Our Favourite Things To Do in Valladolid, Mexico

THINGS TO DO IN VALLADOLID

This detailed travel guide will outline the best things to do in Valladolid, including how to get there and around, popular day trips, and traditional Yucatán food recommendations. What we really appreciate about Valladolid is the authentic Mexican feel you get when you arrive here.

We have heard Valladolid described as one of the Yucatán’s best-kept secrets! Ever since its inception as a Pueblo Magico (Magic Town) in 2012, tourists have slowly been adding Valladolid to their Mexico itinerary to discover Valladolid and everything this colonial gem has to offer. Most people who visit Valladolid only go there for a day trip, but it is definitely worth staying for longer and using this colonial city as your base to further uncover this area and its surrounds.

Filled with a rich history and Spanish colonial heritage, this can be clearly seen in the architecture of the majestic Cathedral of San Gervasio, the San Roque Museum and the popular Convent of San Bernardino de Siena. From wandering its colourful streets with pastel-coloured walls, to exploring the cenotes of Valladolid, to immersing yourself in Mayan culture and history by visiting the Mayan ruins of Ek Balam and Chichén Itzá, there are so many things to do here.

Valladolid still remains one of our absolute favourite places in Mexico! It’s vibrant, authentic, and unique. Valladolid is authentic Mexico at its best!

Filled with lots of things to do and exciting attractions, Valladolid is a great city to explore!

READ MORE: UNIQUE PLACES TO VISIT IN MEXICO


Did You Know?

  • The city was founded 1543 by the nephew of Spanish conquistador Francisco de Montejo. It was the second city built by Spanish colonizers (after Merida in 1542).
  • Valladolid was named after the city that was then the capital of Spain.
  • Valladolid was elected Pueblo Magico (Magic Town) in 2012.

“Mexico is a mosaic of different realities and beauties.”

– Enrique Pena Nieto

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THINGS TO DO IN VALLADOLID

Where is Valladolid?

Valladolid is centrally located in Mexico’s popular Yucatán region and is the third largest city in the state. It is quite a distance from any beaches but perfectly located for exploring Mayan ruins, cenotes, and much, much more.  It is the ideal base for visiting one of the famous New Wonder of the World, Chichén Itzá ruins, which are located close by.

Top Tip: Valladolid is situated in a different time zone than Quintana Roo (Tulum, Playa del Carmen and Cancun) and you will need to set your clock back one hour.


Is Valladolid Safe?

We found Valladolid to be one of the safest towns in the Yucatán. Everyone was extremely friendly and we felt very comfortable walking around the town at any time of the day. It is still advisable to remain alert of your surroundings and be cautious as you would in any new city when travelling.

We highly recommend purchasing travel insurance when travelling overseas. Insurance will cover important things like emergency medical hospitalisation / evacuation, baggage delays and trip cancellation. We recommend World Nomads for quality travel insurance you can trust, at affordable rates.


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When Is The Best Time To Visit Valladolid, Mexico?

The Yucatán Peninsula has two seasons and experiences tropical weather all year round. This makes it a great year-round destination.

  • The best time to visit Valladolid is between the months of November to March / April. These months offer the best conditions as temperatures are at their mildest with less chance of rain.
  • May to July are the hottest months of the year with average temperatures of 37⸰C / 97⸰F.
  • The chances of rain increase in August and September as these are the rainiest months in Valladolid.

How Long Should You Stay in Valladolid?

We highly recommend making Valladolid your base for exploring not only this beautiful colonial town, but also the many attractions in its surrounding areas. In three days you will see the top things to do in Valladolid, and have the opportunity to do some day trips to nearby towns and / or Chichén Itzá and some cenotes. We extended our stay to five days and this gave us the opportunity to thoroughly explore all the things to do in this beautiful part of the Yucatán.

Chichén Itzá
Chichén Itzá

HOW TO GET TO VALLADOLID

Valladolid can easily be reached from Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum, and Mérida.


