Valladolid, Mexico is a incredible hidden gem located deep in Mexico’s Yucatan jungle.
I’ve spent months traveling the Yucatan peninsula, and Valladolid remains my favorite place in a region filled with awesome destinations.
Why do I say that?
Well, Valladolid, Mexico is quite simply one of the most vibrant, authentic places you’ll find in a country that’s chalk full of them.
I mean, just watch this short video I made on my last visit to show you why Valladolid is so magical (no, but seriously, watch it – the whole community helped me make this video, and the mayor even makes a cameo!):
How cool was that? Ok, hype time over, let’s get planning!
To help you curate the perfect trip, this post will cover:
- Why you should visit Valladolid
- The 19 Best Things to do in Valladolid
- The best hotels in Valladolid
- Where to Eat and Drink
- Plus a ton of other useful and practical info!
PS – before we get start, make sure to bookmark our 17 little-known travel tips for Mexico!
Important Update on Coronavirus: Mexico continues to see a surge in cases, even as many travel media outlets fail to report fully on Mexico’s coronavirus safety situation. Be sure to fully educate yourself on the latest information and risks involved before booking any travel.
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 beach), 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!
Disclosure: If you buy something through links on this page, this independent travel blog may earn a small affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting our travels so we can bring you more guides!
19 Fun Things to Do in Valladolid, Mexico
#1 – Cool off in Valladolid’s Cenotes
Easily one of the coolest things to do in Valladolid is to visit some cenotes!
What’s a “cenote,” you ask?
Well, a cenote is basically a swimming hole where the limestone bedrock has given way to expose spring water underneath. Picture a natural swimming pool in the middle of an Indiana Jones movies. There are tends of thousands of them in Mexico’s Yucatan, and some of the best cenotes are in the area around Valladolid.
There is even one, Cenote Zaci, within walking distance from the main square!
For 30 pesos, it makes for a great place to take a dip and cool off (bring a swimsuit and a towel!). Or venture a little further to check out the stunning cave at Cenote Suytun, or chill out at the cenote and adjoining swimming pool at Hacienda San Lorenzo Oxman.
For a special treat, check out the Nights of Xibalba tour at Zazil Tunich cenote, a weekend guided tour of a stunning underground cenote complete with a Mayan ceremony and dinner!
Whatever you pick, swimming in a cenote is one of my top things to do in Mexico.
#2 – Visit Chichen Itza, One of the New Seven Wonders of the World
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.
But 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!).
#3 – Explore Mayan Ruins Off the Beaten Path at Ek Balam
Sure, they aren’t as famous as their sister ruins at Chichen Itza, but you’ll have far fewer tourists to contend with at the Ek Balam archaeological site.
And these ruins are no slouch either: this complex is so huge that at one point around 800 AD it was home to over 20,000 people!
The best way to see to Ek Balam from Valladolid is by braving a collectivo or by joining this highly-rated Valladolid / Ek Balam combo tour. That tour normally picks you up and drop you off in Cancun or Tulum – so one neat trick is to start your journey to Valladolid by taking advantage of the tour’s transport and using it as an intro to your time overnight in Valladolid (just tell them in advance you’re planning to stay in town).
You can also make the 30 minute drive north in a rental car. Just be sure to use Discover Car Hire to avoid the frequent rental scams in Mexico.
#4 – 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.
#5 – 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.
#6 – 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)
#7 – 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.
#8 – 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.
#9 – 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!).
#10 – 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.
#11 – Witness a Traditional Dance Performance
Walk through Valladolid’s main square, Parque Francisco Canton, and you’ll likely 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!
Come just before dusk for the best chance of catching one of these shows (they seem to typically start about 5:30 pm).
#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: As of late May, 2019, 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 some awesome choices for quality 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: Best Hostels and Hotels in Valladolid, Mexico
Whatever your travel style, there are a ton of awesome hotels in Valladolid, Mexico.
