We spent 3 days in the city of Valladolid in Yucatán, Mexico. It is an excellent base to visit the famous Mayan ruins of Chichén Itzá and the Kukulkan Pyramid, one of the world seven new wonders! In addition, it was also an opportunity to discover the less known Ek Balam ruins and the cenotes in the region. If you visit this part of Mexico, do not miss Quintana Roo region. Here are our tips to visit Valladolid and its surroundings:
Valladolid is a colonial town in the Yucatán region, on the way between Cancún and Merida. A stop in this city will allow you to easily access the region tourist’s attractions. Valladolid is part of the “Magic Villages” program, Pueblo Mágico, which aim is to develop tourism in small Mexican cities. The cost of living in Valladolid is also more reasonable than in the coast.
Visit of Valladolid city centre
The city centre can be easily explored by foot. In addition, despite the many shops for tourists en route to Chichén Itzá, the city stays charming. We loved the church on the main square. In terms of cultural visit, the Casa de los Venados museum is highly recommended.
The Zaci cenote is located in the heart of Valladolid. This location makes it more impressive. This cenote is half covered and has beautiful caves to explore. Also, it is possible to swim and enjoy the on-site restaurant. The entrance is 30 pesos.
This is the perfect place if you want to relax after a sightseeing day.
There are no rivers in the entire Yucatán peninsula, only underground rivers whose access is sometimes made possible through the cenotes. Like the region of Quintana Roo, Yucatán is full of cenotes. According to theories, cenotes are formed by the dissolution and collapse of lands above an underground caves and rivers network or by the fallout of the Gulf of Mexico meteorite.
According to the Mexicans we met, the most beautiful cenotes are in the Yucatán region. One thing is certain, you will get opportunities to visit lots and swim into those. These cool swims under the bats made us feel like true adventurers!
Where to eat and sleep in Valladolid?
There are many restaurants on site for all tastes and budgets. The Municipal Bazaar, with its local and international food stalls, is perfect for small budgets. If you want to indulge yourself, we ate incredibly well at the El Mesón del Marqués restaurant and the decor was beautiful. Finally, if you have not yet tasted tamales during your stay in Mexico we recommend La palapita de los tamales.
For our accomodation, we chose the Palacio Canton hotel. The hotel is located right in the centre. Moreover, we loved the eclectic decor, in a very Mexican style, and we stayed in the Frida Kahlo room. The well-decorated pool allowed us to fully enjoy the stay.
The Chichén Itzá Mayan ruins, listed as UNESCO World Heritage, are very impressive but also very popular. Indeed, the entire archaeological site is very well preserved and restored. Moreover, the iconic Kukulkan Pyramid is one of the world seven new wonders.
The only bad thing is: it is the only place where you can’t explore inside and climb the buildings. This is due to the high number of tourists coming from Cancún, Playa del Carmen and cruise ships. That being said, it is certainly a good thing for the conservation of this incredible historical site. For the entry, count 481 pesos per person.
To get there from Valladolid, at the opening to avoid the tourist herds, we went on a shared taxi from the sitio next to the bus terminal. Sitios are shared taxi stands. Count 35 pesos per person. It is also possible to take a bus at a fixed time for the same fare. Finally, we strongly advise you to bring something to eat with you, the restaurants are overpriced and unappetizing.
X’Keken and Samula cenotes
When traveling to and from Chichén Itzà, you can ask the sitio driver to stop at the X’Keken and Samula cenotes. These two cenotes, located a few meters from each other, are very beautiful and different. Indeed, they are almost closed (only a small hole let the light pass) which reinforces the cellar mystifying effect. It is also possible to swim there, a superb experience although the water is not very hot. Count 125 pesos per person to access the 2 cenotes.
To return to Valladolid, we did not find another sitio (but we did not wait very long) and shared a regular taxi with two other tourists.
Ek’ Balam and Xcanche cenote
We also visited the Ek’ Balam Mayan ruins in the north of Valladolid. The archaeological site is small but it is not less interesting. Lost in the jungle, the site is very impressive. Moreover, the highest pyramid is worth climbing. In addition, during the main pyramid excavation, a fresco was found almost intact. Its state of preservation is by far the most impressive we have seen in the region. The entry price is 413 pesos per person and 50 pesos more for the cenote access.
To get there, nothing more simple, the Ek’ Balam sitio will take you to the ruins entrance for 50 pesos. The only condition is to wait until there are at least 4 people to fill a car. Same thing for the return.
We spent half a day there and then we also visited the cenote Xcanche. The cenote is located 2 km from the archaeological site of Ek ‘Balam. Consequently we walked there, but it is also possible to rent bikes or take a tuk-tuk. It is a beautiful cenote where you can spend several hours swimming, rappelling and even zip lining. Be careful, the access closes early in the afternoon.
Clémentine’s Reading and Movies List
- The Rough Guide to Mexico if you visit other Mexican region or the Lonely Planet Cancun, Cozumel & the Yucatan travel guide.
- Like Water for Chocolate, from Laura Esquivel: a novel (adapted into a movie) whose magical realism refers to the great works of Latin American literature. The narration is punctuated with traditional recipes.
- The film La Jaula de Oro about Guatemalan teenagers trying to reach the United States through Mexico.
- Frida, the movie which traces the life of the Mexican artist Frida Khalo.
- For children (and older children) the Disney movie Coco which apprehends very well Mexican traditions including the very important Día de Muertos.
Thank you for reading and leave us a comment if you have suggestions and/or questions. You can find all of our tips to visit Mexico.