valladolid allows you to check them all out without the need to spend so many hours in the car. If you want to visit the best ruins and cenotes on the Yucatan Peninsula, Valladolid is the best option to base yourself out of.
If you are simply looking for a quaint city where you can absorb Mexican culture and indulge in delicious Mexican food and drink at a low price, Valladolid is the perfect place for you.
Our Final Valladolid Tips
Valladolid is a very cool place that we absolutely recommend visiting. However, a couple of tips on the front end can help to further enhance your experience. Hopefully, these tips help to amplify your experience!
That’s all we have for you about Valladolid! Hopefully, this guide helps you while you’re visiting Valladolid.
If you’re planning a trip to Valladolid, comment below! We’d love to chat ahead of time and answer any questions you have.