I rarely dedicate an entire post to a particular city or region — in fact, I think this is only the second time — however, I felt that Valladolid was worthy of the extra attention.
This beautiful colonial city of approximately 50,000 residents is often overlooked by tourists. When we recommend the city to tourists visiting the Riviera Maya, most tell us that they’ve never heard of it. The few that have heard of it, only know it because the tour bus drove through it on the way to the Chichen Itza Mayan ruins. Well, they don’t know what they’re missing.
Valladolid is one of our favorite destinations in the Yucatán and we try to visit it at least once every couple of months. The city is less than two hours from our home in Akumal; however, we always stay the night so we can enjoy the city to the fullest.
Things to Do
Main Plaza – The heart of any Mexican town is the main plaza and Valladolid is no exception. There are always people enjoying the plaza during the day but once the sun goes down, the plaza really comes to life. There are families enjoying time together, food vendors and often musicians. On one occasion, we enjoyed an orchestra made up entirely of young children — they were very good.
Convento de San Bernardino de Siena – This is a convent built in 1552 and the public can tour the inside of the convent during the day. At night, there is a fantastic light show outside that walks you through the history of the city. The show is shown in English and Spanish.
Mayan Chocolate Factory (Cacao) – They make handmade chocolate in the same manner that their ancestors did. They offer free daily tours and tastings.
Cenotes – There are several breathtaking cenotes located near the city.
Mercado Municipal – There is a large marketplace where you can buy clothes, fresh meats, fruits, vegetables and a variety of crafts.
We always stay at the Hotel El Mesón del Marqués located right across the street from the plaza. The hotel is very clean and is relatively inexpensive when compared to lodging closer to the coast. In fact, everything from the food to the taxi fares are less expensive in Valladolid — that makes the thrifty side of me pretty happy.
The hotel has free onsite parking and an excellent restaurant. It’s worth it to pay a little extra to have the breakfast included in the room price.
There are several restaurants that we like within walking distance of the hotel, but our favorite is El Atrio del Mayab (or just El Atrio for short). They specialize in Mayan dishes and I love their cochinita pibil.
Cochinita pibil is a traditional slow-roasted pork dish from the Yucatán. The meat is marinated in bitter orange and it is absolutely delicious. El Atrio serves theirs with fresh corn tortillas that are handmade onsite.
El Atrio is located near the Cathedral in the main plaza. Once you enter, you’ll pass through to a beautiful walled courtyard.
Let’s Wrap This Up
The next time you plan to visit the beautiful beaches of the Riviera Maya, why not take a day or two to explore Valladolid? It will give your sunburn a chance to heal a little bit and you’ll be able to experience more of the culture and history of the area.