Valladolid, Mexico is a incredible hidden gem located deep in Mexico’s Yucatan jungle. After nearly a year traveling the Yucatan peninsula, Valladolid remains my absolute favorite place in Mexico.
Vibrant. Authentic. Unique. Valladolid is authentic Mexico at its best.
Ready to explore? This mega guide is chalk full of insider trip-planning secrets and tips to help fellow travelers enjoy the best of Mexico.
BUT FIRST – get hyped with this short video I made with the ENTIRE TOWN on my last visit to show you why Valladolid is so magical. Valladolid’s mayor even makes a cameo!:
⚠ COVID UPDATES ⚠
If you need a covid test in Valladolid, Similab offers same day antigen tests (Calle 32 No 185, Tel +52 984-259-4207). Note that the USA requires tests to return, and many travelers are testing positive and put into expensive mandated quarantine instead of flying home (it could happen even if you have the vaccine). Do you need travel insurance? It’s actually pretty cheap! World Nomads is is my personal go-to during covid times. But do your own research (start with my guide to Mexico travel insurance). Stay safe out there!
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Why You Should Visit Valladolid Mexico
I’ve spent the better part of five months traveling in Mexico’s Yucatan. And, while there are a lot of awesome places on the peninsula (e.g., Celestun, Bacalar, Tulum), when people ask me what they should see I always tell them that Valladolid should be at the top of their Mexico bucket list!
First off, Valladolid is still off the beaten path. So it offers an opportunity to experience authentic Mayan culture and history that you just candidly can’t find very easily in the heavily-touristed beach towns like Cancun and Tulum.
Despite the fact that a million tourists whiz by Valladolid on their tours to Chichen Itza, the town itself is still blissfully untouched by the worst ravages of tourism.
From wandering its colorful streets, to exploring the cenotes of Valladolid, to immersing yourself in Mayan culture and history, there are so many things to do here.
While I recommend staying overnight to truly soak in Valladolid, if pressed for time you can explore it and the nearby Mayan ruins on one of these day trips from the larger coastal towns.
Whatever you do, a visit to Valladolid should be on every traveler’s list!
🔥 Pssh – First time traveling to Mexico? Don’t miss my 17 little-known travel tips for Mexico!
19 Fun Things to Do in Valladolid, Mexico
#1 – Cool off in Valladolid’s Cenotes
A cenote is basically a swimming hole carved into limestone bedrock by spring water. They look like something from the Indiana Jones movies! There are tens of thousands of cenotes in Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, and some of the best cenotes are near Valladolid.
My favorite Valladolid cenotes:
- Cenote Suytun – pictured above, this is perhaps the Mexico’s most famous cenote because it’s great for Instagram!
- Cenote Zaci – right in the middle of town, for just 30 pesos, it makes for a great place to take a dip and cool off (bring a swimsuit and a towel!)
- Cenote San Lorenzo Oxman – a gorgeous cenote with a rope swing!
- Cenote Zazil Tunich – this cenote hosts an evening 3 course dinner and Mayan ceremony as part of its Xibabla Nights tours.
Whatever you pick, swimming in a cenote is one of my top things to do in Mexico.
#2 – Marvel at Mayan Art at Casa de los Venados
It’s not a museum, but actually a large house that the owners open up to the public for tours at 10 am everyday.
Inside you’ll find a stunning renovated hacienda housing one of the largest collections of pre-Hispanic Mexican artwork in the country.
It’s location just off the main square means a visit to Casa de los Venados is easy to make, and should definitely be on your list of the top things to do in Valladolid Mexico.
Location: Calle 40 #204 x 41 col. Centro Valladolid, Yucatan Mexico
Tours: 10 am everyday (100 peso suggested donation, given to local charities).
#3 – Witness The Nightly Traditional Dance Performance
Walk through Valladolid’s main square, Parque Francisco Canton, around 5:30 PM and you’ll usually find traditional Mayan dancers or a colorful troupe showing off Jarana, a traditional dance in the Yucatan.
Sure, it feels just a tad touristy (they put on the shows for tips from the visitors, after all) but the crowd is hardly enormous and the quality of the performances is surprisingly awesome!
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#4 – Visit Chichen Itza
Taking a trip to see Chichen Itza is easily one of the most popular things to do in Valladolid, Mexico. And it’s no wonder why: after all, this incredible complex of Mayan ruins has been named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World!
But also with that distinction has come a ton of people. Picture this: loads and loads of tourist buses hoarding in thousands of visitors each day from Playa del Carmen, Tulum, and Cancun to Valladolid to see Chichen Itza and a cenote or two.
