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Located in the heart of the Yucatán Peninsula you will find Valladolid. A quaint town with a rich history that is reflected in the colonial buildings in the center. What makes Valladolid special is that it’s the perfect base for visiting several beautiful cenotes and ancient Mayan ruins such as Chichen Itza. But you don’t have to travel far for those sights, because Valladolid even has a cenote right in the middle of town!

Valladolid mexico
Valladolid mexico

Fun activities in Valladolid

See the lichtshow in Parque Principal

The streets of Valladolid breathe history. The city was built in the 15th century on a former Mayan city Zaci. The stones of the Mayan buildings were used for the Spanish colonial buildings including the characteristic church at the Parque Principal.

During the day it’s a pleasant place to sit on a bench in the shade of the trees and watch the people. In the late afternoon, food stalls are set up. Be sure to try a marquesita, a rolled up waffle often filled with chocolate and cheese. Sounds like a crazy combo, but it’s surprisingly delicious!

Every evening at 8:30 p.m. there is an impressive light show about the city’s history projected onto the church. At 21:00 this show is in English. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much from it at first, but it’s really coolly.

Afterwards, you could walk on to Parque Sisal where at 21:00 (in Spanish) and 21:30 (in English) the next light show starts that is projected on the walls of the monastery. Also cool, but the light show on the main church was more impressive in my opinion.

Valladolid Parque principal
Marquesita valladolid

Admire the Chichen Itza Mayan temples

An absolute must see in Mexico is Chichen Itza. It’s one of the most impressive archaeological sites in Mexico and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This ancient city was an important center of the Mayan civilization and played a crucial role in the political, economic and religious history of the region.

These imposing temples are within easy reach of Valladolid. Thousands of people visit Chichen Itza every day. Peak hours begin late morning into the afternoon because of the many tours. So it’s smart to get up early and enter the site right after it opens. Although you won’t be the only one with this idea, it’s still much quieter compared to later hours.

chichen itza mexico

You can visit Chichen Itza with a tour, or on your own by bus, scooter or cab. ADO buses leave around 10:00 in the morning and within 40 minutes you reach the complex. The roads are in good condition, so it’s also doable by scooter.

Entrance to Chichen Itza is 550 MXN per person. That’s without a guide. I can recommend taking a guide as you get so much more information and the complex becomes much more impressive when you understand the advanced astronomical and mathematical knowledge behind the structures. A super nice guide I can recommend is Walter Cahum. He tells the history in a very interesting way, teaches you a bit of the Mayan language, AND is your personal paparazzi! You can send him a message at +52 985 109 7840.

Chichen Itza Mexico

Visit the less touristy Ek Balam temples

Chichen Itza is not the only Maya ruin in the area. North of Valladolid is Ek Balam. Like Chichen Itza, it’s super impressive to see the ancient structures rising from the surrounding green jungle. Again, the majestic temples demonstrate how advanced the architecture and craftsmanship of the Mayan civilization was.

Unlike the temples at Chichen Itza, you are still allowed to climb those at Ek Balam. In addition, the Ek Balam ruins are a bit quieter than the Chichen Itza because the bulk of tourists only visit the latter.

Entrance fee is 500 MXN per person. You often pay something for parking as well, usually about 100 MXN.

Swim in the cenotes

The region of Valladolid is home to several cenotes: natural sinkholes created by collapsing ground. Unlike the cenotes around Tulum, the cenotes here are more often located underground in majestic caves.

Cenote Zaci

In Valladolid, you can even find a cenote right in the center of town. Here you can take a refreshing splash in the crystal clear water surrounded by high rocky walls.

The number of visitors who can enter at once is limited, so you can enjoy a quiet and relaxed atmosphere. When you arrive, write your name on the list where you buy your tickets. Then they let you know when you can enter, usually after about 1 or 2 hours. You can spend a maximum of 1 hour in the cenote, but then they are flexible because no one sends you out.