Bus

The best way to get to and from Valladolid is by taking the ADO bus.  They are inexpensive, clean, comfortable, and reliable. Check the ADO website for bus timetables. See below for approximate cost and travel time to selected destinations:

Cancun to Valladolid

Cost: From 192 MXN / USD$10 / AUD$13 per person

Travel Time:  Approx. 2 hours 15 minutes

Playa del Carmen to Valladolid

Cost: From 206 MXN / USD$10 / AUD$14 per person

Travel Time:  Approx. 2 hours 30 minutes

Tulum to Valladolid

Cost: From 130 MXN / USD$6.50 / AUD$8 per person

Travel Time:  Approx. 1 hour 30 minutes

 Mérida to Valladolid

Cost: From 262 MXN / USD$13 / AUD$17.50 per person

Travel Time:  Approx. 2 hours 30 minutes

N.B You cannot book your tickets online unless you have a Mexican Credit Card, so plan on arriving at the bus terminal early to buy tickets.


Car Rental

Personally, we chose to rent a car and drive from Playa del Carmen to Valladolid. We love the freedom that our own car allows us and the ease with which we could travel to the attractions we wanted to visit in the surrounding areas of Valladolid.

N.B. There are no car rental agencies in Valladolid so you’ll want to organise for pick up at the Cancun Airport, Playa del Carmen, Tulum or Mérida.

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How to Get Around Valladolid

The town of Valladolid is very small and easy to get around. If arriving by bus, you will be dropped off in the centre of town, and from here, the major sights to be seen in town can easily be explored by walking. However, if you are planning to explore further out of town, there are many other transportation options including taxis, bicycle rentals, and scooter rentals.


Walking

If you are only in Valladolid overnight, you can easily see the local sights within town by walking. This is one of our favourite ways to really explore a new city and take our time admiring its architecture and finding hidden streets full of character and funky little cafes and restaurants.


Taxi

If you prefer convenience, then taxis are your best option, but don’t rely on the taxi drivers being able to speak or understand English.


Rent a Bicycle

Bicycles are a great way to get around the town and nearby attractions such as Suytun or Samula cenote. There are many options of rental companies with the average cost from 25 MXN / USD$1.25 / AUD$1.75 per person per hour, or from 100 MXN / USD$5 / AUD$7 per person per day (24 hours).


Rent a Scooter

With no car rental agencies in Valladolid, renting a scooter is a great option for trips a little further out of town such as Chichén Itzá and Ek Balam. The rental costs for a scooter start from 500 MXN / USD$25 / AUD$35 per person per day (24 hours).


Rent a Car

As mentioned above, there are no car rental agencies available in Valladolid so you’ll want to organise for pick up at the Cancun Airport, Playa del Carmen, Tulum or Mérida.

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Things To Do in Valladolid

Plaza e Parque Francisco Canton (Main Square)

Valladolid’s main square, or zocalo, is a charming place to visit as there is always something going on. It makes for the perfect place to people watch as it has a delightful blend of attractions for both locals and tourists alike. Street vendors sell an array of foods, drinks, souvenirs, and even balloons for children.

At around 5:30pm in the evening, the locals often gather in the square to dance to traditional Mexican music. You can also find dancers performing traditional Mayan dances in costume or a colourful troupe showing off Jarana, a traditional dance in the Yucatán.

Top Tip: Next to the square you can find great street food stalls at El Bazaar Municipal where you can eat delicious Yucatán food at a great price.

  • Visit Duration: 30 – 60 minutes
  • Hours:  All Day, Everyday
  • Cost: Free

Cathedral of San Gervasio

Rising tall above Plaza e Parque Francisco Canton is Valladolid’s most iconic site: the Cathedral of San Gervasio, also known as Iglesia de San Servacio. The original church was built by Priest Francisco Hernandez in the mid-16th Century over a demolished Mayan pyramid using some of the pyramid’s stones to build the cathedral itself. It was demolished in 1705 and restored the following year. The main façade of the church features the coat of arms that is carved on stone. There is also a Royal crown and Franciscan cord that you will see when you walk into the church. It is a charming old church that showcases Valladolid’s rich colonial ambience.

Top Tip: Make sure you see it both during the daylight and by night, as the view is entirely different. 

  • Visit Duration: 30 – 60 minutes
  • Hours:  All Day, Everyday
  • Cost: Free
Cathedral of San Gervasio - Valladolid, Mexico
Cathedral of San Gervasio – Valladolid, Mexico

Mercado Municipal (Local Market)

The Mercado Municipal is only a few blocks from the city centre, and is the best place to go to in Valladolid for that authentic Mexican market experience and a glimpse into the local way of life. The market is constantly buzzing with vendors selling goods such as cheap clothing, local produce such as fresh fruit and vegetables, spices, handicrafts, fresh flowers and more.

