The stunning colonial town of Valladolid is more than just a pit stop between the Riviera Maya and Chichén Itzá, it warrants a visit of its own! Read on for the best things to do in Valladolid, Mexico.
Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Daria of The Discovery Nut.
Located in the heart of the Yucatan Peninsula, Valladolid is a UNESCO-listed town that is quickly becoming a favorite among travelers.
Famous for its pastel-colored colonial architecture, ancient Mayan ruins, and cenotes dotting the area, this little gem is a perfect stop on your Yucatan itinerary!
Valladolid is one of the towns across Mexico designated as Pueblo Magico (or Magical Town) in 2012 because of its rich cultural heritage, beautiful architecture, and local arts and crafts.
Many visitors to Yucatan overlook Valladolid and choose to base themselves in the state capital, Merida. If time allows, I recommend visiting both cities! This guide to Merida will help you plan your visit.
How to get to Valladolid
While taking a bus is the cheapest way to travel between major cities in the Yucatan Peninsula, you will also have to rely on buses or colectivos (small vans that travel a bit faster) to get around locally.
If your budget allows, I recommend renting a car for at least a couple of days to explore the area.
BookAway is a convenient site to use to plan transportation to and from Valladolid. BookAway’s Valladolid page displays the popular routes to Valladolid, and you can book buses and shuttles through the site!
How many days to spend in Valladolid?
However, I think that Valladolid requires more than just one day, simply because there are too many things to do there!
For example, after visiting Valladolid, you could spend a day in Chichen Itza and see the nearby cent Ik Kil and after that, spend a day in Ek Balam, and visit Izamal, the magic yellow town.
There’s truly no shortage of things to do in and near Valladolid, so book a hotel and spend time exploring this colorful Yucatan town and the nearby areas.
👉 Related Reading: 26+ Incredible Things to Do in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula
Best Things to Do In Valladolid
What’s great about Valladolid is its relaxed, low-key atmosphere. Here you will not find big chain restaurants, expensive resorts, and other amenities typical of a classic tourist town.
Instead, Valladolid offers more culture, and the best thing you can do is grab your camera and wander the streets of this small town.
1. Mercado Municipal
One of the best places to visit in Valladolid, Mercado Municipal, is located just a few minutes away from the city center. Here you can buy fresh produce from local vendors and pick up some goods from local artisans.
2. Cathedral of San Gervasio
The Cathedral of San Gervasio (or Catedral de San Gervasio in Spanish) is an unmissable stop in Merida. Located on Valladolid’s main square, this church is one of the town’s main symbols, and you can’t help but take your camera and start taking photos of this iconic landmark as soon as you see it!
3. Plaza E Parque Francisco Canton
Located across from the Cathedral of San Gervasio, Plaza E Parque Francisco Canton is a beautiful venue in the heart of the city with a big fountain, classic white chairs that can be found in many other areas of Yucatan, and plenty of greenery. It’s a perfect place to sit down and relax after grabbing some food.
4. Cenote Zaci
Cenote Zaci is located right in the middle of town, and it’s such a nice reprieve after wandering around and exploring all day long!
This big, semi-covered cenote boasts close access to most landmarks in Valladolid and a lovely quiet setting, so it’s almost hard to believe you are in the heart of the city!
But what are cenotes? Even if you have never seen them in real life, you probably saw the photos of these caverns filled with crystal-clear water.
Some of them are entirely underground, while others are open, and some are half-open.
They are great for swimming and snorkeling, and some even offer diving opportunities. The entire Yucatan Peninsula has over 6,000 cenotes, many of which are yet to be discovered!
Cenote Zaci sits in the center of the city between Calle 37 and Calle 39. Entrance to cenote Zaci costs 30 pesos and is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
5. Calzada de Los Frailes
A quintessential tourist stop, Calzada de Los Frailes is a colorful street lined with tourist shops, cafes, and restaurants of all sorts. It begins at Convent de San Bernardino de Siena and stretches for a couple of blocks.
6. Convent de San Bernardino de Siena
Located inside Parque Sisal, the Convent of San Bernardino is one of the most prominent landmarks in Valladolid. Constructed by the Franciscans by converting Mayans to Christianity, it is the second-largest Franciscan construction in the entire Yucatan peninsula after the Former Convent of San Antonio de Padua.
If you want to learn the history of Convent de San Bernardino de Siela, you can take a guided tour. Additionally, you can also enjoy the free show where you will see the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadores followed by the construction of the convent and moments from Valladolid’s history to this day.
Also, in Parque Sisal, you will see a colorful Valladolid sign that sits against the backdrop of Convent de San Bernardino de Siena. Don’t forget to snap a photo with it!
