Last Updated on August 18, 2021
Travelers to Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula are familiar with its beach towns of Cancun and Tulum. But off the beaten path lie treasures like Valladolid, designated one of Mexico’s “Magic Towns” in 2012. Discover the best things to do in the colorful city of Valladolid, Mexico including colonial architecture, refreshing cenotes, and fantastic regional cuisine – plus other adventures in the region.
Whether you’re looking for a Yucatan day trip or a road trip stopover, Valladolid belongs on your itinerary. Located between Cancun and Merida, this small colonial city is a charmer. You’ll quickly fall under the spell of its colorful streets, friendly people, and great cafes and restaurants. And who needs the beach, when you have beautiful cenotes for cooling off on a hot day?
Valladolid also makes a convenient base for other Yucatan adventures, like exploring Mayan ruins and seeing pink lakes and flamingos in Rio Lagartos. I’ve got all the tips you need to plan a trip, from sights and tours to where to stay. Let’s get this itinerary started, so you can beat the crowds to this up-and-coming cultural gem!
Short on time and want to see Valladolid, Mexico on a day trip? Check out these top-rated tour options with online booking:
- From Tulum: Chichen Itza, Valladolid and Beautiful Cenote
- From Cancun: Chichen Itza, Valladolid and Cenote | Private Chichen Itza & Valladolid Tour | Private Chichen Itza, Valladolid, Cenotes Samula & Suytun
- From Playa del Carmen: Ek Balam, Valladolid & Cenote | Private Chichen Itza, Cenote & Valladolid tour
- From Merida: Ek Balam, Valladolid and Cenote Private Tour
This article contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I might earn a commission, at no additional cost to you. Thanks for your support in this way! Learn more in my Disclosure Policy.
The Haphazard Traveler Pro Tip:
If you’re planning a trip to Valladolid during 2021, some of the attractions I’ve listed in this guide might have limited hours or closures. Be sure to check the website or inquire with each and follow updated local guidance. Check information from the U.S. Embassy in Mexico including testing required to re-enter the U.S. Stay safe and travel responsibly, friends!
In This Ultimate Guide to Valladolid, Yucatan Mexico
Best Things to Do | Cathedral & Square | Cenote Zaci | Suytun | Oxman | Convent of San Bernadino | Calzada de los Frailes | Casa de los Venados | Walking Tours | Shopping & Markets | Local Cuisine | Restaurants | Mayan Ruins | Chichen Itza | Ek Balam | Coba | Izamal | Rio Lagartos & Las Coloradas | Uayma | Where to Stay | VRBO Rentals | How to Get to Valladolid | One Day Valladolid Itinerary
The Best Things to Do in Valladolid, Mexico
1. Visit the Cathedral and Main Square in the City Center
Valladolid’s central plaza is a city park known as the Parque Principal or Parque Francisco Cantón Rosado. This green space has a central fountain and is lined with benches. Here you’ll also find white “tu y yo sillas,” which are conversation chairs for two. These are also popular in the historical center of the Yucatan capital city of Merida.
In the Parque Principal you’ll also see sellers offering souvenirs and snacks, including marquesitas. (More on these later in the guide!)
Iglesia de San Servacio | Valladolid Cathedral
Valladolid’s largest cathedral is the Iglesia de San Servacio, sometimes referred to as Iglesia de San Gervasio. Constructed first in 1545, it was rebuilt in 1705 after a series of violent events. (The ugly truth: In 1703, the newly-elected mayor and vice mayor had political rivals killed and hung in the church. The bishop ordered it to be demolished and rebuilt to help erase the stain left by this atrocity!)
The church has two towers and picturesque palm trees that make it an icon of this charming city. You’ll want to snap some photos here.
Palacio Municipal | City Hall of Valladolid, Yucatan
Valladolid is the second biggest city in the Yucatan state. The city’s Municipal Palace is located at the main square in the historical center.
Museo San Roque
The Museo de San Roque is a small museum with exhibits and murals that depict the history of the region and its people from Mayan times. The murals are similar to those in Merida, but not by the same artist. The exhibits are labeled in Spanish and English, and the entrance fee is free. Stop in for a few minutes to experience local history – located just around the corner from the central plaza.
The Haphazard Traveler Pro Tip: How to Pronounce Valladolid
Wondering how to say the name of this cute colonial town? Valladolid is pronounced bye-ah-doh-LEED.