Even if you’re not planning to buy anything, just wandering around the colourful Mercado Municipal and soaking in the positive energy, colours and smells is a great way to experience the character of Valladolid.

  • Visit Duration: 30 – 60 minutes
  • Hours:  5:00am – 4:00pm, Everyday
  • Cost: Free

Museo San Roque

Housed in a former convent, the Museo San Roque has a small but interesting collection of historical items reflecting the history of Valladolid and the Yucatán region, and Mayan culture.

  • Where: Located across from La Joyita on Calle 41 (between 38 and 40)
  • Visit Duration: 30 – 60 minutes
  • Hours:  8:00am – 8:00pm, Monday to Friday; 9:00am – 6:00pm, Saturday to Sunday
  • Cost: Free

Mayan Art at Casa de los Venados

Casa de Los Venados Museum is one of our all-time favourite museums anywhere in the world. This museum is not like ordinary museums. For a start, it is actually a large privately owned colonial mansion that the owners open up to the public for tours at 10am every day.

Inside you will find an impressive collection of over 3000 pieces of local handicrafts and traditional Mexican folk art. It is said to be one of the largest collections of pre-Hispanic Mexican artwork in the country.

  • Where: Calle 40 #204 x 41 col. Centro Valladolid
  • Visit Duration: 90 minutes
  • Hours:  10:00am – 2:00pm, Everyday (Guided Tours in both English and Spanish – check the website for times)
  • Cost: Free / Invited to Provide a Donation (100 MXN / USD$5 / AUD$6.50 suggested donation, given to local charities)
  • Website: Casa de los Venados

Calzada de los Frailes (Instaworthy Street)

The charming, vibrantly colourful street of Calzada de Los Frailes is one of the most popular places to visit in Valladolid! This street dates back to the 16thCentury and is part of the reason that Valladolid is listed as one of Mexico’s “Pueblos Magicos” (Magic Towns).

It is a quiet, mostly pedestrian street lined on either side with brightly painted buildings with colourful walls, ornate doorways and colonial architecture. The best (and most expensive) boutiques in Valladolid are located along this street next to trendy restaurants and cafes. Strolling around Calzada de Los Frailes is a must when you are visiting Valladolid.

  • Where: Calle 41A Centro Valladolid
  • Visit Duration: 1 – 2 hours
  • Hours:  All Day, Everyday
  • Cost: Free

Convento de san Bernardino de Siena

Considered to be one of the oldest colonial sites in the Yucatán, the former Convent of San Bernardino de Siena dates back to the mid-16th Century. We highly recommend paying the entrance fee and exploring the covenant as it is full of original and authentic elements. Stroll through the centuries-old colonial walkways and its peaceful courtyard, and take a look at the small museum which explains the discovery of cenotes and the items left behind in them. You can also go up the bell tower for views of the plaza.

On Tuesday to Sunday evenings, there is a 20 minute light show, which we highly recommended. The video is shown on the outer walls of the convent and explains the history of Valladolid and the story about how they built the convent and what has happened with it until the present day.

Top Tip: Walk down Calle 41A (Calzada de Los Frailes – see above) on your way to the monastery.

  • Where: Parque Sisal – end of Calzada de los Frailes
  • Visit Duration: 90 minutes
  • Hours:  8:00am – 5:00pm, Everyday (Free Lightshow – Tuesday to Sunday – 9:00pm (Spanish) and 9:30pm (English))
  • Cost: 40 MXN / USD$2 / AUD$2.75
Convent of San Bernardino de Siena - Valladolid, Mexico
Convent of San Bernardino de Siena – Valladolid, Mexico

Cenotes In and Around Valladolid

There are many amazing cenotes (sinkholes that have formed throughout the ages) in Mexico’s Yucatán peninsula, and some of the best of these are in the areas around Valladolid. Generally, cenotes are filled with amazingly clear water and are perfect for a swim, relax and cool off after a day of sightseeing.