7. Casa de Los Venados
Translated as the House of the Deer, Casa de Los Venados is a small private museum that boasts a collection of over 3,000 pieces of contemporary and folk art from Mexico.
Daily tours are offered from 10 a.m., and all visitors are encouraged to leave a $5 donation that supports local artists and craftsmen and craftswomen who showcase their artwork in places like Casa de Los Venados.
Day Trips From Valladolid
There are many incredible places around Valladolid, and you should take the time to explore them. I’ve spent some time touring the area around the city and wanted to share some of my favorite destinations.
8. Chichen Itza
A UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New Seven Wonders of The World, Chichen Itza is by far one of the most popular day trips from Valladolid.
While there are tons of Mexican ruins scattered all over the Yucatan Peninsula, this is by far the most popular site, so if you want to visit it, I strongly recommend arriving early.
If you are visiting the region for the first time, you also might want to do a guided tour as you will need to learn some history to understand why this place is so important for Mexican culture.
Many visitors combine a visit to Chichen Itza with the nearby Cenote Ik Kil.
9. Ek Balam
A lot less touristy but no less impressive Mayan ruins, Ek Balam is about 25 minutes away from Valladolid, and in my opinion, it’s an absolute must!
Not only will you have this place to yourself if you arrive early, but you will also be able to climb some of the pyramids in the area. (Which you can’t do in Chichen Itza).
A hidden secret that so many tourists miss a cenote right near the entrance to Ek Balam. To get there, you have to pay an extra fee and also get a bike, as it’s about 2 kilometers away. If you get there early, you might even have it all to yourself!
10. Las Coloradas
There are not many places in this world where you can see a pink lake! Los Coloradas on the northern end of the Yucatan Peninsula offers exactly that!
Located near the village of Rio Lagartos, famous for its flamingoes, is only one of the few places where you can see this incredible pink color.
The reason for it is half natural and half human-made: The natural part has to do with microorganisms that are found in the seawater, and the human-made reason is the salt production in the area. The seawater leaves salt when it’s evaporated after initially being pumped into human-made ponds.
The intensity of the color depends on the weather, so you might see different shades of pink and orange depending on the amount of sunlight.
Mexico Travel Planning Resources
🌡️ Do I need travel insurance?
Yes! Healthcare in Mexico is affordable for minor ailments, but travel insurance will give you peace of mind if an emergency arises. Plus, you can add coverage for trip interruption, theft, etc. Get a quote from SafetyWing.
🏨 What’s the best way to find accommodation in Mexico?
I use a mix of Booking, Airbnb, and Hostelworld.
💸 How should I exchange money in Mexico?
Use local ATMS to withdraw cash. US travelers should open a Charles Schwab bank account because they’ll refund ATM fees at the end of the month.
Travelers from outside the US should open a Wise account to secure the best currency exchange rates.
📱 Where can I buy a local SIM card in Mexico?
Pick up a Telcel SIM card at any convenience store. Or, buy an Airalo eSIM online so you’re connected as soon as you land.
🗣️ Do I need to speak Spanish in Mexico?
No, but it definitely helps you feel more confident and connected.
✈️ What’s the best way to find affordable flights?
I use Skyscanner because it makes it easy to compare rates across different travel days.
🚖 How do I find a safe airport transfer?
I recommend GetTransfer for airport transfers anywhere in Mexico.
🚗 What’s the best way to find rental cars in Mexico?
I recommend Discover Cars because they aggregate prices across rental car companies, making it easy to find competitive rates.
🚐 How do I book bus tickets online in Mexico?
🤿 How do I find cool activities and tours in Mexico?
🇲🇽 How can I experience Mexico like a local?
Solo female travelers can hire a local female guide through Greether. Greeters will tailor tours based on your interests— it’s basically like experiencing a destination with a local bestie!
🧳 What’s the best luggage for Mexico?
Unless you’re staying at a resort, a travel pack is recommended. I’ve used this one from Osprey for the last 8+ years.
👯♀️ How do I connect with fellow travelers in Mexico?
Join my Female Travelers in Mexico Facebook group, a supportive community of fellow Mexico travel enthusiasts, where you can find answers to all your travel questions!
Which of these Valladolid attractions are you most excited about? Let us know in the comments!
The Discovery Nut is a travel blog focused on adventurous destinations around the world. Daria founded The Discovery Nut to share her favorite places with the audience and to encourage everyone to get out of their comfort zone and explore more. If it’s a scenic destination with gorgeous nature and amazing culture, it sure sounds like a Discovery Nut kind of place 🙂 Connect with Daria on Instagram!