👉 Here’s the good news: if you’re staying in Valladolid overnight, you have a leg up on visiting this site before the crowds get there. Just get up EARLY and try to be at Chichen Itza at 8 am when it opens, or at least before 9:30 am when the buses start to roll in.
How to Get from Valladolid to Chichen Itza:
- Option 1: Take a collectivo minibus from the small station on Calle 46 between 37 and 39 (cost: 40 pesos).
- Option 2: Go to the ADO station and buy a ticket on one of the handful of buses that go that route.
- Option 3: Rent a car and drive (just be sure you’ve got cover for Mexico travel insurance!).
#5 – Explore Mayan Ruins Off the Beaten Path at Ek Balam
Want to explore Mayan ruins free from the crowds at Chichen Itza? Check out the Ek Balam archaeological site. This complex is so huge that at one point around 800 AD it was home to over 20,000 people!
Visit Ek Balam from Valladolid by braving a collectivo or by joining this highly-rated Valladolid / Ek Balam combo tour, which leaves from Cancun or Tulum. You can also make the 30 minute drive north in a rental car (detail in the blue box below).
Pro Tip: Renting a car in Mexico? Beware of scams and of sneaky hidden charges when renting in Mexico (especially in Cancun). For a safe and transparent experience, use the Discover Car Hire search engine to compare quotes for cars from all the major agencies. I really like that they let you sort by supplier reviews!
#6 – Browse the Mercado Municipal
The best part about visiting Valladolid Mexico is the opportunity to experience real Mexican culture. And there’s no more authentic experience than browsing the colorful stalls at Valladolid’s Mercado Municipal.
You can find everything from vegetable vendors to butcher shops to handicrafts at this large covered market just a few blocks from centro.
Even if you’re not planning to buy anything, just wandering the stalls and soaking in the colors and smells is an awesome way to experience the character of Valladolid.
#7 – Meander Down Calzada de los Frailes
Perhaps one of the prettiest little streets I’ve seen anywhere in Mexico, Calzada de los Frailes is a quiet mostly-pedestrian street whose colorful walls and doorways just cry out for a photographer’s lens.
You’ll find a handful of restaurants and cafes, and a number of fashionable boutique shops selling hip clothing, purses, and more.
There’s no specific “thing to do” here, but that’s all part of the fun! A walk down Calzada de los Frailes shouldn’t be missed during your trip to Valladolid.
#8 – Watch the Night Show at the Convent of San Bernardino of Siena
If you wander to the end of Calzada de los Frailes, you’ll end up at Parque Sisal, which houses the Convent of San Bernardino of Siena.
The building may not seem the most impressive until you realize that it’s nearly 500 years old! You can poke around inside or head up the bell tower for views of the plaza.
And, if you’re lucky enough to be there on the right night, you can come back after dark to see the convent lit up by a light show!
The free “video mapping” show runs Tuesday through Sunday at 9 pm in Spanish and 9:25 pm in English.
#9 – Snap a Photo at the Valladolid Sign
Come on, we all know you want to show off how cool you are for exploring Mexico off the beaten path.
So bust out your phone, fire up Instagram or SnapChat or whatever the kids are using these days, and pose for a photo in front of this colorful Valladolid sign (you’ll find similar signs in nearly every Mexican town, by the way, though I’m not sure if there’s a prize for collecting them all).
The sign is located in Parque Sisal just in front of the convent.
#10 – Try Some Unusual Local Dishes!
If we’re being honest, I took a pass on these little guys. But you should give it a shot! Of, if you prefer your food without legs still attached to it, try a cochinita pipil, a traditional Yucatan dish involving slow-roasted pork with a tinge of orange flavor. Or check out the papadzules (pictured above), egg-filled crepes covered in a delicious cream sauce.
My top choice for food in Valladolid, though, is to hunt down one of the carts in the main square dishing out marquesitas: a delicious desert that is sort of like a Nutella and cheese crepe (trust me, it’s better than it sounds!).
#11 – Marvel at the Iglesia de San Servicio
The most recognizable point of interest in Valladolid is the towering Iglesia de San Servicio (sometimes called the Cathedral San Gervasio) located just south of the main square.
The Spaniards built this cathedral over a demolished Mayan pyramid, using some of the pyramid’s stones to build the cathedral itself.
Snapping a photo of this iconic symbol of Valladolid is definitely one of the top things to do in Valladolid – just be sure to see it during the daylight and by night, as the view is entirely different. The cathedral still holds regular services, but when there isn’t one you can wander inside to marvel at the intricate detail of the interior.
#12 – Grab Some Gelato at Wabi
If your legs get tired from walking around Valladolid’s old town, swing by this tiny gelato shop for a serious treat. There are only a handful of flavors on offer at any given time, but the owner will let you try them all.
