Things to do in Valladolid : cenotes and colonial charm
Last Updated on May 15, 2023
Valladolid is one of Mexico’s “Pueblo Magico” due to its impressive colonial architecture. The city is actually quite small, but super well preserved. Every house, every building is just beautiful. Valladolid is as picturesque as it gets. The town offers a free walking tour every day in the evening. There are also few cenotes nearby worth visiting as well as Mayan ruins. Here are a few things to do in Valladolid and around:
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Things to do in Valladolid: a walk through the colonial town
The Main Plaza and the Iglesia de San Servacio
The Parque Francisco Canton Rosado is the heart of the city, surrounded by colonial buildings, handicraft shops, and the magnificent San Servacio church, it is the perfect place to take in the local atmosphere. There you can stroll around, take pictures and eat a Marquesita, a type of crunchy crepe, locals like to eat it with Nutella and cheese (sounds delicious no?).
The San Servacio Church was built in 1545, partly destroyed in 1705 and renovated a year later. You can freely visit it as long as there’s no mass going on.
The San Bernardino Convent
The San Bernardino Convent is a high place of history for colonial Valladolid. Built from 1552 to 1560, secularized in 1755, it served as a fort during the independence war and was abandoned in 1848 during the Indian revolt. Fortunately, it wasn’t damaged much. It was restored in 1978. It now serves as a church and a museum.
On your way there, don’t miss the Plaza Cinco Calles and the Calzada de Los Frailes street, one of the city’s most colorful streets.
Every night, during public holidays, and every Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 9 PM, there’s a light show there, retracing the history of the city.
San Roque Museum and Casa de Los Venados
Valladolid has two small museums you can visit if you want to learn more about the city’s history. The Casa de Los Venados Museum features a great collection of Mexican popular art, set in a beautiful colonial house. The small San Roque Museum retraces Valladolid and Yucatan history.
Santa Ana Church
Santa Ana Church is the oldest church in Valladolid and a perfect example of colonial architecture. The district around it was also one of the first to be built.
The Candelaria district is one of the cutest areas in Valladolid, from its plaza to its church, everything is beautiful. Don’t miss the Aurora building, an old clothing factory.
Best cenotes in Valladolid
Valladolid is famous for its amazing cenotes, most Mexicans will tell you that Yucatan’s best cenotes are in Valladolid. Most of the cenote in Valladolid can easily be visited and are relatively close to the center. You can rent a bike or take a cab. All the cenotes in Valladolid are underground, but most of them have a large opening at the top.
Cenote Hacienda San Lorenzo Oxman
Oxman cenote is 2.5 miles south of Valladolid on Calle 54. The cenote is sacred for the Mayas and the Hacienda there was built in the 18th century.
You’ll have to go down to access the cenote, but the top is open, with long tree roots dropping into the water. Mayas believed these trees were inhabited by spirits protecting the cenote. The water is a nice blue-green and there are a lot of fishes there. It’s usually quiet especially during weekdays.
Located right in the middle of the city, this cenote is often crowded with locals on weekends. The cenote is partially covered, the opening is around half the size of the cenote. Its location makes it convenient to go for a quick dip. There’s a platform going around it, and you can jump from there. At its deepest, the cenote is 330 feet deep.
The entrance fee is 50 pesos, and it closes at 5:30pm. Come with your swimsuit on as there is no place to change. There are also no lockers.
Cenotes Xkeken and Cenote Samula
Located in front of each other on highway 180, both cenotes are underground with only a small opening at the top. They’re full of stalactites, and it really feels like swimming inside a cave. There are also « spa fishes » in the water, just dip your feet and let them to their work.
Entrance fee is 80 pesos for one cenote or 125 for 2. They close at 7 pm.
What to do around Valladolid
Ek Balam – Mayan Ruins
Mexico is full of ancient Mayan cities worth visiting. Ek Balam, meaning black panther in Mayan, is a must-see if you’re in the area. Less frequented than its neighbor, Chichen Itza, Ek Balam is a magical place.
The site is relatively small, only half a dozen structures have been excavated so far. There are two pyramids, the smaller one is the temple and the biggest one the royal palace. Two other structures are perfectly aligned with the equinox, and there are also several tablets where you can still see some writing.
The most incredible sight is the place where they buried one of the kings, the carvings and sculptures look amazing. From the palace, you’ll get a fantastic view over Ek Balam and the surrounding jungle.
The entrance fee is 413 pesos for foreigners and 500 pesos for a Spanish-speaking guide (add 100 pesos for other languages). You can check out the official website for more information.
To get there from Valladolid, you can take a shared taxi, you’ll just have to wait for it to be filled, same for the return. It costs 50 pesos one way. They leave from the corner of Calle 44 and Calle 37.
Inside the Ek Balam archaeological area, you’ll find the Xcanche cenote, a great place to relax and cool down after your visit of the Ek Balam ruins. The cenote is underground, but the top is fully open. The color of the water is incredible, and there’s a lot of catfishes swimming around. You can jump from several parts as well as from a rope. The platform goes all the way around with a hanging bridge.
The entrance fee is 70 pesos. You can rent a bike or hire a bike taxi to take you there, you can also walk, it’s less than a mile. There’s a restaurant, and a place to change and to take a shower near the cenote.
Read more about Cenote Xcanche.
If there is one thing to do in Valladolid or even Mexico in general, it’s visiting Chichen Itza. Take a guide so you can learn everything about the Maya culture and what each building was used for. I’m always impressed by how the Mayas had an advanced level of astrology. The whole site is built around planets’ alignment. It’s also impressive to learn that Chichen Itza was built without metallic tools and before the wheel was invented.
Chichen Itza is a place full of mysteries, from the way it was built to the reason the city was abandoned, there are a lot of unanswered questions surrounding it.
The entrance fee is 480 pesos for foreigners. To get there from Valladolid, you can take an ADO bus or a shared taxi from the city center.
Check out some of the tours you can take in Valladolid and around:
Hotels in Valladolid, Mexico
There are plenty of accommodation options in Valladolid from backpackers to luxury hotels. Here are some of the best hotels in Valladolid to stay at :
- Hostel Candelaria: 4 to 8-bed dorms, some with AC, lockers, breakfast included, clean and in the center. Prices start at USD 10. They also have a private room (USD 26).
- Hostal Gayser: private fan rooms starting at USD 13, clean, friendly staff, conveniently located, kitchen.
- AtrapaSueños: Private rooms starting at USD 16, all with AC, a balcony and a private bathroom, located in the center.
- Casa Marlene: set in a colonial house in Valladolid’s historic center, the rooms are large, and the outdoor area is great, with a pool and lots of greenery. The breakfast is included, they also make dinner. Prices are around 70 USD per night.
- Hotel Peregrina: Located in a quiet neighborhood, not far from the center, this clean hotel offers large and comfortable rooms. All rooms are soundproof, and there’s a pool and a nice outdoor area. Prices are around USD 50 per night.
- Meson De Malleville: Probably Valladolid’s best hotel. Conveniently located between the convent and the city center, this luxurious hotel is set in a 16th-century colonial house. The hotel is decorated with taste, it feels like stepping back in time. They also have a suite with a private pool (Coqui Coqui).
Planning a trip to Yucatan and the Riviera Maya? Check out this great 2 to 4-week itinerary + all the places you can’t miss.
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