Some of the best cenotes in Valladolid are:

  • Cenote Zaci – located a 10 minute walk from the city centre, it makes for a great place to have a swim and cool off (30 MXN / USD$1.50 / AUD$2 all day admission)
  • Cenote Suytun – located just a 15 minute drive from the city centre, this is Mexico’s most photographed cenote (150 MXN / USD$7.50 / AUD$10 all day admission)
  • Cenote Oxman – located just a 15 minute drive from the city centre, it is a less crowded yet most scenic jungle-like cenote – this was our favourite as we had the cenote to ourselves for most of the day (300 MXN / USD$15 / AUD$20 all day admission – includes 150 MXN voucher to spend at the restaurant on food or drinks, and use of the resort pool and facilities)
  • Cenote Samula and X’keken – located a 30 minute drive from the city centre, are best combined as one is across the road from the other (125 MXN / USD$6.50 / AUD$8.50 all day admission for both cenotes)
  • Cenote X’canche – located a 30 minute drive from the city centre near Ek Balam, this cenote boasts bright blue water and a waterfall (70 MXN / USD$3.50 / AUD$4.75 all day admission)
  • Cenote Ik Kil – located a 45 minute drive from Valladolid near Chichén Itzá , and is frequently combined with a trip to this Mayan ruin (150 MXN / USD$7.50 / AUD$10 all day admission)

N.B. All prices listed above include lifejacket rental which is now mandatory (30 MXN / USD$1.50 / AUD$2).

Cenote Oxman - Valladolid, Mexico
Cenote Oxman – Valladolid, Mexico

Chichén Itzá

One of the most popular things to do near Valladolid, and a huge part of the reason that travellers choose the city as a base, is its proximity to Chichén Itzá. Chichén Itzá, located only a 45 minute drive from Valladolid, is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.  It is one of the most famous and best preserved Mayan site in Mexico and as such, has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Mexico.

This archaeological site covers over 10 square kilometres (4 square mile), and is divided into two areas: Old Chichén (6 Mayan ruins) and Chichén Itzá (20 Mayan ruins). 

The most famous of the Mayan ruins on site is the Chichén Itzá Pyramid called El Castillo or ‘The Castle’ which was built to honour the God Kukulcan. Another equally important Mayan ruin on site is the Great Ball Court, an ancient sports arena with stone platforms measuring 29 metres (95 feet) in length and 7.6 metres (25 feet) in height. In addition, the Temple of the Warriors, the Osario Pyramid, and the circular observatory known as El Caracol.

The Chichén Itzá site is very big and it took us approximately three hours to walk around the entire site. Ensure you have comfortable shoes, sun protection and water with you.

Top Tip: Visit Chichén Itzá early in the morning i.e. 8:00am when the gates open to avoid not only the crowds, especially the bus tour groups which start rolling in at 9:30am, but also the midday heat.

  • Visit Duration: 3+ hours
  • Hours:  9:00am – 4:00pm (last entry)
  • Cost: 533 MXN / USD$27 / AUD$36 per person

Mayan Ruins of Ek Balam

Another Mayan ruin site worth visiting while in Valladolid is Ek Balam. Many visitors say Ek Balam is even more beautiful than Chichén Itzá. Located just a 30 minute drive from Valladolid city centre, the stunning Mayan city of Ek Balam is so huge that at one point around 800 AD, it was home to over 20,000 people.

Ek Balam is one of the more mysterious Mexican ruins as it still hasn’t been fully excavated. While the ruins have been mapped, only its centre has been uncovered, so exploring them is quite special. One of the highlights of a visit to Ek Balam is you are allowed to climb the ‘Acropolis’, the tallest pyramid. From the tip (31 metres high), you have an impressive view over both the city ruins and the surrounding jungle.

  • Visit Duration: 2+ hours
  • Hours:  8:00am – 5:00pm, Everyday
  • Cost: 413 MXN / USD$21 / AUD$28 per person
Ek Balam Mayan Ruins
Ek Balam Mayan Ruins

Eat Authentic Yucatán Food

One of our favourite aspects of travelling is trying the local food and cuisine. We found Yucatán food to be quite different from traditional Mexican food. We found many of the restaurants located around the main square all offered local and regional specialties.