In the meantime, you can grab lunch at one of the nearby restaurants, or wander around the Mercado Principal to score local souvenirs.

cenote zaci valladolid
cenote zaci valladolid

Cenote Xkeken & Cenote Samula

These impressive cenotes are located near Valladolid, hidden in beautiful caves. With one ticket you can visit both.

Upon arrival at Cenote Xkeken, you descend a narrow staircase into a dark cave. The turquoise water is surrounded by imposing ancient stalactites. In the limestone ceiling are a few small natural openings through which light shines. The water is wonderfully refreshing. Cenote Samula is located in another cave, with a larger natural opening where the sun creates a beautiful effect on the water.

There are restrooms, changing rooms and showers. You are expected to shower before entering the cenotes.

Life jackets are required for both cenotes and you provide ID as a deposit. The cenotes are relatively close to Valladolid, so you can visit them from the city by scooter, colectivo or cab. You could also decide to visit them on the way back after Chichen Itza.

cenote xkeken
cenote samula

Cenote Xcanche

The Xcanche cenote is located closeby the Ek Balam temples making it ideal for combining these sights. This open cenote is located among rocks surrounded by lush jungle. Here you can swim with the sun on your face.

Besides having changing rooms, shower and toilets, there is also a good restaurant that sells tasty tacos and enchiladas, among other things.

Other cenotes

There are numerous other cenotes in the vicinity of Valladolid. In my opinion, the ones mentioned above are definitely worth visiting.

It’s notable that some cenotes have been transformed into popular tourist destinations. For example, the Cenote Saamal is now only accessible with the purchase of a pricey combo ticket including a lunch menu in the restaurant (without drinks). Not highly recommended as far as I am concerned and therefore not described further in this post. The size of the parking lot often already indicates how crowded it can get, especially since buses full of tourists are dropped off daily, which in my opinion detracts from the magic of the places

Good to know is that the entrance fees of cenotes can suddenly change. It may be decided to increase entrance tickets by MXN 100 or more once in a while. Therefore, check ticket prices in advance to avoid surprises.

Learn about beekeeping at Xkopek, Beekeeping Park

Valladolid houses not only beautiful cenotes and historic ruins, but also a unique place for nature and sustainability lovers; Xkopek, Beekeeping Park. In this park you can learn more about the wonderful world of beekeeping during a tour. You can experience up close how bees produce honey and how beekeepers handle these valuable insects. In addition, you will learn about the differences between bees in Mexico and those in other parts of the world.

The bee park is located in the south of Valladolid, a half-hour walk from Parque Principal, or a short ride by cab or scooter.

Nice restaurants and cafes in Valladolid

Carolin Cacao Cafe Boutique: At this cafe you can enjoy a delicious breakfast or lunch with a good cup of coffee or chocolate. Afterwards, stroll around their mini organic garden as well. Who knows, you might see some hummingbirds there.

Loncheria Olich: This family-run restaurant serves delicious and affordable local food. From the courtyard you can look right into the kitchen.

La Joyita Cantina: Here you can enjoy your beer amid the intoxicated Mexicans, accompanied by typical Mexican live music. La Joyita Cantina is Valladolid’s traditional pub. With every drink you get a snack, so you won’t leave the pub without a full stomach.

Los Frappes: For a dance in the evening, Los Frappes is the place to be. Here, after 10 p.m., you can dance the night away with a live band. The crowd is a pleasant mix of locals and tourists.

restaurants valladolid mexico
taco's mexico

How many days in Valladolid

I can recommend spending 2 – 4 days in Valladolid, with 2 full days being the minimum in my opinion. This will give you a chance to spend a day going to Chichen Itza and surrounding cenotes. Another day you could visit the Ek Balam temples combined with cenotes nearby.

How to get there

From Tulum: About 2 hours from Tulum, for €12 by ADO bus.

From Isla Holbox: About 2.5 hours by bus to Chiquila for €16. From there you’re another half hour on the ferry.

From Merida: About 2.5 hours by bus for €21.