I’d recommend picking something within easy walking distance to the center, but that shouldn’t be hard as the town isn’t very large! All of the following accommodation picks have excellent locations:
Hotels in Valladolid, Mexico
- El Meson de Marques – A nice hotel 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 Casa Margarita – This stylish mid-ranged guest house is my personal favorite hotel in Valladolid, Mexico. With clean and spacious double rooms starting at just $25 USD per night including breakfast, it’s a great deal.
- 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.
- Casa Tia Micha – You’ll love the colonial style at this boutique hotel, whose atmosphere is so cute you could practically eat it up with a spoon. You’ll love having breakfast in the courtyard come morning.
- Hotel Quinta Marciala – A great mid-range hotel in Valladolid at a budget price, just a few blocks outside downtown Valladolid. You’ll find a charming courtyard and a small swimming pool, making it one of the best hotels in Valladolid for couples traveling on a budget.
Hostels in Valladolid, Mexico
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.
Want more? Check out my full guide to the 18 Best Hotels in Valladolid Mexico.
Airbnbs in Valladolid, Mexico
Instead of shelling out for a hotel, why not rent an entire apartment through Airbnb and have access to a full kitchen, more space, etc.?
And if you are making a new Airbnb account, you can get $40 off your first booking with this link!
FAQs about Visiting Valladolid
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:
Valladolid is located in the middle of the Yucatan’s jungle, which means it can get quite hot during the day, with the average daily high exceeding 85 degrees F year round. But evenings can be pleasantly cool, especially in winter. The rainy season runs from June to October, which means the best time to visit Valladolid is from November to May.
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.
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.
156 km or 97 miles.
Valladolid is a very walkable town and for the most part you can get around the town on foot. The exceptions are to visit the outlying cenotes or the Mayan ruins, in which case you’ll need to take a collectivo, a bus, or a car.
GMT -5 (CDT, though no daylight savings observance)
Spanish is spoken primarily. English prevalence is less than more popular destinations, though most tourist establishments will have English-speaking staff.
How to Get to Valladolid, Mexico
Valladolid doesn’t have a commercial airport, so you’ll need to fly into either Merida or Cancun and then either take a bus, rent a car, or take a tour to get you to the city.
Here’s a quick guide to how to get to Valladolid from other major destinations in the Yucatan:
Cancun to Valladolid
You basically have two options to get from Cancun to Valladolid, Mexico:
First, you can rent a car and drive. 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.
Second, my preferred method is to take the ADO bus. They are clean, comfortable, and reliable. In Cancun, the ADO station is located across from the Hotel Plaza Caribe (you can find a complete guide to the station here). The bus journey from Cancun to Valladolid takes about 2 hours. 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.
Third, you can take a tour.
Click here for here for my full article on How to Go from Cancun to Valladolid, with specific step-by-step instructions.
Playa del Carmen to Valladolid
Again, you can rent a car from any number of rental agencies in downtown Playa del Carmen.
Or take an ADO bus. Just be aware that there are two ADO terminals in Playa del Carmen: the “turistica” terminal at 5th Ave and Benito Juarez, and the larger “ADO Alterna” station at 20th Ave and Calle 12. Most buses to Valladolid leave from the latter, but not all do – so be sure to check!
Merida to Valladolid
From Merida, it’s about a 1 hour and 45 minute drive to Valladolid. I’ve found that renting a car in Merida is much easier and cheaper than in Cancun (I recommend Montejo car rental).
The main tourist ADO station in Merida is at the Fiesta Americana. Most buses stop here and then continue on to pick up additional passengers at the ADO CAME station in the northern part of the city.
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!).
Also, if you’re traveling to Mexico, be sure to check out my post on how you can use a cool trick to get a free Lonely Planet Mexico download!
Oh, and if you’re on Pinterest, be sure to pin this post for later here:
Hope you enjoy Valladolid as much as I do!