My final stop in Yucatan was Valladolid, the state’s third largest city located between Mérida and Cancun, right near Chichen Itza. Upon first glance, Valladolid isn’t much different from any other Spanish colonial city in Latin America. There’s the main plaza, the cathedral, cobblestone streets, colorful buildings… But Valladolid has one thing that makes it unique from the rest: a cenote just blocks from its center.
If you don’t know what a cenote is, don’t worry: I didn’t either before visiting Yucatan! A cenote is a naturally formed sinkhole and there are tons of them located in this part of Mexico. Today they are used for swimming, but historically they were for Mayan sacrificial purposes. Yep, there may or may not be some ancient bones underneath you as you take a dip. But don’t worry about stepping on any skeletons, as this water is deep – the one in Valladolid is 260 feet!
Cenote Zaci was about a five minute walk from our hotel, and having this natural wonder just steps from urban civilization was so cool. Imagine if this was your town’s swimming pool growing up?
While certainly not the most beautiful cenote in Yucatan, Cenote Zaci is probably the least crowded with tourists. It was practically empty when we were there, save for about four kids who were hanging out. There was a rope to hold onto so you could swim out to the middle, surrounded by fish, without fear of disappearing into the depths. The water was so clear, and floating with stalactites hanging above our heads was awesome.
Beyond Cenote Zaci, there are a few other things to see during 24 hours in Valladolid. The center of activity is el Parque Francisco Canton Rosado, located right in front of the cathedral. During the day it’s very colorful with everything painted white and red, and although some of the benches could use a touch up, the park is ideal for people watching. At night there is a market and several food vendors, although everything closes around 10 p.m.
Our hotel, El Meson del Marques, was located right on the square and its restaurant, Hosteria del Marques, seemed to be one of the most popular in the city. The open-air spot served traditional Yucatan food in a beautiful courtyard, and the tables were packed with a mix of guests and locals. I tried the cochinita pibil, aka the slow roasted pork dish that I ate every single day during this trip, and it was one of the best I’d tasted.
Valladolid doesn’t have too many hotels and El Meson del Marques seemed to be the best local choice. The service was great (what’s better than a bellman arriving to help you with your bags after a long day of traveling?) and the location perfect. The property has an interesting history, too: it’s inside one of the oldest colonial buildings in Valladolid and was passed down through several generations before opening as a hotel in 1967 with just 6 rooms (today it has 90!).
A more casual spot just across the plaza is Las Campanas. We wandered in for a few drinks in the evening because we could hear live music from the street, and because it sounded like one of the only lively places around. We were there on a Tuesday over the holidays and everything seemed to be wrapping up by 12:30 a.m. Perhaps everyone was saving themselves for New Year’s Eve the next night, but I can say with relative certainty that Valladolid is no party city!
During the day, a stroll down Calzada de los Frailes, a historic street is known for its colorful colonial homes and photo-worthy architecture, is a must. Many of the properties have been converted into upscale boutiques and restaurants owned by expats, and at the end you’ll find the 15th century Ex-Convent San Bernardino de Siena.
One of the highlights of 24 hours in Valladolid was lunch in the garden at Yerbabuena del Sisal, located across the street from the ex-convent. The food is healthy and the menu is filled with fresh veggies, including smoothies and juices. After days of eating nothing but meat and tortillas, it was a very welcome change!
I can’t say my 24 hours in Valladolid were extremely exciting, but they were definitely relaxing and the city was a great affordable and historical place to stop for a night near Chichen Itza. While I was sad to say goodbye to my final destination in Yucatan, I was excited to hit the road and reach the final stop on the road trip: Tulum.
This weekend's postcard was taken by Gemma & Craig of the blog Two Scots Abroad during their trip to the...