10 Best Things to do in Valladolid – Mexico
Valladolid is a gorgeously-restored, historic, colonial Spanish town located smack in the middle of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. A UNESCO World Heritage City since 1998, charming Valladolid is full of colorful pastel buildings, relaxing shady plazas, historic churches, delicious local food and some very interesting shops & attractions.
Quite unusually, a lovely cenote is also located right in the middle of town. The region surrounding Valladolid is dotted with several other beautiful cenotes, each unique, which visitors can easily reach by rental bicycle.
This charming town can easily take 3 days to a week to explore, especially for lovers of art, architecture, photography and/or cenotes.
Valladolid is one of my favorite places in Yucatan. I’ve visited twice thus far and will be sure to visit again. I loved wandering the gorgeous streets, taking photographs, visiting museums, shops and galleries, and cooling off in the refreshing cenotes.
Following are my recommendations on for the best things to do when visiting Valladolid.
1. Tour Casa de los Venados
This astounding private home is filled with over 3000 pieces of Mexican folk art, collected by the owners over 50 years. After retiring in the USA, they bought a demolished historic property just off the main plaza in Valladolid then spent 10 years renovating it into their grandiose home.
Inspired to share Mexican art, they opened their home to daily guided tours on a donation basis. All proceeds go to local charities, including medical clinics in poor villages and educational endeavors.
Guided Tours in English and Spanish start at 10 am daily.
Suggested minimum donation of 80 pesos / $5 US, but any donation big or small is welcomed.
Located on Calle 40, just off 41st Ave of Valladolid’s main plaza.
Get a brochure and directions at Valldolid Tourist Info Center, also located on the main plaza on 40th Ave.
2. Watch the Free Video Light Show at San Bernadino Monastery
This amazing video light show is projected onto the outside walls of San Bernadino Monastery nightly at 9 pm. I’m not sure how they did it, but the show was created specifically for the architecture of the huge stone building. Special effects are incredible. Walls seemingly crumble or are built from the ground up. Vibrant colors roll across the building.
A top-notch, creative & professionally done show not to be missed.
The show is presented twice each night, first in Spanish then immediately afterward in English. Each version lasts about 15 minutes.
Show Time: 9 pm every evening.
3. Go Watch the Free Video light show at Chi Chi Itzen Mayan Ruins
As if a light show projected on a 400-year-old monastery wasn’t enough, you can also witness an equally amazing video show projected on the 1200-year-old Mayan pyramid at Chi Chi Itzen.
Valladolid Tourist Info Center gives free show tickets to visitors. The office is located on the city’s main plaza. After receiving your invitation at the visitors center, you must go online to register & confirm your visit. The info center staff will explain how to do so.
The only hitch is that you must make your own way to/from Chi Chi Itzen in the evening. The Mayan ruins are located about 1 hour from town by colectivo or taxi. Learn the location of the colectivo station from the info center. The trip costs about 50 pesos / $3.50 US one way.
After the show, if you’re going back to Valladolid by colectivo, you’ll probably have to catch a quick taxi ride from Chi Chi Itzen to the nearest town. From there you can catch the colectivo back to Valladolid.
4. Swim in Zaci Cenote
Beautiful and tranquil Zaci Cenote is located right in town, just four blocks from Valldolid’s main plaza.
It’s quite a deep cenote, set about 50 M below ground level in a small forested park. At the park visitors can look down into the cenote, gazing at the gorgeous turquoise water. To enter the cenote itself, pay the entry fee of 30 pesos then walk down a series of stone & dirt steps into the cave-like cenote.
Once inside, you’ll realize the cenote is actually set within a cave that is half covered by a natural roof and half exposed to the sky. Walkways encircle the water pool under the roof and out around the exposed shelf.
Swimming in the cool water is very refreshing during Valldaolid’s roasting weather, especially in mid afternoon when the sun is directly overhead, brightening up the gorgeous water.
Zaci Cenote is located at Calle 39 & Calle 36
Entry fee: 30 pesos / $1.65 US
5. Make an Architectural & Historical Walking Tour
Of course one of the very best things to do in historic Valladolid is to simply wander around the beautiful streets, admiring the lovely pastel buildings with their pretty colonial Spanish architecture and intriguing architectural detailing.
Be sure to make note of doors, windows and trimmings. Wander inside the shops, bars and restaurants that are now located inside these wonderfully renovated buildings.
Many informational plaques are situated around town, explaining important buildings, historic events and key people in Valladolid’s history. You can learn much of Valldolid’s history by reading the plagues as you explore town.
If you’re into photography, the best times for light are about 7-9 am and 4-5:30 pm, when sunlight is best illuminating the buildings and streets.
6. Try Sopa de Lima (Lime Soup)
Sopa de Lima is a traditional Yucatan specialty. Valladolid is a great place to sample it.
The soup consists of a rich, slightly spicy broth filled with shredded chicken bits, vegetables and chunks of lime. It’s served with several large fried corn tortillas.
Eat sopa de lima at the large food court located on the main plaza’s corner at Calle 40 & Calle 39. You can also try sopa de lima at various upscale restaurants in town.
7. Get Refreshed with a Frozen Fruit Juice Bar
Paletas are a wonderfully refreshing Mexican treat sold in towns and cities all over the country. Paletas come in all sorts of delicious tropical fruit flavors, including coconut, pineapple with chilies, lime, soursop.
Paletas generally cost 10-20 pesos / $0.55-1.10 US
8. Visit a Cool Tequila Shop
This quirky tequila shop is a great place to learn about the huge variety of Mexican tequilas and mezcals produced in the country. Check out the interesting, colorful labels.
Location: Calle 41 between Calles 44 & 46.
9. Rent a Bicycle and Make a Cenote Hopping Tour
Within 7-15 km / miles of Valladolid are several excellent cenotes. Surprisingly, each one is quite different from the others.
For instance, one is completely open to the sky, featuring a waterfall spilling over its lip into the cool water below. Another is entirely underground, literally an enclosed cave with a water pool.
Yet another is completely enclosed overhead except for one large hole in the roof, through which bright sunlight pours down to illuminate the vibrant teal-colored water.
Rent a bike and make a leisurely day tour of several cenotes.
Take a lunch with you from town or eat at the restaurants & food stalls located at each cenote.
10. Make a Day Trip to Mayan Ruins
Within one hour of Valladolid by public transportation are several amazing and important Mayan ruins. If you haven’t visited any Mayan ruins, then you have an excellent opportunity to see one – or more – while staying at Valladolid. Transportation to all is frequent, easy and inexpensive.
ChiChen Itza, Ek’ Balam and Coba are the most well-known ruins nearby, but there are also others. Read up on them, pick one that sounds most appealing, grab a take-out meal in Valladolid and head out by bus or colectivo for an adventurous day trip.
I’d recommend visiting just one of the ruins per day. If you want to visit several, explore one per day. There’s lots to see at each site, plus all the nice shady forests to enjoy.
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