The BALANCE guide to Valladolid
While the white sands and iridescent waters of Quintana Roo, Mexico, will have been flooding your Instagram feed for the last few years, there will have been few sightings of Valladolid.
The second largest city in the Yucatan region, it’s the tourist hub for trips to the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza, with beautiful colonial buildings and lots of things to see, from cenotes (a.k.a sinkholes) to cathedrals.
Snoozier than Merida, Valladolid is the perfect place to meander around the brightly coloured roads, taking pictures of the ‘Grammable doorways and wall detailing, without having to tussle with groups of tourists.
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HOW TO GET TO VALLADOLID?
An easy two hour-ish bus from most big cities nearby, like Tulum, Cancun and Merida, Valladolid is conveniently linked — especially thanks to the ADO Bus Station in the centre of the pretty Candelaria area.
WHERE TO EAT IN VALLADOLID?
There are loads of options, including some especially for vegetarians — which is fairly rare in Mexico, where pork tacos are a favourite fare. Yerba Buena del Sisas, near to the Convent of San Bernardino de Siena, is one of the best for breakfast or lunch as it closes at 5pm that is guaranteed to be meat-free. Nearby Taberna de los Frailes offers a more traditional menu, with lots for pescatarians. (We’d recommend the cerviche.) Other places to check out are La Ville Bistro, mostly for the fun swing chairs, and Conato 1910 for drinks or dinner. ‘A meeting place for revolutionaries in the early 20th century’, according to Lonely Planet, the restaurant high points are undoubtedly the Frida Kahlo-themed interiors, brightly coloured balcony and exceptionally friendly waiters.
WHERE TO RELAX IN VALLADOLID?
There are lots of parks and open spaces but this part of the Yucatan Peninsula is HOT, with temperatures up in the high twenties and mid thirties all year round. Rather than roasting, head to Cenote Zaci, one of the many water-filled sinkholes in the area, to marvel at the rock formations, watch the birds, swim in the water and lie on the stony platforms. There’s a restaurant just next door if you forget water or want to buy lunch.
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WHERE TO STAY IN VALLADOLID?
With loads of options for inexpensive Airbnbs and hostels, there’s no shortages of accommodation for all budgets. A particularly special place, which will seem cheap or extortionate, depending on your travelling type, is Casa del Mayordomo. Housed in an old Colonial building, just up from the bus stop, the boutique hotel provides a beautiful bolthole, complete with little pool and outdoor dining room. The near-to-cheapest rooms have super chic, semi-outdoor bathrooms, which are a real Instagram op, but the deluxe suite justifies the extra cost (at £62 a night), thanks to a freestanding bath, huge four poster bed and huge tiled shower.
WHAT TO DO IN VALLADOLID IF IT’S SUNNY
It’s one of the best cities for just wandering about in, particularly down pretty Calzada de los Frailes, for the architecture, little boutiques and old barbers. Check out the Valladolid Cathedral too.
If you get a bit sunned out, head to Cenote Zaci, as mentioned, for shade and a swim.
WHAT TO DO IN VALLADOLID IF IT’S RAINY
For most of the year, it isn’t. August and September, with an average of twelve days of rain, are the wettest and even then temperatures are above 23 degrees. House turned museum Casa de los Venados hosts a great little selection of Mexican art in an intimate, easy-to-get-around setting. But, rarely mentioned in the guide books, it’s only open 10am-12pm.
WHAT TO DO EITHER WAY
Don’t miss the Convent of San Bernardino de Siena. As well as ancient artefacts found when divers drained the sinkhole on the site and a lowdown on some of the Yucatan history, it’s the most incredible place to walk around. With little of it cordoned off, you can wonder at the huge building, with it’s impressive arches, millennial pink walls and corridors of pretty tiles. (Instagram GOLD, plus it’s surprisingly un-touristy so you won’t have people ruining your shots.) Valladolid is also an easy pop to Chichen Itza, which you can get to for just under £2 and in around 45 minutes on the Collectivo bus near the ADO Bus Station. Though, at £20, the entrance fee seems steep, the sprawling Mayan ruins are more than worth it. Just remember to take water.