2. Cool Off in a Cenote | Best Things to Do in Valladolid, Yucatan
Dotted across the landscape of the Yucatan Peninsula, you’ll find thousands of gorgeous cenotes, which are natural pools that form when limestone bedrock collapses. They were revered by the Maya as a precious source of freshwater and as portals to the underworld, Xibalba. Today cenotes serve locals and tourists alike as swimming holes! Some cenotes are located in underwater caverns, while others are open to the sky, and some have both open and cavernous sections.
Cenote Zaci | Must-Do in Valladolid
Valladolid’s amazing Zaci Cenote is just a few blocks from the main square, and is not to be missed! It’s a large, partially open cenote with platforms thrill-seekers to jump in from. Or you can just float and enjoy the cool blue waters. Zaci Cenote is a favorite of locals and tourists alike, so visit midday or later in the day for less crowds. There is a restaurant here for a quick snack or refreshing drink. Zaci is one of my favorite cenotes, since it’s so picturesque and easy to get to.
Just west of Valladolid is Cenote Suytun, one of the most Instagrammable and famous cenotes in Mexico. It’s a mostly enclosed cenote, except for a beam of light that illuminates a central platform in the water.
Cenote San Lorenze Oxman | Hacienda Oxman
This cenote is another partially open cave, with a rope swing, platform for diving, and clear turquoise blue water. Cenote Oxman is one of the deepest cenotes in Mexico, and has vines that give it an otherworldly feel. It’s well maintained, with a restaurant, lockers, and shower facilities.
Other Popular Valladolid Cenotes
If you’re a true cenote adventurer, you might also want to check out these other lesser-visited gems in the area:
- Cenotes Dzitnup: These are two cenotes together, Cenote Samula and Cenote Xkeken. They have separate entrances, but you can pay a fee to visit both.
- Zazil Tunich: this cavern cenote has an evening dinner and light show.
- Cenote Secreto Maya: a favorite of those who discover it, this cenote has a restaurant, rope swing, and hammocks for relaxing.
Want to visit the cenotes by bike with a local guide? Check out this top-rated Airbnb experience that includes the Dzitnup cenotes + one other hidden cenote!
What to Bring to Cenotes
Of course, you’ll need a bathing suit and towel. I recommend a quick-dry version like the one below. I also like to wear hiking sandals in case the steps are slippery (and you can even swim in them). It’s better not to wear sunscreen in cenotes, even if it’s reef-safe. So consider a rashguard shirt with UPF if you burn easily. Click below to check out my cenote trip must-haves!
Get more tips on what to pack for Valladolid with my ultimate Mexico packing list.
Grab these packing tips for museum hopping in Mexico City, relaxing on beaches, or climbing ruins and swimming in cenotes. From Cabo to Cancun and everywhere in between, this ultimate packing list for Mexico will have you covered!
3. Visit the Convent of San Bernadino de Siena
The Templo de San Bernardino and the adjacent Convento de Sisal was built by Franciscan missionaries between 1552 and 1560. This is the second-largest Franciscan convent in the Yucatan, after the one at nearby Izamal.
The site includes a convent with rose-pink interior walls, an adjoining chapel with an impressive carved retablo (altarpiece), and grounds with a cenote. A waterwheel was completed in 1613 to pipe water for the community. It’s the second largest in the Yucatan, at 14 meters in diameter.
The convent is worth visiting for a few hours to step back in time and explore this peaceful place. Signage is in both Spanish and English, including a small museum. On some evenings, there are sound and light shows projected on the facade of the convent starting around 9pm.
This is also the spot to get photos with the colorful “Valladolid” sign.
Convento de San Bernadino de Siena: Map location
4. Stroll Down La Calzada de los Frailes
La Calzada de los Frailes is a picturesque, diagonal colonial street that connects just off the city center square to the San Bernadino Convent. Its buildings are painted pretty pastel colors, and colorful flags are often strung over the street. There is a restored Mayan house close to the convent. This is another spot to pose for photos and take a leisurely stroll, about 20 minutes from one end to the other. But you’ll want to stop along the way to check out the cute artisan shops and cafes you find!
5. Casa de los Venados | Top Things to Do in Valladolid
Casa de los Venados is a private home and gallery with an impressive collection of more than 3,000 pieces of Mexican folk art and contemporary art. Tours are offered in the mornings at 10AM. A donation is requested which benefits local charities. This is one of my top picks in Valladolid for experiencing Mexican culture.
6. Take a Free Walking Tour of Valladolid
A free walking tour is a great way to get your bearings in a new city. Valladolid has two companies that offer free walking tours of its charming streets by local guides. Tips are appreciated if you enjoy the tour.