I couldn’t make up my mind, so somewhere I settled on a combination of Mayan chocolate and mango yogurt. It paired better than you might think!
Wabi is located near the main square on Calle 41 between 38 and 40. It opens from noon to 10 pm.
#13 – Saddle Up to the Bar for a Drink With the Locals at La Joyita
At the corner of Calle 41 and Calle 38 you’ll find a tiny hole-in-the-wall cantina and bar that’s something of a local icon in Valladolid (it’s the gathering place for politicians, business owners, and just about anyone).
So swing open the saloon doors of La Joyita, settle in to one of the small bar’s stools, order some mezcal, and brush off your Spanish for some friendly chit chat with the locals!
#14 – Take a Scooter Tour of Valladolid, Mexico
If you know how to ride a scooter, it can be a wonderful way to explore Valladolid and the surrounding area!
The town is small and easy to get around, with relatively safe streets by Mexican standards.
Scooter Rent Valladolid is the best place to rent one. It’s located right off the main square at Calle 41 No. 197 x, Centro, 97780 Valladolid, Yuc., Mexico.
Just make sure you are covered with insurance (click here to compare quotes).
#15 – Take a Mayan Ceramic Class
Local artisan Luis Armando de Ocampo Barredo offers ceramic pottery classes every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 3 pm until 7 pm in the Museo San Roque. [EDIT: A reader points out that these classes are not currently running. If you’re in Valladolid and find out that they are back on, please drop me a note in the comments!]
There isn’t a ton of information online about this unique thing to do in Valladolid, but when I met Luis on my last visit to Valladolid, he was very eager to encourage tourists to join his classes. I understand that it’s totally free, though donations may be requested.
Stop by the museum beforehand to confirm availability and sign up.
#16 – Check Out Iglesia San Juan
It’s just a small church facing a little square and park, but Iglesia San Juan makes our list of the top things to do in Valladolid because it encapsulates real everyday life in Valladolid.
Just a 10 minute walk from the main square, this smaller square is blissfully free of tourists.
You’ll find vendors out front selling elote helado (corn ice cream), or all sorts of other sweet delicacies. Come on a Sunday afternoon and you might be treated to a small local market.
#17 – Step Back in History at Museo San Roque
Located on Calle 41 between 38 and 40 (across from La Joyita), the Museo San Roque has a small but interesting collection of historical items reflecting the history of Valladolid and the Yucatan region.
There is no admission cost, which makes it a great free thing to do in Valladolid Mexico.
#18 – Check out the Murals at Ayuntamiento Valladolid
Located in the town’s main square, the Ayuntamiento houses the city’s official tourism help office, which is a great place to get information on the latest events or happenings in the city.
And while you are there, be sure to head upstairs to witness the huge murals painted on the second floor which reflect the history of Valladolid.
#19 – Photograph the Colorful Walls!
One of the things that makes Valladolid so beautiful is the plethora of colorful colonial walls.
They make for excellent backdrops for photographs, or just a pleasant vista to enjoy as you stroll down the street.
For bonus points, see if you can find an iconic Volkswagon beetle parked in front of a colorful wall (extra bonus points if the car matches the wall!).
Best Restaurants in Valladolid, Mexico
Valladolid may be small, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some awesome places to eat here. From hip Italian bistros to traditional local fare, there’s something for every type of foodie in Valladolid.
The best part? The prices are significantly less than in the beach resorts!
Here’s my favorite restaurants in Valladolid, Mexico:
- Conato Cultural 1910 (Calle 40 between 45 and 47) – In my opinion this is the best restaurant in Valladolid, Mexico. But one thing is for sure: the funky and colorful at Conato is not to be missed. You’ll also love the modern spins on the local fare. Sit downstairs to be serenaded by live music or on the upper terrace to enjoy the breeze.
- Condesa Cocina-Bar (Calle 40 between 41 and 43) – This upper level terrace at this bar and restaurant has the best view in town. Come at night and you’ll be treated to a view of the cathedral lit up in the background. Best yet, show this post to your server for a free welcome drink on the house!
- Cafeina Food Company (Calz. de Los Frailes 212A) – Pizzas, pastas, and excellent cocktails are on offer at this stylish bistro. Come here for dinner and slip next door to continue your night at the connected Don Trejo bar afterwards.
- La Ville Bistro (Calle 40 & 37) – You’ll love the adorable interior of this cute corner cafe. The coffee and breakfast fare aren’t bad either!
