After an average visit to Merida we weren’t expecting much from Valladolid. We were only going there to visit the nearby cenotes and the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza. What we found was our favourite Colonial town in Latin America.
Valladolid is technically a city, but really it’s more of a small town based around the central plaza. The Plaza itself is pretty nice with various things happening. On the Sunday night we found people slow dancing in the street to a local band, there’s also the Cathedral of San Gervacio which gives the plaza a real colonial feel. You’ve got to watch out for the birds in the trees though, they shit everywhere. Aimee managed to catch some on her head so she must have a streak of luck on the way.
Off the main square you have a number of colonial style roads with colourful buildings leading to smaller plazas and parks. One road leads to Parque Sisal, home to the convent of San Bernardino. Through Wednesdays to Sundays they have a light show depicting the history of Valladolid on the side of the convent. We went down and checked it out, It was brilliant, just like being back at the Blackpool Illuminations.
Elsewhere around town, there’s a number of great value places to eat and drink, we found a local pizza place and went twice, sharing a large pizza and large bottle of coke each time for $7.50.
Valladolid is a great place to visit, but what puts it above other colonial towns we’ve visited is that there’s also so many amazing things to do nearby…
For me stopping in Valladolid was all about cenotes (natural pools and sinkholes of freshwater). There’s a number of cenotes in and around Valladolid, we went to three in total.
The first two cenotes were at Dznitnup, a 15 minute taxi drive from town. These two are underground cenotes in caves. First we swam in cenote Samula, a beam of light shines through the top and lights up part of the water. This cenote was super impressive but I also realised that I would need to buy a snorkel to enjoy the crystal clear water. For the second cenote, Xkeken, I had purchased my snorkel and whilst it wasn’t as impressive to see, having the snorkel definitely improved the experience.
The third cenote we went too, cenote Oxman, was at a different location. It’s located on a hacienda just outside of town and not as well known as others in the area. This cenote was a deep sinkhole, The visibility in the water was around 20 meters but you can’t see the bottom as it’s so deep.
We arrived at the hacienda by Taxi and pretty much had this freshwater playground to ourselves. There was a rope swing into the cenote, cliff edges to jump off and plenty of space to swim and snorkel. Entrance was only 60 pesos ($3), what more could you want?
Bizarrely neither Aimee or I was actually looking forward to going to Chichen Itza, the world famous Mayan ruins 40 minutes from Valladolid. We’d had such a good experience at Teotihuacan in Mexico city, we really didn’t want to pay over the odds to shuffle round some ruins along with tons of other people, but we knew we’d regret it if we didn’t go.
The day we went we got there early and you can’t deny how special the site is. The history and ruins are amazing, but we were right when it came to the other things. It was more expensive than Teotihuacan, more than 3 times the price and got busier much faster. When we left there was literally hoards of coaches pulling up and stampedes of people coming down the the main path. The walkways around the sites were also crammed full of vendors trying to sell things.
It was also annoying that you can’t go up the pyramids as one of the best things about Teotihuacan was climbing the pyramids for views over the ancient city. I guess this is because it would be carnage with loads of tourists trying to climb up and down all day, probably causing damage to the site. Still though, I am comparing it to other experiences we’ve had visiting ruins in Mexico, individually it’s still an incredible place.
There is also another ancient Mayan site by Valladolid called Ek Balam. We’d heard this was more impressive from some locals and were thinking of going, but after Chichen Itza we decided to give it a miss. Valladolid had so much other stuff to offer and there’s only so many ancient ruins you can look at without thinking “oh look some more ruins… where’s the coffee shop, I could do with a brew”.