Intererested in more adventures with local experts? Check out these top-rated Airbnb Experiences in Valladolid: Mayan Bees Tour & Honey Tasting | Bike Tour with Cenotes & Maya Visit | Bike Tour with Cenotes, Local Visit & Tacos.
7. Explore Local Shopping and Valladolid Markets
Valladolid has a main market and many small shops to buy souvenirs and handicrafts. Many are located near the main square or Calzado de los Frailes. Keep an eye out for Yalat Arte Mexicano, Kuxtal Café & Mexican Art, Arte Rosa Mexicano, and Coqui Coqui Perfumeria (perfume shop). The municipal market has everything from food and clothing to inexpensive local souvenirs.
Mercado Municipal de Valladolid: Map location
8. Enjoy Local and Regional Yucatecan Cuisine
Valladolid has many restaurant options, from street food to upscale dining. Here are some of the local and regional specialties that you won’t want to miss:
- Lomitos de Valladolid: a traditional Valladolid, dish of pork loin in tomato sauce. Served with tortillas, black beans, and slices of avocado.
- Longaniza de Valladolid: A smoked pork sausage made with the spice achiote, which gives the sausage a bright red interior. It’s also found in tacos and quesadillas.
- Marquesitas: warm, paper-thin crunchy wafers with your choice of fillings rolled up inside. The most popular is a salty and sweet combo Nutella with Edam cheese. These can usually be found at food carts in the main square.
- Cochinita pibil: this must-try traditional Maya dish starts with preparing an entire pig in a sour orange citrus marinade and the local spice achiote, then cooking it underground inside banana leaf. The high acid content of the marinade and the slow cooking time result in a very tender meat. Cochinita pibil is served with tortillas, pickled onions, and other toppings.
- Papadzules: a version of this traditional Yucatecan dish might have even pre-dated the colonial era in Mexico. Papadzules are corn tortillas dipped in a sauce made from pumpkin seeds and filled with hard-boiled eggs, then garnished with a cooked tomato-pepper sauce.
- Sopa de lima: one of my favorites, this soup is made with turkey or chicken and a lime found in the region, topped with crunchy strips of fried tortilla.
- Panuchos and salbutes: panuchos are fried handmade corn tortillas stuffed with refried beans, then fried again and topped with chicken, cochinita pibil, relleno, ground meat, or seafood. Salbutes are similar, but are less crispy and are made without the refried beans. Both are served with lettuce, pickled onions, relleno negro, tomato, avocado and other toppings.
Want to learn more about Yucatecan and Maya cuisine? Take this cooking class that starts with shopping at a local market and ends with a fully belly of 4 traditional dishes!
Where to Eat & Drink in Valladolid Mexico
These are some of my favorite restaurants and bars as top picks in Valladolid:
- El Atrio: located right on the main square, El Atrio is known for a fantastic breakfast, authentic local cuisine, and a great ambience.
- Conato Cultural 1910: local spot with fresh takes on regional cuisine in an artistic setting. They have a lovely outdoor courtyard, lots of vegetarian options, and even a little gift shop.
- K’uxub: this is the restaurant at the Le Muuch hotel, known for its spectacular brekkie, inventive cuisine, and great cocktails.
- La Ville Bistro: European and Mexican dishes in a relaxed atmosphere.
- El Meson de Marques: Upscale restaurant with a wide variety of menu items and lovely courtyard.
- Yerbabuena del Sisal: vegetarian restaurant with fresh plates, smoothies, coffees, juices. Their lush green garden is open for breakfast and lunch.
- Loncheria El Amigo Casiano: fresh local food stall in the Municipal Bazar food court, just off the main square.
- Trattoria San Giovanni: if you need a change from Mexican dishes, try this spot for Italian and pizza.
- Wabi: the best homemade gelato in town, with all 5-star reviews to prove it!
- Don Trejo Mezcaleria: garden restaurant and mezcaleria with salsa music on weekends.
9. Visit Mayan Ruins | Best Things to Do in Valladolid Yucatan
In addition to cenotes, the remains of Mayan cities are also spread across the Yucatan Peninsula, down into Guatemala and Central America. The most famous ruins in Mexico, Chichen Itza, are only about 45 minutes away. Visiting ruins while in Valladolid is a must-do activity! Check out these sites less than an hour from Valladolid.