These are some of the traditional Yucatán dishes we recommend you try while in Valladolid:

  • Sopa de Lima – a tangy lime soup of a well-blended mix of chicken, tomato and habanero peppers, served with crispy tortilla strips on the side.
  • Cochinita Pibil – the Yucatán version of slow-roasted pulled pork marinated with annatto and the juice of Seville oranges, often served with tortillas, pickled red onions, habanero chillies and refried black beans. 
  • Panuchos – a fried tortilla stuffed with mashed black beans, and topped with shredded chicken, avocado, tomato, pickled red onions and Cochinita Pibil.

Day Trips from Valladolid

Izamal

Izamal, the yellow city of Mexico, is arguably one of the most photogenic towns in the Yucatán peninsula. Upon arrival, you will clearly see why!

The best way to see the local attractions in Izamal is to walk around the cobbled streets and enjoy the atmosphere. Start at the yellow Convento de San Antonio de Padua which is in the centre of town, and explore the many Mayan ruins. Don’t miss climbing to the top of Kinich Kak Moo Pyramid which offers amazing views of the yellow city.

Izamal is a must visit from Valladolid as it is still unspoiled with lots of tourists and is only 90 minutes by car.

izamal Small
The Yellow Town of Izamal

Mérida

Mérida, the capital city of the Yucatán, has been the cultural capital of the region for many centuries and is a must visit. The city has an interesting blend of old with the new, and is filled with colourful streets and fantastic restaurants offering travellers a more authentic Mexico experience.

Spend the day wandering the streets and admiring the beautiful colonial architecture evident everywhere you look. Experience Mérida’s culture with a visit to one of the many museums showcasing ancient Mayan artwork, and through its unique cuisine. The food in Mérida is truly delightful!

Allow 2 hours of travel each way for a day trip to this not to be missed colonial city.

Top Tip: At 10am and 6pm (English) / 10am (Spanish) everyday, there is a free walking tour departing from the centrally located Parque de Santa Lucia around the historic Mérida Centro. Due to a restriction on numbers, make sure you book first through Freetour.com.


Rio Lagartos

Rio Lagartos is a sleepy little coastal town that’s absolutely worth the 90 minute drive from Valladolid. Most people combine a visit to Rio Lagartos with a visit to see Las Coloradas Pink Lake (see below). The most popular thing to do is a visit to the Ria Lagartos Biosphere Reserve with its incredible flora and fauna. It is a bird watching paradise with almost 400 different bird species.

Top Tip: The Rio Lagartos Flamingo Season is from April to May so this is the best time to see thousands of them.


Las Coloradas

Las Coloradas is a further 20 minute drive from Rio Lagartos and the area is surrounded by many pink lakes. The lakes are pink due to the high concentration of salt it making it a perfect breeding ground for algae which give the water the red colour.

When you arrive in Las Coloradas, you will be approached by workers that will offer to allow you entry to the premises with them as a ‘guided tour’. They will charge a small fee which will allow you to get an unhindered picture of the Pink Lake and some general details about salt production.

Top Tip: The best time to see the pink colour of the salt lakes glowing is at midday.


In Summary – Things To Do in Valladolid

If you are a planning a trip to the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico, make Valladolid your home base to explore this amazing area. Explore this colonial cities colourful streets and discover the best things to do in Valladolid and the surrounding areas. Travel is easy from this colonial city to Chichén Itzá, Ek Balam, Izamal, Mérida, and swim in cenotes or venture further to Laguna Las Coloradas.

I hope you’ve enjoyed our post on our favourite things to do in Valladolid, Mexico! It’s truly a unique place and it’s one that will stay in your memory. It has kept its local flare and is still relatively undiscovered by tourists, and as such, deserves a firm place in everyone’s Mexico itinerary.

Have you visited Valladolid? Are you planning a trip and looking for things to do in Valladolid? Post your tips and questions below.


Exit 45 Rating

The Exit45 Rating scale runs from a low of 1 to a high of 5 in each of the 9 categories.  As such, the higher the score out of 45, the better the Exit45 Rating.  N.B. These scores are our own personal opinions and are based on our experiences, budget constraints and what we love doing i.e. adventure seeking foodies who love snorkelling and water related activities.

Value for Money4
Cuisine4
Friendliness of Locals4.5
Ease of Language Barrier3.5
Climate3.5
Activities and Tours4.5
Ease of Travel4
Culture Barrier4
Safety4.5
TOTAL EXIT45 RATING36.5 / 45

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