In December 2017, I visited the cheerful and compact city of Valladolid, Mexico. Valladolid is named after Valladolid in Spain, which was the capital of Spain at that time. Like many other cities on the Yucatan, Valladolid is built on top of a Mayan village and some of the bricks from the old Mayan structures were used to construct the current buildings.
Valladolid makes a good home base for seeing the famous nearby ruins of Chichen Itza, many cenotes, and the much less frequented but still impressive Ek Balam Ruins. There are many affordable options for lodging, a nice selection of restaurants. and the whole city is walkable.
We were traveling eastbound from Merida, which would be a 2-hour direct drive on the Highway 180 toll road to reach Valladolid. However we took a detour to view the Mayapan Ruins, followed by a quick lunch break at Acanceh. Another option to break up the Merida – Valladolid (or vice-versa) drive would be to stop in Izamal, The Yellow City. There are many things to do and explore in this area in general.
Coming from Cancun, Valladolid is slightly less than a 2 hour drive on the fast-but-boring toll road or you can travel the “libre” free road which takes much longer, traversing many small towns and villages. Note that the toll road from Cancun costs about US$15 at the time of writing and it’s better to have pesos available because the conversion rate for dollars is terrible.
If you are not renting a car, buses are available from Cancun but not direct from Cancun airport. You must first take a bus from Cancun airport to Cancun downtown, then onward to Valladolid. The bus station in Valladolid is well located, only a few blocks from the main town square. See the ADO website for more information about bus schedules.
Francisco Canton Park
Since we had been to Valladolid pretty recently on another trip, we only spent one night. We arrived late-afternoon and promptly set out taking some photos for this blog. The main square is Francisco Canton Park. There is an impressive Catholic church flanking the plaza, as well as several restaurants, shops, and a government building. And of course the park itself features a fountain and many benches for relaxing, including the ubiquitous s-shaped “confidentes” seats.
As always, you can click any photo to enlarge it.
As far as restaurants on the square, La Cantina is a popular choice because you can dine outside and do some prime people watching, but expect to pay a bit more for this privilege. La Cantina also carries six varities of La Cieba artisinal beers and some Patito selections as well.
My recommendation on the plaza is Las Campanas which has large, quality portions and is very reasonably priced considering the location. They also serve an excellent breakfast and sometimes have live music in the evenings.
If you’re looking for something quick and ultra cheap, there is a “food court”-type dining hall in the northeast corner of the plaza with many different vendors selling just about everything from tacos to Chinese to ice cream.
Casa de los Venados
Also situated a few steps from the main square is Casa de los Venados (House of the Deer). This is a “must do” activity while in Valladolid! Casa de los Venados is an 18,000 square foot private home owned by an expatriate American couple that has been exquisitely renovated and filled with over 3000 pieces of museum-quality Mexican folk art. Tours are available in English every day at 10:00am sharp. While the tour is free, donations to local charities are collected and encouraged.
Calzada de los Frailes
Walking west on Calle 41 away from the main square, you will come to the intersection for Calzada de los Frailes, a quiet street with beautiful buildings filled with upscale shopping and restaurants. Many of the photos from Valladolid are taken on this street.
At the end of Calzada de los Frailes, there is the Parque Sisal and the Convent of San Bernardino of Siena which was opened to the public in 1560. You can pay a small fee to go inside explore the convent’s many rooms. At night, there is a free light show projected onto the outside of the building. The light show tells the history of the convent and Mayans in the Yucatan. Days and times for the light show can vary, but as of this writing it was Wednesday through Sunday at 9:20pm in English.
This evening, we went to a favorite restaurant, Conato 1910. The food at Canato is definitely solid but what really shines is the fun and quirky atmosphere. It’s like dining in an art gallery! Canato also has excellent cocktails, live music, and rooftop seating. Highly recommended for the experience.
After dinner, we wandered back to Parque Francisco Canton to buy some marquesitas for desert. Marquesitas are batter that is placed on a textured griddle and filled with your choice of many sweet and savory toppings. Edam cheese imported from the Netherlands is almost always involved, followed by something sweet like Nutella, fruit, or caramel. Then the whole thing is rolled up and becomes crunchy as it cools, almost like a waffle cone. Here is a video of marquesitas being made.
By now, it was now only about 10 o’clock on New Years Eve and live music was being set up in the plaza. But we were super lame and went back to the hotel to crash, tired out from a long day. In the morning, we woke early to drive back to Cancun airport to catch our flight home to Florida.
If you want to view all my photos from Valladolid, check out my flickr album.