Visit “World Wonder” Chichen Itza Ruins from Valladolid
Chichen Itza is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was voted one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. It’s also one of the most-visited tourist sites in Mexico. Surviving monuments at the ancient city of Chichen Itza include the main temple, the Pyramid of Kukulkan (also known as El Castillo); the Great Ball Court, the largest of its kind in Mesoamerica; El Caracol, an astronomical observatory; and the Temple of Warriors, an enormous temple with hundreds of stone columns.
Tours to the Chichen Itza ruins often include the famous Cenote Ik Kil. Located 45 minutes from downtown Valladolid, this is one of the top day trips from Valladolid.
If you visit without a tour, I recommend hiring a guide upon arrival. Chichen Itza is one of the most important historical sites in Mexico, and a guide will provide important context and information for your visit.
To visit Chichen Itza with a local tour guide, don’t miss this Airbnb Experience Chichen Itza tour that also includes Izamal and a secluded cenote! Or if you love wildlife, this itinerary includes birdwatching with an expert plus Chichen Itza, a cenote, and local community visit.
Visit Ek Balam from Valladolid
The lesser-known Maya site of Ek Balam is just 15 miles from downtown Valladolid, and means “black jaguar” in Mayan. It’s notable for its well-preserved sculptures and stonework, panoramic views, and a four-sided entry arch.
First settled in 100 BCE, most of the buildings at Ek Balam were constructed around 600-900 CE. Must-see sights here include the Acropolis, restored stucco facades, and views of the jungle. There is also a cenote, X’canche, where you can cool off after your visit.
To see Ek Balam with an experienced guide and local transportation, don’t miss this Airbnb experience.
Visit Coba from Valladolid, Mexico
Coba is one of the first ruins I visited, and it’s still a favorite. Coba is only about 45 minutes from Valladolid, making it another great day trip in the region.
Exploring Coba’s jungle setting and sprawling complex gives you serious Indiana Jones vibes. Coba sat at the nexus of the largest network of sacbeob in the Maya world, which connected structures within Coba as well as neighboring cities. The name Coba in Mayan means “waters stirred by the wind,” perhaps due to its place on two large lagoons.
What to Bring to Visit Ruins
Be sure to bring sunscreen, water, a hat, suitable shoes (again, I recommend hiking sandals), bug spray, and a hat, as well as a bathing suit and towel if you plan to visit nearbu cenotes. Bring cash to pay.
Love history and ruins? Don’t miss my guide to the best ruins in Mexico for your bucket list, including top day trip tours to visit each!
10. More Day Trips from Valladolid Yucatan
Discover Izamal, The Yellow City
Nicknamed “La Ciudad Amarilla” (or “The Yellow City”), Izamal is a small colonial town in the state of Yucatan. Izamal is famous because all of its buildings are painted the same sunny yellow! Visit the convent here, shop for souvenirs, and have a traditional Yucatecan lunch. You can also visit the Mayan ruins of Kinich Kakmó in the city center.
Take a Day Trip to Rio Lagartos and Las Coloradas
Located about two hours north of Valladolid, Las Coloradas is one of the only pink lakes in the Americas. To get here, take a day trip to the coastal town of Rio Lagartos, a small fishing village and beach town. Then you can visit the nearby biosphere reserve of Rio Lagartos on a boat trip. Here you can see flamingos, crocodiles, and other wildlife as well as beautiful beaches and the pink lake. Spoiler: the lake is actually part of a salt production process!
Make a Stop at the Iglesia de Uayma | Ex-Convento de Santo Domingo
The neighboring Mexican town of Uayma there has a picturesque church with bold painted designs. First constructed in the 16th and 17th centuries, the convent was burned down during the 19th-century Yucatán Caste War. In 2005, modern renovations were completed, which revealed and restored its colorful original paintings.
Uayma is only about 20 minutes west of Valladolid, and is worth seeing! I visited right after a storm and it was a little bit magical. 😉 If you’ve got a local tour booked, see if you can talk your guide into a quick stop.
Iglesia de Uayma: Map location
The Haphazard Traveler Pro Tip
If you want to stay in a restored colonial home with a view of the gorgeous Uayama church, check out this rental listing for House Uayama with space for up to 12 guests.
Where to Stay in Valladolid, Mexico
You’ll be spoiled for choice of where to stay in Valladolid, from inexpensive hostels to restored colonial homes and boutique hotels. No matter your budget and travel style, you’ll be able to find a centrally-located hotel in Valladolid. Check out these beautiful hotel picks conveniently located to Valladolid’s sights, including VRBO vacation stays for a group. Valladolid hotels also seem to be competing for the bes breakfast – I’ve noted below which are included in the room rate. 😉
Boutique & Luxury Valladolid Hotels: Over $100/night
Hotel Posada San Juan | Valladolid Luxury Pick
The top-rated luxury hotel in Valladolid. Attentive service, spacious rooms, parking, and wonderful breakfast included.
