Valladolid, the home of Mayan people, lies in the heart of the Yucatan. With population under 50,000 it makes it cozy enough not to be overwhelmed by big city vibes. It’s perfect for exploring the history of Yucatan peninsula. Church, cathedral and colorful buildings in colonial architecture and friendly Mayans give Valladolid its historic and authentic charm.

Mexican Valladolid stole my heart

Since our trip to Yucatan was an escape from Canadian winter, we intended to be by the sea as much as possible. Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Tulum are all great places to do just that. But they also come with plenty of tourists, meeting Canadians and Americans behind every corner. Not that I’m against any of them, but that’s not really why you go to Mexico.

We decided to go off the popular “gringo trail” and travel inland. From Tulum, we hopped on a bus to Valladolid. After only hour and half, we were excited to see the real Mexico.

Mexican Valladolid stole my heart

Mexican Valladolid stole my heart

Mexican Valladolid stole my heart

In Valladolid, smiling Mayans greeted us as we tried to find our way to hostel. Arriving in the middle of the day, it gives you a good idea how the city lives – cars honking around, people running errands and shopping, street vendors offering tamales.

Tamales were the most offered street food in Valladolid. It is a traditional dish steamed and wrapped in banana leaf and can be filled with anything you like – meat, cheese, vegetables, fruits. There is one constant and essential ingredient – chili. It’s the ingredient you will find in tamales no matter the filling.

Mexican Valladolid stole my heart

In just a few minutes from the bus station, we found ourselves on the plaza in the main center park Parque Francisco Cantón. Fountain in the middle and benches around the park make them an ideal place for hanging out and people watching.

Mexican Valladolid stole my heart

There is a market on one side where vendors offer Mayan clothing, bags, wood carvings, jewelry, sandals and souvenirs. The Catedral de San Gervasio is dominating the south side.

Mexican Valladolid stole my heart

Food vendors occupy the other side offering tamales or marquesitas. Marquesitas are traditional dessert invented in Merida, Yucatan. They look like crepes and taste like wafers. Whether you like salty meals – ask for cheese filling, or sweet option – ask for nutella (our favourite), they are the most delicious dessert we tried. I cannot count how many marquesitas we ate during our time in Yucatan.

Mexican Valladolid stole my heart

We tried a different food vendor every day and always loved the food. I should also mention that it was much cheaper than restaurants around the plaza.

The plaza is alive all day. In the evenings, the plaza hosted a folk group performing traditional Mexican dances.

Tamales were the most offered street food in Valladolid. It is a traditional dish steamed and wrapped in banana leaf and can be filled with anything you like – meat, cheese, vegetables, fruits. There is one constant and essential ingredient – chili. It’s the ingredient you will find in tamales no matter the filling.

Mexican Valladolid stole my heart

This was the first year ever, when the town celebrated New Years Eve in the plaza. The street was closed, DJ played Mexican music and people started to dance around midnight.

Mexican Valladolid stole my heart

I’m glad we knew how to count down the last seconds of the old year in Spanish and welcomed the new one with “Feliz Aňo Nuevo“. With fireworks, salsa and champagne we started the new year.

Mexican Valladolid stole my heart

Our hostel provided us with bicycles to get around the town. The alternative I like the most when visiting a new place. During our rides, we explored the town further from the plaza.

Just few hundred meters away is a sinkhole Cenote Zaci, popular for swimming and cliff diving. Yucatan is literally filled with cenotes, some of them for swimming or scuba diving. With Cenote Dzitnup easily reachable by bicycle and few day trips to ruins and surrounding cenotes, we had plenty of chances to cool off. Mayans say there are more yet undiscovered cenotes.

Mexican Valladolid stole my heart

The most interesting ride was from plaza heading south west. From the Catedral de San Gervasio we took the street Calzada de los Frailes (Calle 41A) and admired many colonial and colorful buildings. It lead us to another historical building – Ex-Convent San Bernardino de Siena built in 15th century. Surrounded by public park, it is a nice and quiet place to wind down.

Mexican Valladolid stole my heart

Mexican Valladolid stole my heart

There is a night tour of the ex-convent which we happily took a part in, not realizing it would be mostly in spanish. There is another cenote right next to the church. This one is not for swimming – it’s 30m deep where they found many human bones and guns from the period of occupation by Spaniards.

Mexican Valladolid stole my heart

Mexican Valladolid stole my heart

We hardly saw any foreigners in Valladolid and therefore nobody speaks english. But we came prepared and memorized important phrases. A lot of words are similar to english and smile goes a long way. They gladly showed us directions, offered samples of the food when we had no idea what they sell or called a friend standing nearby who spoke a little bit of english. This made me want to learn spanish even more.

Very helpful and friendly Mayans, interesting architecture, colorful historic streets, cenotes to ease the hot day, performance of folk dances and delicious traditional food made our visit the best time in Yucatan.

Valladolid is such a picture square and fun town, that I would recommend it to anyone who is planning to visit Yucatan. Check out here what else you can visit in Mexico.

Read more:

Colorful towns of Yucatan

Icefields Parkway: Canada’s Scenic Drive


Which place you’ve visited stole your heart? Let me know in the comments below.

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About Maya Steiningerova

Heyo, I’m Maya! An adventure athlete currently living near the Canadian Rockies with my partner in crime Michal. I love running in the mountains, jumping in the ice cold lakes, mountain biking and trying not so common activities, such as mountaineering. By showing that an ordinary person can live an extraordinary life, my hope is to inspire you to live an adventurous life and provide you with tips and tools for your own adventure.

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