The Yucatan Peninsula is best known for beaches and resorts along the Caribbean Coast, but there is more to this region of Mexico than just margaritas and sunshine. Valladolid is a colonial city located in the jungles of the Yucatan Peninsula and has over 450 years of history dating back to the early Spanish colonization. Valladolid is full of great colonial architecture, with many of the buildings painted in bright colours, and a vibrant central town square.
There are many world-class attractions in the surrounding areas, which makes Valladolid the perfect place to base yourself while you explore the nearby surroundings. There are many great natural wonders; there are several cenotes (fresh water sink holes) located inside and around the city. Just north of Valladolid, there is the Biosphere Reserve of Ria Lagartos, which includes Las Coloradas, where you can see pink lakes, crocodiles and flamingos. From Valladolid, it is easy to explore all of these famous attractions and more!
The city was “discovered” by the Spanish, and replaced a former Mayan city of Zaci, that would have been located in the town square. Many of the stones from the central pyramid were used to build the current city. The city has a lot of well preserved Spanish history, including the main square – Plaza de Francisco Cantón Rosado – as well as the temple and former Convent of San Bernardino of Siena and Cathedral of “San Servacio o Gervasio”. It is one of the Pueblo Magico’s located in Mexico, a designation given by the Government to promote unique and important towns in the country.
The most famous nearby destination is the Mayan Ruins of Chichen Itza, which is one of the “new 7 wonders of the world”. The Temple of Kukulkan – which is the most prominent building at the Mayan City – is recognizable to many around the world.
The city is surrounded by dense jungle, and there are some amazing natural wonders to explore nearby. There are many cenotes located on the Yucatan, and many that you can see during your visit to Valladolid. Inside the city limits, a few minutes walk from the central square, there is Cenote Zaci, an oasis surrounded by houses.
Just a short drive outside of the city, there are many other cenotes, including two side by side cenotes – Samula and Xkeken – which are great for swimming in the underground water and is great for pictures. Just don’t forget to bring a tripod!!
The city had a great buzz to it, and on both nights we were in town, there were events happening in the town square. During our most recent trip to the area, we only spent a few days in Valladolid and spent the majority of that time exploring nearby attractions – such as Ek Balam and Rio Lagartos – so we still have lots to explore in the city.
Many visitors to Mexico will visit Chichen Itza via a tour from the coast, and sadly people will drive right past this city without stopping. This is the perfect place to spend a few days; there is a lot you can experience in a short time, especially if you have a car. Just watch out for the topes (speed bumps)!