Flor Casa Boutique Hotel | Valladolid Top Pick
Chic, beautiful boutique hotel set in a quiet garden oasis. With comfy beds, friendly service, parking, and a fantastic breakfast included.
Hotel Zentik Project & Saline Cave
Bright, artistic hotel with two pools, one a heated saltwater indoor pool. Be sure to include their amazing breakfast when you book!
Casa Lemuuch | Central Valladolid Hotel
Boutique hotel with stylish design, swimming pool and parking, one block to the main square. Includes their legendary breakfast.
Verde Morada | Historic Valladolid Hotel
Restored historic home with swimming pool and gorgeous garden on the Calzada de los Frailes. Spectacular breakfast included.
Midrange Valladolid Hotels: $50-100/night
Casa Tia Micha | Valladolid Top Pick
Bright, cheery hotel in the city center with friendly service, modern rooms, parking, and amazing included breakfast.
Colonte Hotel Origen | Friendly Midrange Valladolid Hotel
Stylish hotel with small outdoor pool, parking and restaurant in the city center. Friendly service and great included breakfast.
Budget Valladolid Hotels & Hostels: Under $50/night
Hotel Casa Bamboo | Valladolid Budget Hotel
Stylish budget pick with swimming pool and parking, a few blocks from the main square.
Hostal Mamacha | Valladolid Hostal
Welcoming, top-rated hostel centrally located next to the bus station and main square.
VRBO Valladolid Vacation Rental Homes
300 Year Old Colonial Casona
Stunning restored residence of the first town doctor. Accomodates up to 6 in 3 bedrooms, one block from the town square.
Bright, modern home with outdoor pool and space for up to 10 in 3 bedrooms. Located 10 minutes from town.
Getting to Valladolid, Mexico
Valladolid’s closest airports are Merida (MID) and Cancun (CUN). Both are about two hours away, and have international flights as well as connections from other cities in Mexico. From there, you can rent a car or take a bus to get to Valladolid.
- Want an effortless arrival? Book a luxury private transfer for your group from the Cancun airport.
How to Get to Valladolid by Car
I’ve rented a car many times in the Yucatan between Cancun and Merida and all points in between. Get all of my car rental and driving tips for Mexico here. From Cancun and Tulum, there are both toll roads and highways which take a more scenic route. Especially if you plan on cenote-hopping and taking day trips in the region, renting a car could add flexibility and save time for you.
How to Get to Valladolid by Bus
It’s easy to get to Valladolid by bus, since the ADO bus system easily connects Mexican towns in the Yucatan Peninsula. Buses depart every few hours from major tourist areas including Mexico City, Playa del Carmen, Cancun and more. The bus terminal is located right in the center of town, and there are several hotels and hostels nearby which make it convenient for backpackers.
The Best Time to Visit Valladolid, Mexico
Valladolid is a tropical destination, and is warm year-round. Winter is a great time to visit: from September to May, expect warm temperatures and low humidity, making for ideal sightseeing conditions. Summer is much more humid, and tropical storms are possible.
How Long to Stay in Valladolid, Yucatan
How long to stay in Valladolid depends on how much you want to see, and what your larger itinerary includes! I’ve done both quick stops here as well as a couple of days, when I used it as a base for day trips in the region. I’d definitely recommend an overnight stay, especially since the boutique hotels here are so cute and offer amazing breakfasts!
One Day in Valladolid Itinerary
If you only have one day in Valladolid, a quick stop in the main square to see the cathedral is a must! Grab coffee and breakfast in a cafe nearby like El Atrio, then head to Casa de los Venados and see if you can join a tour. Next, stroll down Calzada de los Frailes to the San Bernardino Convent. After spending a few hours here and getting a photo with the “Valladolid” sign, stop at Yerbabueba del Sisal for lunch.
Next, cool off in beautiful Cenote Zaci. When you’re refreshed, shop for souvenirs, try the gelato at Wabi, and relax in the main square to soak up the vibe of daily life in this beautiful city. Finally, find a happy hour or visit one of Valladolid’s best restaurants like K’uxub for a mezcal cocktail and local cuisine. If you’ve still got energy, check out the sound and light show at the convent to finish your day in Valladolid!
Pin this Valladolid travel blog or share with a your travel bestie!
The Haphazard Traveler is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.