- El Meson de Marques (Calle 39 between 40 and 42) – One of the more popular places to eat in Valladolid, located just on the main square. Try the jamaica margaritas, which I was chastised for missing by one of my Facebook followers 🙂
Best Nightlife and Bars in Valladolid, Mexico
Look, you don’t come to Valladolid because you want a nightlife destination.
But I’d be lying if I didn’t also admit to having faced a few serious hangovers after nights out in Valladolid! There aren’t a ton of nightlife options here, but the ones that do exist are high quality.
Top bars in Valladolid Mexico include:
- Don Trejo Mezcaleria (Calz. de Los Frailes 212) – This joint next to Cafeina is probably the most popular bar in Valladolid. There is a welcoming garden in the back with large bed-style seating, or you can grab a table near the small but active dance floor, which pulsates to the beats of salsa music on weekends.
- Condesa Cocina-Bar (Calle 40 between 41 and 43) – In the evenings, a DJ pumps out reggaeton on the upper patio at this stylish restaurant. Don’t expect a crazy party, but it’s a great place to grab a drink and enjoy some beats. Be sure to show this post to your server for a free welcome drink on the house!
- Libranos del Mal (Calle 39 between 38 and 40) – It has the feel of a dive bar but the attitude of a place that takes partying seriously. Be sure to check out the back patio if it gets too hot inside.
Where to Stay in Valladolid, Mexico
Whatever your travel style, there are a ton of awesome hotels in Valladolid, Mexico. Click that link to our guide to 18 hotels for every type of traveler, or stay here for a summary of our top picks:
- Le Muuch Boutique Hotel – A newer place that brings a ton of style. I really love the hammock over the pool and the stylish bar.
- Hotel Zenti’k Project – This is a one-of-a-kind hotel that really brings that “Tulum feel” to Valladolid. The star attraction is the private underground saline cave pool. It’s pretty incredible.
- El Meson de Marques – A nice hotel with a “local feel” just north of the main square, this is probably the most popular place to stay in Valladolid. You’ll love the rooftop views of the cathedral.
- Hotel Posada San Juan -The highest rated hotel in Valladolid, Hotel Posada San Juan offers a gorgeous pool in the courtyard of this converted colonial home.
Hostel Tunich Naj – One of the most popular hostels in Valladolid, Mexico, Tunich Naj is a colorful hostel offering up breakfast and some great public spaces for chilling out.
- Hostel Candelaria – A great place to make friends while backpacking in Valladolid, Hostel Candelaria impresses with its friendly staff and large public areas.
- Hotel Quinta Marciala – A great locally-owned budget hotel, perfect for families or couples. Just a few blocks outside downtown Valladolid. You’ll find a charming courtyard and a small swimming pool.
Valladolid Mexico is a really easy travel destination, but here are the answers to some commonly asked questions to help you prepare for your trip:
- Population: About 48,000 people.
- Weather: Hot in the day, with average daily highs exceeding 85 F, but cooler at night.
- Time Zone: GMT -5 (CDT, though no daylight savings observance)
- Sister City: Asheville, North Carolina (USA)
- Language: Spanish, with some English spoken in tourist establishments
Is Valladolid Mexico Safe?
Yes, Valladolid is among the safest towns you’ll find in the Yucatan. You can comfortably walk around the main town even in the evenings. Still, exercise caution as you would anywhere else and be sure you have travel insurance for Mexico.
How to Get to Valladolid, Mexico
You can reach Valladolid from Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum, or Merida via ADO bus or by renting a car and driving. Depending on your starting point, it will take 1-2.5 hours to reach Valladolid.
Coming from Cancun? Check out my full guide on how to get from Cancun to Valladolid.
Or from Tulum? I’ve got a guide for how to go from Tulum to Valladolid too!
Renting a Car – Driving in Mexico is easy but be careful, because car rental companies are known to advertise low prices and then charge loads for “mandatory” insurance. That’s why I always suggest using Discover Car Hire to compare quotes and get honest agency reviews.
Taking the ADO bus – They are clean, comfortable, and reliable. You can check timetables at the ADO website. Just be aware that many American credit cards don’t work on the site, so you may have to go to the bus station to buy tickets directly.
PS – if you’re in Merida, be sure to check out my guide to visiting the amazing flamingos at Celestun!
That’s it for this Ultimate Guide to Valladolid, Mexico!
I hope you enjoy this incredible town as much as I do. If you enjoyed this article (or even if you didn’t!), I’d love to hear from you! Just scroll down and leave me a comment (it warms my heart to get your comments!).
Continuing your trip through the Yucatan? Be sure to check out my guide to visiting the amazing flamingos at Celestun!
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Hope you enjoy Valladolid as much as I do!